Wyoming Day 3 (East Yellowstone National Park)

Started off the morning with the usual breakfast buffet. The restaurant here has a menu but, more or less, everything on it is out in the buffet so there’s really no point in ordering just one thing since you can have waffles, eggs, and fruit or whatever you want. It’s strange though. The buffet includes everything including drinks (juice and coffee), but if you order off the menu with juice and coffee, it’s more expensive (so I was told). I don’t think they tell the waiters here that breakfast is free and included with all the rooms and is built into the resort fee. So whether you eat a lot or not, it’s all the same price.

First stopped to refuel, not something you average 50mpg.

The view from the gas station, the nicest I’ve ever seen!

This is our second full day and yesterday we went to Yellowstone’s northwestern end to see the geysers. Today we went to the northeastern side which is less than 50 miles away, but has a dramatically different scenery. There’s different trees and rock formations on this end. On our drive past Yellowstone lake (north of West Thumb) is Hayden Valley. The valley and road follows Yellowstone River north to the cliffs, more on that in a minute. The valley itself comes out of nowhere (as do most scenery changes in Yellowstone) and is just the most lush green place you have ever seen. You know that old Windows XP green grass hills and blue sky with cloud wallpaper? It’s like being there, but in real life. At the valley, I saw a heard of buffalo just wandering around the side of the overlook and just leisurely crossing the street (one by one) backing up traffic. No one seemed to mind. They were eager to get out of their cars and get pretty close.

Passing through the valley, you quickly come upon some bigger mountains and before you know it you’re winding your way up to the canyon of Yellowstone. One of the biggest mountains you pass is Mt. Washburn and there’s several pretty waterfalls coming off the side.

Our first stop was at what our guise book called the most forgettable visitors center in Yellowstone at Canyon Village. We made a brief pit stop for lunch and continued north towards Tower Roosevelt.

The northeastern end of Yellowstone is full of steep grassy mountains and narrow winding roads. One wrong turn and you could find yourself plummeting to the base of a mountainside. Toward the base of the mountain was our first stop at Tower Falls. Continuing another coupe of miles was Calcite Springs which looks over the “Grand Canyon of Yellowstone”.

Sharp turns going down.

Tower Falls

Calcite Springs, a must see!

Heading back south, we made stops at the upper falls and then at the lower falls and Artist Pointe. On the way there there were two traffic jams. The first was a small black bear on the side of the road just minding his own business looking for food. Several cars had pulled over to the side of the road and gotten out to get up close pictures of and with the bear. Smart. No wonder there are people getting attacked by bears because they act so stupidly.

Waterfall on the way back, near Tower Fall

Traffic backed up for a black bear.

Luckily since traffic was moving so slowly, we were able to get close without getting out of the car. Further up the road on the next bend was another backup. This time it was a grizzly bear! This one though was way at the bottom of a large hill and it was so far away. This little brown blob had caused an even bigger fuss than the black bear. This was probably since there were two large overlooks with lots of parking. I have found that attractions along the side of the road attracts crowds in waves. I’ve also noticed that there’s a heard mentality at play here. You might find something interesting on the side of the road and stop and suddenly there’s like 5 other cars stopped to look at the same thing.

What else can you do in traffic besides get out and take pictures of bright yellow flowers on the side of the road? 🙂

And of your nice rental car!

This caused so much excitement, yeah, that brown blob down there.

How much excitement you ask?

People were just waiting for it to do something, but it didn’t.

Back to the falls. The first we hit was the upper which is along this one-way scenic drive along the canyon. The overlook is quite small and is on the west end of the canyon. After a quick few pictures, we made our way through the scenic drive back to the highway and the lower falls.

Upper Falls View

Approaching the lower falls, we came across a large bull elk just resting in the shade behind a row of trees. There were only a few cars that had stopped. But a large four-legged animal requires a stop, so we dis. Before long, flocks of people were showing up. It’s like magic I tell you!

The lower falls lookout, just down the street, had a large parking lot and many tourists. There was even a large tour bus full of Chinese people. This seemed to be the most popular destination of the day. The lower falls has a nicer wider view of the falls. It has a nice overlook and vantage point from a couple of different angles. From the lookout, you can see several other lookouts including the upper and one right above the falls. I didn’t notice the one right above the falls till I zoomed in and noticed some tiny looking people standing over it.

Lower Falls View

See the tiny people? It’s a LONG way down!

As we were leaving, we passed by the Elk who was still on the side of the road. This time there was only a couple cars, and example of the the magic wave of people concept at work. I did stop a the Yellowstone River on the way out, it made for some nice pictures of rushing water. No surprise others slowed down and wanted pictures as well.

Yellowstone River

On the way back, we didn’t make any stops. It was already quite late and we didn’t get back to Jackson and dinner till about 9:45ish, just in time to have dinner before everything closed. Time really flies in Wyoming. You go about enjoying your day and it’s 2 or 3 in the afternoon and you check the clock later and it’s like 5 or 6, and just like that, your day is nearly done, especially if you’re up in Yellowstone and have to drive 2 hours back!

For dinner, we stopped at an Italian restaurant called Calico’s Italian Grill and Bar. I ordered the Chicken Parmesan since I was really hungry. We also ordered garlic bread but since also ended up eating all the other bread the gave us. Who knew driving around could make you so hungry? The pasta was really tasty. The sauce had a bunch of tangy chunky tomatoes and the chicken was very tender.

And I think that’s it for day 3!

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