Day two in Yellowstone was a quick change of plans. Originally we had thought we'd see other stuff but we decided the night before we really wanted to ensure we saw some wildlife. All of our research said that since we were still in the summer season bison would probably be what we'd see most and the BEST place to see that was Lamar Valley which is in northeast Yellowstone. Since we were in west Yellowstone the drive was about 2-2.5 hours depending on traffic so we left a little early. We loaded the kids SUPER early, popped in a movie (cause waking kids up before the sun is so fun) and headed out with breakfast once again in the car. We wanted to get to Lamar Valley around 8am to 9am because we heard that it is the best time to see them move before the heat begins to pick up.
The drive was STUNNING but as soon as we got close we began to see bison everywhere. I knew that bison walked in front of the car but never really comprehended just how little they care about anything except where they'd like to be. They cut in front of cars whenever they want, go on whatever side they please and if they want to stop in the middle of the road for no reason at all they'll do it. The drive I'm sure would be much faster without them, but if you ask our kids the "bison jams" were the best part.
I will also say I was blown away by the lack of respect for their personal space people had. So much of me was stressed out watching people GET OUT of their cars and walk within FEET of these things. Listen, even if they're lying down, these are not super slow animals. Seeing them up close was amazing! I was so blown away by how big they really are. We drive a long bed dully with larger tires and these beasts came up to the window. We also saw multiple motorcyclists drive right between them. The bicyclists however always rode with a car between them and the bison.
Once we arrived to Lamar Valley we got to look at hundreds of bison all happily grazing. We watched them for awhile before loading up and heading out just as the crowds poured in.
After we left inevitably the kids needed to stop so we pulled over to see The Petrified Forest. I will say, unless we missed something, we it was actually one single tree. The views were really beautiful though!
After that we headed to Mammoth Hot Springs which was the only other thing on our list that day. Since Lamar Valley took up a good portion we knew this large area would take up the rest. There is SO much more to Mammoth Hot Springs than just the boardwalk. There is a visitor center, stores, hotels, stables, a hospital and endless barracks and quarters for employees to stay in. All in all it's a small in park city.
We headed to the Albright Visitor Center first because our oldest had almost completed his Junior Ranger Booklet and it was time to get his badge! They had a lot of stuff that was very interactive for children which is always a relief in museums. Since there were some activities to old for a 5 year old and most of the talks were done they offered an age appropriate scavenger hunt to complete. Once done he finished his second Junior Ranger Program and got his first official sewn on patch. After that we pulled out a small cooler and some much needed lunch.
As mentioned we tried to time our long hikes with our 2 year olds nap times. After some fussing he passed out (as you can see in our family photo) and we were off on a 2 mile hike that goes up 300 feet in elevation. There are a lot of areas that were pretty straight but some of the boardwalk was a little steep. The hot springs was enormous and mind blowing. These photos don't even come close to doing it justice. The colors look as if someone had painted them and the detail of each little layer is beyond delicate. It's hard to express how small every single row is in the rocks or just how fine each layer is. Seeing them up close was amazing. Our oldest once again was a hiking champ but he definitely wasn't a fan of the smell of the hot springs.
At the end of the second day it was time to move the RV to a place I found on HipCamp (which is an amazing tool). You can read our full review of Diamond P Horse Ranch on our blog a few posts back but all in all it was amazing. The kids had endless room to roam, they got to meet the sweetest horses and we saw some of the most incredible sunsets I've ever seen over the mountains. To celebrate our journey to Yellowstone we decided to have a mock campfire treat of marshmallows, bananas and chocolate chips all melted together in gooey goodness. There are no campfires allowed so instead we microwaved them and the kids loved them all the same. This was a moment I'll forever hold dear: a full heart from adventuring, watching my boys enjoy a treat on the back of the tailgate as the sun began to set over the countryside. It will probably stay with me as one of the most precious evenings for years to come and was one of those moments that it's all worth it.
Day three would bring our final day in Yellowstone and the beginning of an adventure towards The Grand Tetons!
Happy Adventuring Friends!