Yellowstone was our ultimate destination. Everything we saw along the way was just because it was simply on our way. Except the Tetons. We definitely wanted to see the Tetons. But we visited Zion because it was on our route. Don't get me wrong, it was BEAUTIFUL. But our hearts were set on Yellowstone. After spending a few nights in the Tetons, we excitedly loaded up for the last leg of our trip into Yellowstone. We couldn't wait to get there. We had only done short stops along the way, so as to get as much time in Yellowstone as possible. After our long trek from California, going 55mph at our fastest, we were very much looking forward to getting to Yellowstone and staying there for a nice long week. No traveling, just taking in the wonder of the park.
And so very excited!
As we drove through the western part of the park on our way to our campsite, we were in awe of this mysterious steaming land. We saw people out walking on boardwalks through the steam and we were eager to take the kids to walk the boardwalks in the morning. The kids talked about what they thought was creating the steam. Kian's guess was my favorite. He thought, perhaps, that there were crab under the water, smoking cigarettes. I honestly couldn't tell the kids why the land was steaming. I had my guesses too, but I was looking forward to venturing out the next day, walking the boardwalks, and reading the educational signs to the kids so we could learn all about it.
By the time we pulled into our site, the sun was setting. I've never seen such a sunset. Its as if the sun wanted to show off one last time before going down for the night. As it set, it actually made the forest light up brighter for just a few minutes. The trees were suddenly filled with a bright orange, pink fire. It was so bright, you'd almost expect to hear a sound accompany the light. And then it was night. Simply amazing.
The next morning, we all woke up SUPER excited. Not only did Kian wake up as a FOUR year old, we were finally in Yellowstone! We couldn't wait to get out and explore. First, however, were some requested birthday breakfast pancakes....with marshmallows on top!
Sadly, our excitement soon turned to sadness. And honestly, outright anger. As I washed the dishes, word went through the campground that Yellowstone was closing. Closing?! How could a WHOLE national park close? They took our reservation money for a week. Certainly there must be a mistake.
Sure enough, someone came through the park and told us we could spend another night or two in our site if we wanted to, but the attractions at the park were being blocked off as we spoke. And soon we'd be asked to leave. Trying to beat the closing, we threw the kids in the car to hunt down ANY attraction open to show our sad kids.
As we approached the boardwalks near the fields of steam, we saw the awful truth.
We continued on down the road.
Rangers shooing people away.
We pulled into the area of Old Faithful and were surprised to find it dead, but NO barricades!
"RUN KIDS! LET'S GO!"
We sat and watched. And she was faithful.
It turns out we viewed the last legal sighting of Old Faithful. As we were leaving, Rangers came in with their "closed due to Government shutdown" signs (seen in the above picture to the left). After that, one could "risk fines" for viewing Old Faithful in "our" National Park.
We spent the rest of the day mostly in our car (again) trying to salvage what was left of our fleeting Yellowstone experience by showing the kids ANYTHING we could. Here, the birthday boy was excited to see some buffalo pretty close up. We would have driven down that road closer to the buffalo, but that was barricaded off.
It was an interesting experience, being in a National Park that was virtually deserted. The few people that were left were trying to get through barricades. Some even moved the barricades and drove in to attractions. Some parked on the shoulder of the road and hiked in to attractions. Here we are trying to hike in to see the steaming land. But as we got nearer, a Ranger pulled up and waved his arms toward us, telling us not to get any closer. We realized that this trying to sneak around the Rangers bit was making the kids nervous. They didn't understand the shut down and were afraid we'd get in trouble. So we decided to just walk to things that weren't "official" attractions.
Finally, they got close to a tiny bit of that steaming land when we found a little pool right next to the shoulder of the road. No, there weren't the educational signs posted here of course, but we saw it. Briefly.
Thankfully, the end of our only day in Yellowstone was made when these guys walked right in front of our car. We got to see these amazing creatures closer than we would have ever expected, fulfilling that need for wildlife we were feeling in the Tetons.
Did I mention close?!!!
"Pardon me. Coming through."
I got video of this sweet boy oooooing and grunting and excessively drooling in excitement over seeing the buffalo. We joked that the buffalo didn't know about the Government shutdown, and were giving us a good show despite it.
We spent a week traveling (and a LOT of gas money) to Yellowstone. The kids talked about seeing Yellowstone for MONTHS before leaving. Heck, Zac and I had dreamed of our trip to Yellowstone for 12 years, unable to afford it until now (just barely). We did, in fact, pay for an entrance fee to get into a park we were not allowed to see anything in. We did, in fact, pay to camp there for two nights where Rangers told us we were supposed to stay in our site and not "recreate." In saying that, I don't think I need to express our feelings about the Government and their shut down. I will, however, say that these amazing buffalo made the trip for us. This close encounter with these huge animals had us squealing in our car. Had it not been for them, our taste of Yellowstone would have felt very empty and disappointing. The buffalo did NOT disappoint. And I think we will all have visions of buffalo in our minds when Yellowstone is mentioned. One day we'd like to take our kids back to Yellowstone and actually experience it. Sounds like an honest hope, don't you think?
After seeing the buffalo, we headed back to the trailer for a birthday dinner of BBQed tri tip and corn (always corn for this boy!).
Gifts were unwrapped........
......and a candle was placed in a marshmallow.
After blowing it out, smores were made over the fire instead of cake.
And after the kids were down for the night, Zac and I packed up the trailer in preparations to leave first thing in the morning.
To say we had an interesting day in Yellowstone would feel like an understatement. And quite honestly, the only words I feel like I have to end this post with are,