It was the morning of June 24th. Jeremy and I woke up in our hotel room at The Pollard in Red Lodge, Montana. My uneaten birthday cake was on the dresser in the room, my recently finished novel lay on the end table next to the chair at the end of the room. Jeremy had booked us the king suite on the third floor with the jacuzzi tub, and got a special deal where he also had purchased dinner, which we had the night before, and breakfast.
He grabbed our breakfast voucher and we headed down to the main floor to the dining room. Our waitress was handling the breakfast crowd by herself, but she was such a hard worker and did a wonderful job. We had our coffee and our food - Jeremy had Eggs Benedict, and I had pancakes. We headed back up to our room, packed our belongings, and made our way back to the counter to check out. Everyone on the staff at The Pollard was extremely pleasant, and I would definitely stay there again if we found ourselves back in Red Lodge.
The front desk clerk asked us what our plans were for that day, and after we told her we were heading into Yellowstone, she made a remark on how "interesting" the drive was into the park from Red Lodge. The previous night at dinner a young man had mentioned that the drive was a "trip in and of itself". Jeremy and I thought they just meant the drive was pretty at the time... and it was! It was also truly a journey driving up steep roads that switch-backed, a true mountain road trip.
The road you drive on to get to Yellowstone from Red Lodge is called Beartooth Loop. It was a thrilling drive, especially for me with my anxiety in driving near steep mountain slopes and driving downhill towards turns. I was once in a driving accident where the axel broke while I was driving down a bluff in Minnesota, and I haven't been the same since then when it comes to driving downhill.
Nonetheless, Jeremy and I have agreed that it was the best way to enter the park. It was such a gorgeous drive, offering magnificent views. During our time in Yellowstone we explored three entrances/exits into/from Yellowstone, and this one was, by far, the most interesting.
We had stopped several times on our way through Beartooth Loop. Most of the stops were to get out and admire the view at our high elevation, other times were to let the motorcyclists and braver drivers go by (can you tell that I was driving?). We were almost to the other side of the loop, to start going down the mountainside, when we saw this lake with the mountain backdrop. I, of course, had to get a photograph of Jeremy with the sign: Gardner Lake in Shoshone National Forest.
He also looked quite comfortable peering out over the lake.
Jeremy started noticing small creatures off to the side as I was focused on photographing the lake. We didn't know what they were, but we determined they were related to groundhogs.
The entire time we were sitting there admiring the lake, no one else stopped. Everyone else drove by, missing this beautiful sight. Everyone, except this couple from Michigan. The lady stayed near the truck and was admiring the view and the animals, but the gentleman came forward and we talked a bit about Yellowstone. He told me that the animal we were seeing were marmots. They are so cute!
Not only was the view beautiful, but the natural terrain of the mountain we were standing on was gorgeous and full of these tiny wildflowers. I think I would like to picnic amongst wildflowers one day.
We started making our way down the mountain towards Yellowstone. The valleys were vast, and as we made our way down it was clear that Gardner Lake was not the only lake in the nearby vicinity. We even came across a waterfall, which was barely visible between trees along the side of the highway. Luckily there was a pull-out right near the waterfall with a footpath leading back to it. After doing some research, we believe it might have been Crazy Creek Falls.
The two photographs above are of Soda Butte Geyser, not that far from the Northeast Entrance into Yellowstone. When we arrived, there was a man climbing all over the geyser, despite signs saying that it was dangerous to do so.
We ignored the man and his disrespect for nature and went around to the back side of the geyser, when we found ourselves a bit too close to a pair of bison. We slowly backed away, while I took photographs, of course. I loved how these birds were just hanging out on top of the bison on his yet un-shedded coat.
The views on the Northeast side of the park were spectacular.
There were many herds of bison on the Northeast side of the park that day, so it definitely was the correct place to be that morning. We even got to see bison calves. You can see this one bellowing for its mama in the second image.
As we got closer and closer to Mammoth Hot Springs, we came upon a group of cars all stopped on the side of the road. We are no dummies, so we figured there was an animal nearby. Sure enough, there was a black bear just hanging out in the meadow heading towards the campground. He was probably hungry.
We stopped in Mammoth Hot Springs for lunch. We had to eat outside, of course, due to COVID restrictions. We sat at a picnic table, enjoyed our food, and headed into the gift shop where we found gifts for Jeremy's family who was watching our dogs and rabbits while we were away.
