exploring yellowstone national park

yellowstone national park | the merry gourmet

This is the third post (of four) in which I’m sharing our itinerary for our recent trip out to Jackson Hole, Grand Teton National Park, and Yellowstone National Park. The first post is here, and the second post is here – in case you missed them.

Warning: Photo-heavy post ahead.

* * * * *

Days 5: Old Faithful to Mammoth

One unexpected upside to Yellowstone was the disconnection to the outside world. There were no televisions in the hotels, and WIFI (for a fee) was only available at a handful of locations in the entire 2.2 million acres. There was also no radio. We usually listen to radio in the car, but we lost the signal shortly after entering the park from the south entrance. The silence, initially palpable and deafening, was soon comfortable and expected.

Now, let me dispel any notion you may have that we rode in that stylish rental minivan for hours each day without any noise or electronic distractions.  I am not stupid. I would never travel without items to occupy my kids’ busy minds. We traveled with exactly three iPads, one laptop, and two Kindles. Frozen was on constant replay from at least one device at any given time. In between Frozen clips, the kids played Minecraft on their iPads – which are technically NOT their iPads at all but only borrowed from their parents. (Yeah, sure.)

yellowstone national park | the merry gourmet

yellowstone national park | the merry gourmet

Grand Prismatic Spring, in the Midway Geyser Basin in the Old Faithful area.

yellowstone national park | the merry gourmet

We left the Old Faithful Inn that morning of day 5, and both kids immediately powered on the iPads and began building their own versions of the 100+- year-old hotel, complete with geysers in the pixelated font lawn of the game.

We stopped to see more geysers and geothermal features after leaving the hotel. Old Faithful is only one of many geysers in Yellowstone, and the park is filled with hot springs in all shapes and sizes. The Grand Prismatic Spring is the largest hot spring in Yellowstone, and arguably the most beautiful. The intensity of the colors – a rainbow of colors – was almost inconceivable. The intensity of the odor was incredible, as well, but in a less positive way.

Mammoth Hot Springs was the next stop on our agenda that day. We’d hoped to make it to Mammoth by noon, but construction on the road between Norris and Mammoth delayed us by a couple of hours. We had a late lunch at the Mammoth Hotel Dining Room, about 30 minutes before it closed until dinner. Despite our late arrival, the staff were welcoming and friendly, especially the one who knocked the full water glass over on me.

yellowstone national park | the merry gourmet

Mammoth Hot Springs.

yellowstone national park | the merry gourmet

A female elk in the Mammoth area.

The animals of Yellowstone are the true owners of that park, and Mammoth was a good example of that. Elk roam freely in the center of the town area, and park rangers are quick to chastise eager tourists wielding cameras and iPhones who attempt to get too close. We were told that more human injuries are caused by encounters with elk and bison than by bear attacks, so we were very good rule followers when it came to wildlife.

After leaving Mammoth Hot Springs, we headed toward our next hotel for the night – the Lake Lodge Cabins, on the edge of Yellowstone Lake, in the southeastern side of the park.

yellowstone national park | the merry gourmet

The Tower Falls area.

One of our stops along the way was the Tower Falls area. From a viewpoint along the side of the road, we stood looking across the canyon and down the length of the Yellowstone River. Oliver pointed out a bald eagle flying below our vantage point. A tree nearby leaned out over the canyon, and in it’s branches perched a gorgeous Western Tanager, its crimson head standing out in stark contrast to its yellow body and black wings. Across the canyon, several pronghorn antelope grazed in the distance. I took each of these as signs, and this area now has a new and special meaning for me.

The road to Yellowstone Lake and the Lake Area (as it’s referred to in the guidebooks) crosses through some of  the most beautiful scenery. They Hayden Valley was one of our favorite areas, mostly because it was home to lots of wildlife and birds. Bison were abundant, so much so that my kids eventually yelled from the backseat whenever we pointed out bison, “Stop telling us about bison! We don’t want to see more bison!”

