Yellowstone and the Tetons
This is the second installment of our trip--covering our days in Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons.
DAY SIX. With Liz and Jason along, we were off to geysers at 8:45. Of course the first stop was the Old Faithful store...and then another store...We walked one of loops around the Old Faithful Basin for about an hour, timing our arrival to see Old Faithful erupt. We stuck our head in the Old Faithful Inn to admire the log construction, then drove off to visit more geysers and take a dip in the Firehole River. We hiked the short trail to the Artist Paintpots and drove on to Canyon to see the falls, and then back through Hayden Valley past a huge herd of bison...below is the mandatory show of Old Faithful
After some confusion, we finally found Wylie's Cafe in the Lake Lodge and had a bison burger and salad for dinner, with an IPA. Another really long but fun day.
DAY SEVEN: We were supposed to get off to an early start--which in this case meant 9:45. We left a car at the Fairy Falls Trailhead, then drove to hike down from Fountain Flats Trailhead. What a nice hike! Lovely hike through the Imperial Meadow (seeing both a lone bison and bison carcass) and then to the very scenic Imperial Geyser. We ate lunch at Fairy Falls, surrounded by very bold squirrels and very stupid people feeding them. The trail led on to the overlook of Grand Prismatic Spring, which exceeded all of our expectations.
That was just a short walk to the car, where we drove back to pick up the van, then to Madison for a lovely swim in the river. Of course we want back to the campground through the always amazing Hayden Valley and a herd of bison. We took a short evening walk around by the lake, and drank two bottles of bubbly along with dinner.
DAY EIGHT: Today we planned to spend all day and evening in the Lamar Valley. We got a late start and drove to Mammoth, really only stopping to show Liz and Jason the mud volcano and check out the nearby Sulphur Pot. At Mammoth we checked out the museum and grabbed a bite to eat at the Grille--I had a smoked bison hot dog. Since our daughters are both vegetarians, somehow the occasional offering of wild game appealed to me,.
We had a shopping list of supplies we needed, but Mammoth Store didn't have much, so we drove on to Tower...where the store was closed this year. Since we had plenty of time, we decided to drive to Cooke City outside the park, and got what we needed at the General Store...it didn't have a lot of anything, but it did have everything we needed.
From there we worked our way down the Lamar Valley, stopping to dip our feet in Mud Butte Creek and look for wildlife often from the road pull-outs. By 6 pm we were hungry, and not seeing much more than herds and herds of bison. We thought about going to dinner at the lodge at Tower, but found the Yellowstone picnic area just before we got there. We set up our stove to boil water for a quick Pad Thai (vegetarian!) backpacking dinner. But just after we go the water close to boiling, a large herd of bison arrived--and came right through the picnic area. At one point we had to pack up everything and hide on the van for a few minutes while the massive beasts, complete with mothers and calves, rambunctious teenagers, and massive bulls came through. (Our daughter Estelle noticed that our neighbors had left so quickly that they left part of a watermelon under their picnic table--and she carefully crept over to toss it into the dumpster.)
The photo below was taken from inside the van. In a few minutes an NPS ranger arrived and flashed lights and honked his horn to keep the bison moving along, and off the road.
One notable event was the group of three motorcyclists who were brought to a stop by the bison on the road. While the bison seemed to be somewhat alarmed by the noise of the choppers, one of the bikers got off his bike and ran for the hills, not wanting to be so close to these enormous beasts.
Once the bison were gone we had a peaceful dinner, only twice interrupted by straggler bison coming through the picnic area. That some of the herd in the photo above.
After dinner we drove back out into the Lamar Valley, where we were delighted with an evening of viewing more bison, pronghorn antelope, a black bear, a few deer, and, to cap it all off, a black wolf jogging through the valley, at one point being chased by a pair of coyotes who were probably protecting their den! Amazing. Too far off for good photos...but memorable nevertheless.
On the long drive back to camp we also saw a fox, and made it to Bridge Bay by about 10:45. A long and unforgettable day.
DAY NINE: Our time in Yellowstone was us, and we drove back to Gros Ventre today. On our way out of the park we drove to hike the West Thumb Geyser area, which we really liked--some geysers were actually visible in the water of the Lake itself. Then we stopped at Grant Village to pick up lunch and a few mementos and drove south to the Grand Tetons. We ate lunch at Colter Bay under cloudy skies, and soon it started raining. When we got to Gros Ventre we stopped along the entrance toad to watch a young male moose for a while. We texted Liz and Jason about it, and soon they had joined us. We set up camp and it started to rain, so we all read and napped in our tents or in the van.
That's M and Estelle above.
In the late afternoon we drove into Jackson to find a place to eat--Thai Me Up. Had drinks in a bar before, and really liked the Thai food. On the way back to camp the moose was still there so we stopped to watch again.. It was a spectacular sunset from camp...highlighted by seeing a moose and calf eating right near the campground itself. Jason made a campfire and we chatted and then to bed.
DAY TEN: We took Estelle to the airport, then came back and switched our gear to our new campsite--which was more exposed, but had better views. After an early lunch, Liz, Jason and Margaret drive off to visit a hot spring south of Jackson. I took a nap, then drove to Dornan's to buy gas and ice. Once there, I decided to keep going and took in the visitor center and found a hike--a 4-mile loop to Taggart Lake. The parking lot was overflowing, but I didn't see that many people on the trail...and it was a beautiful hike; bubbling streams, alpine flowers, ice blue lake, and towering peaks.
I drove the Jenny Lake loop and then went back to camp, cleaned up, and met the other three. Once again we drove Into Jackson for a Mexican dinner at Abuelitos and back to camp and a steady rain for two hours in the evening.
DAY ELEVEN: This day was a whole different story. Liz and I drove to meet our rock climbing guide...watching and worrying about rainy skies as we went. But it cleared up, and we happily climbed for a few hours, Liz ultimately succeeding on a 5.10b. Best I could manage was 5.7 and 5.8. but we both really enjoyed it...and went back to camp happy and tired. That's her in the photo below, having just made it up over that overhang--something I certainly couldn't do.
Meanwhile, Jason had walked 12 miles into Jackson, spotting a badger on the way, so we picked him up on the way back to camp, then all went to Caldera for an excellent pizza for dinner. More rain this evening...but we managed a nice chat over tea on the picnic table between rain showers in the he evening..
It had been a great adventure with the kids, but Liz and Jason were now leaving, and M and I were back on our own in Le Vin Blanc, on our way to rocky Mountain National Park.