Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks

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Friday, August 10

The three of us- Kelly, Ellen and I- got up at 5 am in Bozeman and were on the road by 6, coffee and tea in hand. We wanted to camp in Grand Teton National Park for four nights, and as far as I could find out, all the campgrounds there are first-come first-served. So we wanted to get there early, especially since we were arriving there on a Friday for the weekend. I had done some research into campgrounds and I liked the look of Lizard Creek, so we thought we'd try there first and see what we found.
From Bozeman, we had to drive through a corner of Yellowstone National Park from the west to the south entrances, and saw a lovely bison...then we went through a forest reserve that one of the Rockefellers had given to the National Parks Service. Just inside Grand Teton NP proper, we turned into Lizard Creek Campground, a private campground inside the National Park. We found an excellent campsite right near Jackson Lake, which you can see here... as well as the rather scary sign about what not to do with the camping sink!
We got all set up, and looked at a Grand Teton map. We decided to go to Colter Village, the closest grocery/shopping/visitor center/hiking trail complex to our campsite going south into Grand Teton; it was about fifteen minutes away in Boudika. We visited everything (and saw this sign in the bathroom...!) and then after talking to the rangers, decided to hike Swan Lake and Heron Pond, which was about a four mile loop.

Thistles, berries and one of the ubiquitous WATCH OUT FOR THE BEARS signs. When we had gotten to the campground, the campground caretaker said they had had two bear sightings in the last week, one on each end of the campground- one black bear, one grizzly. We were excited but saw no bears in the campground.

Western Mountain Asters and Lupines. We hiked along Jackson Lake, then where the trail split to make a loop, we came upon a big patch of GORGEOUS thistles with butterflies and bees all over them! It was amazing.
Wow, that was fun. The butterflies were Aphrodite Fritillaries, btw. We literally stood there for 20 minutes just taking pictures of the beautiful. And then we continued...

Cushion wild buckwheat

This was the first part of the was a pretty warm day, and no shade... But then we went into the trees, and were in shade most of the rest of the hike. And here's Swan Lake. I was sorry there was no sign for me to mug in front of, pretending to be a ballet dancer...
Red (or Wandering) Percher dragonfly And more wildlife! Ellen and Kelly are checking out the lily pads. Lupines Don't know what kind it is, but it's sure pretty. Some flower's seed head.
Paintbrush, Harebells, Mountainside Indian Paintbrush, Lodgepole Pine
Common Yarrow, Common Yarrow, a lovely seed head, Late Goldenrod
Both yellow flowers are Scouler's Woolyweed, a seed head, and I think the last one is Red Clover.
Bear claw marks on the tree, the white plant is Gardiner's Yampah, and the butterfly is an Aphrodite Fritillary. One of the ubiquitous grasshoppers (which, when they leap up and fly, have yellow and black wings like a butterfly, but VERY hard to get a picture of...and I tried!) and some kind of aster. With an American Copper butterfly on it.
And here we are at Heron Pond, with a beautiful (albeit smoky) view of the Tetons...and a beaver dam across the lake.
And now we are on the last leg of the hike, back to the parking lot...and we meet another adorable hiker coming toward us. The rental van was in the parking lot, just a cool paint job, and this is the beer we got at the Colter Village market. Pretty good beer!
We got back to our campground and had dinner, and started talking about what we were going to do for the next few days. I had talked to some people, and had some ideas for Grand Teton NP. Ellen was going to plan our day out and about in Cody Wyoming. So I said, why don't we each take a day? I'll do GT, Ellen do Cody, and Kelly do Yellowstone. And maybe do it in that order, with Yellowstone on the Monday, so that at least the weekend visitors won't be there, and maybe it won't be quite so crowded...?

We talked about it and they agreed that that would work. And that's what we did!

We were literally two campsites away from Jackson Lake; we went there a lot to look at it, and the sunsets were beautiful. I really loved this old tree trunk!
And it's nighttime, and the ladies are reading in their tents. Campsite sweet campsite.

