We got up a bit earlier than usual & hit the road with Grand Teton National Park as our destination. Along the way we stopped off at Gibbon Falls whch was right off the road & was easy to get to. We pssed it every day but never stopped. We then stopped at the restaurant at the Grant Junction where we ate lunch the other day. It was nearly 10 by this point so we were both starving. After breakfast we plowed on towards Grand Teton. It was strange that there was no entrance booth going in. There was an exit from Yellowstone though. Not sure what’s going on there but I guess they are so close they may only have a booth at the South end of Grand Teton. As we drove the mountains got closer & closer & it became obvious very soon that they were big ones. We were at 7,000 feet already & the mountains towered in the distance.
We decided on Signal Mountain campground since it was so close to the lodge where we need to meet up tomorrow morning for the raft trip. We got to the campground & most sites were taken since it was a popular campground but we found a site, paid our fees & posted the “no vacancy” slip at our site. We took off immediately & went down to the Jackson Lake Lodge where there were some trails that started. We did about 7 flat miles through some pretty scenery & then hit the Lodge bar for some drinks. Had some local brews & then we shared a huckleberry mojito which was more mint than huckleberry. We grabbed a late lunch/early dinner while there & then headed off to Colter Bay to look around. There were some trails around the bay to walk around so we did that & then headed back to the campsite. At the campsite we stopped first at the Signal Mountain restaurant/gift shop/general store place & looked around. There was a nice Sportsmobile in the lot so El Guapo had some company. There were a couple of common deer near the lot so there were about 15 people all snapping pictures like mad. Some had huge camoflage tripods & were all in camoflage themselves. Crazy people here in Wyoming. If Ted were here those two deer would have already been on the grill. We picked up some goodies in the shop & some ice for the beer & headed back to the campsite to get some sleep. Tomorrow should be a busy day.
Today is our last full day in Yellowstone so the plan was to get to some things down by Old Faithful that we hadn’t done yet. We drove down to the Fairy Falls parking area & heated up breakfast & then set out on the hike which was a bit over 6 miles round trip. The hike was virtually flat the whole way. The first part bordered the backside of the Midway Geyser Basin but then turned into the forest where it wound through new growth pine that took over after the fire of 1988 wiped out the mature trees. There were tons of fallen logs everywhere where the old trees had fallen. Since all of the trees now were new it was like waking through a mini-forest. The path through the trees was damp so there were tons of mushrooms of all sorts everywhere. It was a shroomers paradise! The trail wound its way to the Fairy Falls which is a 200 foot waterfall. The volume of water falling is pretty low so the falls wasn’t as impressive as some but it was still pretty cool.
We decided to hike the extra .7 miles to the Imperial Geyser which turned out to be a good call since the geyser here was really active plus it was open & you could touch the water. We did that & it was pretty hot! It was also a good call because we came across a buffalo just on the other side of the thermal creek from us. He was laying down but as we continued to look at him he got. We couldn’t tell if he was agitated or just ready to move on so we left him alone. On the way back to the van we scrambled up a steep mountainside to get a view of the Grand Prismatic Spring. It was well worth the effort since the view from above was much better than it was from the basin itself.
Once done with the Fairy Falls hike we drove down to check out the Biscuit Basin which has some really nice pools. We noticed that the Mystic Falls Trail was here as well & only a 2 mile round trip hike extra so we did that. It was a nice hike with a small elevation gain that followed the Little Firehole River up a canyon to the 70 foot waterfall. It was pretty impressive. We scrambled down to check out a thermal area & the water seeping out of it was hot! We backtracked back to to the Biscuit Basin & ate lunch in the van. We then decided to call it a day & headed to the Old Faithful area for a shower. The Lodge said their showers were broken so we went to the Old Faithful Inn & both showered. After we were squeaky clean we ate the buffet at the Inn. It was decent & the Prime Rib was tasty. The drive back to the campsite as near dusk which meant lots of cars stopped on the road due toanimal sightings. The tend to come out at this time. We had one buffalo walking right down the middle of the road who was in no hurry to get off.
We hit the road around 8 & headed for the Yellowstone Lake area. Driving through Yellowstone is basically one incredible view after the other. It’s insane. If I stopped for every photo op we’d never get anywhere. We stopped off at the Canyon Village & ate breakfast & got a few supplies from the general store. We had another white Sportsmobile park near us in the lot & we saw at least one more later in the day. We saw two other white ones during the day but weren’t sure if we saw the same one twice. Once done with that we headed towards the pullout we needed to do the Elephant Back trail. This was a great hike of a bit less than four miles that took us up about 800 feet to get great views of Yellowstone Lake & its surroundings. It wound through forests much of the way until the top where the views opened up. About midway it started to sprinkle & by the 3/4 point it turned into a full-blown downpour. We both had shells so we put them on & basically got soaked from the waist down. Back at the van we got out of our wet clothes & learned how to deal with wet clothes in the small confines of an Econoline Ford.
