I got to bed quite a bit later than I really wanted to last night and by the time I fell asleep it was about 12:30. I woke up at 6:30. That might sound like a short night, but six solid and uninterrupted hours is amazing for me. The bed at the motel was probably the comfiest I have ever slept in! I dozed until 7:30 and then got going.
It was a nippy morning and there was frost on the truck. The day remained cool, but very comfortable, a perfect fall day where you need to layer up, but not get super bundled. I was really impressed by my packing when I tried to remember where I had put a pair of gloves and a tuque and found them tucked into a side pocket of my travel bag.
I made a stop at McDonald’s for coffee ($1.70 versus $1.00 in non-resort towns!) and decided to be smart and top up the fuel tank ($3.55, which really isn’t horrible).
The west entrance to Yellowstone Park was right after the gas station, at the edge of town. I didn’t realise I was so close! Unfortunately, I had the sun in my eyes the whole drive down to Old Faithful, which meant that I could barely see anything and missed key signs I wanted to photograph, especially the ones welcoming me to Yellowstone and then Wyoming!
The ranger who greeted me at the ticket booth was super friendly. I took my friend Jody’s advice and got the $80 Interagency Pass (commonly called the America the Beautiful Pass). Jody says that it’s good for a lot of sites in Idaho, Utah, and Arizona.
The first milestone of the day was crossing into the first of the two new states I’ll be visiting on the way down, Wyoming!
From the west access road, I turned south onto the Grand Loop towards Old Faithful and stopped at the first walk, Fountain Pots, to see some hot springs and mud holes. It was a nice leg stretch, but the boardwalk was slick with frost and I nearly slipped a few times!
I knew that I needed to go back to West Yellowstone to get to Idaho Falls, so I decided to go straight to Old Faithful and then come back and do as many walks as I had time for, not knowing how long I would have to wait for the old geyser to blow. Old Faithful was essentially a dead end today because of road closures so I couldn’t go beyond it anyway. There was thankfully no construction so the drive in was quick and I got to the visitor’s centre around 10:20. The next eruption was predicted to be at 10:40. Do I have good timing or what?!
Old Faithful isn’t the biggest geyser in Yellowstone and it doesn’t go off like clockwork, but it is very predictable, so I knew I had to go right back outside. The minute I found a spot to watch the famous geyser, it started its show.
And what a show it was! I couldn’t believe the plume of steam coming out of the ground and the column of water! I couldn’t help but think that this is where clouds are manufactured.
I then went back to the visitor’s centre and toured the exhibit and gift shop. I learned in the exhibit just how unique Yellowstone is in the world. It has the largest number of undisturbed hydrothermal features and what really makes it stand out is that it has all four types of features, hot springs, geysers, mud pots, and steam vents. Geysers are also a lot rarer than I realised.
I went to the other gift shop across from the VC and treated myself to a lovely pair of silver earrings. I got my ears repierced this spring after piercing my nose and was pretty sick of the pink stones I’ve had in my ears since the spring! I got studs in a leaf pattern. They were just $13, to my immense surprise.
It was surprising to see this other gift shop and the restaurant being open, so late in the season. In the summer, the Old Faithful site is a bustling community, with a general store, gas pumps, and rental yurts.
Before leaving the Old Faithful site, I had a picnic lunch in my truck. It was only noonish when I headed out, so I went back up to the west entrance junction at Madison and stopped at literally every point along the way to walk and see every type of geothermal feature!
A lady suggested that I make one last stop at the Artists’ Pots just north of Madison and I decided to do the detour since I didn’t feel quite done yet. On the way there, I stopped at Gibbon Falls.
The Artists’ Pots loop involved quite a hike upwards over rough terrain, but it was worth it for the view! I was quite glad to see my truck after and even gladder that I really felt ‘done’ instead of rushed to get back on the road so I could get to Idaho Falls at a decent hour.
I think I did a pretty good job filling my day at Yellowstone! I saw and did a lot more than I expected and really got a sense for what the park is all about.
A few pictures from the day…
And a video…
From Yellowstone, it was time to head to Idaho Falls, where I had reserved a motel room for the weekend. It was only about a two hour drive (except for a half hour construction delay! 🙁 ), so it was the perfect place to get to to get out of the mountains and feel like I was making progress before stopping for three days.
My gas mileage today was perfectly normal, maybe even good since I had a very long downhill stretch where I just put the truck in second and third gears (depending on the slope) and coasted.
I’m not in Idaho Falls to play tourist because I have quite a bit of work to do. If I manage to be on schedule or better, I do have one excursion planned for Sunday. Otherwise, I will do it Monday and head to Utah from there.
I really lucked out on the motel. The cost per night after taxes is $51.75. I have a newly renovated room on the second floor well away from the busy road. The desk and chair setup is adequate, a fridge and microwave mean I was able to get a few groceries (and will be able to make my own coffee), and there is even a pool and hot tub (not that I’m going to make it there tonight, I’m so beat!). This was the absolute cheapest place I could find in the area and the reviews were so good I was suspicious. I am really pleased and won’t mind being locked in here typing for a few days. 🙂
One of the promises I made to myself for the trip down was that I was going to avoid chain restaurants. But by the time I was unpacked tonight, I realised that I was famished from all that fresh air and exercise and that I didn’t want to research local restaurants and drive all over town when there was an Applebee’s close by. So I headed there and, to my immense surprise, ordered a STEAK. Seriously, what’s gotten into me?! 😀 I splurged and got shrimp in a garlicky cheese sauce to top the steak and had nice veggies and mashed potatoes as sides, along with a glass of white wine. It’s a good thing I don’t eat like that every day! But, hey, did I mention I did A LOT of walking today?! 😀 It was a crazy good meal and not too expensive.
After dinner, I went over to Walmart (the closest grocery store) and got some food so that I don’t have to go out first thing in the morning. I’ll do one meal out per day, likely lunch (cheaper), but it’ll be nice to have coffee in the morning without having to get dressed!