We pointed out bison anyway. Just to annoy them.

yellowstone national park | the merry gourmet

Hayden Valley.

yellowstone national park | the merry gourmet


yellowstone national park | the merry gourmet

A typical source of traffic jams in the park.

yellowstone national park | the merry gourmet

The nights of day 5 and of day 6 were spent in the Lake Lodge Cabins, and I could have happily stayed there longer. The views of the lake from the front of the hotel were gorgeous, and we were able to watch elk and bison from the front porch of the main lodge.

yellowstone national park | the merry gourmet

Wolfie, Lucy the Bison, Penguin, Eeyore, and Foxy.

 Day 6: Lake Yellowstone, Lamar Valley, and Canyon Area

On our sixth day, our only plans were to drive north to the Lamar Valley. We had a dinner reservation at the Lake Hotel Dining Room at 5:30, but other than that, nothing else was scheduled. Our first stop was to the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. We took two hikes while we were there, both to see waterfalls – one hike to view the Upper Falls, and the second to view the Lower Falls.

During the first hike, the kids made fun of us for our looks of exhaustion as we trekked up the steep path back to where we started. They joked that they were much better hikers than we were. The hike down the canyon to view the Lower Falls was much more steep (a descent of 600 feet) and much longer (about 3/4 mile one way), with an incredible view of the Lower Falls as the reward. The loose gravel and slippery rocks along the path made the climb down as treacherous as the climb up was exhausting. Oliver fell on the way down and refused to speak to any of us (other than yelling) for the rest of the hike.

yellowstone national park | the merry gourmet

The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone.

yellowstone national park | the merry gourmet

The Lower Falls in the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone.

We saw bears almost every day during our stay in the national parks, and one of the most special was our sighting of a mother black bear and her cub in the woods just north of Canyon Village. As it always did, traffic slowed to a stop as we all tried to get just the perfect shot of the animals.

This was also one of the moments when I realized I needed a much stronger zoom lens.

yellowstone national park | the merry gourmet

Mama black bear.

yellowstone national park | the merry gourmet

Tree-climbing baby black bear.

yellowstone national park | the merry gourmet


The time slips by quicker in Yellowstone. So often, we realized that we were rushing because the day was getting short. We stopped frequently during our drives, all of us needing some time out of the car to wander, to pick up rocks, to look through binoculars, to kick dirty piles of snow, and to admire the ground under our feet.

We packed a picnic lunch on the sixth day – plastic-wrapped sandwiches and chips from one of Yellowstone’s General Stores. We didn’t want to waste any extra time that day in a restaurant, instead choosing to have lunch by a stream in the Lamar Valley. The ham sandwiches were bland and nondescript, but eating them in that spot, in the fresh air, surrounded by all of that beauty, made them one of the tastiest lunches of the trip.

yellowstone national park | the merry gourmet

yellowstone national park | the merry gourmet

In Lamar Valley.

yellowstone national park | the merry gourmet

yellowstone national park | the merry gourmet

Cliff swallow nests at the Soda Butte rock formation (an extinct geyser) in Lamar Valley.

yellowstone national park | the merry gourmet

An American White Pelican, spotted at LeHardy’s Rapids, north of Yellowstone Lake.

We were thirty minutes late to our dinner reservation that night. I explained our reasons – a bison traffic jam, mostly – to the somber hostess at the Lake Hotel Dining Room. She was not sympathetic or the slightest bit amused, but she seated us anyway. Clearly she’d heard that excuse before, and she was not impressed.

We chose the buffet that night, and it was an excellent decision. I highly recommend the bison pot roast, the potato gratin, and the chilled rhubarb-strawberry soup. I’m still thinking of that soup, and when my new toy is delivered in the next couple of weeks, I’m going to try to recreate it.

Our evening ended with a short hike down to the lake and back, and two more animal sightings – an elk by the lake and two bison in the parking lot. We’d been making a list of all the animals we spotted, and those two days yielded some good additions: a bald eagle, deer, elk, bison, black bears, cinnamon-colored black bears, mountain goats, pronghorn antelope, a grizzly bear, cutthroat trout, a mountain chickadee, sandhill cranes, marmots, a western tanager, numerous swallows, and an American white  pelican.