Once dried off decided to eat lunch at the Grant Village Restaurant. Lunch cut off at 2:30 & we got there at that time but they sat us without any fuss. Lunch was great which could have been due to us having burned off a ton of calories. I had a Monte Cristo sandwich which was pretty odd. Basically it’s a hot sandwich with french toast used as the bread & served with jelly to go on it. Sounds weird but it actually works. I’d do that one again. After lunch we did another hike that was only a bit over two miles but was supposed to be scenic. It was the Storm Point hike & it starts at Indian Pond & then takes you along the Yellowstone Lake coast and then through some woods to get back where you started. It was a great hike but, again, we got dumped on. About the the midway point the skies opened up & it poured. Ironically, right at Storm Point it was about the worst & the wind whipped the rain right at us. I actually enjoy this type of stuff so I had fun. Joyce was less enthused but she did great.
Back at the van the rain virtually stopped & we changed clothes yet again. It was near 6:00 but we decided to stop at The Norris Geyser Basin since it was on the way. By the time we got into the site it was near 7:00 and the sun was going down. We did the Porcelain Basin first since it was shorter and it was fantastic. Just a myriad of different colors & shapes with steam added in. The lace is huge & is literally like walking onto another planet. We went straight from planet Earth into planet Badass. The combination of the otherworldly scenery & the sunset colors mixed in with the rain clouds made for an incredible site. We were about the only people there which made it even better. We didn’t have time to do the other side so if we have time we will go back & see it tomorrow whic is our last full day here in Yellowstone.
Back at the campsite we made a dinner of Klondike pancakes with huckleberry syrup & a couple of beers for me. Driving around Yellowstone Lake all day was amazing. I couldn’t beieve how big it was. Looked like one of the Great Lakes!
We did the usual routine & got up a bit past 7, packed up & hit the road. It’s weird to leave camp & every day & leave nothing behind. It’s like we’re leaving for good since there is no tent or anything left behind. It was a long drive out to the Mammoth Hot Springs area since there are a couple of road closures that force us to go out of the way to get where we want to go. . The route took us over the high mountains as well as through grassy plains. It’s amazing the diversity of the terrain here. Near the Mammoth Hot Springs area we ran into a herd of buffalo some of which were in the road. We got within 5 feet of some of them which was pretty cool. If Ted Nugent got within 5 feet of a buffalo it would have been skinned & filleted before it knew what was going on.
Once at the Hot Springs area we stopped off at the visitor center & we heated up our usual egg sandwiches in the microwave & ate in the van. We checked out the visitor center for a bit & the went on up to the Hot Springs to check them out. It was a hot day. Likely in the high 70’s or low 80’s. Didn’t expect that. Many of the springs had dried up but the one’s that were still flowing were pretty impressive. Some we couldn’t get very close to which was a bummer. One this about the geysers & pools is that the closer you look the more interesting things you see. Once done with the springs we hit the cafe for an ice cream lunch. We got some huckleberry ice cream which is the cat’s ass. It was good enough that we both went in for another scoop each. After porking down the ice cream we hit the road back towards the campground & along the way we did a short hike that started from the Yellowstone River Picnic Area & followed a canyon ridge along the Yellowstone River. It was nothing spectacular but, like everything else here, it offered something unique. I left my camera in the car on this one so no pictures of this section.
We got up a bit after seven & got ready to head for the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone section of the park. We had made some fried eggs last night & stuck them in the fridge so we didn’t need to cook anything this morning. We drove out & stopped off at the Canyon Visitor Center & heated some egg sandwiches in the microwave & then checked out the visitor center for a bit. After that we went off parked at the Wapiti Lake picnic parking lot where the Yellowstone trail book said we should park for the hikes we planned for the day. The parking lot was off of the Artists Point road.
The first hike we planned was the South Rim which the book had looped together with a couple of other trails to make it a loop. The trail was fantastic & went through a variety of terrains which kept it interesting. First the trail follows the Yellowstone River with stops at both the Upper & Lower falls. Both are impressive & well worth seeing. At each falls there were crowds due to the fact that there are stops on the road for each one. It’s crowded at the major sites but not many people hike the entire trails so in between people are fairly sparse. We took a side trail down Uncle Tom’s Trail which goes steeply down to get great views of the lower falls. The trail includes hundreds of steps down a metal staircase built onto the cliff walls. It was definitely worth the effort. The last part of the South Rim trail ends at Artists Point which gives you a great view of the lower falls but from quite a distance away.
