After work, we headed back to Yellowstone for the rest of the day. It was an ambitious plan, since the park is two hours away, but we loved the park so much on Sunday that we decided it was worth the long day. And we packed plenty of food this time! We headed out, and after about an hour, we hit a strange traffic jam in the middle of the Targhee Forest. We ended up stuck there for at least half an hour, and although we’re not exactly sure what happened, it seems like two trucks pulling campers smashed into each other at an intersection. But there might have been a third car that we didn’t see, because one truck was smashed in the front, and also their camper was smashed open in the back. I can’t imagine how frustrating that would be to have your whole vacation (and temporary home!) derailed like that!
Eventually we made it to Yellowstone! We came in through the West entrance and debated for a while about whether to head towards Lamar Valley (further, but it had the possibility of spotting animals) or Old Faithful to hopefully see the entire geyser blast this time. Spoiler, we headed to Lamar Valley! 🙂
Our first destination was Mammoth Hot Springs. I had read and seen pictures, and was hopeful that it would be super pretty. It did not disappoint! We parked and let everyone out. There are a few wooden trailways, which are necessary because the ground is super unstable because of the hot springs. We walked for a bit, took lots of pictures, and got facials from all the warm steam!
Then we loaded back up, and shortly after that we spotted a black bear! We sat on the side of the road for a while and watched him make his way through the forest. On the other side of the road, a car passed, spotted the bear, forgot to look at the road, and smashed into the truck in front of them! Everyone was okay, but their car was not. We wondered how many times a day that happens in Yellowstone!
There were single bison all along the road, and we loved stopping to get pictures and watch them. They’re such cool animals! Right after Mammoth we hit Fort Yellowstone (which is technically in Montana), and there was a herd of elk that clearly lives right there in the town. There were several babies, and lots and lots of adults. Super fun. One of the elk was eating and snatched up a dandelion, which turned into a cloud of seeds all around its mouth! Super funny.
Then we continued on towards Lamar Valley. The road is super pretty, and we stopped on the way to see a petrified tree and get a quick geology lesson. Then we pushed on towards the Valley, especially since the sun was starting to set and we didn’t want to lose the light! We got through the mountains, and then the valley opened up. Right as we got to the valley, we saw a group of about ten bison right by the road, and stopped to take pictures. They were so close! Bison are so big and slightly terrifying, but they mostly ignore everyone. Then I glanced up from taking pictures, out over the valley, and I yelled out “there’s so many of them!”
Everyone was like “Where?” And I just pointed…everywhere. There were literally thousands of bison all sprinkled across the valley! It was amazing. Just like you read about in the history books where they used to just cover the land. It was so cool! We drove for another twenty minutes or so, just taking in the valley and all the bison. We saw some pronghorn and birds too, but it was mostly bison as far as you could see! Absolutely fantastic.
Finally it was getting dark, and we knew we had a really long drive back home, so we turned around and headed home. It was about nine o’clock and we had about four hours left to drive! As we headed back, there were a few cars stopped, and as we pulled up beside them, it was another black bear right on the side of the road! He was happily eating dandelion heads and didn’t care at all about us. At one point he was close enough that I really wanted to reach out and touch him. They look so soft and cuddly, even though I know they’re dangerous! We obeyed all the rules and stayed put while the bear finished his dinner and then crossed the road and headed off towards the river.
The drive home was long and tiring, and everyone except for Lover slept for part of it. We didn’t get home until about 1am, and then had to get up and pack up and head out in the morning! But it was worth it to have such a great time in Yellowstone – we all agreed that we need to do an extended family vacation there some year. There was tons more to do!