On day 7, we would leave Yellowstone and head back to Jackson Hole for a couple of nights before taking a flight back home. I went to bed that night feeling a bit melancholy. The trip was nearing its end, and I hated for it to be over.

yellowstone national park | the merry gourmet

The view in front of Yellowstone’s Lake Lodge Cabins.

yellowstone national park | the merry gourmet

In front of the Lake Lodge Cabins, on Lake Yellowstone.

 *   *   *   *   *

For more information on where we stayed and ate, during this leg of the trip, here are some links:

  • Mammoth Hotel Dining Room – We were able to walk in and be seated for a late lunch, but if you want to dine during peak hours, make a reservation to be safe.
  • Lake Lodge Cabins on Lake Yellowstone
  • Lake Lodge Cafeteria – This is truly a cafeteria. We ate here for breakfast and for dinner. Breakfast was great. Dinner was not, but they had been overwhelmed with several large bus groups. On the positive side, there is a full-service bar right outside the cafeteria.
  • Lake Hotel Dining Room – Reservations for dinner are recommended
    Pin It

47 Responses to “foodblogSouth and why i blog”

  1. Chris — January 23, 2011 @ 9:35 pm

    Well done, MJ! Love the recap and great pics! I think you’re blogging for the very best reason. It was lovely, lovely, lovely meeting you. I can’t wait to see you in March, although I am not sure you’re going to get that Dutch Oven back. (lol…kidding.)

    • mj (merry gourmet)

      mj (merry gourmet) replied: — January 24th, 2011 @ 1:33 pm

      Ack! My Dutch oven is being held hostage!
      Seriously – it was SO good to meet you and spend the time talking. Can’t wait ’til next time!

  2. Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite — January 23, 2011 @ 9:35 pm

    What a lovely post MJ. Last week I was going through the ‘why am I doing this?’ and I have to say the tweets from you and Kelly and Paula over the weekend helped me reassess why I do it too. Watching (reading) all of you, I realised a big part of why I do this is for the community and I know that if I ever decided to stop blogging, I would still have some amazing friends from this community. For now, I just plod on – I am not sure what I want to come from all this but for now, I do it because I can’t not. If you get that. Which I am sure you do.

    • mj (merry gourmet)

      mj (merry gourmet) replied: — January 24th, 2011 @ 1:34 pm

      I totally get it.

  3. Jen @ My Kitchen Addiction — January 23, 2011 @ 9:37 pm

    Brilliant and beautiful post! You are absolutely blogging for the right reasons and that shows brightly through in everything you do. I love reading your site! Keep up the amazing work 🙂

    • mj (merry gourmet)

      mj (merry gourmet) replied: — January 24th, 2011 @ 1:34 pm

      Thank you SO much, Jen. That means so much to me!

  4. Caneel — January 23, 2011 @ 9:38 pm

    This is a great post! I love the photos and information, and your feelings about blogging touch on mine in so many ways. I’m glad you had a good time!

  5. Lana @ Never Enough Thyme — January 23, 2011 @ 9:41 pm

    Wonderfully thoughtful post. This weekend was so full of learning and sharing and meeting and eating and everything that is wonderful about the food blogging community. It was such a pleasure to meet you and so many other bloggers that I previously knew only by their online personas. I hope this was only the first of many blogger get-togethers 🙂

    • mj (merry gourmet)

      mj (merry gourmet) replied: — January 24th, 2011 @ 1:35 pm

      It was wonderful to finally meet you in person, too!

  6. Liz the Chef — January 23, 2011 @ 9:44 pm

    I’m into this new world after 27 years as a licensed clinical social worker, eaten up by child custody fights – I quit…And now I have a new “job”. Wonder what I would have done if I had not met up with the likes of you? I can still remember a year ago or so – let’s go forward 🙂 Liz

  7. Winnie — January 23, 2011 @ 9:53 pm

    Terrific post, and I agree: you are blogging for all the right reasons 🙂

  8. Pingback: Tweets that mention foodblogSouth and why i blog | the merry gourmet -- Topsy.com

  9. WritingLeigh — January 23, 2011 @ 10:08 pm

    I’m so glad you know your “why”. I read an article recently about how many bloggers are closing their doors because they aren’t getting enough out of it. If it’s something you do for YOU, then the comments and sponsors don’t matter. I’m glad you discovered your voice because I live hearing it. •hugs•

    • mj (merry gourmet)

      mj (merry gourmet) replied: — January 24th, 2011 @ 1:14 pm

      Aw, I love you!