Saturday, August 11

Saturday was my choice, to do stuff in Grand Teton NP. I decided that the first thing we would do was to take the boat trip across Jenny Lake and hike on the other side, because boats. So we got up early, having seen signs the day before saying that the Jenny Lake visitor center parking lot was full; we wanted to get there in time to get parking.
We stopped a few times on the way for pictures, though...we're never in THAT much of a hurry! This is a view across the south end of Jackson Lake, and below is a pullout with geological information and a gorgeous view of Mt. Moran.
Hilarious sign on the portapotties at Jenny Lake visitor center.

We took the boat across Jenny Lake; this is the other boat, just like ours. A lovely trip on a beautiful day!

And I think these are Chokecherries

So we're off the boat hiking to Hidden Falls and Inspiration Lake, with many other people. And Kelly is walking with a woman wearing bear bells (yes, this is a thing) and telling her that the rangers told us that not only do they not work to keep bears away, bears might be attracted because it's an anomalous sound that they are interested in.

And not TEN SECONDS after she said this, this bear pops up out of the brush above us and goes trotting across the trail ahead of us!!! It was AWESOME. Both the timing and the bear.

It was actually this close.

A beautiful hike on a beautiful day. There was a lovely river flowing down from the big waterfall, and here we all are on a bridge across it. The white flowers are Yarrow.
More Yarrow. A couple of views of Hidden Falls, and me and Ellen.
Me and Kelly, a stop for tiny oranges, the trail back. Woolly Sunflowers, aka Oregon Sunshine.
It was a gorgeous day and a gorgeous hike.

The purple flowers are Columbian Monkshood

ADORABLE MARMOT ALERT! Poking his cute little face out from behind a rock! Awww.
Then we went up a steep stairsteppy rocky trail to Lower Inspiration Point.

Then back by Hidden Fall, on our way to the boat.

On the way down, near where we had seen the bear on the way up, someone said, Look up in that tree.

The black lump up there is a BABY BEAR. Really truly. Awwwww.

Almost immediately afterwards, people were going off trail and climbing up rocks to see...yes, a grown bear. I did the math: baby bears in tree + sighting of grown bear? Probably mom. I stayed on the trail and walked on, hoping not to see bloodshed. Luckily, a ranger came along and yelled at all the stupid and made them get back on the trail...

More views of Jenny Lake on the way back.
And a lovely sparrow on a branch. After we got back, I went to talk to the rangers. I had heard that there was a TRAM from Teton Village, south of us, to the mountains across the way (really a ski lift, but it's summer, so it's a tram.) I wanted to ride it! but there was a piece of the road to Teton Village that looked like a dirt or 4x4 section. I asked them, and they said, no, it's fine for cars but it's closed right now. Closed? Why?

Because there were SO MANY BEARS ON THIS ROAD that the tourists were pulling over and causing traffic problems like crazy. So they closed it. And the only other way to get to Teton Village would have taken an hour and a half each direction. As much as I wanted to do all that, I didn't want to waste our only day in Grand Teton chasing a tram.

So we looked at the map and talked to the rangers, and decided to do the Taggert Lake loop.

This was my truck for most of this trip. Everyone (including me) has electronic devices that MUST BE FED and we kept plugging them in whenever the truck was running. Luckily I had two 3-usb plugs, so we had enough room for it all... Grand Teton NP is amazingly beautiful anywhere you go. Wanted! Cute animal reports! This is the hike we took, since we couldn't really get to the tram.
There was this wooden thing that looked like a picture frame, so of course...

A beautiful stalk of...grass?

We stopped for a bit, and when we packed up to go, there was a sweet ol' caterpillar on Ellen's (orange) bag. Which I picked up and got a close look at, because CATERPILLAR.

