The Triple Crown of National Parks – Part 2: Bison, Hot Springs & Ice Cream

[When a good friend decides to drive cross-country just to pick your butt up to see a few national parks, it deserves more than one post. This is a mini-series of posts detailing our trip to Grand Teton, Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks.
Part 2 of 3 covers the animals and literal/figurative hot spots of Yellowstone over a 2-day span of driving through the park to head up to and back from Glacier.]

When at Yellowstone, what animal do people want to see the most?

The buffalo, of course!

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One of the 5,500 bison in Yellowstone decided to travel the same road as the people do.

WRONG. They want to see bison, as in their scientific name is Bison bison. They’re not buffalo.

The American Bison is a staple at America’s first national park. Recovering from numbers of below 25 to their current population of over 5,500, it’s a true success story for sure.

What’s not successful is getting people to call them what they are: bison, not buffalo.

Being Ginna’s second favorite animal (elephant is No. 1), she gave the animal a nickname: buffs. As in buffalo. As in not bison.

At least this was our only “argument” the whole trip. Luckily, I’m used to the vernacular and tend to tune it out when I can. Same with “Canadian geese” for Canada geese and “antelope” for pronghorn.

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Pronghorn family in Pinedale, Wyoming

Bison were the animal she needed to see at Yellowstone, and I’m so glad we saw way too many get way too close to the vehicle way too many times.

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Well hello there, Mr. Bison!

They’re cute and fluffy, sure, but 2,000 lbs. of wild animal is intimidating this close.

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We were basically breathing in the same air space because yes, that is the car in the bottom left corner of the photo.

While stopping to take some photos of the creature from a distance, we discovered something rarer than meat in a vegan’s house: another West Virginia license plate! We eagerly introduced ourselves to the sweetest old couple on their one-month honeymoon. Both re-married after their spouse’s deaths, and we kept running into them a few more stops along the way.

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Upper Falls, the second of many stops where we spotted the West Virginia couple

Speaking of spotting license plates, I could not find Hawaii or Washington, D.C. But I digress because it’ll just be an excuse for me to travel to those places so I can see their plates, right?

Again, I digress. So, back to Yellowstone a.k.a. the place with the most geothermal activity in the world. Hot springs and geysers galore.

Hot springs all over the park spewed boiling water from the bowels of the Earth in a vast array of beautiful colors.

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Warning: it smells like farts (because of the sulfur). It’s a good place to, uh, air yourself out before getting back in the car, though. Because the ambient air smells like rotten eggs, there’s no need to worry.

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They even have a squat toilet.

And we couldn’t have gone to Yellowstone without seeing Old Faithful, of course! It faithfully reliably goes off about every 96 minutes.

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Old Faithful at its peak.

It baffles me to think about settlers coming through here and seeing hot water gush out of the ground for the first time. And, from that thought, how the natives would use this area for possible heat in the winter. Animals lay by it for warmth and to keep the bugs away, but one step off the boardwalk could be a fatal one for people.

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Some killdeer just chillin’ in the middle of a hot spring.

Yellowstone Lake is much cooler in the temperature sense, and not just because I dipped my crocs in there (but it may play a part #justsayin’).

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Okay, technically the lake has hot spots of over 300 degrees F in its deepest hole of over 400 ft. deep, but my crocs float, so I didn’t make it down there yet. Maybe next year.

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To infinity… and beyond!

What also kept us cool is my favorite food in the world: ice cream! For some reason, ice cream is just better out here. I’ve eaten plenty of it to taste subtle differences, and this summer has just hit the spot with creaminess and lack of meltiness, even on hot days.

Huckleberry, which tastes like a raspberry and blueberry had a baby, is the staple out here, and we stopped for a cone in West Yellowstone. Hands-down perfect.

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And nothing more perfect than to wrap up a good traveling day out West than with seeing Ginna’s No. 3 favorite animal: an elk!

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This young bull elk is resting in the shade at Yellowstone.

We still have yet to spot the elusive elephant, her No. 1 favorite animal, within the park. Maybe we’ll see it at Glacier?

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