Day 31: The Lamar Valley, Illicit Hikes, and the Long Rode Home

For Jenny’s last full day at Yellowstone, we decided to make a last ditch effort to see the wildlife of Yellowstone. We headed to the Lamar Valley, in the north section of the park from our campsite in West Yellowstone.

Once we get close to the Lamar Valley, the bison were everywhere. We first saw a large bull walking across the valley below the road. There were large herds in the distance. Jenny adjusted both pairs of binoculars for the boys, which led to much less arguing.

A few minutes after Lucas started complaining that animals are boring, and he wanted to go play miniature golf (his new passion because according to him “he loves things that are difficult.”), we came across a small group of bison a few feet off the road. After seeing these huge beast up close, they changed their mind about seeing Yellowstone’s wildlife (at least for a short while).

During our travels around Yellowstone, we stopped at beautiful river gorge where Will and I discovered a giant “dinosaur head.” We had a great time exploring the massive boulders that littered the riverbed and shoreline. Will was back to his mountain goat self on the steep and rocky trail down to the river. Lucas and Jenny got their first chance to nap in the car.

Will’s For Archeological Find

Afterwards, we stopped at a spot on the Yellowstone River. Will, ever the artist, saw a few relatively fresh bison patties and decided they were the ideal medium for a young artist. Thankfully, he opted for drawing with a stick rather than sculpture today.

We also found a small pool off the river flush with tadpoles. The boys were extremely excited to see tadpoles in different stages of development. Some had just a tail. Others had a tail and back legs. Others had a tail and front and back legs.

Will and I capped off a great final day at Yellowstone with an illicit hike along the Lava River (also known as the “Boiling River”) near Monmouth Campground. Jenny and Lucas got another opportunity for a nap. The Boiling River area is closed because of Covid-19 related social distancing (although the gift and general stores are packed as is the seating at Old Faithful).

I told Will stories about the river several times after I visited it back in 2016, so I decided we would play stupid and hike into the closed area so he could experience it for himself. On our hike Will got to touch the cold water in the river upstream from the geothermal springs. However, as we approached the roped off “Boiling River Swimming Area” downstream from the geothermal springs, I spotted a woman with a safety vest coming down the lane towards us. I was able to snap a picture of Will by the sign and the boiling river before she made her way down to us. She told us we had better hike out of the area before a Ranger sees us or else we will be fined $130. Will fretted the rest of the way back and through most of dinner in Gardiner about he and I getting arrested. His anxiety dissipated briefly on the hike when we found what I believe to be bones from an elk’s leg.;

The Roosevelt Arch in Gardiner

The main loop in the park was closed when we headed back through the park gates and the ranger told us we would have to drive all the way back to Bozeman to pick up the highway back to West Yellowstone. This led to a very long trip home. We closed out a long day with a campfire, s’mores, and some star gazing. A pretty perfect last day.

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