Yellowstone National Park established in 1872, is the world’s first national park because of its uncommon nature. It is unique because of the numerous hot springs, geysers, mud pots, and lakes. It also has the most extensive concentration of wildlife in the lower 48 states. Bison is one of the iconic animals at the Yellowstone National Park often moving along roadways and concocting heavy traffic jams.
We were serendipitous to visit the Yellowstone National Park before it was temporarily closed down due to a heavy downpour. I couldn’t believe the images of Yellowstone on television just a few days after visiting It. I felt fortunate not to be stranded. The two days we spent at the park were less than ideal. It was drizzling, frigid, and windy, yet we somehow managed to visit the whole park. We were determined to see all. It has been a dream of mine to visit the park, and this was my opportunity, and I was not going to waste it.
We got there a week before the flood happened, although with the amount of rain we were experiencing, it felt like we might get flooded out. Our first night in West Yellowstone was like winter with snow on the ground which was a surprise in June. The next day, our first day in the park, we arrived at the park entrance at 8 am; already traffic was palpable. Rangers reminded us to drive slow due to the heavy rain the park. We began our day excitedly, and the rain was not going to stop us from our scenic trip. Besides, I loved the rain, and I was ok to get a little wet, even if my family was not as excited. So, wet is an understatement, after our first hike where we got drenched, we headed to the first gift shop and spent a ridiculous amount on plastic ponchos and old coffee. The ponchos were actually glorified garbage bags in bright colors no one would want to voluntarily wear in public. Trust me it was so wet we wore those skittles colored garbage bags with pride.
Day 1 – Visiting the Lower Loop – 146 Miles
The park is divided into two loops, upper and lower. It is not recommended to do more than one loop at a time. Because we only had two days, we had our destinations planned out. Our first was seeing the Old Faithful eruption, which happens every 90 minutes and is probably the most popular attraction in the park and knew that this could be the most crowded attraction to see. We were excited when we got to the parking lot and saw hundreds of parking spots available, and that the next eruption would happen within the next 15 minutes. We strolled around the boardwalk and enjoyed the light rain. When it erupted, there were hardly a few people to enjoy it. We loved it and enjoyed it thoroughly because in general, it was a big deal to get that close. During summers, the queues are so long that geyser gazers are lucky to be at the back of the line. Once the eruption starts, the jetting will grow, then stops, and then grow again. It reaches its maximum height within 20 sec before it starts waning. The eruption was just an unforgettable spectacle and hardly any words to describe it other than “Oh, My God, this is amazing!” I was positively touched by the beauty of mother nature.
The eruption lasted about 5 minutes. We strolled the walks around the area in the rain and cold, admiring the hot pools of water. The blue water pools were steaming heavy due to the rain. The colors were murky because of the rain. We were not disappointed by the views. It was at this point we got those fashionable gummy candy ponchos because we knew we would never be able to get out of the car without them.
We then drove to the Morning Glory Pool. The rain was heavy with whipping wind. The view around us included a wide array of hats along the boardwalk blown into the pools. There were many visitors here, most wearing similar bright colored plastic on their bodies. As we walked along the boardwalk and admired the pools and mud pots, we had to laugh at the amount of bad weather everyone was forced to deal with. Because of the low visibility due to rain and wind, we couldn’t enjoy the beautiful colors and the depth of the pools. The fumaroles were so powerful that we were covered with water droplets. We had a peek at the reddish colors of some pools and the deep blue color of another as we got a break from the wind and rain. It was crowded amid the rain.
Next, we slopped our wet bodies into our car and headed to the next attraction West Thumb Geyser Basin which was also wet. We were greeted with a rotten egg smell started (of course it didn’t help that we parked on a ventilation grate). The smell was reminiscent of being in Rotorua in New Zealand when we visited the volcanic activity in the area. A distinct smell of SO2 you won’t miss. People continued to come despite the rain, it was at this point we saw people literally wearing garbage bags. Even though many appeared annoyed by the rain, no one gave up visiting the park. Honestly, I loved the rain, my family not so much. The downfall was that it was hard to take nice photographs.
The West Thumb site was magnificent and colorful. The colors reflect the cyanobacteria living along the edge of the water and the water’s reflection of the sky. The geysers were out-of-the-world colors. The turquoise colors were mesmerizing alluding me to swimming. Everywhere you glanced, there were stunning pools, and we were enjoying them. Amongst these beautiful geysers, there are mud pots that are acidic features with limited water supply. It’s boiling water with the dirt creating a muddy geyser. I was mesmerized by the sheer force of nature that drives this park which is alive.
