DAY 9: Woke up in Mammoth Hotel to the sight of an elk family right on the lawn beneath our window. This was probably the guy we heard bugling all night and he was still at it. He had three females and 2 young with him. There was another male bugling a bit further away. We could hear him but not see him. Apparently one of the three females had a “wandering ear” and kept trying to check out the other guy. This aggravated the buck considerably and he kept herding her back. After awhile she settled down but maybe she put him in a bad mood because the buck started attacking passing cars in front of the hotel! The rangers were out with their bullhorns immediately warning pedestrians off the street and telling those in cars not to stop in front of him (trying to get pictures, of course). We had a ringside seat from our room closer than anyone outside was allowed to be! We watched as the elk made two broadside attacks on passing cars and chased an RV before ramming it too. He was sizeable and definitely did some damage each time. After that he rounded up his family, including the flirt, and moved them off. The desk clerk told us that one time a buck was running around with a car’s tail light stuck on his antlers and another time there was one with a traffic cone stuck and the rangers had to remove it because he was going berserk trying to get rid of it. She wasn’t sure how the rangers had managed that. I have no clue but I’d imagine they’d have to use a tranquilizer dart or something. After the early morning excitement, we checked out of the hotel and headed down to Norris to catch the one basin we hadn’t fit into our previous geyser day. Stopped at a few overlooks and at Roaring Mountain, which was much more active than I’d expected it to be. I thought I had read that it was dormant now but it was smoking and making noise. Walked both parts of Norris Geyser Basin (Back Basin and Porcelain Basin) next. Norris didn’t seem as interesting as the other basins we’d seen but we couldn’t decide if that was just because we had seen so many by this time. After this is was time to head out of the Park via the West Yellowstone exit but I had a final surprise up my sleeve since I hate to end a vacation without a finale. We made good time, arriving at The Black Swan Inn in Pocatello, Idaho, for check in. (I know you’re wondering what could be so great in Pocatello, right?) Don’t scoff – after all some people used to say nothing good could come out of Nazareth ! My husband was just expecting a nice B&B so he was very surprised when we got to our suite and opened the door. This is a “theme room” hotel and really well done (think done-professionally-by-Disney NOT creepy/tacky!) and it was impressive. Our two story suite had a waterfall spilling out of 20 foot trees and beautiful stonework into a fish pond in the bedroom, a giant Jacuzzi with theme-appropriate statuary (there are about 20 large suites here, each with a totally different theme) and a gigantic 3-D television cleverly disguised in one wall. Totally fun and a great way to add a touch of luxury to round out a rather outdoorsy trip!
DAY 10: Hung around in Fantasyland as long as we dared without missing our flight. They deliver breakfast (yogurt, fruit salad, ham and egg croissants, etc.) to your room in a cute wicker basket and there’s a microwave, fridge and (themed, of course) dishes already in the suite. Had a leisurely breakfast in front of our gas fireplace. It’s a two hour drive from Pocatello to Salt Lake City and our flight wasn’t until the afternoon. Arrived back in New York that night with a nice view of home all lit up. Had a fantastic trip and were completely satisfied with all the remarkable things we saw and the activities and lodging we chose. Loved every minute of this vacation but it’s always a pleasure to come home where you belong too. Our daughter and son-in-law came by bearing pizza and we were back in our own bed soon afterwards.
Again, a giant thank you to each one of you who helped me to plan this wonderful, memorable trip. I know this report is LONG but hope the details help someone else plan their own personal version of the perfect vacation. Initially I had been concerned about smoke from the many forest fires, especially since scenery and views are very much our “thing”. There was a bit of smoke here and there and the mountains were probably a bit hazier from a distance than they might have been otherwise. However, this had zero impact on our trip and, as tourists, we barely noticed any of the effects of the fires at all. I felt that the length of the trip was perfect for us and we were able to cover what we set out to see. If we’d had more time I would have spent a day in Olympic Park near Salt Lake City (zipline and bobsled) and then ventured down to Moab, Arches and Bryce.
It is good advice to stay inside the Parks. Yellowstone is truly vast and it does take longer to get around than you would anticipate looking at the map. Other good advice was to get a cooler and keep it stocked with cold drinks and snacks, maybe sandwiches sometimes depending on your own eating habits. If I had it to do over again I think I would have flown directly into Jackson Hole. The drive from Salt Lake City was tedious and we don’t like long drives. Any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask