My eyes hurt. Yellowstone National Park is so beautiful, so big, so geographically and geologically diverse that after 12 hours of hiking, photographing and standing around this park with our eyes open that we're overwhelmed.
The video above was taken right at sunset…that's why it's dark. But it was so cool I had to show it to you. One of the neatest things we've ever seen on what was a great day at our main destination out West – Yellowstone National Park.
The Open Mike RV Tour West pulled into our base campground in West Yellowstone, MT late Thursday. We were delayed by some costly repairs that left us stranded in Billings for a day and a half and we had some issues getting here.
Those issues all turned out to be Operator Error. I had switches in the wrong position, ran our house battery down and that made it appear we had refrigerator problems.
Thanks to lots of help from other FMCA members and readers of my blog, I found how to reset my inverter and get everything charging again. I felt like one of the guys from Dumb and Dumber. But the bottom line is our Roadtrek is running great and Friday, our first day in the park, we drove more than 100 miles of what's called the Lower Loop.
Covering 3,472 square miles and measuring 63 air miles north to south and 54 air miles east to west, it lies in parts of three states -Wyoming, Montana and Idaho. It's highest elevation is over 11,000 feet, though most of our travels were in the 8,000-8,300-foot range. Even so, that has a noticeable effect on you, especially if you come from the pancake flat Midwest.
The Lower Loop that we took Friday was the geothermal route. We didn't realize until we got here how active this place is. It contains more than 300 geysers and 10,000 thermal features like boiling calderas, steam vents, fumaroles, and hot springs. The park is among the most active geothermal regions in the world and experiences about 2,000 earthquakes a year. It is the largest volcanic system in North America.
We saw dozens of the geysers, including Old Faithful. There were over 1,000 people waiting for it to go off when we found our spots up front on the benches the park service has installed. About every 70 minutes it erupts, plus or minus five minutes or so and it did not disappoint.
There was a steady stream of traffic throughout the park that the workcampers I talked to who stay in Yellowstone all year and work for the park service or the vendor that handles concessions told me the summer crowds are starting to diminish as people get ready to get their kids back to school. An RV was about one out of every six vehicles we encountered.
I am not a crowd person. But Yellowstone is so vast that I never felt it was touristry, unlike the town of West Yellowstone, which reminded me of Mackinac Island, Michigan. In the park, it was very easy to get alone. We hiked a backcountry trail to Mystic Falls, surprised by how winded we were. That's because of the altitude. We followed the suggested protocol of drinking lots of water and had no serious issues, except probably moving a little slower than normal. Maybe that was also because of the signs reminding us we were in bear country and should be alert and make a lot of noise and be ready with our bear spray. Maybe it was because, at $40 a can, I decided not to buy bear spray.
Jennifer saw that pricetag and when asked if we should get it she said, “if a bear gets us, it's meant to be.” She's pragmatic, that Jennifer.
We were so glad we had our Roadtrek. There were long lines at the public bathrooms. We travel with our own bathroom.
We also got into places larger motorhomes and RVs can't. Our RS Adventurous fit in regular parking spots.
When we woke up in West Yellowstone, it was 30 degrees. So, setting out, we dressed in warm clothes.
By noon, the temperature was in the upper 70's and that bright mountain sun would have made us way too hot to enjoy the day with the long pants and sweatshirts we began with. Since we have all our clothes with us in the Roadtrek, we changed to shorts right in the park.
We also found a secluded picnic spot off the main loop road that a a larger RV couldn't navigate. We parked in the shade of a ]odgepole pine forest and snuck in a delightful 20 minute power nap.
The wildlife is, like Yellowstone, big and bold. We saw and photographed Elk and bison.
We'll hit the Upper Loop next. Meantime, here's an assortment of our pictures from Friday.