Adventures by Disney

Wyoming: Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks

Day 3

After three nights in the Wort Hotel, we had to pack up our bags and have them outside our room for bag pull early in the morning.  After preparing our bags we headed over to the Silver Dollar for our final breakfast there.  I tried the apple brioche french toast, which was nice, but not quite as unique as the skillet had been.

We all loaded up on the bus (the junior adventurers were encouraged by our guides to sit together at the back of the bus), and headed out to the national parks.  We were joined by a local guide from Scenic Safaris and everyone was given a refillable water bottle that we could use to conserve waste in the parks, although like all ABD trips, the guides had the bus full of waters and snacks.

Our guides explained that they had made the decision to stray from the published itinerary due to construction in the park.  The itinerary was supposed to take us to Jenny Lake and take a ferry ride, followed by lunch at String Lake.  Instead we made a stop at the historic Mormon Row, where we saw some of the buildings dating back to early settlers and we also saw our first herd of bison.  From there we got a lovely view of the Tetons and I also get some lovely bird photos (pictured below are male and female mountain bluebirds and a magpie).

Then we hopped back on the bus and headed to the Craig Thomas Visitor Center.  This is where we bought our National Parks Passport and my girls got their first stamps.  The visitor’s center has some nice interactive displays and there was a ranger doing a program for adults and children that we were able to listen to.  There were also nice bathrooms and a gift shop at this stop.  We had about an hour to explore.

Our next stop was Jackson Lake for a picnic lunch.  We had ordered our sandwich choice when we first met with our guides, and the boxed lunch consisted of a sandwich, orange, chips and a chocolate chip cookie.  The guides had picnic blankets available to use, but we found a fallen log by the water and sat on that instead.  There were also a few tables available.  The kids tried to skip rocks on the water.

From the lake we headed up John D Rockefeller Jr Memorial Highway and into the southern entrance to Yellowstone Park.  The bus stopped at the sign for family photos.

We then continued on and made a brief photo stop at Lewis Falls before heading to our first geyser stop: West Thumb Geyser Basin.  Our guides tasked each family with a photo scavenger hunt and gave us about an hour to explore the boardwalk loop.  This was our first exposure to the geysers, so we found it very interesting.  We were having fun doing the scavenger hunt as well, until my teenager was unhappy about something related to one of the photos and decided to walk off on her own.  Luckily by this point in the tour we had gotten to know the rest of the adventurers on our tour pretty well, and she hooked up with another family to walk around with.

After West Thumb we loaded back on the bus and headed to Old Faithful Snow Lodge where we checked in for the evening.  When we arrived we had just enough time to drop off our day bags in our rooms (Adventures by Disney takes care of getting the larger baggage directly to our rooms) and head over to see Old Faithful.

After watching Old Faithful erupt we headed across the Firehole River (sounds very imposing, doesn’t it?) and over to explore Geyser Hill.  My husband wanted to hike up the hill to see Solitary Geyser (2.2 miles roundtrip), so we headed up the trail through the woods.  At about halfway up my younger daughter and I had started to trail behind my husband and older daughter, and it started to thunder.  And then it began to rain.  I started to feel like a news story: “Family gets hit by lightening while hiking in Yellowstone; discovered days later”.  We had no cell phone service so I couldn’t get in touch with my husband to see if they had decided to continue on return back to the hotel, so we just continued as originally planned.   We made it to the Solitary Geyser, where my husband and daughter were waiting in the rain for us, and shortly afterward two other families joined us.  We waited patiently for the geyser to erupt, and got some photos (including a selfie/groupie of our wet family) before heading back down the trail.

After making it safely back to the bottom of the hill, the girls and I continued to explore Geyser Hill and catch a second eruption of Old Faithful while my husband headed back across Firehole River to continue to explore.  We all met up back at the Snow Lodge and got into dry clothes for dinner.