Looks like a Fall Webworm Moth caterpillar

Meadow and mountain

Some kind of Fleabane



More thistles

Cushion Wild Buckwheat

Woodland Pinedrops

So the day was hot. And the trail was steep. And there was much grumbling among the troops (Kelly and Ellen, I was fine with it, really.) Then we took a break and there was another ADORABLE CATERPILLAR and...wait up, guys! I'm coming right along!

(Pearl Crescent caterpillar)

And then we were at the top, and could see Taggert Lake ahead, and the trail went DOWNHILL. And there was much rejoicing. Ellen had a lovely sit-down in the cold lake water and was refreshed.

And we fell into conversation with the other people there, an extended Cuban-American set of families all traveling together. They told us about taking the raft for a float trip down the Snake River at sunset and how much wildlife they had seen...and we got VERY excited by this!

Kelly and I are cutting loose with our black and white filters again...but I do love both of these pictures!
Ellen is way ahead, she got all her energy back after cooling off in the lake. We crossed this bridge, the streams were gorgeous, and this HUGE DAMN INSECT (a crane fly, it was about three inches long!) was on the quarter window behind the passenger side when we got back. RIGHT where I was sitting...but thankfully, on the outside. Even though they're harmless, it was still HUGE.

Also when we got back to the car, Ellen got on the phone with the float trip company that had been recommended. We tried to get a dawn or dusk trip, but the only one still available was at 8:15 am on Tuesday August 14, the day we were leaving to drive to Casper. We decided to go for it and not worry about how far we had to drive (or doing laundry, which I knew I'd need) and just enjoy the morning on the river...and we booked it.

These are from the Craig Thomas Visitor's Center at Moose, which is at the far southeast corner of Grand Teton NP. The moose statue is outside, the pronghorn skull is inside, and the third picture is the recycle bins, which were pretty cool. And speaking of cool, the sign was in front of the visitor center. I don't even remember who was there exercising their rights, but the park service was letting them do it!
Kelly and Ellen making delicious happen. Sunset on the lake.
Speaking of Jackson Lake, right near our guy in a campsite across from us went swimming there, and leaned against a rock...and got LEECHES (tiny but real) in his shirt. Here are the pictures. We called it Leech Lake from then on. And did anyone go swimming in it ever again? Just wait...

Sunday, August 12

Today was Ellen's day to plan. She wanted to go to Cody, Wyoming, and the two places she wanted to see were the Heart Mountain Internment Center and the Buffalo Bill museum. And so we did!
We got up hella early and drove through Yellowstone from the south to the east exit. There was a dead porcupine on the other side of the road-its quills were standing straight out with the sun shining on them, actually really beautiful. No, I did not take a picture. Then we drove up into Wyoming to Cody. This is Yellowstone Lake, which was very pretty in the morning.
Stuff on the way to Cody, WY:


An old house that was being restored

Beautiful mountains (with wildfire smoke, of course)

and...Bob's Big Boy? Right in the middle of a field? Sure, whatever...

We went to the Heart Mountain Internment Camp, where Japanese-Americans were locked up during WWII. They have a really awesome interpretive center, and you can drive out and see where the camp was. The first picture is the interpretive center, the second is one of the old buildings. Then we went into Cody for lunch and Kelly saw this buffalo statue.
We went to this really awesome Mexican restaurant for lunch; the food was great, and it was nice and cool (it was hot outside). Then we visited the Buffalo Bill Wild West museum, which is actually several museums in one-one about Buffalo Bill's life, a Native American section, western art, a firearms museum (speaking of which, notice the sign on the front door above), and a natural history museum. Whew! Waaay too much to see in one afternoon. We all split up. I saw the Albert Bierstadt exhibit in the bottom level, the western art museum, the Buffalo Bill museum, and the gift shop. The other two ladies saw other sections. These first pictures are mine.
They had a big display on building the Shoshone Dam, right outside town in the canyons; it was an amazing dam, we saw it as we drove by. Bones! I loved this printing press, even though it came out blurry because it was behind shiny glass...
This is a painting of Casa Grande in Arizona in 1846...and the picture I took 170 years later, in 2016, beside it. Two pieces of art that I rather liked.
Upside down elk? is pretty, though. And they had a small wildlife area in back; the eagle had been hurt and couldn't fly. She seemed pretty contented.

