Follow this link to see a full album of our photos from the seventh day of our travels.
We packed up our van at the Canyon Campground and headed out for our return journey to Salt Lake City. The Artists Paintpots was the one remaining attraction we hadn’t seen that was still on my wish list, so Susan graciously agreed to make a stop there on the way. I thought the Artists Paintpots was a roadside attraction like the other geysers, but upon arriving we learned there was a 1.2-mile hike for the round trip to the paintpots. Kay was not up for this, so Susan returned with her to wait in the van while Peter and I made the hike.
It was worth the trip. We’d seen geothermal features by Lake Yellowstone in West Thumb and in arid basins in the Old Faithful area, but this was the first time we saw them in a forest. The rising steam in the woods gave it a fairy tale feel. I did have the impression there would be more bubbling mud than we actually saw, but I guess it was the dry season. We returned to the van at the right time, because a wave of other tourists were just heading in. In fact we’d see a lot of inbound traffic heading into the park for the Labor Day weekend as we drove out. Not all the congestion was human-made, though, as we delighted in the awesome experience of seeing a large bison bull saunter down the road.
Leaving Yellowstone through the west gate, we arrived in the town of West Yellowstone, Montana. We stopped here to visit the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center, a small zoo for rescue animals that would give us the chance to see some of the wildlife we didn’t see in the parks, including grizzly bears, wolves, raptors, and otters! We arrived at the right time being the last family admitted for a noon entry group. Inside we saw the grizzly bear Nakina, and then the change over when the twin sister cubs Condi and Seeley enter the enclosure. One of the cubs climbed the tree to get a feeder left by the center’s staff, but had some trouble getting back down from the tree.
Susan spent a lot of time talking with the naturalist, learning facts about the bears and their behavior. She also got confirmation that she and Peter probably saw a glimpse of a bear several days earlier on the Moose-Wilson Road. I spent a lot of time watching the otters until dragged away by the children. We headed into Yellowstone and were able to get lunch from a 50s-style diner. Then it was on the road again for a long drive to Salt Lake City. The route back through Idaho was less scenic than on our drive to Grand Teton, but we did pass numerous locations for boating and tubing that were attracting Labor Day crowds. We arrived in Salt Lake City just after sunset, happy to check into a hotel room with comfy beds and a television.