Yellowstone Day 1

Trip Start Jun 12, 2012
Trip End Oct 18, 2012

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Flag of United States  , Wyoming
Saturday, July 21, 2012

Howdy folks,

Steffie and I woke up ready to head back to civilisation. Unfortunately we had to drive 330kms to get there! Our destination was Helena, capital of Montana with a population of only 28,000 people. We filled up fuel in the Blackfeet Indian Reservation of Browning before driving down Highway 89 to Choteau and transferring to the 287 to Augusta. We jumped out of the car to get a coffee in this small country town and were only charged 75 cents! Eventually we joined Interstate 15 and drove through spooky Wolf Creek before arriving around 1pm.

Continuing our tradition of visiting the state capital buildings, we stopped off at The Capitol building on the hillside which was finished in 1902. They made additions to the wings a decade later. We wanted to take the 2pm tour, but missed it so we started walking around on our own. Once we finished, we came back down and asked about the State Seal which we had seen under the dome in Washington State, but not here in Montana. The tour guide was glad to take us back up and explain a few features of the building including the state seal doorknobs and embossed light fixtures. The grand painting which we had missed was the Russell Mural in the House of Representatives which depicted Lewis and Clark meeting a band of Salish Indians. Apparently the mural is really famous in Montana, although I hadn't heard of it.

One of Charles M Russell’s other famous painting about bison was in the museum across the street. There was a large sculpture of a bison skull outside and inside there were early artefacts from the local Indian tribes, a whole room dedicated to Russell’s paintings and some exhibits about early colonial life. It was interesting to see some of Russell’s other artwork after hearing so much about it in the Capitol. Now it was time to see a proper bed, so Steffie and I checked into the Super 8 motel which is a cheap motel chain in the USA. We decided to go out for dinner so we drove to the Last Chance Gulch which is the main street in downtown Helena and went to Riley’s Irish Pub. We sampled a few of the local brews and ate more than our bellys were comfortable with and drove home bloated! Ahh satisfaction…

We were up at 7am the next morning, eager to drive the last section to Yellowstone National Park: the first in the world. It was still 282kms to drive, so we drove through the farmlands along pretty straight roads which is nice to do after driving through British Columbia! The highway speed is 75mph in Montana (differs slightly by state) which is a nice 120kph. We turned off Highway 287 back onto Interstate 90 which had taken us from Seattle and drove east towards our only stop of the day in Bozeman. Bozeman is supposed to be a university town and there was definitely a lot happening on Main Street with art exhibits and people everywhere buying trinkets from street vendors. We weren’t sticking around so after getting charged $5 ATM fee to withdraw cash from Wells Fargo, I was ready to leave!

Excitedly we got back into the car to drive the last 82 miles through Livingston before turning south on Highway 89 to the entry village of Gardiner. At last we spied the Roosevelt Arch, the famous historic entry to Yellowstone and popular with the tourists. We were eager to get a campground because it was already 1pm and some days they all fill up by noon. We pulled into the first campground in Mammoth Hot Springs and managed to get a site which certainly made us feel better! After doing the run around with campgrounds in Glacier, we were glad to secure our first night in Yellowstone.

It was pretty warm in the sun and we didn’t want to hang around camp all afternoon, so we decided to go checkout the Albright Visitor Centre. We drove a mile up the hill to discover a whole village: information centre, post office, old army barracks, a lodge and restaurant. We got some information before heading to the general store to buy a souvenir pin for the collection and a cold drink. I’m up to 17 pins already in 40 days! The Mammoth Hot Springs were a stone’s throw away, so we decided to go up and check out the terraces. They are really big, but sadly not all of them are active anymore and all dried up. The first thing we saw was the Liberty Cap which is a giant, dormant column and then the Lower Terraces. There was a real mix of brown, white and cream colours from the thermal activity that pushed minerals to the surface. It was a bit sad to see the Minerva Terrace all dried up which used to be the main attraction. We also walked up to The Viewpoint, but the terrace below it was all dried up as well.

Afterwards, we relaxed in the shade and planned our activities. Yellowstone is divided into a figure 8 with different stops along the loops. It was hard to figure out what to see because there is so much here to do: hike, watch for wildlife, checkout waterfalls, hot springs and geysers. That evening we went to a Ranger talk about the geology of the park, weather systems and animal integration, which was quite interesting.

Ready to take on a full day in Yellowstone!
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