As we headed out of the park, we saw an elk herd, parked in a nearby parking lot, and walked to a safe distance and admired the beautiful animals. They were all resting near the houses where the park rangers reside. There were even elk fawn! It was a wonderful experience. There were even some younger bucks, showing off their smaller antlers covered in velvet.
The bison pictured below is my number one favorite animal that we saw on this trip. He was laying there, munching on grass, with his eyes closed. Definitely felt this bison on a spiritual level.
Of course, I loved the elk down below too. How can you not love those majestic creatures??
Jeremy and I made our way over to Yellowstone Canyon where the Yellowstone waterfall is. Here, you can clearly see why the park got its name. Yellow rock lines the canyon above Yellowstone River. It was a steep switchback trail, but it was full of beautiful scenery. We stopped at this tiny footbridge that had a waterfall behind it. Jeremy is pictured below on the bridge. Yellowstone Upper Falls is pictured below as well, surrounded by the yellow stone that provided the namesake.
The Norris Geyser Basin is quite expansive, as you can see from the images below. We walked around the first loop.
The last thing we did on our first day in Yellowstone National Park was to go see Gibbon Falls. This raven was perched up in a tree greeting people walking to the viewpoint. Isn't that polite?
After leaving the park on June 24th, we headed out of the West gate and drove towards Island Park, Idaho where our hotel was waiting. We stopped at a small gas station that was also a local store and bar. Such a landmark for a small town, it was great.
We dined that evening in a bar and restaurant called Connie's. The service and the food was excellent, and I definitely recommend for anyone traveling to Island Park.
After dinner, we were very much ready to go to our hotel and collapse for the evening. We headed out to our hotel, Springhill Suites by Marriott. This hotel chain is one we have stayed at before and enjoyed immensely. We greatly appreciate the taste in decor and the rooms. However, this hotel was not set up properly to take in the amount of guests that had rooms reserved there. Their parking lot could only hold a portion of the vehicles of guests staying in the hotel, and we had to park on this weird side street behind the building itself.
We went to bed, and when we awoke the next morning, we found that our vehicle was blocked in by some guy that blocked the entire back street behind the hotel. This pushed our departure time back quite a bit as we waited for the hotel to try and find the owners of the truck, which ended up being two young men who were quite rude about the entire situation.
Jeremy grabbed our breakfasts, which were in to-go bags provided by the hotel. I was definitely not impressed with this either. They had run and gotten gas station breakfast sandwiches, oranges with brown marks on them, and little cartons of milk. The sandwiches were cold, and it was just an overall bad experience.
The truck was eventually moved, and we headed back towards Yellowstone, me fuming in the front seat with Jeremy agreeing with me as I ranted about the rude men and their truck.
Before we headed into the park, we stopped in the town located right outside the West Entrance, fittingly named "West Yellowstone" to do some more shopping. We ended up buying very few things in the town, as the stores were overtly crowded, and we wanted to beat the line into the park.
After entering through the West side of the park, we headed South, towards Old Faithful.
The first Geyser Basin we went to was the Lower Geyser Basin. It was amazing how far away we were when we first started seeing the steam rise up over the horizon.
We went to the Midway Geyser Basin next, and this is where some of the more colorful hot springs and geysers are. You have to cross a bridge to get over to it, and you can see the hot, steamy water running off into the river from the geysers and springs. The Firehole River is marked as unsafe in this area due to the run offs.
Old Faithful is such a popular attraction that there's a whole exit system for traffic going and seeing the landmark. We happened to time it all out perfectly, we truly do have good luck, because when we arrived at Old Faithful, there was still ten minutes before it's next estimated eruption. We were able to get a front row bench!
While we were waiting for Old Faithful to blow, we watched the birds flitter about, and even saw a Bison get a bit uncomfortably close to a group of spectators quite a ways down.
Old Faithful does steam quite a bit before it goes, and you can definitely tell when the time is getting close as the steam increases immensely.
We really only had one more plan after Old Faithful before leaving Yellowstone. We wanted to go drive around Yellowstone Lake. It's off on the East side of the park, so it was a bit of a drive to get there, especially with the heavy rain we experienced, but when we got there it was completely worth it. The lake is beautiful. If Jeremy and I lived close to Yellowstone, I could see us just going to the lake and enjoying a day on the water. It's truly a magnificent scene.
After all of the beauty we were able to witness, we are so thankful to have the National Parks to protect nature and the magnificence of Mother Earth.
TLDR; Photographer and fiance go to Yellowstone National Park, enjoy a lot of adventures, and share photographs.
Photographer, visual artist, wife, mother to five fur-babies, and travel enthusiast.