Started the trip by flying into Bozeman the night before, then 2 hour drive along 191 via West Yellowstone into the park the next morning at 7am, then make the loop and fly out on the 8:20pm flight. Definitely a lot of ground to cover.
First things first - stuck in traffic due to a buffalo.. These are definitely traffic blockers and it's a prominent theme that can throw off driving estimates throughout the park.
As I drive into the park, it's quite exciting to see geysers shooting off at a distance.
Then non-stop geysers visits for the next 2 hours or so, stopping wherever the crowds are, in this partially raining day.
Then I started losing track which geyser was what - not that I read much anyway. Let's keep going.
They each had their own uniqueness, but one common theme was that they were all shooting off steam and smelled like rotten egg. Started to catch a headache but not sure if it's from the early morning, the driving, the weather, or the smell.
Some require a bit of a hike, some are right next to the parking lot. Great for lazy non-hikers like me.
I love the different color contrasts as we go thru different geysers. And they're very close to each other (within 15 min drive).
Old faithful was one of the more famous ones with large eruptions every 90 minutes or so, but I just missed it when I arrived, and due to my compressed schedule, just had to move on. So.. on to more chill geysers like the West Thumb.
Time check - 2:45pm. Next stop - a bunch of waterfalls! I love waterfalls. This is the grand canyon of Yellowstone (it's literally named that). I spent a lot of time here hitting all the non-hiking spots even with my time constraint. ETA out of the park - 4pm. Let's start with the waterfalls.
FYI - I've not been to grand canyon, and no plans to go :).
I think the very green spot is Artist Point. It's indeed beautiful. Then the canyons.
Then on to the last stop - Mammoth Hot Spring. It definitely had an uniqueness of its own.
Then a couple more friends to slow traffic before I left.
Then time to head back to the airport. I definitely had a lot of trouble keeping up with the 80MPH speed limit, fighting my headache and sleepiness, and hunger.
Flying experience to follow for those interested.
This trip was planned to be First Class on E175's all the way SFO-PDX-BZN-PDX-SFO, though I was caught by surprise when they swapped in a Dash8-Q400 for one of the leg, and obviously with no first class there.
Started the trip with the most unique boarding pass ever. EVER.
Then I got an airfield tour due to the bus gate at SFO (take the bus from T2 to Int'l A side).
At last we're at the plane - in front of the Grand Hyatt at SFO. Time to board.
Caught some great photos on the way up, with my awesome meal in F.
Then I had a few hours layover in PDX to chill, eat, plane spot, etc.
Then it's time to fly again.
I loved the PDX A gate's manual destination/flt# sign. And if you're paying close attention.. The aircraft registration was N630QX - the same plane I flew on that morning! It made another round trip before grabbing me again :).
The food and view flying into Montana did not disappoint.
My backtracking flight was a dash 8 with a window seat next to the prop.. Definitely didn't help with my headache (kept the earplug on the whole time), but nonetheless fairly stable and got some awesome views.
This may be the first time I saw a center pivot irrigation up close!
Then I'm back to Portland (with the beautiful river view), hustling to my 40 minute layover to get back to SFO. Thankfully it was in the same boarding area, but a lot of loading doors later ("H" -> "E" -> "M", if you can count your alphabets)
Then back to the same parking spot at SFO near Int'l A, but this time it took 20 minutes to push the ramp over and it's past midnight.. then take the bus to get back to T2. Dead sleepy.
In retrospective - spending essentially 6-7 hours in the park was very aggressive.. I sped walk thru all the tourist like I was in a big hurry (which I actually was), constantly watching the time, and didn't stop and spend as much time as I would if I had more time (like essentially abandoning Old Faithful). Having a full day at the park maybe 8am to sunset would have been more optimal, or spending 2 days though staying anywhere close to the park gets expensive and the accommodations are not super nice. I guess noone travels like me so they don't build the system that way :).
Onward to the next short trip to wrap up summer.