I had been looking forward to Yellowstone. As usual, when I plan for a trip I try to learn as much about it as possible. It helps in figuring out how to get the most use out of our days. I have to tell you though, I was pretty thrown off by our breakdown so wasn't really on my game this trip. Our intention was to spend the first night (the one where we broke down on the way there) in Gardener, Montana. This is a cute gateway town right at the enterance of the historic Roosevelt Arch which stands at the northern most entrance to Yellowstone. Day 2 and 3 were supposed to be spent in the Canyon campground near the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. I had pre-booked the sites in the park because a lot of them book solid. Although the breakdown delayed us two full days, my parents saved the trip by hooking up Eggie and towing us all down to catch the second day in Canyon campground. These are pictures from that day.
We entered the park on a cold and rainy afternoon. It was so cloudy that as we rose to higher elevations, taking the switchback twisted road from Tower Junction to the canyon, we were driving right through the clouds. The view was haunting. Clouds hung low, hovering over burnt out forests of lodge pole pines. Plumes rose from the ground out of hidden thermal vents. We passed a herd of Bison, leasurely making their way along the road. I don't blame them for taking the paved path. We breifly passed a Grizzly bathing in a lake near the road, under the watchful eye of a park ranger. You'd be surprised how foolish tourists can be when it comes to approaching animals. This is such a wild place, full of natural wonders and hidden dangers. It ain't no Disneyland folks!
The view of the canyon was beyond words. Mist filled the air from the thunderous waterfall. Every turn was awe worthy. Each path lead to another perspective, better than the last. We descended slippery steps, hundreds of feet above the river winding below. Here's where I point out why Yellowstone isn't an amusement park. It's something I didn't fully consider until I was actually there. There is great potential for danger here. Between steep, slippery slopes that fall to deep rocky canyons, boiling thermal springs just under thin ground, and roaming elk, bison, moose and bears - you'd better tread carefully. Even more so, you'd better always have a hand on your children. While overlooking the falls, a visitor told my mom that a little 8 year old girl fell 500 feet to her death a week before right in that spot. This isn't the first or last fatal accident in Yellowstone. There are signs around the park warning visitors of how they can stay safe while enjoying the park, but there are very few railings or fences anywhere. You are expected to educate yourself and to show reverence for this natural place. Deservedly so. It is truly magnificent.
Next up, belching mud pots and dragon's lairs. Exciting, right?