Posted in: Animal Sightings, Exploring Montana, Exploring Wyoming, Hiking, National Parks, Sightseeing

July 23: Mud Volcano and Bison

The boys and I stuck around the RV this morning and afternoon. When Ben was done with work, we went exploring!

We first went to the Mud Volcano area, which was about 1.5-1.75 hours away from our campsite. This trail goes through several thermal areas, mostly on a boardwalk. There are a couple of bathrooms in the parking lot as well.

The first one we saw was the mud volcano. It’s not exactly volcano shaped anymore, but was roiling and steaming pretty well when we were there. It looked like boiling muddy water. We followed the path to the left (only option as for social distancing they made the path one way) and saw the Grizzly Fumarole, Sour Lake, Black Dragon’s Caldron. Next we saw the Churning Caldron, which was one of my favorites here. It was definitely churning away. It sounded like waves crashing on a beach. From there you walk past Sizzling Basin to the Cooking Hillside and on to my other favorite, Dragon’s Mouth Spring. This one looks like a cave on a creek. Steam billows forth and you can hear the water surging in the cave. Every once in awhile you see waves of water coming out. It was really cool looking.

On our way out of the park, there is another thermal area that we stopped at. There was a bison pretty standing back in the trees. He was just standing there chilling. After a little bit, he starts walking up the hill to cross the road. Everyone (well, mostly everyone) backs up to give him his space. He gets to the road, goes between two cars, sees the surveyor (who had been there the whole time), paws his front feet on the ground and mock charges the surveyor! He turned and didn’t really fully charge at him. But it was crazy to see.

We made our way back to the truck. There were several signs saying “Danger Thermal Area”. Of course, most people stayed out. But one lady just keeps on walking past the signs down the hill!

We briefly stopped at Norris Geyser Basin, but the parking was insane and most people were not wearing masks, so we kept on driving.

We went to the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone to view the lower falls. It was amazing! It was rocky, had an osprey nest (empty when we saw it), and a huge waterfall.

We went back to Artists’ Paintpot Trail with Ben so he could see the mudpots. It had rained a little bit the night before, so the one mudpot was a little more liquidy than when we saw it. It was still worth walking through again!

We were a little hot at this point, so we stopped at a picnic area next to a creek and dipped our feet in the cold water. Nick tripped, lost a Croc and somehow cut the top of two of his toes and his shin. I found his shoe under a tree root downstream.

We got back to the campground before right before some rain clouds moved in. It got super windy, you could see dusty swirling around and our legs were being pelted with small pebbles from the gravel path.

Posted in: Animal Sightings, Exploring Montana, Exploring Wyoming, Hiking, National Parks, Sightseeing

July 22: The Three Explorers

Ben has work pretty much all day, including a stint this evening, so it just the boys and I going out to the park today.

The boys and I began our morning by going into Yellowstone. We started with the Artists’ Paintpot. We saw several hot springs, a few small geysers, and the mud pots. Even if you couldn’t see the activity because the water or mud was too far down in the hole, you could hear it steaming and/or gurgling! It was pretty cool. The colors were once again great: a few reds and blues. The mud pots though…those I think were my favorite there. You could hear the burble…plop sounds as bubbles formed and erupted.

It was an easy hike in, about a mile I think, pretty flat and fine gravel/sand for the trail.

Next, we went to the Norris Basin Geyser area. This was amazing. Parts wandered through woods, other spots were super stark with dead trees. I wish we could have spent more time there. We may go back because we only got part of the trail done. We had really good timing today though, because big groups came in as we were leaving. Leaving the Norris parking lot, I think we must have passed a hundred cars waiting in line.

For the long meeting tonight, Ben was setting up in the living/kitchen area. The boys and I headed into town. We picked out t-shirts for both of them, I got a coffee (iced because walking around in 90 degree heat with hot coffee is a little much even for me!), and we tried huckleberry ice cream from a little stand. It was delicious!

