Day 7: Leaving Yellowstone


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.

Day 1: Salt Lake City to Grand Teton National Park


Follow this link to see a full album of our photos from the first day of our travels.

We finished off our very strange summer with a week-long vacation to two great National Parks: Grand Teton and Yellowstone.  We began by flying in to Salt Lake City where we spent the night at a hotel near the airport.  We woke up in the morning to a beautiful sunrise over the Wasatch Range of the Rocky Mountains.  We called a Lyft to get a ride to to pick up our camper van, and our driver Chris gave us a tour of the highlights of Salt Lake City.

Chris dropped us off at Basecamper Vans where the staff member Jen met us to show us how to use our van with a fold down bed in the back and a pop-up tent up top. With this knowledge we headed off to the grocery store to stock up on food for the week.  Peter described the grocery store experience with one-way aisles and the need to avoid other shoppers as like being in a Super Mario Bros. game.  Stocked up on food, but our tummies rumbling we picked up lunch at Del Taco.

There was a long drive ahead of us, 311 miles, but it turned out to be fun.  This was probably because of the novelty of traveling through three new states – Utah, Idaho, and Wyoming – and seeing the constantly-changing landscapes.  The suburbs of Salt Lake City gradually turned into cattle ranches.  After crossing the Idaho state line we left the flat basin behind and headed into rolling hills. We stopped for gas and refreshments at Lava Hot Springs, a local hotspot for camping and boating with its own water park.  We passed by historic markers for the Oregon Trail and then phosphorus and gypsum mines before diving into the Caribou-Targhee National Forest.

At last we arrived in Wyoming and enjoyed the awe-inspiring views of the Snake River in the Bridger-Teton Forest.  We stopped in the well-heeled vacation town of Jackson for supper, getting take out from Hand Fire Pizza.  While waiting for our order to be ready we took a photo under the elk antler arches in the Town Square park and checked out the oddly out-of-place lifesize sculptures of figures ranging from Ben Franklin to Jeanne d’Arc to a bison.  Kay was also able to find a keychain with her name on at it at one of the souvenir shops.

With our bellies full, we continued on to our destination – Grand Teton National Park – stopping to take many photos in front of the sign.  As we continue deeper into the park we come upon a field where a whole herd of bison are grazing!  Finally we arrive at our home for the next two nights, the Colter Bay Campground tent village, where we will stay in a tent cabin with a wood stove.