Yellowstone–Bears or Bust . . .

After getting up at 6 am (OMG!) we met Al and Adrienne at their rig at 7, and packing their two dogs into the truck with us, we headed out of town toward Yellowstone.

We planned on making what’s known as the Grand Loop, a 260 mile drive from Cody to the east park entrance, to Old Faithful, on up to Madison Junction, over to Canyon Village, and then back down along the Yellowstone River to the Fishing Bridge where we came in.

We did make a quick stop at Peter’s Coffee for coffee and scones of course. Can’t start the day without coffee.

We brought the dogs, Banjo and Abby, along in case we needed bear bait. I mean we definitely want to see bears, and who knows, we might need bait.

About 15 miles before the entrance to the park, we came across this very unusual house sitting high on a hill overlooking the Wapiti Valley.

Nicknamed the Pagoda House, it is actually known as the Smith Mansion. The designer / builder was Francis Lee Smith, who started construction in 1973. An architect/engineer, Smith, using mostly hand tools and homemade pulley systems, worked on the house for almost 3 decades before dying in 1992. Still unfinished, it stands over 75 feet high and is made from timbers cut on nearby Rattlesnake Mountain. Smith’s daughter is presently heading a project to restore and preserve the mansion.

Pagoda House

Leaving the Wapiti Valley, we were already encountering great scenery, and we were still several miles from the park. Sure bodes well for the rest of the trip.


A few minutes later we entered Yellowstone National Park, and I was once again glad we had the National Park Senior Pass that lets us into all National Parks for free. Costing only a one-time $10 fee, it has saved us a lot of money over the last few years, including the $25 it would have cost us to get into Yellowstone.

Yellowstone National Park

We very quickly started seeing even more impressive vistas, including snow-capped mountains,


and beautiful Yellowstone Lake.



And all along the roadway, you find steam and sulfur vents jetting up, reminding you that you’re traveling over an underground caldron of molten lava, just waiting to escape. Oh Boy!


A few minutes later we saw our first wildlife, this bison sunning himself out in a meadow.

Wonder if he knew I was going to have bison chili for lunch?

Bison 3

A few minutes later we saw a big gray wolf go running across the highway about 100 yards ahead. He was chasing something that we could see zipping though the trees, but we couldn’t tell what it was. Another check on our wildlife scorecard.

After a 115 mile trip we pulled in to Old Faithful Village. It sure had changed since I was here as a kid in 1964, a lot more buildings and a lot less trees.

Old Faithful Inn 2

After parking, and getting our National Park Passports stamped at the Visitors Center we headed out to Old Faithful. A sign said the next eruption would be in about 20 minutes, plus or minus 10 minutes. When we got out to the geyser, we found it doing its usual pre-eruption smoking and spitting.

Old Faithful 1

And a lot of people were already there ahead of us. But luckily we were able to find a seat.

Old Faithful 1 Crowd

Old Faithful wasn’t quite as prompt as he should have been. About 5 minutes late, off he went.


It’s a really impressive sight, going on for over 2 minutes, before settling down to its normal steamy spitting and spurting.

Old Faithful Spouting Off Video

As soon as Old Faithful had settled back down, we walked over to the Old Faithful Inn to have lunch in the dining room. The buffet looked really good with pan-seared trout, BBQ chicken, and of course, bison chili, among other items.

And it was really good.

Old Faithful Inn

After lunch in the beautiful dining room we went back to the car, and while Al and Adrienne walked Abby and Banjo, I tried to figure out where we stayed 47 years ago. (And before anyone says anything, the high temp in Yellowstone today was 66 and partly cloudy. The dogs were just fine in the truck with the windows cracked, and pretty much slept the whole time. I mean, why would we want to damage our potential bear bait.)

Anyway, I remembered where our cabin was in relation to Old Faithful, right across the way from it, and by looking a park map I figured it out.

What was then the main lodge has been replaced by a new one, and the old one is a cafeteria and storage warehouse.

YNP Old Lodge

And right next door were the old cabins we had stayed in, still in use and rented out today. I’m not sure exactly which one it was, but almost certainly one of the first two.

And I think they were already old when we stayed in them.

Old Faithful Cabins

A little while after leaving Old Faithful, we saw our first elk, or at least the bottom half of an elk. He was so busy eating, he never put his head up.

Elk Part 1

Next we came across several more bison.

Bison 4

Bison 5

Then we saw this male elk sound asleep in the middle of a grassy meadow. I’ll leave it to the reader to put the two parts together in their mind.

Elk Part 2

Our next stop was what is known as the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.

Yellowstone Lower Falls

The falls in the photo are known as the Lower Falls, and at 308 feet are the highest falls in the park. If you look carefully in the photo below you can see people on the viewing area just to the right of the top of the falls. This is called the Brink.Yellowstone Lower Falls 2

A lot of really colorful rock formations in this area.

Yellowstone Lower Falls 3

Yellowstone Lower Falls 4

Finally we reached the Fishing Bridge and started retracing our route back to Cody, once again traveling along Yellowstone Lake.

Yellowstone Lake


And finally, the Holy Grail of Yellowstone wildlife, a big grizzly. He was ambling along the shoreline, seemingly just taking in the sights.

Yellowstone Bear 1

Yellowstone Bear 2

This is what’s known as a ‘Bear Jam’, when all the cars come to a screeching halt to get a picture of the bear.

Yellowstone Bear Jam

Still ignoring all the gawkers, the bear crossed the highway and scampered up the hill and into the trees.

Yellowstone Bear 3

So we got to see a bear and didn’t even need our ‘bear bait’. I’m sure Abby and Banjo were relieved.

We got back to Cody about 5:45, and after stopping off at our respective rigs, we met back at Sunset House, a local restaurant, for dinner.

Today was a very long, but VERY fun day . . . and tomorrow –



Thought for the Day:

"You can have peace. Or you can have freedom. Don’t ever count on having both at once. " –Robert A. Heinlein



2 Responses

  1. Great pics of Yellowstone, especially of the bear. I like your first pic that has the “bear proof” garbage can in the same shot. (I’m sure you planned that). Safe travels..

  2. It is always fun to see a blog about a place we visited the year before. One of the small details that impressed me about Yellowstone was the incredible craftsmanship of the log hand rails in many of the viewing areas. And then there was the child prodigy who sat down at the piano in the main lodge and entertained the many guests with a classical piece. Those are just two of the neat things about this life — you never know where the next surprise will be.

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