Yellowstone – Wraith Falls

Since the Labor Day crowds finally died down we headed back into the park in search of some animal sightings. Lee heard about a buffalo carcass at work that wolves were hanging around so we got up really early and headed north towards the Roosevelt Tower area. Unfortunately it is a long drive and despite the early (for us) start we missed the wolves by a half an hour. More importantly the carcass was super far away and although I brought a book to read just in case Lee didn’t really want to sit there in the hopes they would come back.

As I have mentioned before many of those great wolf pictures are from very far away and only visible through a super long lens or spotting scope. Folks will sit for hours peering through those scopes for their shots but that’s not really of interest to me or it turns out Lee. We like our wildlife close enough to see with the naked eye and with wolves in particular that is pretty rare.

Still it was a beautiful day so we popped over to see the petrified tree. This is the remains of a Redwood tree which shows that at some point Yellowstone had a tropical climate. It was pretty cool although I wouldn’t make a special trip just to see that.

Since we didn’t have anything special in mind we decided to check some smaller items off our list, but first I needed to stop and go to the bathroom. When we stopped at the gift shop near Tower Fall we saw a big crowd and walked over and I got some cool shots of a black bear. That was a nice bonus!

Next we decided to go to Wraith Falls but along the way we saw the Blacktail Plateau Road was open. This road has been closed every time we have passed it, so it was cool to travel along it. It was a huge wild stretch of gravel road traveling through grassland and then forest and although we didn’t see any animals it definitely seemed like a great spot for them. I highly recommend ALWAYS taking these side roads if they are open, because they are open and closed throughout the season and every one of them is pretty cool.

 

We finally made it to Wraith Falls although unfortunately it was largely dried up. We have been really lucky with waterfalls this year and I definitely want to visit this one again earlier in the season. The walk is about a half mile up and the ground is pretty rocky but the viewing platform is nice and we had a great time watching a chipmunk go crazy eating berries.

Lee’s animal guide is the Chipmunk and we always love watching them. Mine by the way is the female deer in case you were wondering 🙂

On our way back towards West Yellowstone we got really lucky though and saw a Royal elk (10 tines; between 7-9 years old) close to the road. We stopped and took a bunch of pictures and even got to see him lay down in the grass. I was amazed at how an animal that big could “disappear” in the grass and his antlers just looked like sticks. Based on that I wonder how many times we have passed right by moose or deer because it was extremely well camouflaged.

Yummy Grass
He bugled for us. Much higher pitched than we thought it would be

We probably should have left it at that, but Lee wanted to see the Ranger Museum at Norris Basin and that parking lot was PACKED. We got lucky enough to find a parking spot but the crowds were pretty crazy and a little overwhelming. The ranger museum was nice though and I particularly loved the diversity of the park rangers going back to the 1930’s. I highly recommend a stop but would definitely plan a visit on a less crowded day.

It was a nice day but to be honest we probably won’t be spending many more in the park itself. Our season is starting to wrap up and we have lots of tasks and errands that need to be completed before we leave. Because you never know about the weather (as of this writing we have had two consecutive freezing temps overnight) we need to be ready to leave at any time. Lee’s contract is until Oct 15th but the agreement is we can leave if a significant snowstorm heads this way. Basically we are playing it by ear from this point forward and our planned route allows for the flexibility to leave at any time. I’ll keep you updated as events warrant.

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Yellowstone -Lake Village and Natural Bridge

Yellowstone National Park is not very bike friendly, but there are a few trails to try so Lee and I took the bikes one morning to try a couple of the paths. Based on some information I got from a ranger, we decided to head out towards Lake Village. This was an area we had driven by several times, but it either wasn’t open or the timing wasn’t right. This day was bright and sunny though and the breeze coming off the lake was awesome.

Despite the directions I had we still couldn’t find the path, and ultimately stopped in the gift store to ask for directions. I think this is the last of the gift stores we hadn’t seen in the park and I really loved the old building with the nautical theme.

The people at the gift store were very nice but even they weren’t sure exactly where the bike path was so we took the bikes out and went on a search. Finally Lee found the trail which was a mile long and pretty overgrown. It was pretty though, with great views of the lake, but to be honest it was quite a bit of fuss for a small payout. We did stop on our way back though and went into the Lake Village hotel which is really beautiful. One of the newer hotels in the park it had nice views and I really liked its layout and proximity to the lake.

Our second bike ride wasn’t that far away and we were headed to the Natural Bridge. Again this was roughly a mile, but in this case I am glad we had our bikes. It was a beautiful ride through the forest ending in a nice view of the Natural bridge. We had just missed some marmots in the area, but we saw lots of ground squirrels and there were berry bushes galore.

We could have left our bikes at the base of the bridge and walked up a rocky path to the top, but neither of us was really feeling it. It was getting pretty hot and the terrain was pretty rough so instead we headed back out after taking our pics. We were both glad we gave the bikes a try but I have to say in general bike riding in the park itself was just ok. I will talk more about why we cant just throw the bikes in the back of the truck in my upcoming Lectric Bike review, but suffice it to say they require both of us to get them in and out of the truck, which is a bit of a hassle for a short ride.

