Western Adventures: Yellowstone Reprise

June 7th:

With the sun shining and not a rain cloud in sight – I decided re-enter Yellowstone for another full day of adventures. Here is a summary of a few of the day’s adventures:

I entered at West Yellowstone and drove east towards Madison Junction. One of the most bucolic spots in the park, this is where the Gibbon River to Firehole River to form the Madison River. The Madison River is one of the America’s premier fishing rivers. We’ll explore The Madison more in my next entry.

Cliffs surround this high plateau of steam…the rocky rim is the Yellowstone Caldera…National Park Mountain near Madison Junction is part of the lava flows.

Madison Campground is an ideal place to pitch a tent near the banks of the river.

My initial goal was to stop in the Lower Geyser Basin and explore the Fountain Flats and Midway Basins – unfortunately I was unable to find a parking space (a first for me in the park).

Midway Geyser Basin is home to the second largest thermal spring in the world and a kaleidoscope of color, so I was bummed to miss another chance to see the Midway area.

Luckily I was able to enjoy drive through The Firehole Canyon road, where the Firehole River rumbles through volcanic rock. This is one of the most scenic detours in the park. Learn more via this link.

This is one of the only areas you can safely swimming Yellowstone (a swimming hole is designated roadside – and DO NOT swim in the falls!)

The forty-foot falls are dramatic and eruptive.

While I would have enjoyed spending another few hours in the Old Faithful area, I decided instead to press on across the Continental Divide to West Thumb Geyser Basin.

West Thumb is argubly the most beautiful geyser basin in the park, given it’s unique location on the shores of Yellowstone Lake.

West Thumb features a variety of thermal features, from clear blue sizzling hot springs, thick mud pots and fumaroles.

I took my time enjoying the gorgeous ‘steamy’ views of this Yellowstone wonder.

To learn more about West Thumb Geyser Basin

In need of another cup of coffee I drove to nearby Grant Village. The Yellowstone General Store is a great spot to discover souvenirs and grab a quick meal.

While not super hungry – I decided to indulge in a scoop of Wilcoxon’s ice-cream. Hands down the best ice cream I’ve ever had. To learn more about Wilcoxsons click here.

Grant Village is located on the shores of Yellowstone Lake. It includes lodging (condos and rooms), several restaurants and a campground. I’ve camped at Grant a lot and love the views – but be sure to layer up. Lake is freezing at night and you need to pack a zero below sleeping bag – just to stay warm and cozy. (Pro tip).

*Grant was President in 1872 when Yellowstone became the world’s first national park.

After a brief stop at Grant, I headed north along the western shores of Yellowstone Lake towards The Hayden Valley.

Bison roamed roadside as I passed through the calming valley. I noticed Trumpeter Swans swimming in the Yellowstone River.

My heart loves canyons – there is something unique and mystical about a canyon…the colors, the geology and God’s handiwork in motion – thousands of years of cutting and carving to create beautiful spaces.

I will never tire of returning to The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. It is an artistic masterpiece – a living monument of water, trees and stone converging.

So once again, I took time to return to ‘The Canyon’ to enjoy the scenery for just a brief moment. I know God must be gracious to allow humanity to live in such a time to stand in the glow of the Lower Falls of the Yellowstone.

After breathing in the fresh canyon air and listening to the roar of the thundering falls, I drove twelve miles southwest towards Norris Junction.

As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, Norris is the hottest thermal basin in Yellowstone and home to the world’s most powerful geyser – Steamboat.

Norris is a large thermal area and usually takes a few hours to visit. With only a few hours left of daylight, I decided to focus my time in Norris on the Steamboat area. For a complete overview of Norris and it’s wonders click here.

Steamboat Geyser: Tucked away in the Norris Geyser Basin is Steamboat Geyser, the world’s tallest active geyser. Its major eruptions shoot water more than 300 feet (91 m). Watch a video from past eruption on NPS site.

Steamboat Geyser – even when ‘dormant’ gushes up 70 feet of water

Interactive Tour of Norris Geyser Basin click here

I spend forty-five minutes at Norris before heading south on the Grand Loop Road towards Madison Junction.

I love Yellowstone during pre-dusk, where the sun glitters on the land as it begins to fade into the coolness of the night. Driving the fourteen miles from Madison Junction to West Yellowstone, I took a quick byway detour on Riverside Drive. It allows you to drive by the peaceful waters of The Madison River.

West Yellowstone is a historic town with a rustic vibe and western hospitality.

My stomach starting grumbling as I reached West Yellowstone. West has a good mix of delicious restaurants, but my favorite standby is Bullwinkles. Consistently it has amazing food, good service and the Montana made vibe that is pure west.

Eagles Curios is the original mercantile in West Yellowstone

I found a parking spot near The Dude Hotel and walked over to Bullwinkles

I sat at the bar and enjoyed a Shirley Temple with Montana Burger. I enjoyed chatting with other tourists and locals as we toasted to Yellowstone.

Leaving the restaurant, the moon had replaced the sun…West was a flurry of tourists catching a show at The Playmill theatre or grabbing drinks or ice-cream from local vendors.

I filled up my tank and headed north on Highway 191 to the Whitewater Inn.

Tomorrow is my last full day in Montana/Yellowstone country and my heart is already heavy – but I know these memories will last a lifetime.

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