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Trip Report GTNP, Yellowstone, Montana Trip Report, Part 2

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From GTNP, we drove into Yellowstone through the South Entrance. The drive in is mostly lodgepole pines so not the most exciting introduction to Yellowstone, but that changed quickly when we got to Old Faithful. We were lucky enough to get room reservations at the Inn for two nights; we were in a westside room with a renovated bathroom and it was great. A note on the room reservations: I made my reservations in January for this trip and initially did it on line and then called every couple of months to check for upgrades, etc. Because people book so far in advance, it seems like there are quite a few cancellations; for example, I was able to improve my OFI reservations by calling. My daughter was delighted that a stuffed bison had been left on the bed with the helpful information (for me) about how easy it would be to take the bison home with us! Actually, I thought it was a very clever promotion for the Yellowstone Foundation (I don't think that name is quite right) which received a portion of the sale for its work. We hustled it down to the lobby to see the geyser which was minutes away from erupting--we ended up seeing it multiple times and it was just as fun to see if go off the last time as the first time. The Old Faithful Inn is such a cool place--we loved staying there and, again, we were up early to do a ranger hike so we were able to enjoy the hotel and lobby without throngs of people. It is a busy place, but if you can swing it AND score a room, I would highly recommend staying there. It is a great location for the thermal features and really added to our enjoyment of Yellowstone. We missed the opening of the brand new Visitors Center--slated for 8/25-but it looks beautiful and I am sure will be worth a stop. At the old Visitors Center (just a trailer), we picked up the Junior Ranger newspaper and were warned that their program was alot more involved than Grand Teton's (a funny little competition between the parks). We had dinner that night at the Old Faithful Inn restaurant which was very nice (not quite as nice as the Mural Room but they are feeding alot more people). The next day, we actually hired a guide. Totally not necessary, but I hadn't been able to do the research on Yellowstone that I wanted to do before we left, so I am glad we did. We learned so much--it goes without saying that Yellowstone is a HUGE park and is actually about 4 parks in one so we really learned alot and it was a nice break for my husband on the driving. The next morning we took an 8:30 ranger hike around the geyers (I cannot stress enough the payoff from getting up early--we were with about 6 other people and had the geyer field to ourselves). That afternoon, we drove up to Mammoth which was our least favorite part of the Park. To be fair the weather had really turned (hail!) and it was packed up there and their computers were down so they were handwriting lunch tickets (not to mention the fact that noone knows how to make change in their head anymore. . .okay you get the picture!); also, the Park is in the midst of a ten-year drought and it has really impacted the hot springs up there--when you see pictures of what it looked like in the 70's, it must have been spectacular; having said all that, it is still cool and for history buffs, Mammoth is the original Fort Yellowstone (from the days when they literally had to call in the cavalry to save the park from tourists who were destroying it) so that was interesting to see. We went back and had dinner in the Snow Lodge dining room which was delicious and is a fun, cozy spot. Back to OFI where we had a nightcap and sat in the rocking chairs on the second floor and listened to the pianist. From here we moved to Canyon. This is one of the busier areas of the park. We really lucked out and got a Western Cabin which was great. They are newly renovated and they are back in the woods (there was a herd of elk behind our cabin each evening). The Western Cabins are beautiful with big bathrooms; I said we were lucky because we talked to some other folks who had regular cabins and they said they were on the rough side so I would definitely try and get a Western Cabin. Canyon has a big campground and it rained that night so lots of campers came into the restaurant to eat so we faced a long wait. This was our least favorite meal of the whole trip--so much so that we couldn't face eating there again the next night (more on that later). For breakfast, we ate at the Canyon cafeteria (you can eat in the dining room too); we aren't really cafeteria people, but my daughter insisted--it was fine, more filling than good. On this day, we went to the Lamar Valley, a spectacular part of Yellowstone that is completely different from any other part of the park. The vistas look like old Western paintings and you see hundreds of bison. It was on this day that we saw 4 bears--2 grizzleys. We had box lunches from the restaurant and had a picnic outside then stopped at a trailhead called Trout Lake which looked like a nice easy hike. When we got to the Lake, we had the treat of our trip--three otters played and played and then caught a fish; they are not afraid of people so we had a great time watching them play and wrestle over the fish. On the way back to Canyon, we stopped at the Roosevelt Lodge and had a beer on the porch; it is very old West and looked like a fun place to eat. We (me!) didn't feel like dealing with the Canyon dining room again so I had the front desk at Roosevelt call the Lake Yellowstone dining room and see if they had a cancellation--they did, so we hustled back to Canyon and took showers and got on the road to Lake Yellowstone--only to be caught in a major bison jam!! It was more fun than annoying and everyone was late getting to Lake Yellowstone. The food was delicious and it is another fun hotel which evokes another time. For those of you who have been to Yellowstone--it took us close to two hours to get from Canyon to Lake Yellowstone and twenty minutes to get back! The next morning we finished up our Junior Ranger (we had diligently worked on it every day) and my daughter was duly sworn in at the Canyon Visitor Center (a very nice facility with interesting exhibits on the park). For those of you going to Yellowstone soon, there is hard-to-avoid construction between Madison and Norris--we went through it a couple of times--depending on when you join the queue, the wait is 15-30 minutes. We left the park via the West Entrance and had a jarring entry into West Yellowstone (remember we had come from Grand Teton so we had been in these peaceful parks for days); if you need a McDonald's or Dairy Queen, you've got it. Our destination was a ranch in Montana for the last couple of days of our trip, so we hightailed it out of West Yellowstone.

Happy to answer Yellowstone questions, we saw so much that it is impossible to describe what an amazing place it is. . .

Will post later about the ranch in Montana.

Mary

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