Day 4 : Boise to Yellowstone
Today's drive would be around 400 miles.
I had lived in California for the past 8 years, and I did visit Portland not too long ago, so Idaho was the first 'new' state for me.
During the drive, I liked to read up on the wiki page and Google some interesting tidbits about the new states we were entering. (Idaho loooves to tout the fact that they are the king of potatoes.)
I certainly didn't know anything about Idaho beforehand, but evidently I had assumptions about it because after getting breakfast in this trendy little cafe in Boise and people watched for a bit, I was surprised by what I saw.
One thing that surprised me was the fashion, oddly enough. Even though it was cold (where normally I completely give up trying to look nice) everyone was extremely well put together. The town (city?) itself was very cute, and I would absolutely come back to spend more time there.
But I was excited to get to Yellowstone, so we scampered off.
After 2 hours on the road we made a stop at Twin Falls.
HOLY COW. Talk about canyons!! I couldn't believe there was a town plopped right next to this GIANT thing.
There's this park at the bottom of the canyon called Centennial Waterfront Park that was incredible. It had little ponds, waterfalls, and a nice view of the bridge that we entered on.
But the real star of the show... The apples trees.
Spread around a section of the park were apple trees covered with perfectly ripe apples. It didn't even occur to me that we were 'allowed' to eat them until we saw a family picking some. (They had the whole setup with a blanket to catch them in and a long saw thing to cut them off.)
So we chucked rotting apples from the ground at the trees to knock off some good apples.
Maybe I'm a little biased because we were having such an awesome time... But man those were gorgeous apples!! More gorgeous than you see in the grocery store even. And they tasted fantastic. What was cool was each tree had a different type of apple, and the taste differences were pretty significant.
After our fill of apples, we headed out for the next thing. Before leaving Twin Falls entirely, there was another waterfall called Shashone Falls we wanted to check out.
Unfortunately it was pretty dried up and more like a water trickle... Would love to come back when it's full of water!
After that, we headed straight to Yellowstone.
We didn't arrive until almost 9pm. The cold was a little bit of a shock, but Yellowstone was the destination I was most looking forward to!
Days 5 & 6 - Yellowstone National Park
This was my first time to Yellowstone, so I was very excited and hopeful to see some wildlife!
Yellowstone Day 1 -
In the morning we grabbed breakfast and bought a boxed lunch and some snacks to take with us. Since I didn't do much research about specifically where to go in the park, we went to the visitors center where the nice gentlemen gave us a map and scribbled in the places where we were likely to see animals. Yellowstone is made up of giant figure 8 sort of shape : there's an upper loop and a lower loop. The guy said it would take about 4 hours to drive through each loop, and recommended we spend one day on the lower loop and one day in the upper loop. This worked out pretty perfectly for us and I'd repeat the recommendation if you've got 2 days in the park.
So off we went! Right away it was gorgeous.
Snow capped mountains and crystal blue water. I figured the water would be freezing but it actually wasn't too cold. (I assume it's because of all the gysers and volcanic activity.)
We were barely a half hour into the park when we saw our first elk!!
Next we continued down the loop and saw some gysers. Really neat but really stinky!! Because it was so cold, the smoke from the gysers could be seen all over, giving the effect of some sort of battlefield aftermath.
Next we checked out more geysers, including the famed "Old Faithful," which I learned the week before isn't a particularly exciting geyser, but reliable if you want to see one erupt. (And if you're out in Yellowstone, why wouldn't you take the time to see one erupt??)
Since we were spending the night at Yellowstone, we didn't have that hurried "somewhere to be tonight" pressure, so we took our time and basically pulled over into every turnout and branching path we came across. Eventually 4 hours had passed and we were barely 1/4 of the way through the loop! So we tried to pick up the pace and not stop at every little thing, even though everything was super cool!!
But after exploring so many geysers, they did start to become kind of samey, so we started skipping some. (Plus, did I mention that they smelled bad?)
