Today we are reverting back into a more laid-back vacation mode. Our first order of business was to pick up Mallory at Noon to go eat lunch. That is one way to start the day with good pace.
Everyone in our crew was excited to sleep in, given our long day yesterday. By the time we retrieved Mallory, we were ready to eat. Today was lunch at the Old Towne Café. Marissa had her heart set on pancakes, but they had stopped serving breakfast when we arrived. Guess we traded sleep for hotcakes.
After lunch, we hit the road around 1:30 for today’s activity – hiking the South Rim Trail at the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. We ran into heavy traffic (of course), so when we got nearby (at Canyon), we stopped for restroom breaks and a gift shop visit. Stephanie’s #1 shopping goal on this vacation was to find a Yellowstone bucket hat. We have seen a few here and there, but she found “the one” at the Canyon gift shop. She is a happy lady!
After leaving Canyon, we found our trailhead and got prepped for the hike. The South Rim Trail is the #2 rated hike in the park according to Hike 734. (I have ordered several of their hiking maps and would highly recommend them to anyone wanting to pick the best hikes in the National Parks.)
We set out on our hike at almost 4:30, which is a little later than an ideal time, but as a positive, we’re going to avoid the crowds.
Less than a mile into the hike, we stopped at an observation deck to watch the waterfall. There was a guy there with a Michelob Ultra in his hand. I tell him “I like how you hike” and he replied “Gotta have a few”. (This is also a result of starting your hike at 4:30, I think.)
Our hike took us along the Yellowstone River and the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. This area is highlighted by two waterfalls and the amazing color of the walls of the canyon. It’s truly a one-of-a-kind experience.
Mallory led the way on the trail for the most part today. It was pretty obvious who was the local who has acclimated to the elevation. She was a champ.
We followed along the Yellowstone River until we reached Sublime Point. Honestly, we don’t think the point was marked and we missed it. We eventually turned back, and looked for a connecting trail that would take us back to the car in a loop, instead of an out-and-back.
The new trail was interesting. We passed several ponds and areas of geothermal activity. Plenty of holes with steam coming out, alongside the smell of sulphur.
At one point, we had some confusion about which trail to take, as our trail came to a crossroads. We agreed on one trail and hiked maybe a quarter mile to the top of the hill, and began having second thoughts. Maybe we should double back and take the trail that we know was heading back toward the canyon. We did that, but it in hindsight, we found that our initial instinct was right, and all we did was add more length to our hike.
Back at the trailhead, we found a bull elk and a buffalo sitting on the hillside overlooking the parking lot. Turns out this was a sign of things to come…
We safely made it back to the car after a 7.8 mile hike that lasted nearly 4 hours. We were motivated to get back to West Yellowstone and visit a Mexican restaurant that operated out of a school bus. We piled in and pointed the car in that direction.
Not even a mile down the road, we found a collection of vehicles pulled over and a Park Ranger monitoring the situation. We saw a bear in the field so we pulled over to check it out. It was a Momma Bear and her two cubs, and she was a hit with the Yellowstone visitors.
A few miles farther down the road, we came across a small Bison herd standing next to the road. This herd had several young calves with them. Their color is always a lighter brown and they are good looking animals.
We continued our stretch drive going home and found another group of cars pulled over, drivers standing outside their cars with cameras and binoculars. We pulled over. It was a wolf. The wolves were recently reintroduced into Yellowstone and they are getting back into the ecosystem.
We made it back into West Yellowstone in time to get dinner. There was much rejoicing. We ordered our food inside the school bus and then waited outside for it to be prepared and handed through the service window. The operator was very personable. When I told him we were looking forward to this meal all day, he simply said, “Uh Oh”. He later told us he hoped the meal met the expectations of our imagination.
What a day. The hike was fantastic, the wildlife was plentiful, and the food & fellowship were great. It all met the expectations of our imagination!