Our friend Vanessa is living in Sheffield England for a year, so of course we had to go visit her! We've traveled with Vanessa to Iceland, Scotland, Italy, and now England & Ireland.
For our last full day, we’d planned a lazy, mostly driving day of sightseeing in the Tetons. As part of the lazy day, I got up early to go to one the photography shrines – Schwabacher Landing – for sunrise.
The Tetons at sunrise reflected in the beavers ponds are one of the most commonly seen images of the Tetons. I have a few of 100 or so I took. Heading back to get Sue some moose cows were in a wetland eating the willows – this is where they are supposed to be, not in the sagebrush! The Lotoja bike race was that day and as part of it, some balloons were in the sky and I got the shot of the elk balloon ½ inflated.
We headed up the Laurence Rockefeller Preserve for a short hike (3 miles) to Phelps Lake. A young mule deer was eating in the shade and had a great expression. There were lots of mergansers on Phelps Lake, diving up & down. We did this hike with a guy from Hendersonville, NC! This was his first day in the park and he was paranoid about the bears. After the hike we gave him one of our cans of bear spray since we couldn’t do anything with it (you can’t carry them on planes, or ship them by air).
Heading North and stopped at a classic Snake River overlook where Ansel Adams took a famous picture – in much better light than we had. Then we stopped at the Cunningham Ranch to walk around the ‘ancient’ ruins leftover from 1883. One of the neat things about travel is the different time scales – old in the Tetons (or New Zealand) is very different then old in Italy or France. In the last bison-jam of the trip there was a female and the youngest and fuzziest bison we saw.
We spent our last evening hanging out on the outside deck at the Jackson Lake Lodge. We watched the smoke from a wildfire south of Jackson billow up, obliterate the sun, and dissipate. The fire started at 3pm and by 6pm the smoke covered the sky. It had a very apocalyptic feel to it. When we ask a waiter, she said ‘Snow King is on fire’ – that’s the ski resort in Jackson. It was a little south of that, but was quite dramatic. On the way back we got stuck in the last bit of traffic from the Lotoja bike race (LOgan utah TO JAckson wyoming in one day – 226 miles) and learned that a bicyclist died in Jackson when he tried to avoid a pothole on a bridge and went over the railing into the river.
Just ½ day left and only a few pictures.
Yellowstone Day 13 (Tetons Day2)
Today was a one-event day. We planned on hiking up Cascade Canyon and had hoped to take the boat across Jenny Lake to cut off 4 miles. The water level was too low, so we adjusted and got ready for a 14 mile day. While getting ready, we watched a moose cow eating willows behind our condo and we listened to her calf run in circles at full speed through the marsh. We couldn’t see the calf, but it was very easy to hear!
The skies were much clearer and we were hoping the wildfire smoke wouldn’t hinder our views. We started around Jenny Lake with many other people, stopping at Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point. The view from there was hazy to the East and not very inspirational. The number of people quickly dwindled as we left Inspiration Point and started up Cascade Canyon. This is an amazing hike. The Grand Tetons on your left, some other ridge is on your right and the views are incredible. I’m used to looking down at views and my neck was sore from look up and around all day. The trail goes along a glacier-fed creek with some wonderful slow spots. We found an ideal lunch spot; in the shade, next to the water, with a small reflecting pond in front of us. After lunch we found Pikas! They are very small, loud, and cute. We hike all the way up the canyon until the trail split into the North Forth & South Fork canyons. The North Fork to Cascade Canyon is the most popular backpacking loop in the park, and I really hope to get back there to hike it. All the canyon trails into the Tetons look equally awesome. The trees were covered in what looked like Spanish Moss; later when I remembered to ask a ranger I found it is called Old Man's Beard (among other common names.)
Heading back down we stopped at Hidden Falls again, then the slog back to the car. There were many fewer people at 5pm versus 10am. The sun was setting over Grand Teton when we were in the parking lot and made those cools light rays from the peak. I don’t know what they are called; maybe some form of crepuscular rays. After a long day on our feet we headed over to Dornan’s in Moose Junction to sit on their outdoor deck for sunset (as you drive around the mts, you can get multiple sunsets). While sitting there we watched a bull moose graze among the sagebrush, a fox chase ground squirrels, and a family of mule deer – one of whom chased the fox!