We did get to see a lot of wildlife, including a bear off in the distance, which in my opinion, automatically makes the visit a super success.
You can tell when there's an animal when you suddenly see a traffic jam or a bunch of cars on the side of the road.
Speaking of traffic, there was barely any! I can't imagine how crowded it must get during peak season.
We ended the day with a beautiful sunset view of the waterfalls at the Inspiration Point at the Grand canyon of Yellowstone.
Because the sun was mostly set already by the time we got to the waterfalls at the canyon, we thought we might try to see them again the next morning.
And with that, we headed back into town to get some sleep.
Yellowstone Day 2
Since we spent the first day exploring the lower loop, day 2 would be driving around the upper loop. We started with the waterfalls that we ended on the day before in hopes to see them lit up by sunlight, but unfortunately the sun just didn't seem to get high enough in the sky due to the time of year, so I don't think the sun hits the waterfall at all during the day. (Even if it did, we weren't going to wait around all day for it).
The rest of the day consisted of more animals, more waterfalls, more stinky gysers. (I recommend you pass over the 'mud volcano'. We stepped out of the car, caught one wiff, and aborted immediately.)
The gysers we saw on the upper loop were really fascinating!
It looked like something from another planet.
Our final hours in Yellowstone were approaching. T~T
One issue that came up was our exit strategy... We were going to be ending the night in Cody, Wyoming, a small town just east of the park, but the road leading there was closed due to construction work on the Fishing Bridge, so we had to take a long way out that was going to take 2 more hours. What a bummer, right?!
The path out took us through Cooke City-Silver Gate and parts of the Beartooth Highway, a highway I really wanted to drive across but was closed for the season.
We stopped at "Stop The Car" to get some ice cream before heading out. The lady working there was super duper nice and told us how this road into Yellowstone is always the calm one, even during peak seasons in summer. (Good to note!)
What a blessing in disguise the long way out turned out to be. We were 'forced' to take the Chief Joseph scenic byway to Cody, which had some of the most amazing landscapes I've ever seen in my life.
I wish I could have better captured the feel of it!
The sky was so amazingly purple, but none of my pictures quite captured it since I'm not quite skilled enough with the camera... (Also we had a LONG way to go but kept constantly stopping to take photos, so we were trying to hurry.)
If (when) I ever visit Yellowstone again, I will definitely be taking this route again. (This time, intentionally!)
Sadly we did run out of light towards the end, missing out on what I assume were some amazing views. >.<
But I'm so grateful for the amazing sunset colors we did get to see. :)
The whole experience left us with this thought : There are so many beautiful landscapes, sometimes the best ones aren't the most famous ones.
Day 7 : Cody WY to Custer SD
I know this post is getting long, but I'd just like to include one more day. We ended our Yellowstone adventures in Cody, a small town to the East of the park, and after our 400 mile drive, we'd end in Custer, a small town right next to Mount Rushmore.
The main thing we'd be checking out today was Devil's Tower.
We headed out right after breakfast, as always.
Just because we were past Yellowstone didn't mean the landscapes weren't still gorgeous!
We stretched our legs for a moment in Powder River Pass, grabbed lunch in Buffalo, and were quickly back on the road.
As we got closer to Devil's Tower, we saw tons of signs for it. I think there aren't so many attractions in Wyoming, so the tower is a big one.
Finally, we arrived! It looked like something out of some sort of dinosaur theme park.
Similar to Crater Lake in Oregon, you're supposed to pay $20 to drive up to it, but again, there was no one working the booth, so for us it was free! xD
On the way up you'll see (and hear) tons of prairie dogs!
Once we got our car parked, we took the 1 mile stroll around the whole thing. It's a lot bigger than it appears...
Before it got too late, we headed out to Custer.
...but we always take too long and so it got too late anyway. :D
(How can you rush off when there's a beautiful sunset?!)
And that concludes week 1 of the road trip!
Sophie is a video game developer who has a variety of passions including yoga, traveling, and photography.