Wow, what an incredible week we had at Yellowstone! Within minutes of driving through the West Yellowstone entrance on our first full day we were greeted by bison. These animals may seem gentle, but do NOT be fooled! We heard (and saw videos) of people coming to close and being tossed into the air by these 2,000 pound giants. Some were as tall as our SUV!
Our adventures took us to almost all of the entrances in the park. Each day we picked a special part to see and hike through. On one of our days we took a bus tour with YellowstoneVacations.com. “Bald” Matt (he told us that was how the rangers knew him) was our guide for the day and he did NOT disappoint. I tried to jot down notes so that I would remember later what he told us about each location we visited. The best part of our bus ride was near the end of our tour. We were heading towards the West Entrance when Matt spotted a very small red dog (that’s what baby bison are called) and thought he was just a few days old. I decided to take some photos and when I zoomed in, we could still see the placenta! And no, I’m not going to post the photo here. It was hours (if not minutes) old! We just witnessed something miraculous!
We also managed to see a mama bear and her baby cub during our bus ride as well!
The rest of our trip went just as smoothly. We all thought that we picked the right time to be there. It was before the huge crowds arrived and the weather was just right! It got quite cold at night, but by then we were already snug and warm in our cabin with the fire going. The only traffic we encountered were a few bison when they decided they needed to cross the road (or walk in front of our car for a bit), but otherwise, it was fantastic. If staying in West Yellowstone, while there are several options for lodging, we all thought the Explorer Cabins were the best. Next time we will probably hop from location to location within Yellowstone instead. We got to see a few of the lodgings (Old Faithful Inn and Lake Yellowstone Inn), so we may try them out in the future.
The next day we went horseback riding at the Diamond P Ranch, located about 6 miles from our cabin. Their ranch is the only one with permission to ride horses in the Gallatin National Forest that overlooks into Yellowstone. Because we were there fairly early in the season, our ride was cut down from 3 hours to 2 hours due to the large amount of snow in the mountains. Which was fine considering we thought we may not even be able to go ride because of the snow fall they received lately. Lindsey was our guide and she was wonderful! There was one other couple in the group with us, so it was quite the intimate gathering. She hand picked each horse for each rider and we thought she did an outstanding job of pairing us with our horses. My husband’s horse was the tallest, the oldest, and the wisest. Her name was Belle. Our daughter’s horse was named Chunk and was the funniest of the group. Mine was named Chrome and was the easiest going horse of the bunch. He really just wanted to slow down and take a nap. Much like I did! When we got back, they actually reduced our rate because not only was our ride cut short, but when we were in the mountain, a few of our horses got a little stuck and stubborn on which direction to go in the snow. Lindsey very calmly and gently guided us all in the right direction. If and when we return, we hope to have her as our guide again and that we will be able to ride the same horses as before!
Food choices are a bit limited in West Yellowstone, but of the ones we ate, only one was a truly bad experience, The Slippery Otter. We would NOT recommend them at all in the future. The food and the service were inadequate. Even for a small town. The Book Peddler had the best coffee and breakfast in town. AND they also sold books and journals. I couldn’t resist and purchased a leather one that had removable inserts. The artist that makes them is local to Montana and makes her journals out of upcycled cowboy boots, wood, and license plates! Talk about creative! If you’re interested in purchasing one of the journals, they can be found online at https://justmytypedesign.com/.
We also ate at Cafe Madriz. That was a lucky surprise. They open anywhere between mid to late May and close up for the winter season. The chef imports all of her food, with many of her cheeses coming directly from Spain from her hometown there. We all agreed the food was superb! If you’re in the mood for pizza or baked mac n cheese, then you should head down to the Wild West Pizza and Saloon in town. We weren’t sure what to expect but ended up having the best pizza!