I have a very un-Yellowstone-like confession: Other than learning about how the park was formed and understanding the geological significance of the geothermal activity, I'm just not that interested in what are considered the big ticket items of Yellowstone. Don't get me wrong: It's some fun stuff.
We hopped out of the car to look at a few mudpots, steaming ponds, and the like and rode our bikes a few miles to see the Lonestar Geyser (which did go off when we were there—I explained to Sophie that Old Faithful is just like that, only bigger), but I have about half a day of tolerance for it all. Part of it's the crowds; part is the pavement paths you walk over to get to it all.
What we wanted was this:
However, we spent the first night camping at the ghastly Grant Village, which is pretty much like you're camping in a dirt parking lot with some trees. This is one of about half the campgrounds in the part operated by a private concession, where they assign you a site based on personal data entered into a computer (number in party; pet yes/no; size of tent; etc.). We settled for a night there so we could spend our first day seeing some sites without worrying about securing a place to sleep.
The next morning we hightailed it up to the campground I had selected through my exhaustive internet research: Slough Creek. It's off the beaten path, up a two-mile dirt road in the northeastern part of the park.
No electricity, no flushers, RVs ok but no generators. And my dad remembered backpacking there as a kid from their family summer cabin in Montana, due north of Slough Creek by not too much. All good reasons to make it our Yellowstone home.
Because it was off the beaten path, it did mean that we spent a little more time than we would have liked touring around in our car. We were particularly glad though to have our bikes with us, which allowed us to cover more ground.
In addition to our Lonestar Geyser ride, we also rode out to Artists Point for good views of the falls through the canyon known as the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone.
Back in our own neighborhood, we enjoyed a hike up the Slough Creek Trail,
where we saw many interesting things, including
a cabin in which we would like to live and
Here's pictures of a few other things around the park we liked.Did you know that twenty years ago the whole damned thing almost burned down? But that's sort of a good thing. We learned in one of the nature centers that the seeds in the cones of lodgepole pines can only be released by fire, since it takes lots of heat to melt the glue that holds them in there. Interesting, huh?
We were really excited to see this handsome bison. Can you imagine how excited we were the next day to see a herd of over a hundred of them?
And there were flowers. Not everywhere since many parts of the park are fairly arid. But there were lots right where I wanted them most: outside the door of my tent.
And of course we were very excited when Sophie earned her second junior ranger patch of the summer, making her a triple-threat ranger (Denali, Tetons, Yellowstone).
But a post on Yellowstone would be incomplete without mention of bears. Leading up to this trip I had spent months worrying about bears. So I bought some of this:
Husband thought I was a complete idiot, but I felt better rolling over in my sleeping bag in the middle of the night and seeing its little glow-in-the-dark release tab. I explained to Sophie that it is something you hope you never need to use because if you find yourself in the position where it looks like a good idea, you're already pretty fucked.
Slough Creek is known as the grizzly area of the park, and a few weeks before there had been a grizzly who tore open a couple of tents when people were out of camp. We didn't see any there but were plenty of motivated to follow the guidelines for camping with bears, which included putting away everything—food, cosmetics, dishes (even clean ones), water buckets, stoves, etc.—in a bear box or locked car every time you went to bed or left camp. We had had to do the same thing in Tetons, so after a week and a half I was more annoyed with bears than afraid of them. Other wild life was a evidence though. We had coyotes run across the road in front of our car a few times, and we listened to the wolves howling at dawn, Slough Creek being the only place in the park where you can hear them.
Husband and I tried to explain to Sophie that when we were kids there was a cartoon show based on Yellowstone and the bears. Yogi Bear and his sidekick BooBoo, inhabitants of Jellystone Park, spent their days in search of picinick baskets, with that poor outsmarted Mr. Ranger hot on their heels. She asked "Well, what else happened in the show?" "Nothing!" we explained. "Just picnic baskets?" "Yes! With BooBoo! And Mr. Ranger!" It's hard to explain.