Another early wake-up in Canyon so we could get to Yellowstone Lake for sunrise. When we drove through the Hayden Valley, it briefly read 24 degrees on the cars thermometer. Slightly warmer at the lake for a very orange, brief sunrise coming through the forest fire smoke. Some loons were calling on the lake and a group of mergansers were diving right in front of us. From there we drove through Grant Village and West Thumb without stopping and exited Yellowstone.
Then on to the Tetons! The northern end of had some blue skies but we could see the clouds and smoke down towards Jackson. White pelicans were on Jackson Lake at one point. We had lunch at the Jenny Lake Lodge (dinner required jackets!) then at a Jenny Lake Overlook. This was directly across from Inspiration Point and Cascade Canyon; our destination for the next day.
The smoke got thicker and when we stopped at Willow Flats Grand Teton was almost obscured by the haze. There were some aspens changing colors which contrasted nicely with the peak. We stopped at Menor's Landing, an old homestead and site of a ferry crossing across the Snake River. A small active church is there with a stunning view of the Tetons behind the altar.
We checked into our condo and headed up the Moose-Wilson road looking for wildlife. Beside an immature mule deer, a black bear, some very busy beavers, a moose sow and calf, and many elk on the hillside, we didn't see much! The bull elk was bugling as the sun was setting behind the Teton range.
What was planned to be a lazy day was a great animal day! We had a lazy morning in Canyon, and then we drove through the Hayden Valley to Yellowstone Lake. In the Valley there were lots of bison in the morning sun and another red fox running through the woods. Some wolf-watchers were out, searching for anything. We stopped at the Fishing Bridge Visitor Center and walked around there. The ranger was leading a walk around Storm Point, but we decided to venture out on our own and do that later.
We saw bison in the distance and cutthroat trout in the headwaters of the Yellowstone River. This is prime grizzly watching in the spring when the cutthroats are spawning. We decided to drive around the lake towards Pelican Valley and ran into a bison jam – and a wolf! There are too many pictures of the wolf and they are not very sharp, but how often do get to photograph a wolf? In the first shot with his tail between his legs he was headed towards a large bison that made a move to back off the wolf. And back off he did.
We saw this same wolf later when we finished the Storm Point hike. He had crossed the road to drink in a pond then headed back towards the hill, getting very close to a couple of stopped cars and people.
Driving around the lake was ‘Steamboat Point’ and more geothermal vents; I think the Lamar Valley was the only part of the park without any geothermal activity. Coming back we stopped next to the field where the wolf was and got a great look at an eagle. On the Storm Point hike an immature eagle flew over. There are marmots on the end of the point, but they’d already started hibernating, so still no marmot sightings!
More geothermal stuff, mud pots and the ‘Dragon’s Mouth’, a raven posing nicely, more bison(!) then back to the Canyon for a hike out to Ribbon Lake and the top of Silver Cord Falls. The falls are 1200’ ft high, but you can’t see them from the south rim, just see the creek and hear the water falling. Oh well, it was a good hike past some lily-pad laden ponds and mule deer grazing. Coming back we went around a group of rangers rappelling down into the canyon to get a red backpack that had been dropped – apparently with no person attached. I mentioned the shallow tree root systems we’d been hearing about for 10 days and a ranger explained that’s why their rope was around several different trees - in case one came loose. And 1 final canyon shot with the incredible dusk colors.
I got up for sunrise in the Canyon and went to Grand View Overlook & Lookout Point. The sunrise itself wasn’t very exciting, but the colors in the canyon were constantly shifting as the sun rose. After breakfast we tagged along with a ranger and learned all about bear safety – good stuff to learn on day 10! We toured the whole north & south rims and walked down to all the viewpoints in the canyon – Uncle Tom’s Trail, Brink of the Upper Falls, Brink of the Lower Falls, and the bottom of Lookout Point. That was several miles of trails, and many, many steps down & up again. The rainbow from the bottom of Uncle Tom’s Trail was well worth the stairs, but all the dented stairs from falling rocks was a little disconcerting.
Before dinner I suggested we drive up to Dunraven Pass, just below Mt. Washburn. From the Mt Washburn trail, we saw many cars stopping on the road and I thought we might see some wildlife. A black bear was very cooperative, but most pictures were of its butt. We did get a couple of recognizable bear pictures. The sun was setting at the pass, but it wasn’t very interesting. Coming back down we drove through a stand of burnt pines with the setting sun behind it and that was very interesting!
