Day 10: on the ground in Yellowstone National Park

Bison in Yellowstone's Lamar River Valley

Bison in Yellowstone’s Lamar River Valley

After grabbing our rental car, we head into the small town of West Yellowstone, Montana to grab lunch and then go into Yellowstone itself.  The town is small, mostly just a crossroads outside of the western entrance to the Park, but we had a great lunch at the Woodside Bakery — and make a note to come back for breakfast! Heading into Yellowstone itself, we weren’t disappointed, with awesome views as soon as we crossed the toll booth.  With only the afternoon at the park, we didn’t have time to explore very far off the beaten path, so we spent most of our timing driving from sight to sight, enjoying the views along the way.

Our first planned stop was Old Faithful along the west side of the park.  After spending 30 minutes getting the authentic “summertime in Yellowstone” experience — sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic, in the middle of nowhere — we made a U-turn and headed to the Lamar Valley in Yellowstone’s less-traveled northeastern corner.  Jim had (probably too much) fun driving our rental car on the beautiful mountain roads, and the weather mostly cooperated for our trip, with only occasional rain (and snow!) showers along the way.  We saw an incredible amount of wildlife: bison, mountain goats, and brown and black bears (we stayed in the car, Mom!).

We followed the Yellowstone River down to Yellowstone Lake, looping around the park and crossing the Continental Divide twice, and arrived at the Grand Prismatic Spring as the sun set.  We headed to the Wild West Pizzeria in West Yellowstone for a very late dinner, then passed out at the airport for the night.  Tomorrow brings one of the longest legs of the trip, heading from Yellowstone to Michigan, and we’ll be fighting the changing time zones as we go.