We very much appreciate your support of our blog

  • You can purchase the ebook telling the story of how we became full-time RVers.
  • You can purchase our recipe book filled with 80 recipes we have cooked in our RV and taste tested by Lee himself. You can purchase the kindle or paperback version on Amazon or buy the Apple version on Itunes

Yellowstone – Moose Falls

My last post was about a well talked about area that was a bit of a disappointment but this one is all about a hidden gem. Moose Falls is the first thing you enter when coming into Yellowstone from the south entrance but it was only on our fourth trip past the area I even noticed the relatively small sign. Since we were headed in that direction I said I definitely wanted to stop and even knowing roughly where it was we almost passed it again.

There was a relatively small parking lot (with only one car in it) and the path was not immediately obvious. Since Jack needed a potty break anyway we decide to walk down it and came out at the top of a waterfall. From the top the view was pretty nice (including an old stone bridge) but it wasn’t until we walked down a very old stone carved path that the real magic happened.

View from the top
View downstream from the falls
Cool old stairs …I was glad I had my hiking boots on
And then voila

It was totally amazing and really like being in a fairy glade. We were the only ones there and there were no signs against anything. We could get into the water, we let the dog off leash, and the roar of the waterfall blocked out any road noises. I LOVED it!! So much that I am giving it its own blog post which I rarely do. Here’s the best of the many pictures.

Jack loved it
I loved it
And Lee loved it

Jack is Lee’s new favorite subject

It did start to get a little crowded at some point so we took off but I will definitely come back. I just kept saying how have we never heard of this place and Lee just shrugged as if to say who knows. I think my point is for every place that doesn’t live up to its press that are 2-3 that completely exceed them (if you can find them) which is what makes our National Parks such magical places.

We very much appreciate your support of our blog

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Yellowstone – Old Faithful

One of the benefits of arriving in Yellowstone in late April is minimal crowds, but the weather was definitely problematic. I kept waiting for a clear sky day to go into the park, but finally realized that probably wasn’t going to happen so instead settled on a dry roads day. Although it was overcast it was still really exciting, and we finally entered our nation’s first National Park. Due to the time of year and weather not all of the roads were open, so we decided to focus on the Old Faithful section of the park.

Even if all the roads were open I would NOT recommend trying to see everything in a day or even two. This park is HUGE, with multiple sections that each deserve their own time in my opinion. To be honest I wasn’t sure what to expect, despite all the hype, but this park has absolutely blown me away. It truly has it all. Gorgeous vistas, tons of wildlife, waterfalls, and the geysers. Of course the most famous of them all is Old Faithful so of course that was high on my list. And did I mention this is the 150th anniversary of the park??? I would love to say I planned it that way but it is just a happy coincidence.

The entrance. Entering early or later is really important when things get busy because the lines we have heard can be two hours long.

We saw a sign when we entered that said watch for bison on the road and we were not disappointed. We had several up close and personal encounters with bison that first day and they were beautiful. We also saw some Trumpeter swans which I have only seen once before in Alaska. This was all less than 10 miles inside the gate which was a great way to start.

It’s hard to decide which pictures to highlight so I will share my favorites in gallery view and you can click on any for a larger version.

The rivers running through the park are absolutely gorgeous. I didn’t expect this much water.

The 14 mile drive to Madison was cool enough, but then we started seeing lots of geyser activity. That I did not expect as we would see billowing steam in all kinds of places. Yellowstone sits on an active volcano, and the steam vents and geysers are “release valves”. Frankly it’s incredibly cool and we stopped and took a walk around the Painted Pots area, one of the many walkways built through the geyser fields. We had a lovely conversation which a young ranger named Mary and then hit a section where three of them were all going off at the same time and we were in the middle. What an amazing feeling and I absolutely loved it!!

This pond reaches 195 degrees

The day was just filled with unexpected surprises and we hadn’t even gotten to Old Faithful yet. When we arrived we stopped at the gift shops first and met lots of other fulltime RVers who were working there. These stores are beautiful and had lots of staff so we picked up a couple of items.

We made it to the Old Faithful Visitor Center around 3:30 and to be honest I was a bit disappointed. Mostly that is because I am not that interested in the details around geysers, but it does have a beautiful large window you can see the geyser from while being inside. We finished the museum around 4:00pm and since the next eruption was scheduled for 4:14 decided to walk out and wait. Unfortunately it was cold and sleet while we were waiting but the eruption was pretty cool. Keep in mind this was off season and terrible weather and the crowds were still there. Can’t imagine what its like in season.

Because of the cold you mostly see steam but still really cool. VERY high in the air.

We were both really glad that we had checked Old Faithful off our list but to be honest I liked the experience at the painted pots better. Still its something everyone should do and I look forward to seeing the lesser known geysers in the future. Since we are here all summer our plan is to do the most famous attractions as early in the summer as we can and then spend the high season (July and August) exploring the lesser known places. Even in high season the park is supposed to be good between 6am – 10 am (prime animal viewing) and 6pm – Dusk. We have already made a couple more trips into the park in the evening and those are special as well.

So far I really love this park and I may come out of this experience with it as my all time favorite. I’ll continue to write about our adventures this summer and share my pictures!

We very much appreciate your support of our blog

  • You can purchase the ebook telling the story of how we became full-time RVers.
  • You can purchase our recipe book filled with 80 recipes we have cooked in our RV and taste tested by Lee himself. You can purchase the kindle or paperback version on Amazon or buy the Apple version on Itunes