If you make it through this whole post, kudos to you! You deserve a prize. Of course, in my opinion, your prize would be allowing yourself to look at these amazing pictures from our vacation.
On July 10th, 2010, Jeff and I flew out of Baltimore to Salt Lake City and rented a car. Let me add, we woke up at 2:30AM to fly out of Baltimore at 7AM. It was a 5 hour flight and we landed in SLC at 10AM their time, which was noon our time. Oh, wait, we LANDED at 9:30, but they didn't have our gate open so we sat on the tarmac for 45 minutes before being allowed off the place. Remember this... it will become the theme of our airplane adventures this trip.
From the SLC airport, we drove to the Great Salt Lake. It was neat, but we didn't walk down to it since we still had a 6 hour ride to get to West Yellowstone that day (and yes, that is after waking up at 2:30AM!).
But one thing that we really wanted to do when we landed in SLC was to drive to see the salt flats (which we could see from the plane). One of our favorite movies is "Word's Fastest Indian" with Anthony Hopkins (I recommend it!) was filmed here. It is MILES and MILES of salt. Super cool!
Ok, so we got to West Yellowstone at about 6:30pm MDT, which was 8:30pm our time. My parents were already their in their RV, where we would be staying. They had already been on a week of vacation and this was their second week, with us! We ate the wonderful dinner my dad had prepared for us and collapsed into bed at about 10:30MDT, which was 12:30EST. Yes, we were up for 20 hours, traveling for most of those hours and we were EXHAUSTED!
Sunday, July 11th- HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ME!!! :) What a wonderful way to spend my birthday: on vacation in YELLOWSTONE with my husband and my parents! It was a great birthday!
We had just barely entered the park when we came upon this amazing view:
It was in the first little bit of Yellowstone that we came upon Jeff's first bison sighting: (My parents and I had been in Yellowstone 16 years ago and I do remember the bison from the trip! I have a funny story about bison later on... stay tuned!).
These brave souls were flyfishing in the same area as the bison. It made for a great picture though!
This was Jeff's first hot spring. The water is boiling and you can smell the sulfur in the air (which smells like hard boiled eggs, or a resemblance of the Spring Grove Glatfelter Paper Mill, if you know what that smells like).
In the 1980's, Yellowstone had a horrific forest fire. Over 75% of the park was burned. I will add some details about the trees later, but one interesting note is that because it is so cold here, the trees do not break down so they remain in form, either standing or laying. It really made for beautiful pictures!
This is the Ojo Caliente Spring.
The water flowed into the river...
...and because it was so warm from the boiling water, plant life grew in the river. It was neat to see!
And sometimes, when you look off into the distance, you can see steam from other springs and geysers in the background.
We came across a boardwalk path that was very neat. It took us past this area, which was so neat. It was formed from an earthquake. The puddle looking thing in the front is boiling mud, and the steam you see coming from the back is VERY loud. It sounds like a machine. It was very neat!The colors were amazing, and it was so cool to see the depth of the pools on this little boardwalk trail.
This is called the "Fountain Paint Pots". It is boiling mud that holds its shape as it boils. In the winter, the boils hold their shape for a while.
We saw geysers, like this one, which is called "Jet Geyser". It jets out in 3 different places... can you spot the places?
Once back in the truck, we travel on and come across another bison, giving a beautiful picture!
And of course we had to stop at Old Faithful, which was so kind to go off EXACTLY at the time I was born, 1:27pm EST! So cool that it went off at that time! Old Faithful goes off every 90 minutes +/- 10 minutes and can shoot over 100 feet into the air!
We are graced with views with this as we take random pull offs for scenic views.
And when we get a full view of Yellowstone Lake, we are blessed with a view of snow capped mountains and a very dynamic sky.
There was a forest fire last year, 2009. While this picture is sad, it is beautiful. In a few years you will see trees growing amongst the dead trees.
This is called Dragon's Mouth and the water waves in and out, while steam is coming out. It looks like a Dragon's Mouth, hence the name.
Near Dragon's Mouth is Mud Volcano. Years ago, a hole started to spew mud, and now it leaves us with this mud volcano.
Toward the end of the day we came across Sulfur Cauldron. The pH level of Sulfur Cauldron (which had an INTENSE sulfur smell) was 1, which is 1 below battery acid, which has a pH of 0!
And this elk so nicely started to pee as I took the picture. :/
Day 2 started with an "animal jam", which is caused when lots of cars stop to view an animal. Usually it is just bison or elk, but when we saw what came wandering down the road we felt that waiting was worth it. It was a coyote!
We made a stop at a beautiful small creek so my mom could stick her feet in the ice cold water, which is usually snow runoff.
