So it’s our last day in Yellowstone. Sophie and I (I think, or maybe it was Ella) use our tickets to go eat breakfast downstairs….or so we thought we were. We get there and there is a long line out the door. I don’t want to get going late so we quickly do a 180 and head back to the room and decide to stop at the McDonald’s that is just off the park entrance.
Thankfully today the line to get into the park is not long at all and we think, “Hey! Maybe we’re in luck today!” We get to the entrance and the guy says, “Just so you know, there is a traffic jam just a few miles in.” Well Son of a B$#@!
We get in a play THE SONG and you can see the point we get stopped in traffic. AGAIN.
We are stuck here for quite a while. The traffic really moved slow this morning. We would come around a few corners, take off few a mile, maybe two, and come to a stop again.
We tried to take in the beauty one last time as we sat there, trying not to get frustrated. At one point the girls got a little goofy.
Along our trip we had a few songs that we had to add to our travel play list. As we ascended Beartooth we started singing the song “Clouds” as the lyrics go, “and we go up, up, up and we’ll climb a little higher”. As mentioned in a previous post, we were lucky to have free satellite radio through the whole trip and this song came on. We felt it very appropriate and how we felt toward the damn bison at this point. Thankfully it is the edited version.
We get to the intersection and we still haven’t passed any bison however, the turn to go towards Old Faithful continues to be very backed up. So we think the bison traffic jam was actually that direction and was holding us up all the way back to the entrance almost. Here is where we get lucky sometimes and we were turning the opposite direction. At that point there was no traffic as we headed toward the Upper and Lower Falls, otherwise known as the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. However, we were already 2 hours into our drive and had another 40 minutes to go. By this time we had to find a restroom. Heather went in and said it was disgusting so I decided to use natures bathroom instead.
I sort of saved the Canyon for the last day for a couple reasons. One, people often say it is their favorite spot in the park so I wanted to save the best for last. Two, it was sort of on our way out as we would be leaving the park today. We start off by going to the Brink of the Lower Falls. The parking lot is pretty full but I was able to quickly find a parking spot and start making our way down the winding path. As we do we can see the Upper Falls in the distance.
This path goes down quite a ways. We kept zig-zagging down. People on the way up were sweating and huffing and stopping and the switch-backs. We were all dreading the walk back up as we passed people and we kept going down.
But HOLY COW what a view. The pictures don’t do it justice. You a literally standing right at the brink of the falls and you feel like if you were to lean over the rail too far you might just go down.
So we are there for a while and take it in knowing we might as well make the trek worth it. Plus it was obviously very pretty down there. But eventually we start making our way back up but really take our time and stop and every other switch-back for a break, especially with Kaitlyn’s hurt ankle.
And take the time to take some photos along the way up.
We made it to the top and surprisingly, it wasn’t as bad as we feared and went quicker than we thought even though we did take our time. We did pass an older couple and the man had a walker and was really going slow down the walkway. We passed them about half way up so they had already come down a ways. All I could think of is how long will it take them to come back up? How will he get back up? Wow! The patience.
We get to the parking lot and it is now completely FULL. Once again, we somehow managed to beat the crowds. It did prevent us however from taking the trip down the lower lookout point and Grand View because of all the cars but did keep driving to Inspiration Point and boy were we treated.
It. Was. Quiet. Not too many people there. Not much noise or wind. It was……peaceful.
We just stuck around there for a while. Soaking it in. There were only a few steps so it made it easy for Kaitlyn. A slight breeze kept us cool. And we didn’t have to worry much about getting in the way of other people.
So, a little funny thing here. The falls is off in the distance and it’s hard to get a picture of us all and the falls so we ask someone to take a picture for us. They happily agree, quick snap the picture and hand it back. Below is the photo and as for the waterfall? Right off the shoulder of lady in the picture that we knew nothing about. Thanks for taking the photo…..I guess.
So after leaving that wonderful place we head to Canyon Village to find a shady spot to eat. For me I was transported back to when I was young because I very much remember being there and it still looked the same as far as I could tell.
We shop around a bit at the General Store and then cross the river to view the Upper Falls. We decided not to do too much hiking cause Kaitlyn’s ankle was really starting to bother her so we went to the Upper Falls view.
A cool picture of the girls…..
and here is a picture of the taking of the picture.
After a bit, the four of us (minus Kaitlyn) took a little walk down Uncle Tom’s Trail. There is an observation platform but they had closed it off unfortunately.
We worked on this shot for a while. Sophie tried to take it multiple times in various positions.
So we hit the road and make our way out of the park. I forget the time but I believe it was around 3pm as I wanted to be at our resting spot near Cody by around 5ish. Our view continued to be beautiful the whole way however.
On the way out we saw the devastation left from the forest fires back in……2016 I believe.
This is on Highway 14 on the west side of Yellowstone Lake.
