Traveling with Paula, Yellowstone National Park

In the past August’s article, I told you my sister Gail and I take a trip together, just the two of us, every five or six years. She lives in Oakland, California and we only get to see each other a couple of times a year during hurried family events. Last year we went out West and this is Day Eight of our adventure.
We woke up late in western Yellowstone. We had stayed a little too late at the Grand Tetons the day before and enjoyed taking pictures as the sun was setting.
We still had so much to see at Yellowstone. We had breakfast at Running Bear Pancake House as we had two days before.
Yellowstone is huge — two million acres! You could stay weeks and not see everything.
As I said two articles ago the park roads are configured in 2 huge loops that meet in the middle like a giant 8. The upper loop is 70 miles, the lower loop 96 miles and the grand loop 142 miles. We started north this time around the top loop. Our first stop was a waterfall in a canyon which was spectacular, but nothing to compare to later in the day. We stopped at Mammoth Hot Springs which is where Fort Yellowstone is located (established in 1891). Yellowstone is the very first National Park (est. 1872).
Mammoth Hot Springs is a vast complex of hot springs on a hill of travertine. It was created over thousands of years by hot water that cooled and deposited calcium carbonate (over 2 tons each day). Yellowstone is like no other place on this earth — which is exactly what one of the museum videos we watch noted. There are long boardwalks connecting everything. There were amazing formations at every turn —  terraced formations look frozen in time . The big black formation is called the “Devil’s Thumb” and the detail pic looks like it should be in a cave (a stalagmite — frozen icicles).

Paula Nicewanger/Weekly ViewBison hanging out outside the ladies room.

Paula Nicewanger/Weekly View
Bison hanging out outside the ladies room.

As we drove to the next site along the winding roads we came  across a total gridlock of cars on both sides and we knew that this meant some animal was sighted. Everyone jumped out of their vehicles asking what was sighted— a buffalo, elk, or black bear. Once the sighting was a black bear eating a fallen elk (road kill from the smell). It was hard to see, but everyone stopped. I kept thinking I needed to make signs to put in my car window with the different animal names so I could display it, for those who already had enough pics of that particular animal so they could move on. We stopped at a roadside restroom and a very handsome buffalo was hanging out there.

Paula Nicewanger/Weekly ViewWaterfall in Yellowstone.

Paula Nicewanger/Weekly View
Waterfall in Yellowstone.

The next stop was a waterfall that cascaded into an enormous canyon. There were 328 metal steps to go down to the bottom and only those with good lungs and hearts were encouraged to go — steep and scary. They posted a large warning sign for us sightseers. We made the trip. The steps were not only steep, but kind of slippery and the metal was bent and uneven. As you were going down, others were climbing back up. But at the bottom, what a sight! You were midway beside the falls hearing the roar and engulfed in the mist, with huge canyon walls surrounding you. The water cascaded and slammed against these canyon walls, very slowly eroding away a path downstream. The climb up was not nearly as much fun.
Farther down the road was a lookout spot with magnificent views of the waterfall zig-zagging down the canyon. Those who didn’t try the steep stairway were all here crowded on top of the lookout 10 people deep.
That evening we left a little too late again and headed north to Billings, Montana for our flight back home on Day Nine.
Thus ended Day Eight of a nine day adventure. Next time, I’ll recap the vacation with things I’ve remembered since.