THEN we come across the Lower Falls in the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. It was simply breath taking and my pictures do not do it justice (nor do my pictures for the rest of Yellowstone or the trip).
When we stopped to view the Upper Falls in the canyon, an Elk was eating within 10 feet of the crowd. The park rangers did a wonderful job controlling everyone and making sure they stay away from the animals. It was amazing how many people thought that they were in a petting zoo and could just go and pet the animals. We had seen two elk eating on the side of the road and pulled over to take pictures and an RV pulled up in front of us. Out comes running 3 children, followed by their parents a few minutes later. We drove away before we saw what happened. These are DANGEROUS animals and people don't realize that. I just heard that a woman was attacked by a bison in Yellowstone, and it was probably because she was too close.
But once we pulled ourselves away from the elk, we saw this amazing view of the Upper Falls. We were later at the bring of the Upper Falls, which were so cool!
Not all of Yellowstone is stops to walk to view beauty. Beauty is all around, and this is just one example. This was just gorgeous and it was just along the drive that I snapped the picture.
The trees at Yellowstone are called Loggerhead Pines and they require fire for the seeds to germinate and start growing. The bare trunks were from the fire in the 1980's and the trees that are growing have all started to grow since then. It was very beautiful.
We were up close and personal with snowcapped mountains, including driving through them and being next to snow. It was so amazing.
And then we came across a black bear! My first ever bear sighting! And yes, I was very close, however I had a plan of what to do if the bear got angry (which may or may not have including pushing the guy in front of me over so I could run away... ok so I probably wouldn't have. But I didn't have to be the fastest, runner, I just didn't want to be the slowest! And I did have cars all around that I could have jumped in, including my dad's truck, which was right behind me. So I wasn't a stupid as it seems!).
The sky at Yellowstone was so incredibly dynamic.
My favorite part of Day 2 was seeing Mammoth Springs. The colors and views were so vibrant. Here are a few pictures, which really don't do it justice.
If you look close, you can see an endless pool effect. Remember this. I have pictures from the front (the waterfall section), which are neat!
The white is dead space, where water used to flow but no longer does. The orange is where water does flow and bacteria grows.
The bacteria that grows forms these amazing patterns in the water.
The front of the endless pool section.
So that was Yellowstone, the most amazing National Park I have ever been to. It was incredible and I am so glad I went. I can't wait to go back and spend more time there.
And the low for the country at night was at West Yellowstone, which made me happy to hear considering we were in 100+ degree weather when we left home.
We left Yellowstone (sadly) and headed to South Dakota (which was a very long, but scenic drive). This is a picture of my parents' pulling their RV. We followed them in our rental.
The next day we went to see Mt. Rushmore. It was so neat to learn about the history of this mountain. Did you know that the mountain was originally supposed to be sculpted to their waists, but that the sculptor (Gutzon Borgelum) died 17 years after starting the project, before the project was finished. George Washington is the only one that is the most finished.
After viewing Mt. Rushmore, we drove on the corkscrew highway, which got its name because of these bridges that you went under, and then around...
...and then drove on top of them. There were a bunch of them!
There were also a bunch of granite tunnels.
We then drove on Needles Highway, which got its name because of these spires of rock, which look like needles. Did you know that the person who came up with the idea of Mt. Rushmore originally wanted famous people to be carved into these needle rocks, but the rocks were too soft, so Mt. Rushmore was chosen because it is a hard rock.
We left Needles Highway to go see Crazy Horse before heading to Custer State Park. Crazy Horse is not finished. It is supposed to be a full sculpture of Crazy Horse riding his horse.
Once in Custer State Park, we drove looking for animals. We saw many antelope and pronghorn and then came across the burros! The burros were once used for tours, but many years ago they stopped doing the tours and let the burros free. These are the descendants, which are wild animals, but friendly (and rude!). They don't let cars go by unless you feed them!
It was also here that we came across Jeff's first bison herd! It was so neat to see! These bison were on a mission, heading somewhere!
16 years ago, when my family first traveled out here, we came across our first bison herd. My dad stupidly got out of the car to video tape them, and one bison became agitated and went after my dad, causing my dad to jump into the van through my door and push me out of my seat so that he could close the door and stay safe. We were wondering if this could be the bison that did that.... (probably not though. They thin the herd depending on the availability of grass to feed them). That trip 16 years ago was also the trip that my dad was chased down the road by a mother moose after he got out of the car to get pictures while we were taking a bathroom break in the camper (and after the chase I'm sure my dad needed a bathroom break!). He decided to stay in the car when he saw the rattle snake that was hit by a car and very angry!