Our adventure guide had made us a reservation at the Old Faithful Inn for dinner, so we ate there.  She had warned us that some previous guests didn’t love the food, but there are limited options there in the park.  My husband and daughter both got the buffet.  For my 12-year-old the buffet was only $10 and a good value.  For the $30 adult price my husband found it really lacking.  I ordered the mac and cheese with elk sausage.  The mac and cheese was great and the sausage was a little overcooked, but tasted good.  My older daughter (who, at 13 would have had to pay the adult price for the buffet) opted for the meatballs, but was unable to eat them because they were so hard and dense.

After a quick stop at the very nice gift shop we went back into the Snow Lodge for the evening.  The Disney paperwork warns that this hotel has no air conditioning, no cell service, and only slow pay-per-use wifi.  Most of this is true–there was limited AT&T service closer to the lodge (not really enough to upload photos, but enough to pull down emails/texts).  And while there was no air conditioning, even in August it was cool enough that it wasn’t an issue.  It was down the 40s in the evening.  The room was rather no-frills, but it was fine for the evening, and the proximity to Old Faithful is quite unique.  My girls had to share a bed for this stop.

Day 4

Our morning at Old Faithful got off to an early start because we had to have our bags outside our room for the bag pull early.  I took advantage of being up early to head over to Old Faithful (which is only a short walk from the hotel) and look for wildlife to photograph.  I didn’t end up finding any, but I did get to watch the sun rise behind Old Faithful and watch it erupt one more time.  It was very cold that time in the morning, and the crowd was very small–just myself and about 2 dozen people, many of whom had cameras set up on tripods.  As a photographer myself, I enjoyed talking with the other photographers and it was a much more pleasant way to watch the eruption than with the huge crowd the night before.

After breakfast at the Snow Lodge’s restaurant (we could choose anything from the menu), we loaded back onto the bus to continue exploring the park.  This time we were joined by a guide contracted through the park who explained the thermal features of the park to us in greater detail.

Our first stop was the Midway Geyser Basin, where we got to see the Excelsior Geyser Crater, the famous Grand Prismatic Spring, and the smaller Opal and Turquiose Pools.  We thought the Excelsior looked a little like a Caribbean Beach.  Due to cooler temperatures, a lot of steam was coming off of the Grand Prismatic Spring, so it was difficult to see from the boardwalk.  Our adventure guides brought an infrared thermometer which the kids could use to get temperatures on the various pools.  We also enjoyed seeing the patterns that the water run-off had left on the ground, and in some cases the animal tracks as well.

The second stop of the day was at the Fountain Paint Pots.  Here the guides presented us with another game where we had to find items to get BINGO.  We saw pools, geysers, and fumerols.

We headed to the Canyon Lodge for lunch, which was one of the better meals we had in the park.  This was a sandwich buffet, which also included cold fried chicken.  Then we headed back to the bus to the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, where we would be hiking.

One of the guests on our tour was mobility-impaired and had a wheelchair for getting around some of the locations.  Here I was particularly impressed that our guide made sure that this guest was able to get to the overlook and see the canyon.  The guest and his wife waited at the top while we hiked down to see the waterfalls.

After the canyon hike we drove through the Hayden Valley where we got some nice views of bison from the bus.  As a photographer, I was a little disappointed that we couldn’t stop to see them but I was happy we could at least see on the way.

Our next stop was a bathroom break at the Lake Yellowstone Hotel.  This ended up being a tea/coffee break for most people as well, since the hotel sold popular Starbucks coffee.  The visibility on the lake wasn’t great, but it was nice to get to see the historic hotel.

After the hotel we continued driving out of the park and on to our next destination: Brooks Lake Lodge.  Our first night at the lodge I had the tasty buffalo steak for dinner.  The food at the lodge is excellent.  The menu changes each evening with three options, one of which is usually a native option.  We got settled in our cabins and enjoyed the stars on the clear evening.  It was the peak evening for the Perseid meteor shower, so we sat on the porch of our cabin and got a beautiful show.

The trip report continues here.

This trip review is from our Adventures by Disney Wyoming trip.  I book my ABD trips through Archer Luxury Travel.  My camera for this trip was the Fuji X-T20 with with the 100-400mm lens for wildlife and the 18-55mm kit lens for around town (as well as my trusty iphone 7).

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