On the Road to Yellowstone: Prairie Dogs and Bear Teeth

Greycliff Prairie Dog Town State Park
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Red Lodge
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Beartooth Highway
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Grizzly Goodbye


“As a Junior Ranger, I promise to teach others about what I learned…” These words were enthusiastically repeated by High Five on the the final day of our recent trip to Yellowstone National Park. He hadn’t been quite old enough to take part in the excellent Junior Ranger program during our last visit , but this time around he was determined to work through his activity book and earn the Junior Ranger badge (which in Yellowstone is an actual badge instead of a pin). High Five’s official status as a Junior Ranger in Yellowstone was one of the many highlights of a day that included exploring the geysers of the Norris and Old Faithful basins and seeing our only grizzly bear of the trip just before heading home. Between the geothermal features and wildlife, there’s no place like Yellowstone 🙂


Norris Geyser Basin
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Old Faithful and Midway Geyser Basin
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Goodbye, grizzly! Goodbye, Yellowstone. We'll be back soon!

Goodbye, grizzly! Goodbye, Yellowstone! We’ll be back soon!

Wolf Welcome


For the second day of our recent trip to Yellowstone, we decided to focus on the Northeast section of the park, specifically the Lamar Valley. We were hoping to spot some wolves, so we headed out early to the Slough Creek Campground and were not disappointed. The scores of people set up with spotting scopes was a good first sign that we would have luck, and soon we could make out the wolves testing the bison grazing by the Creek. Once late-morning set in the wolves retreated to their den up in the hillside, but we still had plenty of energy left. We continued into Lamar Valley, hiked the wonderful Trout Creek Trail, and then found a spot for lunch on the banks of the Lamar River. From there we set out for the Roosevelt Lodge Cabins to reach the trail head to the Tower Fall and Lost Lake hikes. By the time we visited the falls and spent some time on the banks of Lost Lake, the afternoon was winding down, so we made a final stop at the Lava Creek Picnic Area on our way back to Mammoth. A yellow-bellied marmot kept us company as we ate dinner, and Five Spice and Five String felt a sense of accomplishment that we had finally worn out the Younger Fives 🙂


Slough Creek
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Trout Lake
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Tower Fall and Lost Lake
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Lava Creek Picnic Area
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Bison Bedtime


Ever since our unexpected trip to Yellowstone National Park almost three years ago, we’ve been looking forward to a return visit. Some warm early-May weather prompted us to make the three-hour trip from Helena to spend a few days in one of our absolutely favorite places from anywhere in our travels.

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Some of the park roads are closed this time of year, but even three days would not give us enough time to visit all the areas we wanted to see. We decided to focus our arrival day in the Mammoth Hot Springs area, the next day in the Lamar Valley, and our final day in the Norris Geyser and Old Faithful areas (regrettably, the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone would have to wait for another visit).  DSC01405 DSC01406 DSC01413 DSC01415

Our first stop after entering the park was the Upper Terrace Drive at Mammoth Hot Springs. Walking the boardwalks through the massive geothermal formations is always a treat, and we eagerly visited some of our favorite travertine terraces and brushed up on the history and geology of the area at the Visitor’s Center.


Choosing a place to stay had been a challenge, as it was still too cold to camp and our usual family-friendly choice, the Yellowstone Gateway Lodge, was already booked. In the end, we were surprised to find the rate at the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel inside the park was actually cheaper than the other options in Gardiner. Since they were fine with the five of us in a singe room, we decided to give it a try. There were definitely some considerable downsides, including a shared bathroom, thin walls, and central heating that made the room quite warm despite turning off the radiator. In the end though, these were definitely manageable (the meditation app on our tablet came in handy throughout the night to block out the people above and next to us), and staying right inside the park added a whole new dimension. The kids loved sitting in front of the fireplace in the lobby, viewing the many works of park-inspired art on the walls, and exploring the Map Room, a large reception hall with nightly events, live music, and places to read and play chess and checkers.

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The other main plus of staying at the Hotel is the wildlife visible from right outside the window. While reading to the Younger Fives at bedtime, we had a wonderful interruption in the form of a herd of bison grazing just below us. The grass must have been quite tasty because they took their time and gave us plenty of opportunities to watch the several babies grazing with their mothers. Definitely the type of experience that could only happen at Yellowstone 🙂

Global New Year’s Dance Party

It’s hard to believe a year has passed since our last Global New Year’s Dance Party. 2013 has been a year of change for us, going from a long term rental on the coast of Maine to traveling full time. Since we hit the road in May we have gone from seeing icebergs and Viking settlements in Norther Newfoundland, to spending an unforgettable two weeks in Yellowstone National Park,  to enjoying the beaches and warm weather of Baja California, Mexico. Despite all the changes, our New Year’s Eve tradition (ringing in the New Year multiple times through the wonder of internet radio, followed by a dance party) remains intact. We hope you enjoy our New Year’s mix for 2014, Raise Your Brass.