Finally, we slept in this day, well until 7, and headed out of Silver Gate towards the Canyon area of Yellowstone. There no wolf activity in the Lamar Valley, so we didn’t slow down. (You quickly learn to figure out when a group of people is looking AT something versus looking FOR something.) Near where we saw fox of a couple of days earlier, one was prowling around in a low area. The light was perfect and it posed even more perfectly.
At Canyon we drove straight to Artist’s Point on the south rim of The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone for the obligatory picture. From there we hiked out Point Sublime, quickly leaving the masses behind. We had lunch nearby and headed up to the Mt Washburn Trailhead. This is just about the easier way to hike to 10,000+. The trailhead is a little over 3 miles one way, 1500 ft of elevation gain, and is an old roadbed so climbs very gradually. The only wildlife was many Clark’s Nutcrakers and ground squirrels. No Bighorn Sheep, no marmots, no bears. On the way down I showed Sue a very nice pair of Grizzly prints on the trail – I saw them on the way up and did not point them out! The summit was super windy and cold and the smoke from several fires limited the views.
Back to Canyon we went over to Inspiration Point for sunset, the same smoke that limited our views made for a great sunset!
Back to the Lamar Valley before sunrise for more wolf watching. In the morning we saw 6 wolves, mostly juveniles, and got some better pictures. There was a perfect wolf-print in the mud along the trail. We went back at night and someone had put a ring of rocks around that print to preserve it. While watching and waiting for the wolves, 2 coyotes started prowling along the river behind us. The light was much better for photographing them.
We headed out of the park and crossed the ‘Beartooth Highway’ over to Red Lodge, MT. This is an amazing road through the mountains that tops out over 11,000’. There is a fire tower near ‘Clay Butte’ that we drove up to. While enjoying the 360 degree views, a mother grizzly and cub ran across a field way below us. Sue was happy about seeing a bear so far away! One of the photos (the one with mountains & clouds) has a spike towards the middle of the horizon. That’s the beartooth the highway is named after. Lunch was at ‘Red Lodge Ales’ in Red Lodge, then back over the mountain range again.
We had a quick bite and drove back into Yellowstone for evening wolf watching. There was a bison-jam on the way in – a frequent Lamar Valley problem. There were 7 wolves this time, including the alpha male (755M) with his radio collar on.
We got up before sunrise (both of us!) to get into the Lamar Valley for some wolf watching. At our first stop we were hanging out with Doug McLaughlin, one of the Yellowstone wolf gurus. We had
no luck there and heard reports of one further down (the wolf guys all have radios.) After a quick, and fortuitous bathroom stop, we were stopped from driving by another wolf-watcher, Rick McIntyre, to let 3 wolves cross the road in front of us! Two greys and a black crossed from their normal high ground across to the river valley. We drove to the next parking spot, where Doug had 'scoped' out the situation. We setup our spotting scope and watched the 3 for a 1/2 or so. All three crossed back across the road, one with a chunk of meat in its mouth. We took a bunch of pictures through the spotting scope, but none any good. If you knew they were wolves, you could see them, otherwise they were blobs in the distance.
After the wolves we headed to Roosevelt Lodge, stopping to watch and listen to a group of Sandhill Cranes. We had a quick 2nd breakfast, then headed to the Petrified Forest. This is a strange trail - it's not on the maps, but is in many books all visitor centers have handouts about it. A very steep, rocky trail that was only ~3 miles round trip and well worth it. Many petrified tree stumps. Fortunately we came across a father & daughter who'd hiked it before and steered us to the largest stumps. We heard from a ranger that were also petrified breadfruit!? We never saw anything like that. Then back to the car & back to Roosevelt Lodge for lunch. Some Mule deer posed nicely along the road.
After lunch we headed up the trail along the Yellowstone River Canyon. This is the very end of the 'Grand Canyon of Yellowstone' and was a LONG way down. We saw several osprey and spotted a young sitting on a nest across the canyon. The parents were trying to get it to leave, since it's time for them to fend for themselves. We hiked to a spot across from Tower Falls, but couldn't see them from that angle. Back to the car to see a fox trotting around the parking lot. There is a view of the petrified trees from the road, far up the hillside. Then a nice pronghorn posing along the Lamar.
If you are interested in the wolves, google Doug McLaughlin or Rick McIntyre with the word wolf or yellowstone. Fascinating stuff.
Headed out of Gardiner, through Mammoth on our way to the HUGE town of Silver Gate, MT.
