Yellowstone

We’d all been looking forward to our visit to Yellowstone. As avid wildlife spotters we were looking forward to seeing lots of animals, as well as the scenery. Alisha was particularly keen on seeing the wolves that live in the north of the park. The park was still very busy, even though it was after Labour Day (American holiday on first Monday in September, after which the schools go back) and the weather was still warm. We had wanted to sleep in a small site right in the valley that the wolves are often seen but unfortunately it was full, so we spent a frustrating afternoon trying to find another place, as nearly all the campsites were full. Only a few big ones take advance bookings but eventually we found one close to Norris geyser basin. A late afternoon walk looking at a selection of geothermal features got everyone’s legs and noses working. The following morning we were off before sunrise northwards to see animals but also get a campsite space, as this site we had been told filled by 8am. The drive was magical as all the meadows were cloaked in swirling mists. That combined with the steam gushing from fumeroles dotted through the forested hillsides gave it quite an eerie feeling as the sun rose over the mountains. Luckily we got a beautiful spot to stay right next to a bubbling stream with trout in and a herd of bison wandering over a meadow on the other side.

We spent our time in Lamar Valley in Northern Yellowstone looking for animals, hiking and admiring the stunning scenery. The valley was filled with sage brush and grass which was starting to turn a very autumnal gold, especially at dawn and dusk. We didn’t seen any of the fabled wolves or any predators but we did see lots of ungulates, especially big herds of bison. There was a couple of close encounters at the campground with these beasts which almost became extinct at one point. A very large male bison taking his time with a drink, scratch on a quivering tree and generally slowly surveying his domain, came through one morning. That evening when returning in the almost dark we could hear the snorts and grunts over the whole campground as a herd was making its way through to the higher ground. Needless to say both times we stayed well back, as bison, especially the males, are huge.

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We couldn’t come to Yellowstone of course, without seeing “Old Faithful” the geyser that erupts regularly every one and a half hours or so. What we hadn’t expected was the variety of geothermal features strung along the fault line. Yellowstone is actually on a giant volcano that is overdue an eruption, give or take 10,000 years or so (so we didn’t lose any sleep over it). We saw and smelt a whole range of thermal pools, fumeroles (steam vents), hot springs and of course geysers while we were there. The girls schooling this week has been all about tectonic plates, volcanos, geology etc.

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Yellowstone also has a Grand Canyon, not “The” Grand Canyon but a hugely impressive slice through the mountains with two huge roaring waterfalls and yellow walls shot through with multihued mineral deposits.

All in all Yellowstone has been fantastic and we thoroughly recommend it.

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