Posted in: Animal Sightings, Exploring Wyoming, Hiking, National Parks, Sightseeing

July 20, 2020: Hiking, Bison, Hot Springs

The boys and I woke up early, planning on going to see Old Faithful.

Well, we made it to Yellowstone, got 40 minutes into the 2+hour drive, and I made a wrong turn. Of course, many of you know I stink at directions and I had a 13 & 11 year old help read a map while I drove. I veered left instead of going straight. Whoops!

We realized we were going the wrong way too late in the day to start over, so we turned around and started back home.

Now, it wasn’t a wasted trip! (Although I was plenty angry with myself for not double checking the NPS Yellowstone app. I downloaded the app, but you have to also then download the map inside the app for it work offline! Not a lot of cell service in the park, so make sure you do it before you head to the park.)

We saw several more bison by the rivers, Soda Butte, a Petrified Tree, and got the customary picture next to the Yellowstone National Park sign. We saw the Roosevelt Arch as well. It was pretty neat, and there were also birds nesting in the rocks of the walls.

The boys and I chilled for a little bit and I watched some elk wander in the river. I also saw a hawk carrying a fish in it’s talons!

I got a bunch of pictures of them separately, but this is the only one I managed to get with both the elk and the hawk/fish in the picture.

When Ben was done with work for the day, we headed back into the Park. This time we stopped at Mammoth Hot Springs and walked along the boardwalks. We saw several hot springs, the Liberty Cap, a landscape filled with white, oranges, browns, and a few greens and blues. Dead trees popped up here and there creating a unique look to the landscape. Some of the formations were like stalactites, some were more rounded, some formed pools and steps, some were holes in the ground. Some trickled, some flowed, and some steamed. It was beautiful in an almost stark kind of way.

I would definitely recommend doing this in the morning or on a cooler day. There are several sets of stairs along the way, no shade, and a fair amount of walking. It is totally worth it, but on a super hot day, it may not be as enjoyable.

SOAP BOX ALERT: At the petrified tree, we read the information plaque. There used to be 3 trees, but people started chipping pieces away for “souvenirs” and now only 1 is left and is fenced off. The park has numerous signs stating stay away/do not approach wildlife, and even their in-park radio station says the same message. At the Hot Springs, there are signs that say “Fragile. Stay On Path.” I saw footprints in the crust and even one lady was bending under the railing to touch it and try to get pieces of it. Seriously! What is wrong with people? As I tell my kids, “if it’s not yours, don’t touch it.” Or even “look with your eyes, not with your hands”. Ok. I’m done ranting. I’ll get off my box and get back to the post.

Next we parked to take Lava Creek Trail. Only problem was, there were several paths beaten out, of varying sizes. Looking back, we did take a wrong path. It ended up being quite the hike down to the river. I definitely don’t want to do that one again. It was hot, a little humid, and the pollen was up. Going down the steep hill was ok, slowing going due to loose rocks, but not horrible (Ben thinks it was about 40 degrees). The river was really neat to see. (Yes Mom, we did bring the bear spray!) We saw something swimming in the river that looked too small and didn’t have the right tail to be a beaver, but I’m not sure if could have been a river otter or a weasel. It was too fast to get a good look at.

The way back up was hard. Not going to lie, the I thought about just sitting down and staying there kind of hard. Had a hard time catching my breath and ended up having to use my inhaler once we got back to the truck. I haven’t had to use it for daily activities in years, normally just when I’m sick! The lady parked next to us gave me a nod and a wave when she saw my inhaler and held hers up. Asthmatics unite!

On our drive back home, we saw some more bison and a few sheep as well!

There was a fence around the bottom half of this bush. I guess he grew! The bush must be really taste for the mule deer.

We were all sweaty and exhausted when we finally arrived back home. I looked at my phone’s Health app and it claimed only 10, 545 steps for the day. However, when I looked at the Flights Climbed, it showed 34 flights! No wonder we were all so tired.

