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 5: The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone


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

To lift our spirits after feeling tired and cranky the day before, we started off our fifth day by treating ourselves to a hot breakfast from the eatery at the Canyon Lodge. We ate at the picnic tables outside under the watchful eyes of the local ravens. Fueled by scrambled eggs and French toast, we spent the rest of the morning and early afternoon taking in the views of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.

We started on the south rim stopping at Artists Point and Uncle Tom’s overlooks.  Then we saw everything again from the north rim at Lookout Point and Inspiration Point.  The Yellowstone River dropping over the Upper and Lower Falls never failed to please and we enjoyed the many colors of the canyon, including the stones of yellow. We also enjoyed watching the osprey soar over the canyon. The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone is very photogenic.  Not that it stopped Kay from stealing our phones to take selfies and silly photos of her family.

 

After resting in the afternoon, we went to the Canyon Corral.  Susan and the kids went horseback riding on an hour-long guided tour and saw elk from the saddle.  Kay bonded with the wrangler Jonathan by talking about Star Wars.  Meanwhile, I went for a drive through the Hayden Valley where I saw a small hide of bison (with very cute calves), a coyote, and many spectacular vistas.

Day 4: Geyser Basins


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

We had trouble setting up the fold-out bed in our campervan the night before, so everyone was tired and cranky on our first full day in Yellowstone.  Nevertheless, we headed out to attempt to visit the geysers and geothermal features along the Grand Loop Road, leading up to Old Faithful.  We stopped first at Fountain Flat Drive where I got out to attempt some artsy photos of a hot pool draining into the Firehole River.

Turning around and returning to the van I spotted a bison walking right across the flat on the opposite side of the street.  We saw him poop and then approach a small pine tree which he used as a backscratcher.  We named him Itchy. Heading back to the main road we saw another bison sleeping by the side of the road.  We named him Sleepy.  Driving off, Susan was shocked to see in her rear view mirror that people were getting out of their cars to walk right up to Sleepy!

The next stop was the Lower Geyser Basin where Peter and I got out and saw the many geothermal features including the Fountain Paint Pots and the always-erupting Clepsydra Geyser.  Then we drove down Firehole Lake Drive and saw many more pools and geysers.  The White Cone Geyser is supposed to erupt every 20 to 40 minutes, so Susan got out to wait while the rest of us kept cool in the van.  We waited and waited, but it never erupted.

We stopped next at Whisky Flats Picnic Area for a late lunch.  By this time it was clear that everyone was too tired to go on.  So we made the plan to go back to our campground for a nap and/or quiet time.  By the time we were rested it was too late to head out again.

Day 3: Grand Teton to Yellowstone


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

On our last day in Grand Teton National Park, blue skies returned, except for low clouds that hung out just below the peaks of each mountain in the range.  We checked out of Colter Bay Village saying goodbye to the tent-cabin and its cozy woodstove.  We drove to Jenny Lake where the parking lot was full of vehicles. We took the shuttle boat named for “Beaver Dick” Leigh across the lake, and then hiked up to Hidden Falls.  Although a short, easy hike it does count as our first hike in Rocky Mountains.

Shuttling back across the lake, we returned to our campervan and drove north toward Yellowstone.  The view of the Teton mountains looked spectacular even in the rear view mirror.  We stopped for a picnic lunch by Jackson Lake for one last view of the Teton Range while eating peanut butter & jelly sandwiches. As we continued north we passed through hauntingly beautiful burnt regions of the forest.

After checking into Yellowstone, and passing over the Continental Divide, we stopped at West Thumb Geyser Basin.  Our first set of geothermal features was located right on the edge of Yellowstone Lake, providing a stunning background to the geyser activity.  We continued along the Grand Loop Road (the long way around because of a road closure) to Canyon Campground where we’d be staying the next four nights.  At dusk, we once again went out wildlife spotting and saw a grazing elk and sleeping buffalo.

Day 2: Grand Teton National Park


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

On a cool, overcast day with sporadic rainfall, we did a driving tour of Grand Teton National Park.  Despite the clouds, the views of the Teton Range from various pullouts on the Teton Road and Jenny Lake Scenic Drive were awe-inspiring and made Susan say “WOW!” We stopped for a walk around Menors Ferry Historical District where we saw the Chapel of the Transfiguration and various historic buildings from when Bill Menor ran a ferry across the Snake River from the 1890s to 1920s, allowing tourists to pick huckleberries.

Peter was cold so we returned to Jackson where we picked up a fleece pullover on sale at one of the outdoor stores.  We also had a pub lunch at an outdoor table. We returned into the national park via the narrow and partially unpaved Moose-Wilson Road which Peter learned is a place with a good reputation for wildlife spotting.  Peter and Susan may have got a glimpse of a bear and Liam briefly saw a mule deer, but despite all the promises we didn’t see any moose.

As the rain got heavier we went to historic Mormon Row.  The kids didn’t want to leave the car so Liam went out alone to take photos of the famous T.A. Moulton barn.  As the sun set, we drove along the Oxbow Bend of the Snake River  where the NPS rangers had set up warning signs for bears.  We saw no bears, but did see various birds and pretty reflections in the water. Nearby we saw a grazing mule deer and a glimpse of a herd of elk.  We finished the evening at the Jackson Lake Dam where our van was surrounded by an unkindness of ravens, drastically increasing our corvid risk.

Book Review: A Field Guide to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks by Kurt F. Johnson


Author: Kurt F. Johnson
Title: A Field Guide to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks
Publication Info: Farcountry Press (2013)
Summary/Review:

A really spectacular guide book to the animals, plants, fungi, waterfalls, geysers, and even the night time sky in Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks.  This is an excellent reference to have handy when traveling in the parks and wondering just what exactly is that!

Rating: ****

Book Review: A Ranger’s Guide to Yellowstone Day Hikes by Roger Anderson and Carol Shively Anderson


Author: Roger Anderson and Carol Shively Anderson
Title: A Ranger’s Guide to Yellowstone Day Hikes
Publication Info: Farcountry Press (2013)
Summary/Review:

If going to Yellowstone, you’re going to need to get off the road and explore Wonderland on foot.  Trouble is,  if you have old legs and are traveling with kids less keen on hiking, you’ll want to be prepared.  This book has 29 hikes of various skill levels and lengths in various different park environments.  Some of them are just a short addition to visiting some of Yellowstone’s most popular attractions, such as Mammoth Hot Springs and the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone, that take you away from the tourist throngs.

Rating: ***1/2

Book Review: Watching Yellowstone & Grand Teton Wildlife by Todd Wilkinson


Author: Todd Wilkinson
Title: Watching Yellowstone & Grand Teton Wildlife
Publication Info: Riverbend Publishing (2008)
Summary/Review:

This book does just what it says on the tin: tells you the best places to see wildlife in Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks.  The critters each get their own page with gorgeous photographs, a description of the animals habits, and tips on where to spot them in the park. It will be a useful tool on our visit to the parks.

Rating: ***