  10. WritingLeigh — January 23, 2011 @ 10:10 pm

    I also LOVE hearing it. •grumbles• That’s what I get for commenting from my iPod.

  11. Barbara | VinoLuciStyle — January 23, 2011 @ 10:11 pm

    Thank you for sharing with us; I think answering that question can be difficult. Really, why do we do this? And we all have unique and personal reasons. I started many many years ago with a site that was just recipes and instructions and if I’m PERFECTLY honest…I was OK with that. Because I do it to share the food. I would seriously feed the world if I could and I’ve done a lot of that with friends and neighbors over the years but I know that first website was so that I could share recipes that I love with family, friends and neighbors…and ultimately strangers!

    That is still important to me and while I’m enjoying the foray into photography the truth is I could live without having to write a story. I can’t define why; is it because I work on the computer that sitting in the same space writing a blog post seems like an extension of work or is it more that I would much rather be cooking than spending that time writing? Probably a bit of both.

    • mj (merry gourmet)

      mj (merry gourmet) replied: — January 24th, 2011 @ 1:15 pm

      Barb – You’re right. The answer can be more difficult than it seems. And, sometimes, the answer is different one day to the next.

  12. Liren — January 23, 2011 @ 10:17 pm

    Love this post, MJ 🙂 The question of “why I blog” and the answers that follow are what we need to remember, especially in those moments when you may feel a bit tired or start to feel a little burnt out from blogging. I’m so glad you had a great time at Food Blog South!

  13. Brian @ A Thought For Food — January 23, 2011 @ 10:46 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing this recap. First of all, you’re right. Florida is unusual. Every time I go down there I’m reminded of this. Sometimes that’s a good thing, though… right?

    These pictures are so wonderful and are a reminder of exactly why you do this. Because you’re thoughtful, talented, artistic.

  14. Lynda — January 23, 2011 @ 11:45 pm

    Thanks so much for a sharing a lovely post, MJ. I think your reasons are spot on.

  15. Taylor — January 23, 2011 @ 11:45 pm

    Great write up and great hanging out with you this weekend! I look forward to seeing your future posts! Good luck to your Gators next season, hopefully I can make it to a gator game! Take Care!
    – Taylor

    • mj (merry gourmet)

      mj (merry gourmet) replied: — January 24th, 2011 @ 1:16 pm

      Taylor – Thanks so much! We’ll show you around the Swamp anytime you’re this way. 🙂

  16. Helene — January 23, 2011 @ 11:47 pm

    It was a treat meeting you this weekend MJ! Keep on rocking like you do 🙂

  17. Tes — January 24, 2011 @ 3:11 am

    Thanks so much for sharing this. I love that you blog from your heart and not for other reasons. Always love to read more 🙂

  18. Anita Menon — January 24, 2011 @ 5:18 am

    “So, no. I don’t do it because I want to see my name in lights.

    I do it because I must.”

    Fantastic post. Often, answering the most basic questions, can make us ponder for days. You sure answered some of my own.

    • mj (merry gourmet)

      mj (merry gourmet) replied: — January 24th, 2011 @ 1:18 pm

      Thank you so much, Anita.

  19. Macaroni Mama — January 24, 2011 @ 7:38 am

    Your photos are an excellent recap of your trip AND what wonderful comments your food blogging friends made on this post. I’m proud of you. Now I need to get “my writing voice” back.

    • mj (merry gourmet)

      mj (merry gourmet) replied: — January 24th, 2011 @ 1:18 pm

      Aw, thanks, Mom. I love you.

  20. Jen — January 24, 2011 @ 7:59 am

    Enjoyed this post and I enjoy the blog. I have been threatening to get more into cooking for years and that part is slowly becomming more alive- this blog has helped.