A nice group of pronghorn along the road; several waterfalls that didn't photograph well; the classic petrified tree - locked behind a fence to keep people from looting it; Tower Falls and the the lower end of the 'Grand Canyon of Yellowstone' with the Yellowstone River; lunch at Roosevelt Lodge; then Silver Gate & Cooke City.
We went back into the park and got stuck in a bison jam. We did a short hike up to Trout Lake and saw some cutthroat trout! Great mountain views, then back down. On our way out of the park we saw a red fox marking his territory - apparently the entire park is his.
Out motel -Grizzly Lodge - had a bonfire and I took some pictures of the rising full moon (maybe it was the blue moon night.) Someone was throwing logs on the fire, which made for some cool spark trails.
Started the morning in Gardiner, MT and drove through Mammoth to the Bunsen Peak Trail Head. Lots of people headed up, but we quickly diverged to go around the mountain to Osprey Falls. Great views of the distant mountains across fields, ponds, and various dead trees. The hike is mostly flat, then you quickly descend into a gorge. Osprey Falls is gorgeous, and we enjoyed our solitude while eating lunch. I got a good picture of a chipmunk & squirrel and a crazy burnt tree. We saw some grouse & mountain bluebirds, but no good pics. After leaving the parking lot we saw 1 person. 9+ miles and just one person! In picture 12, the whole falls from a distance, Sue is sitting about 1/2 way up on the right - the tiny little dot.
On the way back to Gardiner we stopped and took some more pics of Mammoth Hot Springs in better light. Those springs are crazy, the water flow moves all the time, so they are never the same twice. The terraces shown in these pics started 5 years ago. Everything with color is new since then.
Then at Roosevelt Arch for the setting sun.
Dinner was on the Iron Horse Saloon's deck overlooking the Yellowstone River in Gardiner.
I got up before sunrise to walk over to the Roosevelt Arch for some pictures. Sunrise out there is weird - it gets brighter and brighter for a long time and actual sunrise over the Mts takes about 10 seconds. After Sue got up we drove to Mammoth - seeing a female Bighorn Sheep on the canyon wall (the only one we saw on the whole trip.) We walked all over the hot springs & terraces @ Mammoth, which are very strange. Walked around town, and hiked the Beaver Lakes Loop. The dead trees are fascinating - they suck up all the chemicals through their roots and sort of self-petrify in place.
Then on Norris Basin for Geysers, Hot Springs, and various geothermal stuff. It was all fascinating and we never got bored of it. Hot, sweaty, sun-burned - yes, bored - no. Into Mammoth where the Elk were hanging out in the central square. We stayed in the small town of Gardiner, MT right outside the famous Roosevelt Arch.
I got up before sunrise to try and catch Riverside Geyser, and did. Lots of photos in the geyser basin around Old Faithful. After Sue got up, we hiked up to Fairy Falls, passing Grand Prismatic Spring on the way and a Golden-Mantled Ground Squirrel. After Fairy falls we saw our first Bison! Then on to Imperial Geyser and back. We drove up to Grand Prismatic Springs and walked on that boardwalk. Then on to Mystic Falls and Biscuit Basin Overlook - where we saw Old Faithful erupt from a long way away. Then back to the Old Faithful Inn for drinks on the deck & sunset. Old Faithful Geyser was supposed to erupt before our dinner reservation, but it was not faithful.
We started in Jackson and had a yummy breakfast at Cafe Genevieve. The obligatory picture inside the elk-antler arches on the town square. We headed north to Yellowstone - there was so much smoke in the area from wild fires that we didn't take a single photo of the Tetons and hoped for better weather in 11 days when we got back.
Photos from day 1 are linked below. The first few are at Lewis Falls inside the park. The rest at Old Faithful and all the surrounding geothermal stuff.
We watched Old Faithful erupt 5 times that day:
This year we were fortunate to spend 11 days in Yellowstone National Park and 3 days in Grand Tetons National Park. I'm writing this after the fact to try out this blog feature.
We landed at the Jackson Hole airport on August 25th. We had a clear view of the DuBois fire, East of us, and had very hazy views. We stayed in Jackson that night, and tasted all the beers at the Snake River Brewery. SRB had the worst pretzel I've ever eaten; it was like someone had heard about a pretzel and created their own without every seeing or tasting one. That got sent back and we had an awesome peach-chorizo-goat cheese flat-bread pizza.
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© Matthew M Perry