Living in the Moment – West Side of Yellowstone

Where were you 1 year ago today?

Well, I can tell you exactly where we were on September 21, 2019. We were on the tail end of our vacation to Yellowstone & Grand Tetons National Parks. I never finished writing about this awesome trip. Today I decided to get my photos together and give you a little taste of normalcy before the pandemic changed our lives forever! So, here is the continuation of our “Living in the Moment” series from last September. All the “Living in the Moment” posts are at the bottom of this post if you want to catch up.

DreamCatchers Bed & Breakfast in Victor, Idaho.
DreamCatcher B&B

As we ate our last delicious breakfast at DreamCatcher B&B in Victor, Idaho, we were filled with mixed emotions. Like everyday on our vacation we woke up excited to see what the day would bring. But this day was different. We felt like we had just gotten to Driggs, Idaho and now we were leaving. Actually that was only part of the truth. The other part was that today was the day we were taking the long drive back to Bozeman, Montana. It signaled the beginning of the end of our vacation adventures. We still had two days left before we flew back to Jacksonville, Florida, but it felt like we would have to board the plane and leave any moment. As we pulled out of the DreamCatcher’s driveway, we said goodbye to another wonderful experience and we fully expect to stay at this great B&B on a return trip. It was raining off and on this late morning as we drove through Driggs and took the highway headed north.

Countryside in Idaho with storm clouds moving in.

We checked the map and our time and decided to go back into Yellowstone for one last fore-ray. The drive through Idaho was beautiful. It was a mixture of mountain views, forests, rolling hills and farmland. A wonderful mixture of natural patterns that a map can not accurately depict. The constant change of scenery made the drive go by quickly and re-emphasized what a beautiful state Idaho really is. Storm clouds started rolling in, but we didn’t care, we were prepared to take it as it came and enjoy the ride.

After a nice trip with very little traffic through the country roads, we experienced crowded roads again driving through West Yellowstone, Montana, only a few miles from the West Yellowstone entrance. All the storms had blown through and we entered the park on an absolutely gorgeous afternoon. It was a little chilly and windy and you could see some spots where snow had fallen as the weather had come through the area.

The Madison River in Yellowstone National Park.
Madison River, Yellowstone National Park

Our stomachs were growling and we looked for another scenic spot for one of our famous vacation lunches. We were winging it and needed a little luck to find a great location to enjoy our last meal in Yellowstone. Bingo, there was a picnic area right on the Madison River and a picnic table only a stone’s throw away from the water. We were on a tight schedule and it was chilly, so we didn’t record our usual video and I only took this one photo. We did enjoy some delicious grilled cheese sandwiches courtesy of our MSR Pocket Rocket. We paired them with a locally grown organic apple that we purchased at the grocery store in Driggs, and an organic mixed green salad from the local greens we bought at the Driggs Farmers Market. While savoring our last meal in this amazing park, we watched two bald eagles fishing over the river and one lone fly-fisherman wading in the icy waters. Neither the birds or the human were having much luck.

With full bellies and broad smiles, we decided to venture further into the park and see a couple of the geothermal features we had missed on our drive through the park days earlier. Driving along the river in the afternoon light, we were hit again by how beautiful Yellowstone really is.

As we approached a parking area along the highway parallel to the Madison River, the traffic had backed up. The parking lot was full and there were cars parked all along the side of the road. People were outside of their cars with binoculars and cameras in hand. In the middle of all this commotion was a park ranger and we soon found out why. Moving along the river with his cows, was the biggest bull elk we had seen in either Yellowstone or Grand Teton. We had seen some big bulls but this guy was a monster. If a large bull elk weighs 700 lbs, this bull would have been at least 800 lbs. The elk were further away than this picture looks. All the shots we took of the elk, and we took a lot of shots, were taken with 200mm lenses.

14 point bull elk with his herd of cows in the meadows in Yellowstone National Park.

The park ranger was there to make sure nobody did anything stupid. Like, walking down to the river to get up close to the bull and trying to get a better picture. There was this beautiful majestic bull elk in all his glory, with all his cows, bugling away. This was the middle of rutting season and he was telling any bull or cow within listening range, “if you want some of this, come and get it”.