The lakeshore drive was beautiful, and the Yellowstone Lake is one of kind. The lake appeared to be frozen, which is probably why there were no boats in the water. In June, it still felt like winter in Yellowstone. Snow was everywhere along the sides of the roads. There were plenty of lookouts to enjoy the lake. We kept driving as we wanted to visit different areas before it got too late. The rain was still coming down heavy. We stopped by the fishing bridge and walked across to see the lake and the beauty of the area. It was so windy, cold, and rainy that we couldn’t enjoy it fully. The bridge was a popular fishing area in the past. It was a major spawning area for cutthroat trout, however, due to the decline of the fish, the bridge was closed to fishing in 1973
Arrived at the Canyon Village, which is called the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone formed by the Yellowstone River. we saw some captivating waterfalls, amazing canyons, and mesmerizing views such as the Artist’s Point of the valley below. This is a must-see at Yellowstone National Park. The speed at which the water fell was hard to watch. It had been over 7 hours since we started, and it was time to head back to the hotel, so we headed toward the West Yellowstone exit. We still have the upper loop to do the next day.
Day 2 – Upper Loop Drive -96 miles
We choose an early start as it was raining hard, and we were a little concerned about how the day would be ended up being, plus they reported snow in parts of the park during the night. We were informed that indeed several roads were closed, which included some areas we wanted to visit. Shortly after entering the park, we came into a traffic jam, over 100 cars stopped on the road. Being a city dweller, I thought it was probably a car accident, but my brilliant wife said, “it most likely bison in the road.” She was right. It was them; they were everywhere on the road simply hanging out. Some walked forward, some sideways, and some back and forth. Some couldn’t even decide what they were doing. I grabbed my camera and did some photographs and videos. Some reckless visitors tried to lure the buffalos over to their cars, calling them, waving to them, begging to touch them. “That is a bad idea,” I said to my wife pointing to the crazy tourists. We were right behind one of the cars waving at the bison, and if something were to happen, I was sure we would get in trouble with the bison as well. This echoed the story of a woman that got killed by a bison at the park a few days after our trip to the park. They are dangerous and should not be approached. They would defend their calves at any cost. We noticed many calves that it was a one-of-a-kind experience. The traffic jam lasted about 45 minutes, finally, a ranger ushered them off the road so the traffic could resume both ways.
We wanted to go to Tower Roosevelt. We passed the major attraction which was the Mammoth Springs and headed towards the tower which was about 40 miles away. When we got there, the road was closed due to the heavy rain and snow. We were disappointed but had a cup of coffee at the visitor’s center before we headed towards the Mammoth Springs. We stopped at the Tower Fall to catch a beautiful cascade. Then we took a small promenade where we saw black bears with cubs, enjoying the creek and the meadow. People were taking pictures and we met this wildlife photographer Brian who explained to us how much he loved taking pictures and making a career out of it. He used his tools and cameras to show us the bears and the cubs as if we were a few feet away from them. It was cool. Most people come to the park hoping to see bears which are rare to notice but this time, we so several bears and cubs. We were fortunate.
Arriving at the Springs, it was challenging to find parking. it was overcrowded, but the rain had stopped for a moment. We were actually able to sit and enjoy a sunny picnic while watching some magnificent Elk resting in the meadow just a few meters away. We decided to hike the springs and did not take the rain ponchos hoping there won’t be any rain, which in hindsight was a really stupid move. The hike was about 2 miles long, and there was so much to see. So many springs that I couldn’t believe my eyes. The colors were blinding which is for the most part due to bacteria living on the surface of the springs, and the massive size of the springs showed us how tiny we were next to them. The Travertine terraces where the interaction of limestones and hot water express chalk-white travertine terraces at the surface. It is described as a cave inside out explains why it looks like that. The steam and the mist coming from them felt like we were on an alien planet. Of course, it began to rain, hard, and our ponchos were cuddly warm and dry in our car. But the cold brought by the rain counteracted the warmth of the springs, so we could pretend to be warm, even though we were soaking wet. When we reached the car, we were drenched, and my family was not happy about not taking the ponchos with us. Rain was unpredictable, and we learned a lesson. The family whined a bit about being cold, but I know they secretly loved and enjoyed every moment of the rain.
The rain started coming down after that and with a heavy heart, we decided to exit the park, hoping to come back one day and rain can be optional.