I think we may just explore the town a little bit tomorrow. There is a bookstore/coffee shop I want to check out and the boys need something new to read for rainy days/travel days.

Posted in: Animal Sightings, Exploring South Dakota, Sightseeing, YouTube Video Link

What A Day (July 14, 2020)

Ben had work again this morning. The weather was nice and cool (in the 50s). So I thought the boys and I could go see the Badlands. Waze was acting up, so I used Maps instead. It was about 1-1/2 hour drive. I stopped for diesel when we were maybe 3/4 of the way there. Somehow the fuel pump sprayed me too. I tried using a wipe and water to help get it off my shirt, but I smelled like diesel fuel. I drove with the windows down because I couldn’t stand the smell.

We were getting so close, when we had to turn back. Maps had sent us through a reservation. We were stopped and very politely informed that the tribal council had shut down road access due to COVID-19. She pointed out another way to get to the Badlands, as the North entrance was open. They were very nice and helpful. My prayers are with them during this time.

It was another hour or more on the road to get to the North entrance, so we decided to go to Custer State Park instead. It was $20 for a week pass, or $36 for an annual pass. Since we are only in SD for a week, I ended up getting the week pass. I pulled off into a parking zone where there was no one around and changed out of my shirt into my sweatshirt. I couldn’t take the smell anymore. It was aggravating my eyes. We got back on track and ended up taking the wildlife loop.

It was amazing! We saw so many buffalo, both adults and babies. Will and Nick nicknamed them the B’s and mini-B’s, after the cow nicknames (Moo and Mini-Moo for baby cows). We got to see some males butt heads a couple of times, watch them graze, saw a few run. They came close to the road and even blocked it a few times while crossing to try the grass on the other side.

Cows and calves that we saw a lot of during our drives. We have since renamed them Moos (cows) and Mini-Moos (babies). 🙂
So, of course, the buffalo got renamed B and Mini-B!

We also saw the “begging burros”. The burros are feral (although not afraid of humans and extremely friendly). A group of burros were released to roam free in the park. According to the park booklet, at one point they had been used to move tourists around, but when that ended they were let go to roam free. The pamphlet you get at check in says to give wild animals their space and not to feed them. However, these donkeys/burros were getting ear scratches and eating apples, carrots, Goldfish, Cheez-Its, Cheetos, etc. We did not feed them, but many people were.

There is not a lot of cell service in this part of the area. We tried FaceTiming Ben so he could watch the buffalo graze, but had intermittent luck. I did get some video that he was able to watch later. I have a short video up on the YouTube Channel of the buffalo.

When exiting the park, we turned towards Wind Cave. That was also a pretty drive and we saw a few buffalo, some prairie dogs, and a couple of pronghorn. The prairie dogs are so easy to miss! Look for a flat plain type of area with dirt mounds. They just blended in so well that it is easy to miss them as you are driving by.

We drove back to the RV and picked up Ben. We headed to Sylvan Lake to take a hike. We drove on the Sylvan Lake Road/Hood Tunnel/Peter Norbeck Scenic Byway. Definitely not a RV road! It has many switchbacks and a rock tunnel! It was really cool.

Sylvan Lake also offers lodging and has gorgeous views. The lake is amazing and there are several trails nearby. The rock formations are incredible, especially against the blue sky backdrop we had today. We did some climbing, which the boys loved! I did okay, but was much slower than everyone else in the family. It was just a really neat hike.

We headed towards Walmart to return the scooters. They were just too small for the boys. Ben caved and got them bikes, which they were thrilled about. There isn’t a ton to do in the campground while social distancing. We still want to go to the pool, but it’s been busy. We also got dinner at Pizza Ranch. The boys were amazed there was such a thing as a pizza buffet. It wasn’t crowded yet, so YAY for food and social distancing! The final stop for the day was to drop some postcards off at the post office.

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