Our last day in Yellowstone promised storms in the afternoon or late morning. We talked with a ranger and decided to hike the Natural Bridge Trail, located near the campground. We drove to the trailhead which was very close. Surprisingly, there was only one other car there. The hike starts on a wide, dirt road that once provided automobile access to the natural bridge.
At one time, people paid to take a car to the natural bridge, then get out, hike to the top, walk cross, and return. I don’t know how much this would cost, but the hike is not difficult or long. It is also one of the few trails that allows bikes.
As we walked down the trail, we saw the family from our loop in the campground riding bikes to the natural bridge. We didn’t see too many people on this trail, though it is supposed to be popular. The simple trail soon opens to meadows with tiny creeks crossing them. Only when you reach the natural bridge and see the waterfall below it, do you realize that all the water comes from these falls.
The natural bridge is a rock bridge that sits far above the valley floor. After taking pictures from the bottom, we took the trail that zig-zags to the top. Instead of walking across this bridge (there is a sign saying not to do so), we crossed the creek behind the bridge. The view from the top is spectacular because you can see the mountain range behind the lake.
The trail then leads down hill through a forest and loops back to the access road. It made for a great, shorter hike with the oncoming weather.
Since it wasn’t storming, we took a picnic to Angler’s Cove to try one last time to catch a fish in the lake. We were again unsuccessful. However, this place had several picnic tables and a rough trail to the lake below. There were just a handful of people at this spot, which included a low fishing beach and picnic tables with views.
After our picnic, it started thundering and we took that as a sign to drive away, just before the lightening and rain started.
We went to Fishing Bridge Visitor’s Center to seek shelter. Fishing Bridge was under construction and the campground was also closed. But the center was open and we enjoyed the many displays of various birds that live on the lake. Just as we got back in the car, a loud clap of thunder with almost immediate lightening shook the ground. We waited out the storm in the car, hoping the hail wouldn’t get any bigger. People ran from the visitor’s center to their cars, trying to cover their heads. We made it through the deep mud on the road once the rain subsided. We went back to the campsite and decided we would have dinner at the Yellowstone Lake Lodge that night.
The Yellowstone Lake Lodge sits behind the Lake Yellowstone Hotel. The opulent hotel is always beautiful and includes a bustling bar, live music nightly, and a linen tablecloth restaurant. As much as I love this, I was not dressed for it, having taken my most recent shower two days ago.
The Lake Lodge is a large, log hotel built in 1903. It has been lovingly restored. It also has a bar near a large stone fireplace, but the restaurant is cafeteria style. We got there at 5 p.m. and were some of the first through the line. The choices here were numerous. Trout fillets with two sides, full turkey dinners, quarter chicken dinners, salads of all types (lettuce, macaroni, potato, fruit), and a lot of other choices for dessert. We all got something different and everything tasted hearty and as it should. We also secured a lovely spot near the huge window with views of the lake immediately across the street.
After dinner, we enjoyed the display of black and white photos with quotes from guests who stayed in Yellowstone over the last century. Stories from 100 years ago sounded harder than my life in the camper now, but the terrain appeared very similar. Touring Yellowstone makes you realize that this area is always changing. Fires have destroyed more than one quarter of the park. But the new growth trees are also amazing to see. Our last night in Yellowstone, we purchased our final huckleberry ice cream bars for dessert and headed back to camp, feeling we were now part of the stories that would be told about this magical place.