  21. Lael Hazan @educatedpalate — January 24, 2011 @ 8:19 am

    Thank you for sharing your experiences of Food Blog South. I had wished to go and it was fun to live vicariously through you. I also appreciated your thoughts about “why” you blog. Great insight. I too blog because I enjoy writing. I also am enjoying learning about the camera; however, it hasn’t yet become a reciprocal relationship. I do have goals for the next year.

  22. Eftychia — January 24, 2011 @ 8:28 am

    Thank you for sharing this experience with us. Thank you for blogging. Nice work!!

  23. Woody The Roaster — January 24, 2011 @ 8:36 am

    Beautiful pictures and words. Thank you for the mention and here’s looking forward to FoodBlogSouth 2012!

  24. SMITH BITES — January 24, 2011 @ 8:52 am

    You’re doing this for all the right reasons, MJ – all of those things you’ve listed are worthy of your time and energy. Blogging IS a ton of work but at the end of the day, I always ask myself, ‘would I still be doing this if only one person read my blog?’ Most days the answer is ‘yes!’ for the same reasons. Can’t wait to meet you IRL!

    • mj (merry gourmet)

      mj (merry gourmet) replied: — January 24th, 2011 @ 1:19 pm

      I’m so looking forward to meeting you, too!

  25. Paula - bell'alimento — January 24, 2011 @ 10:28 am

    I couldn’t have said it better myself. I <3 food people! And I LOVED getting the opportunity to FINALLY meet you. You rawk {you know why tee hee ; ) } Can't wait to see you again in May xoxo MWAH MWAH MWAH!

    • mj (merry gourmet)

      mj (merry gourmet) replied: — January 24th, 2011 @ 1:20 pm

      *HUGS* to you Paula! It was SO great to meet you finally. *MWAH* right back!

  26. Eat Jackson — January 24, 2011 @ 10:53 am

    For those of us who couldn’t make it… It was great to get such a nice recap. You ended up with some of the best pictures of the weekend that we’ve seen!

  27. Kate @ Savour Fare — January 24, 2011 @ 2:45 pm

    Great recap, and something I struggle with as well. It’s hard when so many things aimed to food bloggers are about “finding your niche” “Pitching the Book”, “Getting the Gig” etc. But it’s easy to forget why we got into this into the first place, which had nothing to do about fameseeking and everything to do with loving food.

  28. Cook in a Bar — January 24, 2011 @ 5:30 pm

    Nice post…thanks for sharing your experience with us.

  29. JulieD — January 24, 2011 @ 5:34 pm

    Great post! Wish I was there too! Can’t wait until we finally meet in person. FBF Atlanta was so fun so I can imagine how good the food and the people were at FBS. For me food blogging is all about the food and eating it! 🙂

  30. Liz the Chef — January 24, 2011 @ 6:25 pm

    Thanks for a great post – I’m still a newbie to all this but agree with your main points. Blogging feels like a job or mission or some such thing…

  31. DessertForTwo — January 25, 2011 @ 5:02 pm

    Lovely recap!

    I was asking myself the same question throughout the conference. I decided that I also enjoy the creative expression. If it leads to nothing, I am perfectly content with that.

    Great meeting you 🙂

  32. Megan — January 26, 2011 @ 9:21 am

    So many times I wonder why I do it and then I’ll get a sweet e-mail saying thank you, that I helped make someone a better cook. The truth be told, I think my blog makes me a better cook! It has taken me outside my comfort zone and treated me to ingredients I might have otherwise missed out on. Lovely post! I love going to these foodie conferences!

  33. Aggie — January 28, 2011 @ 9:36 pm

    Wonderful Post! I so wished I could have joined you all that weekend. Sounds like a fantastic time. I agree, it’s not about seeing your name in lights…for me, it’s the dream job that’s not a job, I feel so lucky to have stumbled into food blogging almost 3!!! years ago…it has changed me.

  34. Alison @ Ingredients, Inc. — February 3, 2011 @ 2:57 pm

    Great post and fantastic photos! I am so glad you came and enjoyed it. I hope to see you again very soon!

  35. Pingback: celebrating year one: chocolate stout cake | the merry gourmet

  36. Pingback: review & giveaway: spoon fed by kim severson | the merry gourmet

Leave a Comment