To see theses elk moving down by the river, oblivious to the human zoo up along the highway, was a truly special moment and one of many favorites during our trip.

After our unscheduled and truly mesmerizing stop, it was time to head toward the geyser basins. We were looking forward to seeing some of Yellowstone’s geothermal features we hadn’t seen on our way to Old Faithful, but nothing was going to top what we had just experienced.

We were still talking about how cool it was to see that beautiful bull and his harem when we got another surprise. About 1/4 mile down the road, we spotted this guy. He was on the other side of the highway and tucked into the woods. An impressive young ten point bull to be sure, but nothing like what we had just seen. He wasn’t even thinking about crossing the road and heading down toward the river. He knew what was down there. That big majestic bull had probably already pushed him around enough to send a clear message. “Don’t bring that weak sh*% back over here again!” So there he was, foraging in the woods by himself and listening to the king of the river valley bugle away with his ladies.

10 point Bull Elk walking along the main road near the Madison River in Yellowstone National Park.

The Geyser Basin, Yellowstone National Park

This great day just kept getting better and better. Now we were ready to spend a couple of hours exploring some of Yellowstone’s featured geothermal areas that we missed when heading to Old Faithful a couple of days before. Geyser Basin and Grand Prismatic Spring, here we come.

Turquoise water with a cloud of steam coming off one of the geysers in Yellowstone National Park.

The change in the topography in the Geyser Basin creates a world that is different than other parts of Yellowstone and was great to experience one last time on our farewell journey into this stunning National Park. On this day, we visited the Lower Geyser Basin as an impromptu decision and there wasn’t much time. We quickly went through the basin and saw what we could but, the combination of colder moist air and the hot humid geysers, created a tremendous amount of steam and limited our visibility in much of the area. Still, it was thrilling. Honestly, I wished we had planned for 2 days in this area, plus 2 more days visiting Old Faithful. We had one day at Old Faithful and 1/2 a day at the basins. That being said, I wouldn’t change anything we did except maybe make the clock run a lot slower.

Clouds reflecting in the Lower Geyser Basin in Yellowstone National Park.

As we walked around, we were lucky enough to get some great pictures and video, a reminder of how special this place really is

The light was waning and it was like saying goodbye to an old friend. It’s always surprising how you can visit a place for the first time and feel like you’re home. That was one of the things we took away from our adventures in two of America’s most special parks.

The other thing we took away was, we can’t wait to go back for a much more extended visit. I look forward to the day we can have our travel trailer hitched up (have to buy one first and retire) head west and spend as much time as we want in Yellowstone and in Grand Teton without a set schedule.

Living in the Moment is what we do while enjoying our time in nature. If you missed any of the other Living in the Moment Series, you can click on them here. Just After Take Off, Day 1, Day 2 Mammoth Hot Spring, Day 2 Traffic Jam, Day 2 Undine Falls and Lava Creek, Lamar Valley – Slough Creek, Day 2 Trout Lake, Lunch at Otter Creek, Mount Washburn, Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, Paddling the Yellowstone River, The Tiny House, Old Yellowstone Trail, Gibbon Falls – Drive to Old Faithful, Old Faithful, The Lakes, Jackson Hole, String Lake, Colter Bay, Paddle on String Lake, Jenny Lake Sunset, DreamCatcher Bed & Breakfast, Caribou-Targhee National Forest.

25 Comments on “Living in the Moment – West Side of Yellowstone

  1. Yellowstone is such a special place and you captured it beautifully! I love the elk. 14 years ago we were traveling out west in our RV and spent a week in Island Park, Idaho to explore Yellowstone. I hope you will one day get your travel trailer and make your dream RV trip!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Wow, thank you for this wonderful tour! The steam pouring out of the riverbank is impressive too. I hate this virus and the way it has screwed up so many aspects of our lives.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. What a difference a year can bring, Lisa. Thank you for sharing your beautiful impressions with us, I enjoyed accompanying you on your journey. When we travel with the car, finding a beautiful picnic spot in the middle of the day often becomes a highlight we look forward to.
    Best wishes,
    Tanja

    Liked by 1 person

    • No swimming in the geothermal pools. They are toxic. You can smell the sulphur in the air. There are places in Yellowstone, like the river & lakes where you can swim.

      Like

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