We were up at 5:30 am local time and out the door a little after 6:00 am. We headed North to Hayden Flats in look of wildlife. We came up empty. In fact, we were pretty much a bust on the wildlife aspect of our trip. Others told us they were practically tripping over wildlife but we were hard pressed to find any. Timing is everything I suppose.
The balance of our day was spent exploring the thermal activity in area. I’m told there are 10,000 geysers, fumeroles, vents, hot springs and mud pots (my favorite). My wife is something of a goal driven person so I’m betting we saw something like 8,000 of these items. It was a long day and a lot of walking. Still, we did see some great sights, particularly the hot springs.
My favorite hot springs are deep blue. I’m told the temperature of the blue is the hottest at 197 Fahrenheit. The boiling point of water at this altitude is 199 F. The color is just beautiful. I found myself wanting to dive in. We hiked about 200 ft up a hill to grab a magnificent view of
Of course, no trip to Yellowstone would be complete without a visit to Old Faithful. It’s a great geyser but it’s also a victim of its own success. The viewing area is so large that you end up almost 100 yards away from the geyser. It diminishes the impact considerably. The best geyser we saw was Grand geyser (pictured below). It’s almost has big as Old Faithful but not as consistent and therefore not as popular. You can sit much closer to this geyser as well which makes for a much more dramatic
After a very full day we retreated to our campsite where a fire, bourbon and a nice cigar awaited. After all the walking (I’m guessing we walked close to 10 miles) we slept like bricks.
Day 10 of our trip started early again. We were packed and on the road again by 7:30 am. We made a quick stop in Grant Village near the South entrance of Yellowstone and took in the Visitors Center. Heading South from there, we entered Grand Teton an hour later.
Grand Teton is smaller than Yellowstone (small out here is 45 miles long). The mountains are unique in that they have no foothills in front of them so you can see the entire range almost unobstructed. The mountains are youngsters in the Rockies and still rising. The jaggedness of the peaks is due in part to the relatively young age of the mountains.
The main attraction in the area is Jenny Lake. It’s a picturesque lake nestled in the mountains. There’s a boat ride to the other side leading to some very steep trails. The trails lead to Hidden Falls and Inspiration point. The falls are magnificent and well worth the effort. Inspiration Point is much higher and while the view is great there are similar views to be had else where in the park that can be more easily reached. Signal mountain is perhaps the best view of the valley and you can drive up to it.
There is also a trial the rings the lake. It’s about 3 miles to the falls using this lake trail. We went early in the morning to avoid trial traffic. The trail is lovely and in relatively easy. However, relatively easy out here is still work. We hiked both directions and on the way back I saw plenty of people who were not prepared for hiking in the mountains. Most had no water. Yellowstone and the Tetons are arid places and high altitude as well. It is very easy to become dehydrated out here. It was clear to me that 90% of folks were ill prepared with no water, poor shoes (sandals do not cut it our here) and poor health. The park service stays pretty busy I imagine bailing people out who have over extended themselves.
The Winter and Spring have been wet here as well and the falls, rivers and lakes are just gorged. The sound of rushing water is everywhere. Wildlife was much more abundant here than in Yellowstone. We saw large herds of Elk in several locations, spotted a Bear (at last) and the usual Prong Horns.
There are several visitor centers at the Tetons but two stand out. At the Southern entrance is the Craig Thomas Visitor Center which is a marvel of architecture. The exhibits are excellent and one unique display allows you to walk on a stream by embedding monitors in the floor. The other visitor center is at Coltor Bay and is housed in a decidedly tired building. But don’t let that fool you, inside is one of the finest Native American exhibits available. It comes from a private collection and is simply stunning. The artifacts reveal the ingenuity of the plains people to fabricate beautiful utensils and costumes from nothing more than native plants and and animals. It also demonstrates the influence of early settlers who brought technologies like metallurgy that allowed the fashioning of axes and other implements.
Our visit to the Tetons concluded the wilderness part of our trip. From here we head down to Denver to visit friends and take in a Rockies Baseball game and fireworks. There’s also a visit to Red Rocks which I’m looking forward to.