I'll be adding photos and links once we return home and I have more internet-equipped free time.
A small almost-city lies behind the lodges at the Grand Targhee Resort, complete with a general store, bar, restaurant, breakfast cafe, outdoor goods store, bike rental shop, and ski rental shop. Only the cafe was open for business at 7:30am, and there was a small line of people waiting to order. I ordered the El Jefe breakfast burrito, which had breakfast potatoes, eggs, chorizo, jalepeños, and some kind of cheese I can't remember. It was tasty, but really could have used some salsa or picante sauce.
It's difficult to tell in the dead of the Wyoming night, but the resort is located at the top of a mountain. The view and drive to the bottom are both gorgeous in the morning sun. The drive to Yellowstone was farther than we thought, even using the correct route, so we arrived at the park at about 10am. Not as early as we would have liked, but we were able to enter the West Entrance without waiting in traffic for too long.
Our first stop for the day was the Lower Geyser Basin, which houses Morning Glory and many other shimmering, opalescent reservoirs. We parked at Biscuit Basin and walked the two-mile trail alongside the pools and geysers south to Old Faithful and back. The trail was a mild walk along predefined paths and wooden walkways, but we were both on the verge of sleep by the end; the lack of sleep for the past several nights and attempting to skip lunch for the second day had taken its toll. We barely stayed awake long enough to arrive at a Visitor's Center 180 degrees away at the northeast corner of the lower loop, where I bought a cranberry chicken sandwich and a pineapple-peach kombucha, both surprisingly tasty for being effectively two hours from any sizable civilization.
After being revitalized by the food, we made our way south to the Mud Volcano and surrounding sulfur-filled mudpots. On the way we spotted our first of many bison, and a few minutes later we spotted a group of over 20 of them lazing less than 50 yards from the road. It was our first time witnessing non-captive American buffalo, and we watched them lay, walk around, graze, and cross the nearby river for ten minutes.
After the mudpots we returned north and completed the upper loop, pulling to the side of the road periodically to take in a beautiful feature or formation. A couple hours later we arrived at the town of Mammoth, a captivating collection of modernish buildings that seems to exist in near-isolation in the park, right beside the Mammoth Hot Springs. We stopped to take a look around the small town, but were greeted by something more novel, a large group of elk walking through the town eating the green grass. This must be common, as the animals were not phased at all by the people and cars approaching them to stare and take photos. An unexpected treat to top off our visit to the park.
Sunset was approaching by this point, so after paying a brief visit to the hot springs we completed the west side of the upper loop, and exited the West Entrance at a little after 9pm. We stopped in West Yellowstone (a decent-sized city directly outside of the park) for dinner. After trying places that had closed minutes ago or served primarily meat, we stopped at a swanky restaurant in a remodeled schoolhouse, Madison Crossing Lounge. I had bison meatloaf, which to me was indistinguishable from normal meatloaf; it was alright. We sat at the bar, next to a nice energetic woman who had been traveling for nearly a month, making her way from New York to her home in Los Angeles by car. I failed to ask what kind of life she leads that enables her to do that for a month, but I'm envious.
The diversity of Yellowstone is astounding: deep blue and orange pools of rolling magma-heated water mere feet away from pure-white explosive geysers, surrounded by rivers, mountain ranges, dense forests, and the creatures housed by these ecosystems. I'll certainly be back.
Tomorrow we stay in northwest Montana near Glacier National Park. We originally planned to take a detour through Yellowstone along the way, but the drive is longer than we thought and driving through the park is slow and stop-filled, so we decided to skip it, arrive at a decent time, and spend the afternoon in Glacier. We have a lot of driving ahead of us in the final leg of our trip.