We departed the Butte KOA and after a quick stop at Walmart for some inexpensive grilling supplies, headed down to Yellowstone via MT 287, following the Madison River and passing by Earthquake Lake, apparently formed (hence the name) by a giant earthquake in 1959. The river was beautiful and obviously very popular for trout fishing judging by the number of resorts and boats.
We arrived at the West Entrance early in the afternoon and were soon on our way to the Madison campground. We got settled in and went for a walk along the river and saw a lone bison grazing across the way. Beautiful. The next morning we got an early start, heading for the Canyon area, some 35 miles across the park. We got there early enough to grab an RV parking spot at the South Rim near Artists Point, and cooked some breakfast. The view of the lower fall was indeed spectacular, and one could easily understand why it was called Artists Point. We did a nice little hike along the South Rim past the lower falls to the upper falls, enjoying the gorgeous vistas and staying a little back from the steep and deep drop-offs.
Along the way we passed a trail that was closed due to deterioration which consisted of a steel set of stairs that went all the way down to the bottom of the Canyon. The trail’s namesake ran a guiding business at the turn of the 20th Century taking tourists down the Canyon via ropes and ladders!
Next we drove along the North Rim, but by that time all of the parking lots were full… and we decided that we had the better views on the South Rim. So we went off to Canyon Village to have lunch, get gas and fulfill Miranda’s hunt for Bear Spray. We got lunch at the Canyon Lodge cafeteria and ate at the tables outside. The sun was out and there was relatively little smoke in the sky. The food was surprisingly good – I had a bison sloppy joe and Miranda had a veggie version. We also bought our obligatory t-shirts, stickers and post cards at the gift shop, and were able to find bear spray at the gas station. All of the park papers and signage indicate that visitors should carry bear spray. I noted to Miranda that there were so many people around armed with the spray, we’d only need to shout “bear!” and be inundated with a fog of spray issuing from all directions.
After lunch we drove back to the Norris geyser basin. There were huge crowds of vehicles parked all along the access roads and the overflow lots, but we decided to chance driving up to the main parking lot. They had RV parking and luckily, another CruiseAmerica RV was pulling out just as we arrived. The big feature here was the Steamboat Geyser, one the erupts infrequently for long periods of time.
We watched the show for a little while then wandered around the back basin on boardwalks above the geothermally active land. There were many pools and mud pots, and interestingly, viewing areas built for geysers that were no longer active. Towards the end of the walk, we came across a geyser that had been obstructed by rocks thrown in by tourists when the park road ran nearby. Seeing examples like this and learning a bit about the history of the National Parks revived a bit of discussion between us about the nature of people. I, in my aging cynicism, find difficulty in the notion that people are “inherently” good. I see too many examples of the opposite. Miranda has a more nuanced view that people are all born with the capacity for good and are influenced by their experiences. I wonder what experience influenced the person that stole a couple of measly pieces of firewood from our obviously occupied campsite?
The afternoon consisted of a nice little nap and then a dinner over the fire. We were back to the old reliable “hobo dinners” that we made in my youth, mixing potatoes, onions, ground turkey (in a nod to Miranda), cheese and broccoli (also Miranda) in aluminum foil cooked directly over the coals. Of course, we had s’mores for dessert, and turned in early.
The next day was a visit to Old Faithful and the upper geyser basin. We had another early start to make sure that we were able to park. Along the way, we saw a small crowd of cars on the side of the road and by now knew that this meant there was wildlife around. Sure enough, a herd of Bison was right there alongside the park road, including many juveniles. The humans clearly missed the instructions to keep at least 25 yards away, but perhaps they were to be forgiven, since the Bison were gathered right on the shoulder of the road. We got to Old Faithful a little after 8 AM. On the way in there was quite a bit of smoke due to a fire burning South of the park road. There was plenty of parking – the lots really didn’t fill up until lunch time. We found that we actually had cell service so spent a little time getting a data fix. I also wanted to call the CruiseAmerica assistance line, as our “coach” battery was clearly dying. It would not hold a charge and was not even strong enough to allow us to run the propane heater in the frigid Yellowstone mornings. Fortunately, after a bunch of calls and some good scouting by Miranda, we were able to have the battery replaced at the gas station right there in the village.
We walked around to the back side of Old Faithful to view the eruption, and then walked pretty much all of the Geyser basin. This one was, contrary to the Park literature, much more active than the Norris basin. We watched Castle and Riverside Geyser erupt and took in many of the bubbling springs. It was a surreal landscape of steam and hot water flowing into the Firehole river. I certainly don’t have any words to do it justice. Except, maybe, crowded.
We eventually found our way back to the Old Faithful Lodge for another take out lunch from the Cafeteria. They had a mask mandate and were controlling entrance, but it was still crowded in there. Unlike the Canyon Lodge, there was little to no outdoor seating, so we wound up taking our lunch back to the RV. Again, the food was surprisingly good and actually quite inexpensive. After lunch we were both ready for a nap, so headed back to the Madison campground. We dumped the holding tank and filled up with water on the way back in and then had a good long nap. Another campfire dinner, this time hot dogs, salad and leftover beans from lunch. We cleaned and cleared the site to prepare for departure in the morning and passed on the s’mores so we could watch an episode of a show on Miranda’s iPad.