Once done with Artists Point we switched to the Ribbon Lake trail & looped that in with a couple of other trails to get back to the car. These trails took us through forests, prairie lands & thermal areas as well as past lakes with thermal activity and lakes filled with lily pads. Very diverse for this 2-3 mile section of trails. Back at the car we ate some lunch & then headed back out from the same spot to do the North Rim of the canyon. This one was an out & back trail. I forgot my camera in the car so we used Joyce’s iPhone for this section. Great views were had on this side of both falls as well as a “hidden” falls most people don’t see if they don’t hike the whole thing. It was awesome to get right up to the falls where they pour over the falls. Pretty scary the power water has.
We got back to the car & went back to the visitor center since they had at least some cell coverage & Joyce needed to call home. We decided to eat at the Lodge there since we didn’t feel like cooking after a long day of hiking. Dinner was just ok but we were hungry so anything would’ve been good. after dinner we went back to the campground. On the way we spotted a lone buffalo grazing by the road. We’ve only seen solitary buffalo here in Yellowstone. I was expecting herds. Maybe once we get to different sections of the park we’ll get some herd action. I grabbed some pics of this one & as I walked closer it gave me the stink-eye so I stopped approaching & let him munch in peace.
I woke up & when I pulled the sheets down I saw what could only be described as brown “nuggets” in the bed right at my midsection. I flipped out & thought that I had done something during the night that I shouldn’t have. I grabbed a kleenex to pick them up & when I did I realized they were two peanuts from the Payday bar Joyce ate in bed last night. Needless to say I was relieved they didn’t come from me. Got up & had breakfast in the hotel which was super basic. Instant oatmeal, english muffins, toast, etc. We hit the road but made one stop at a Wells Fargo to get cash for Joyce.
The drive from Bozeman to the West Yellowstone entrance was amazing. It went through the Gallatin National Forest & followed the Gallatin River much of the way. It was about 2 1/2 hours to get into the park. Once in the park we checked in at the campground & got our assigned spot. We bought two boxes of wood for fires while we were there. The Madison campground is pretty nice & near the river. Our spot is next to the bathroom which is both good and bad. At our campsite we saw a badass expedition vehicle parked. I didn’t have time to check it out but I was dominating the roads around here until those guys showed up. We ate lunch & then decided to get Old Faithful out of the way. We drove the 16 miles to the Old Faithful area & saw that the next eruption would be about 2:05 so we checked out the shops that are there for a bit. At about 1:40 we found front row seats on the benches & waited for the show.
The eruption started a bit late & it was likely 2:10 when it popped. After hearing about it all of my life it was a bit of a letdown. Definitely impressive but 40+ years of expectations is hard to live up to. It was over in a couple of minutes so we walked the trails around the other thermal areas there & they were really cool. Lots of different thermal pools & geysers are in the area & all seemed to be different than the next. I was most amazed by the different colors of the pools & the areas surrounding them. Blues, greens, yellows, oranges… And every pool & geyser had different shapes & textures which kept it all interesting.
After walking that area we hit the Midway geyser area which is supposed to have the most impressive pools. The hot water runoff from these pools flows directly into the river. The pools were impressive but it was windy and there was a lot of steam today which blocked a lot of the views of the water. We’ll hit it again to see if the steam lightens up on different day.
After that it was back to the campground where we ate dinner & then had a fire. I had a cigar to celebrate finally getting to Yellowstone as well as a couple of beers. We had a mother/baby elk combo walk through our camp in the late afternoon munching away without any worries. We plan to hit the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone tomorrow.
Today is our last day in Glacier National Park. We both really liked the park & were sad to leave it but we’ll be back. The weather was perfect while we were here. It had snowed prior to our arrival & the Going to the Sun Road was closed but it had reopened on the day or our arrival. Mornings were cool but afternoons were in the 70’s.
The goal for today is to hit Bozeman, MT where we have a hotel booked. We ate at the hotel where they have a breakfast buffet. It was ok but nothing special. The drive was pretty uneventful the whole way. Lots of open prarie land. It’s nice to see so much land not paved over & full of condos. We ate lunch at Panda Express & made it int Bozeman around 4:30. We checked in & did laundry and then set out for dinner at a Pho place in the “hip” Main St area. It was full of college kids so Bozeman must be a college town. The Pho was about as good as Montano Pho can get. On the way I accidentally went the wrong was down a one-way street which must have scared the crap out of the people coming my way. Having a big-ass van coming at you can’ be fun. It was a slow speed street so nothing too bad. I just went up on the sidewalk to let them by. Once done with dinner we hit the WalMart for some supplies which is always a treat. The Montana WalMart didn’t disappoint in its cast of weirdos present in the store. Me included since I was the guy walking around with porta-potty chemicals, bread & frozen vegetables in his hands. No pictures since nothing really happened today. Tomorrow we hit Yellowstone!