We start to climb and once again get into some snow on the ground.
The scenery continues to be great we climb up and go back down and driving and driving and finally we come to the exit of the park. So long Yellowstone. It sure was fun to take my kids finally and to see you again. Until next time.
So we are driving and I tell Heather the name of the place that we are staying at and to pull it up on her phone once she gets cell coverage (which takes quite a while by the way). The girls still think we are just rolling into Cody and hoping to secure a spot for the night. I tell her to give me a 5 mile countdown with her fingers. So she does and I drive past it because it is off the road just a tad. So I turn around and the girls think I’m doing what I’ve been doing the past 4 days in just turning around whenever I see something cool. So they think I saw something. Little do they know the surprise I have in store.
Before we left I was looking for places to stay and I would show them some off the wall places and places like the Griswolds stayed at with the rented cabins in the woods. I found a place with teepees and they thought that looked cool. So I told them they were booked and we couldn’t stay there. But I surprised them.
ala Disney Cruise, Heather went in first to get all of our reactions as we enter……
It was really neat. They had a propane heater in there in case it gets too cold. Lights, plugins, plywood floor, the bed and comforter were really comfortable. The futon obviously pulled out and that was good to sleep on. They did bring in a cot for our 5th person to sleep on later that evening.
The bathrooms and shower were a short walk but were very well kept.
The men’s and women’s bathroom both came with a message chair and big screen TV though I couldn’t get the TV to work.
l So we get there and say to the lady we will put some of our stuff in and go find a place to eat in Cody. She tells us of a great place actually a couple miles east of where we were and if we’d like she would put in a reservation for us. I tell her sounds good, make it for 7 if you can. So she comes back, says we have a 7pm reservation and points back along the hill and says there is a nice scenic road that we can take. She said take it for about 3 miles and it’ll take us to the restaurant. So we take it. It’s been 3 miles, still no restaurant. Oh, by the way, the place is called Cutthroat Guest Ranch!!! The girls start theorizing they just send us out here and we never come back. I jokingly play along with it and say, “you know, I did Google the place and it didn’t come up,” to which they go, “No Way!” Well, the place is actually 5 miles on this back road so we do eventually get there.
It was a nice place. Again, don’t know if we were starving or just lucky this whole trip but we loved the food there. Everything we ordered was great. For something completely different I wanted to try the smoked trout dip as an appetizer and that was even really good.
So we take the same way back and decide to roll down the windows and sing some tunes.
We get back, Sophie goes into the pen and makes a friend.
The girls played some basketball. You are welcome Coach Karas.
Kaitlyn and I even got in the mix…but no picture of that.
The sun begins to set so we take in the view from the balcony on the main building.
There was a stream that ran right behind our wigwam and so we had the natural soothing sounds water to help us fall asleep once we turned out the lights.
So we shower and take in the view a little more.
and we all settle in to watch an episode of Shitts Creek because, you know, Wifi.
It took a number of times to get these shots between people laughing, grabbing in wrong spots, Ella holding the light and positioning ourselves to all fit in all while hoping we don’t break the bed.
We called it a night at that point. I should note, it was really hot this day. It was in the 90s but it cooled off in the evening and because Ella was on the cot by the entrance, she woke up in the middle of the night freezing. So we took a couple of our blankets and through it over her and she seemed to do ok the rest of the night.
Yellowstone – Day 5 – Ride Home
So Day 5 there’s not much action so I’ll include it here.
We get up early and hit the road by 6:30 because we have a 13 hour drive ahead of us plus a stop at my Mom and Dad’s to pick up the clothes we had left at their place. We head north out of Cody towards Billings and back the way we came. We played Holiday Road one more time followed by “We Went Dancing (Across the USA)” which is at the end of the movie Vacation.
I had commented just the day before how didn’t come across one tunnel the whole trip….and then we did….
I drove to Dickinson, Heather to Bismarck, Kaitlyn to Casselton and I was going to have Ella drive the remainder of the way but there were storms once we got back to interstate so I took over again.
All told, 2,123 miles and around $250 in gas spent for the trip but a life time of memories for sure. I had wanted to do this trip since Kaitlyn was born and finally was able to do it. Can’t help but wonder with the girls getting older, particularly Kaitlyn, how many of these trips we have left where all 5 of us are with. Hopefully plenty more but you never know. I soaked it in, that’s for sure. Thanks for going on this trip with me girls. It meant a lot. Maybe more than you know. As a dad, when you have your first kid, you sort of dream about things like this. Sure it may not be as glamorous as a cruise with Augers or as fun as going on vacation with Dykemas, but it was our family vacation. Thanks Heather for supporting my quest
To see the complete photo album of this trip, click HERE.
Read about this trip all over again from DAY 1!
Read about my first trip to Yellowstone that started my love for travel.