That night we went for dinner at the Circle B Ranch, which serves a chuckwagon dinner. We went here 16 years ago when I was a child too. It was fun to return and see what I remember.
After dinner there was entertainment of old country songs by a father and his two sons.
And then Jeff put me in jail... haha!
The next morning for breakfast we went to the campground's $3 all you can eat pancake breakfast! YUMMY!
We then headed to see the Badlands National Park, which was just incredible. This was one of Jeff's favorite parts (as was Yellowstone, particularly the 2nd day).
These badlands were caused by a volcano and then wind erosion. It was incredible to see the colors!
Just imagine you were a pioneer coming across the prairie in your wagon and all of the sudden you go over a hill and see this:
After the badlands we went to Wall Drug, which was a drugstore started in the 1930's by a couple who offered free icewater to travelers and advertised with signs all over the interstate. Because of that free ice water and 5 cent coffee, the place boomed to a huge tourist trap that it is today. We went when I was a kid and I got a cowboy hat, haha. This time we got a super cool fruit bowl made in South Dakota and our traditional Christmas ornament (on our honeymoon we started a tradition of buying an ornament on every big vacation we go on).
We then said goodbye to my parents and headed east to cut out some of the 10 hour trip to Minneapolis. We drove for 5 hours (well 6, if you count that we were already an hour away from the campground) and then stopped in a hotel for the night. We got up and headed north to Minneapolis to visit Gina and Sam! Gina and I went to high school together and became friends around the time we were planning our weddings. It was so nice to visit good friends and we can't wait to go visit them again!
On Saturday, July 17th we headed home... or at least TRIED. This picture was a joking picture, but little did we know how well the picture foreshadowed the evening/night we were about to endure.
We got to the airport at 2:00 for our 4:00 flight. We got on the airplane (with gray skies looming) and taxied away from the gate. And then we sat. (This is the time I should add that we had a connection to catch in Philadelphia to head to Baltimore where Jeff's mom would pick us up. We had an hour between when we were supposed to land and when our connection took off.) The pilot came on the speaker and announced that there was a problem with the plane and we would have to go back to the gate, but that because we were now in the midst of a severe thunderstorm (which would later bring tornadoes after we finally left!) we weren't allowed to go back to the gate, so there we sat. He decided to restart the plane (um???) while we were there and apparently it was OK to take off so after 30 minutes of sitting on the tarmac we were cleared to takeoff... during a severe thunderstorm with horrible lightening. It was not a fun takeoff for me (especially knowing the plane had issues before takeoff!!!) and the first hour of the flight we had not-so-fun turbulence. The kind where my stomach was everywhere and I was glad I hadn't yet eaten because my food would have probably ended up on my lap. But the clouds made for beautiful pictures!
The flight attendant assured us that they build extra time into the flight so we would land on time and we would make our connection. Famous last words. We landed only 10 minutes late, with enough time to make our connection... or so we thought.
Apparently there was a plane at the gate we had to go into, so we again had to sit on the tarmac waiting for planes to leave. What we didn't understand was WHY our gate wasn't open when they KNEW we were landing at that time. This was the second time this trip this had happened (remember, when we flew out it happened too!) and this time it affected us. We were sitting on the plane, with the most annoying and rude family in the world disturbing everyone, waiting and praying we'd make our flight. Well we finally got to the gate, 5 minutes before our flight had to take off and as we were getting off there was an announcement that anyone going on that flight, and a few others, had to see the gate attendant because our flights had left. Fun. So we went to the gate attendant and they had us booked for a flight the NEXT day, which wasn't going to work for us because Jeff had to return to work the next night and he would have had to call off because he wouldn't have been able to sleep. Well they did find a flight that took off that night and landed at another nearby airport, which we happily took, along with food vouchers to have dinner that night. Not five minutes later do I get an email to my phone saying that the new flight had been canceled and we had been rebooked to a flight the next day. Oh dear. There was no other flights that night and nothing the airline could do for us. Luckily, my aunt and uncle live 1 1/2 hours away and were more than willing to drive and pick us up and take us to Jeff's mom, who would take us the rest of the way home. WAHOO! So we got home at 2:30AM, but we got home. What a mess. And I won't fly US Airways again. The whole experience was terrible, but as my dad says "sometimes you get the bear and sometimes the bear gets you". This time the bear got us, but we made memories (as my mom's friend reminded us).
It was an amazing, and eventful vacation! If you made it this far you deserve a reward (but don't you feel like those pictures were rewarding enough?!?!). We can't wait to go back to Yellowstone and I would love to move to Montana. It was so awe inspiring out there, and even Minneapolis was wonderful (I'm not a city person, but this was a great city!). What a wonderful trip. I am blessed to be able to take a trip that wonderful.