When it was clear Hubby and I were going on what felt like a once-in-a-lifetime road trip, I checked our route for any “must-see” spots from Portland to Chicago and Yellowstone National Park was incredibly close.
Since I’ve always wanted to go and saw this as my chance, I laid it on thick with the hubby: “Yellowstone is one of those things that if I’m on my deathbed and I’d never seen it, I’d say, ‘I wish I had gone to Yellowstone.’”
His response: Blink. Blink. “Well, I can’t say no to that.”
A touch dramatic? Yes, but it got us to Yellowstone. (#noshame)
While on the road through the beautiful and expansive no mans land of Idaho, I began researching Yellowstone. This sounds dumb, but that park is huge. I knew it was big, but dang, not that big. I read that it was 3,500 square miles, but if you’re like me, that means nothing.
So depending on your point of reference that’s 1.6 million football fields, about three Rhode Islands, and 160 Manhattans (New York, not my hometown in Kansas.)
I was hoping to do the Grand Loop, which takes you through all the park’s main highlights such as the geyser basins, Old Faithful, and Lake Yellowstone. It takes between 4 to 7 hours to complete, so I downsized our must-see list to the Grand Prismatic Spring in the geyser basin and Old Faithful.
Hubby drove us into the park while I went full-on tourist mode, even partly hanging out the window with my camera. As a writer I generally believe words can convey our life’s experiences, but I do not have the talent to properly capture Yellowstone’s beauty. It was breathtaking, stunning, awe-inspiring, all of the cliches that you can think of and more.
We were aiming for the Grand Prismatic Spring, but accidentally turned off the Grand Loop early and ended up at the Lower Geyser Basin, which features the Fountain Paint Pots that are bubbling clay and the Firehole Lake. There is a boardwalk that takes you over searing hot ground that hovers around 199 °F (93 °C). The boiling basin created steam that the wind blew in our faces. It was like standing in a sulfur-smelling steam bath one second and the next was like being on Chicago’s lakefront in December. Aside from the stench of boiled eggs, it was nice.
Grand Prismatic Spring
This is the world’s third-largest hot spring and the bacteria that grows around the edges of the water creates these vivid hues of turquoise, rust and yellow.
You can’t go to Yellowstone and not see Old Faithful. Hubby and I staked out a spot on the long benches surrounding the famous geyser, but we were also starving. We didn’t want to be inside the Old Faithful Inn eating while Old Faithful did her thing. It generally erupts about every hour and a half. Thankfully the park rangers can give you a good estimation of when it’s going to erupt and it was projected to go off anywhere from 2:00 to 2:20.
It was 1:40 when we hit the cafeteria. It took forever to get our food, but once we sat down it was like we were competitive eaters. I have never snarfed down food so fast. I think it was chicken teriyaki. We went back to the geyser and the mood along the benches had changed.
Earlier teenage girls were giggling, parents and retirees were talking and toddlers were squawking, kind of like a sports stadium before the game. Now, it was like a library. Hardly anyone spoke and when they did it was in hushed tones. It was quiet anticipation IRL.
We stood there with reverence to the geyser. It felt a bit like the middle of a moving sermon when everyone internally acknowledges there’s something out there bigger than themselves.
Then it began with a cloud of steam and a spurt of water a couple feet high. The spurt grew and grew reaching about 100 feet.
And then, less than 5 minutes later, it was over. People resumed their giggling, talking and squawking.
Satisfied, we headed to the car and out of Yellowstone. The visit was majestic and now I’ll just have to pick a different death-bed regret.
*For more pictures, you can check them out on Instagram I used the hashtag #pdx2chitown for all of our road trip pictures.