Day 12 – “Hey, UConn!”

Our early morning was delayed a bit due to some rain, but we welcomed the extra snooze time while we waited for the storm to pass.  We made breakfast at the site and packed up our soggy tent (we’re staying in a nearby site for the next two nights).  We took advantage of the hot showers, and were able to check in to our next site before leaving the campground.  Taking a few extra minutes, we set up our tent to let it dry before we headed out on the day’s adventure.

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We began our journey by heading to the Canyon area, but pulled off the road on the way to photograph a herd of bison in the distance.  The group followed one buffalo, who decided to cross the river a bit upstream from us. 

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While the two-dozen or so animals were making their way across, we couldn’t help but noticed the current of the river drifting them downstream and soon realized their landing point would be exactly between our current location and our truck. 

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With no time to retreat, we stood back and watched the massive animals climb ashore with hopes of crossing the road. 

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With them a mere 20 yards away, we made our way toward the truck, using the occasional tree as safety barriers.  With us just about at the truck, something spooked the group and they stampeded in our general direction. 

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Ally was able to make it into the safety of Bullseye, but Patrick was on his own.  (“Mufasa, quick! Stampede, in the gorge … Simba’s down there!”) 

After that awesome experience, we had our bison fill—we continued our drive toward the Canyon area. 

We parked at the trailhead, made another lunch on the tailgate (this time with chicken wraps—we’re taking a break from PB & Js for a while), and headed to see the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone from “Artist’s Point.”  

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After that, we drove a ways, and saw Upper Falls from a lookout. 

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While it wasn’t an extremely tall waterfall, the sheer quantity of water gushing over was impressive. (An estimated 36,000 gallons PER SECOND as we’re coming to the end of the summer. During the melting spring, over 60,000 gallons flow per second!)  We then made our way down the 328 steel steps of “Uncle Tom’s Trail” to check out Lower Falls, which is about 308 feet tall. 

During all our driving, we also stopped at random turnouts to see some sporadic hot springs. These guys looked incredible churning and bubbling with a combination of boiling water and escaping gas.

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Of note, Patrick wore his UConn shirt today and got a ton of “UConn!” or “Hey, Connecticut!” comments as we walked around. We wonder how many Nutmeggers we’ve seen around, but just never realized the connections.  (Also, tons of people have been walking by and commenting on the “BUBBA” license plate.  Kids love the CT plate, too, because they get more points for their different license plate games. Glad we could help!)

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After powering back up all those steps, we hopped in the car and drove to Norris Geyser Basin.  Here we found incredibly cool thermal features: hot springs, mud pots and steam vents (no geyser activity though). 

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The colors were simply amazing, ranging from bright turquoise to rusty orange.

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What you might not realize is that the National Parks are all HUGE.  Despite Yellowstone being one park, everything is so far away from each other. It can take over an hour to drive the 15 to 20 miles from one point of interest to the next.  Speed limits, camper traffic, and animal encounters all mean the treks take a long time.  As you can imagine, driving and tenting is exhausting—especially nearly two weeks in. Patrick took advantage of some quality passenger time and snuck in a nap on our way down to Old Faithful.  As soon as we pulled into a lot there, Ally grabbed a pillow from the backseat and fell right asleep—we obviously needed a catnap (or, maybe a tiger snooze).  

We checked out the visitor’s center with hopes to see next eruption, and saw the estimated time to be around 5:45 PM. 

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Bingo! Right on schedule Old Faithful spewed its steam and boiling water into the air (our estimate is around 35 feet).  

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When we finally got back to the campground, we had some time to relax! Ally had had enough “camp food,” so she made a chicken, pasta and broccoli dish—as best she could using the camp stove.  (Tin foil pouch chicken with garlic and red pepper flakes is delicious, and so easy to clean up!)  We were happy to enjoy dinner in the daylight, with no rushing to clean up and get to bed.  We made a fire and relaxed with some wine.  As the sun was setting, we kept looking up at the sky. Every time we looked, the stars were brighter and more numerous—definitely the best night sky viewing of the trip so far!

Soon it was off to bed; tomorrow is Grand Teton National Park. Even though it’s next door (only 27 miles away), it’s likely to be a long drive.

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– Ally and Patrick

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