Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Yellowstone Then and Now

The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone

I can't recall much from the trip my family made to Yellowstone National Park in 1961.  After all, I was only seven-years-old at the time.  But I do remember the exuberance my older brother Doug and I felt upon our arrival.  We threw open the car doors and burst out of that four-wheeled prison with all the pent-up pressure of a steam locomotive's boiler.  It had been an excruciatingly long way from the family farm in Kansas to the park!

My parents had reserved a cabin for our stay.  While they were occupied with unloading the suitcases, making up the beds, and undoubtedly thanking God that they were no longer in a car with whiny kids, Doug and I spied a black bear cub near the cabin and gave chase.

What could be cuter than a bear cub?  All we wanted to do was pet it, but I still can remember my dad's terrified shout when he exited the cabin and saw what we were up to.  I think we scared 10 years off his life.  (Mine, too, now that I recall the incident!)  We were lucky Mama Bear did not maul us.

That memory has replayed in my mind in a continuous loop now that my husband Tim and I are here on our own pilgrimage to Yellowstone.

LeHardy Rapids

We are camped near Moran, WY.  That's an ideal location for viewing the sights of both Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks.  Because the distance to Yellowstone from our campground is more than 30 miles, we've decided to alternate our days between the two, giving Tim a reprieve from long days of driving the Yellowstone Grand Loop.

I'd forgotten the beauty of the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone.  When my dad drove the Loop so many years ago, I'm not sure he ever let us out of the car after the bear cub incident.

The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone's Upper Falls
But I found the canyon breath-taking this time.  On the South Rim, Tim and I hiked from Artist's Point to Sublime Point for views that were--well, sublime!

The Lower Falls of Yellowstone's Grand Canyon
There seem to be fewer bears this time or maybe they're just lying low nowadays.  During our family vacation so many years ago, the bears would walk right up to cars where tourists would feed them.  When we hiked the backcountry to Mystic Falls this past Friday, we didn't encounter a single bear.  Perhaps that's due to the park service's "Be Bear Aware" campaign, warning visitors not to leave food outside where bears could find it and become habituated to human handouts.  Wildlife should be wild!

From upper left: chipmunk, elk, buffalo herd, the buffalo who sauntered by our car, deer

Our hike to Mystic Falls began at the trailhead in Biscuit Basin known for its collection of six geysers. 

Sapphire Pool

The most beautiful one is Sapphire Pool, a brilliantly clear and blue hydrothermal feature.  

Mystic Falls
The Mystic Falls were lovely, too. 

Old Faithful as seen from Mystic Falls Trail

However, the most memorable moment of our hike came when we found an outcropping and watched Old Faithful erupt 3 miles away.  

The overlook on Mystic Falls Trail

We were definitely in the right place at the right time!  

Of course, we later watched this phenomenon up close with hundreds of other viewers.  Old Faithful is an amazing sight no matter the viewing location!  It's no wonder it's such an icon.

One activity we really enjoyed this trip was listening to the GyPsy Guide app about Yellowstone.  Using GPS, the app's narration would kick on as we drove past memorable places, many off the beaten path.  

Firehouse River Falls below the swimming area

The Firehole River Road was one of those hidden gems.  The river flowing through this canyon is one of the few places in the park where swimming is allowed.  In most other spots, the geothermal heat makes the water much too hot for this activity.

Lake Yellowstone Hotel

The Lake Yellowstone Hotel was another turnoff from the Loop that we would have missed without the app's directions.  The hotel is a National Historic Landmark and it's beautiful inside.  Naturally curious, we wondered how much it would cost to stay there so we asked at the registration desk.  The Presidential Suite is $690/night, way beyond our budget!

The Black Pool at West Thumb

Of course, Yellowstone is known for the many hydrothermal features of the park.  

Grand Prismatic Spring
Over two-thirds of the worlds geysers are right here in Yellowstone.  That's impressive!

Lakeshore Geyser

Yet, it's the sounds of Yellowstone that I recalled from my first visit and that I will remember from this trip, too.  

Cliff Geyser
The fizzing geysers as they erupt into the air;

Mud Volcano

the mud pots that plop, plop, plop the clay surface of their pools; 

A Fumerole at Fountain Paint Pots

and the fumaroles that hiss as their gases escape their vents.

Yellowstone is a delight to the senses--sight, sound and the smell of sulphur in the air.  I'm so fortunate that I've had the chance to experience Yellowstone both then and now.


  1. Wow! What a great account of your two visits. Glad you escaped on the first one without a bear incident. How great to be able to see Old Faithful from the trail up above? Beautiful photos!

    1. Thanks, Randy! We only explored the southern portion of the Loop because of the distance to our campground. We wanted to do some hiking as well as driving. Next time we hope to camp in the first come/first served NPS campground at Mammouth Springs so we can see the northern area. Friends have told us that you need to get there early and walk the grounds to read the registration forms on each site, noting who's leaving and asking them to set up your lawn chair as a mark that this site is taken. Hope that works!