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November 17th at 10:22pm
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In September, 2019, we took a trip out west.
Our vacation consisted of stops in: Salt Lake City, UT, Blackfoot, ID, Yellowstone National Park, Idaho Falls, ID, Arco, ID and Craters-of-the-Moon National Monument, Boise, ID, and Twin Falls, ID.
This is a postcard from Blackfoot and Yellowstone.
On our way from Salt Lake City to Yellowstone National Park (Wikipedia, NPS), in northwest Wyoming, we spent a night in Blackfoot, Idaho. It was only halfway to Yellowstone, a mere two and a half hour drive, but our toddler - and, therefore, our parental sanity - demanded short car rides.
Naturally, once we arrived, we visited the Idaho Potato Museum.
When you're at the Idaho Potato Museum, of course, you admire the world's largest potato crisp (and its fissures).
Downtown Blackfoot had a strong western feel, but not much was happening. We ate dinner in a decent 50s style joint called Rupe's Burgers and... that was about it for Blackfoot.
We stayed in a functional, perfectly fine hotel in the city of West Yellowstone, Montana.
I'd been to Missoula and Glacier National Park before, but this was my first time in the stub of Montana that drops down between Idaho and Wyoming.
About West Yellowstone:
- The streets off the main highway felt like they were made for horse-drawn carriages to turn around in
- I wondered if the rest of the town was going to be as tacky as the bars and souvenir shops on the main highway (it wasn't)
- We found a few outstanding restaurants, in particular Taqueria Malverde, if you like Mexican food in a school bus - and it turns out that we do
If you've never been to Yellowstone, here are some basics:
- It was the world's first national park
- It sits on top of a supervolcano that last erupted ≈650,000 years ago
- The park is also inside a crater called a caldera
- It is beautiful in the traditional sense, and in some places it looks like Middle-earth
We bought a one week entrance pass for $35.
Fountain Paint Pot Trail
The "paint pots" are actually mud pots containing iron - in various oxidation states - which colors the mud.
We walked along a boardwalk past several paint pots and geysers. The Jelly Geyser welcomed us with a thick burst of foggy steam.
The area had a light but pervasive odor of rotten eggs.
Grand Prismatic Spring
The most striking attraction at Yellowstone was the largest hot spring in the United States, and the third largest in the world: the Grand Prismatic Spring.
It's blue in the center, with rings of color that vary with the seasons. The presence and sharpness of the green, yellow, orange, and red depend on bacteria, chlorophyl, algae, and natural plant pigments in the water. We decided to view the spring from an overlook roughly a quarter mile away.
The average temperature of the Grand Prismatic Spring is about 160ºF (70ºC), whereas a hot tub is between 100º and 105ºF.
The west end of Lake Yellowstone juts out into a shape which, on a map, looks nothing like a thumb. But it's a big lake surrounded by mountains and pine trees.
On one edge of West Thumb lies a geyser basin similar in look, feel, and smell to the Fountain Paint Pot trail. The indigo water in the hot springs made for a lovely walk.
We spent ten minutes looking for a parking spot. We walked ten minutes to the geyser.
Less than sixty seconds later, before we had even chosen a place to stand, Old Faithful went off. It was glorious!
It was roughly two and a half hours to drive from West Yellowstone to Lamar Valley. Completely worth it. We drove along mountains and saw crazy rock formations, expansive valleys, and hundreds of bison.
We stopped at a campsite along the Lamar River, where Francis threw rocks and we went on a short hike.
It's a good thing we're not in horrible shape.
To see the Upper Falls of the Yellowstone River up close, you have to walk from a parking lot down, down, down to an observation deck. The emerald water crashes into a dusty canyon, the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, toward Artist Point.
And then you get to walk up, up, up to your car.
Pack a light lunch and go to Artist Point, just a short drive away, and behold the Upper Falls from a distance. It's stunning.
We were thrilled to spend four incredible days in Yellowstone. There is so much more to see and do, but we aren't outdoorsmen. Once was enough.
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