When in Yellowstone

Yellowstone is beautiful in such a unique way. The geysers are definitely not my first thought when I think of natural beauty... but they really are amazing! (especially when you forgive the smell). I found it so interesting to learn more about where these thermal features come from (although a bit scary knowing we were on top of an active volcano). 
Looking forward to future times in Yellowstone, here are my favorites and things I'd change. 
The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone was probably my favorite. That view is spectacular, and I loved hiking along the side of the canyon to see different viewpoints. Absolutely amazing. But the upper and lower falls are also an amazing sight to see. 
I particularly loved the Midway Geyser Basin. Mammoth Hot Springs is extremely unique (and there is a hot spring area in the river just north of Mammoth where you can swim in late summer/fall. Sadly, it was still closed when we were there, but I'd definitely try it out next time!). Really, all of the geyser basins are amazing in their own way, but I would maybe cut a few out to see more of the other features of Yellowstone. Maybe focus on the ones near where I camp, or hit one a day while heading to a bigger hike/some other feature. I'd have to research more, but it is definitely fun to change it up!
The wildlife was also wonderful. We didn't see bears or wolves (to Carter's dismay), but we did get to wait 45 minutes behind a heard of bison(see pictures above), and see them playing and walking past our car. We also passed elk every day on our way out of the campground. I think bison are one of my new favorites :)
Yellowstone is a huge place. With destinations spread an hour or two apart, it's easy to spend half the day driving. Something mom worked to do was organize our days spatially... but it was still hard to get to places and enjoy! 
So here's some thoughts...
If we go with the big family again, I think I'd plan less travel and more time to hang out. With baby Penny and so many cars, it was so much start and stop, difficulty getting out of camp in the morning, and then so much driving between each stop. 
I think I would slow it down and maybe cut out a few of the geyser basins in exchange for exploring more of the hikes in the area. With Alycia pregnant, the short boardwalks were perfect. But if not, I would love to explore and spend more time out in the nature of Yellowstone. 
I would definitely stay in the park again, maybe somewhere even more central than where we stayed. It's a bit longer to get there initially, but would be worth it in the end I think. Canyon village area sounds nice to me. But I don't know... really wherever you stay it's going to take some decent driving time. 
So yes, maybe less geysers and more nature. Yellowstone itself is beautiful country. The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone was probably my favorite. We hiked along the top, but I guess there are some amazing hikes that hike down into the canyon. I would love to spend more time there. 
I would also love to get an earlier start, getting back early enough at night for s'mores and games. Especially for a family trip like this, the sights are definitely important, but I think the time together is even more so. With so much driving, we didn't always get to stop and enjoy the company. So I'd definitely love to have more of that. 
Really though, it was a great trip. Mom is an amazing trip planner and I never doubt her expertise when it comes to family trips :) 

Some of my favorite moments of the trip...
We are stuck in a construction area and see Mom and Dad's car rocking to the sound of country music. We see Mom and Dad swaying back and forth while Andrew cranks up the tunes. Suddenly Dad is out of the car dancing in the road, mom joins him, and we see Andrew run up to hop in the drivers seat. Without a second thought, Carter and I jump out of McKay and Alycia's car, commandeer the parental's seats, and played cards with Andrew and Hayden for the rest of the drive back. 
Penny's bear suit. She was the cutest happy camper. I can't believe I never ended up actually getting a picture of the suit... but man, was it darling. 
Spending time with the family. We are so blessed with such a wonderful family. I love them all so much and it was wonderful to be all together (although we missed Nakita, who had to work :( ). There's something grand about getting together with all of the smelly Shelleys. 
Finally spending time with Carter after such crazy work schedules the last few weeks. It has actually been pretty awful, and it was wonderful to actually sleep at the same time together all week!
S'mores. I'm pretty sure not eating s'mores while camping is directly linked to depression. High s'more consumption must be linked with a happier heart (we won't however, mention the health benefits). 
Carter and I got some postcards to add to our growing postcard adventure wall and some plaques for our beautiful hand-carved walking sticks (still a work in progress). 

All in all, Yellowstone is an amazing place. Probably one of the most unique places I have visited. Also a special place as it's where we met our dear friends, the Rivet family, from France. Yellowstone is full of miracles and adventures :)

 We were camped at Bridge Bay Campground... just across the road from Yellowstone Lake. Carter brought me down to the lake on night one. It was absolutely amazing under the full moon. The picture really cannot do it justice at all.

Waiting for Old Faithful. 

Morning Glory pool... pretty amazing!

 My silly husband stealing the wheel chair from our pregnant sister...

This little bear was the cutest camper of us all...

Tower falls... another fun quick stop on the way to Mammoth!

Mammoth Hot Springs

Norris Geyser Basin

Hayden Valley... just before meeting our bison friends

We got held up for 45 minutes on the road because of the herd of buffalo that kept crossing the road. They were so cute to see chasing each other around (all the baby and "teenager" buffalo!)

Midway Geyser Basin

Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone (not sure why they include the 'the' in there....). Here we are in front of the lower falls. 

At the overlook to the upper falls

 Coming next... the road home through Jackson and the Tetons.


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