The next five pictures are Ellen's, from the Plains Indian museum...beautiful paintings on buffalo hides.

Two views across Yellowstone Lake on the way notes for the day say, Very silly on the way back...!
And the sunset on the lake was beautiful.

Monday, August 13

This was Kelly's day to decide what to do...and she took us literally all the way around Yellowstone, doing cool stuff! Our stated goals were the Midway Geyser Basin, Mammoth Hot Springs, maybe a visitor's center, Tower-Roosevelt and the Roosevelt Lodge, and hiking at Tower Fall. That was a whole lot of stuff to do, Yellowstone being what it is, but we gave it a good try!
Kelly took a picture of this sign, which amused us. Bear claws. A picturesque bridge. We crossed the Continental Divide (which winds its way through the middle of Yellowstone) several times and finally found a place to pull over and take a photo-op!
We drove towards the Midway Geyser Basin. On the way there was a parking lot that was pretty looked on the map like it was a second, not-so-close place to park for the Midway Basin...but what it actually was was a trail that went up a hill that gave you an overlook down onto the basin, which was pretty impressive. These pictures are of hot springs and streams, steaming and boiling as they meander through the meadow right by the trail and boardwalk where we were walking, and most of them emptied into the river, which was not steaming but was probably pretty warm. Oddly enough, none of us wanted to stick our hands in it to check its temperature...!
The yellow flowers are Showy Goldeneye, the purple ones are Red Clover.
Our first view of the geyser basin. This is where we figured out what this trail was was not really marked with signs saying, BEAUTIFUL GEYSER OVERLOOK THIS WAY... fact, this was the only sign that told us anything. Deceptive Groundsmoke. No kidding, that's its name. Possibly Missouri Goldenrod, but it's pretty far gone to be able to tell.
The Morning Glory pool. It's hard to find anything to say, when talking about Yellowstone, except 'wow' and 'amazing'...but they are both very appropriate, at least. Fireweed on the left, Douglas' Dustymaiden on the right.
The geyser basin, a Blueleaf Aster, Ellen and Kelly ahead of me, a lovely little pool of boiling hot death.

And then we went to Midway Geyser Basin proper...there are hot springs bubbling out everywhere, and a boardwalk to walk on. It was AMAZING. And I did nothing to my photos except crop really did look like this, colors and all.

Excelsior Geyser Crater

Grand Prismatic Spring

Opal Pool

Then we drove farther north to Mammoth Hot Springs, which is near the old Fort Yellowstone.This part of the road through the park is also the iconic view, where you're driving along a curving road that seems like it's been glued onto the side of a mountain. It was beautiful, but this was also the most crowded part of the park that we saw all day...

Lodgepole Pine

Common Toadflax

Mammoth Hot Springs is partway down a one-way road, and is a big complex of boardwalks and stairs going up and down the hills. We walked around a lot of it, and I think saw everything there. We had to park further on and walk back to the boardwalks; there were a LOT of people.
I love signs with pictures that show you how the thing in front of you looked a long time ago! This is what the landscape around the hot springs looked like, all around the one-way road, everywhere that was not hot springs.
This is what the stairs/boardwalks were like, and an Informative Sign about the hot springs. I came across a ranger, and was talking to him, and asked him about funny questions people ask...he said his favorite was people here at Mammoth Hot Springs asking when the geysers go off. They're hot springs, not geysers, and they don't go off. Oddly enough, I hadn't thought through the difference myself; although I wasn't expecting eruptions here, I hadn't really realized that there are places that happens and places it doesn't, in the same park. Interesting. I love talking to rangers!

Cupid Spring

So yes, we were all going nuts with our cameras at Mammoth Hot Springs...and this is where I discovered that these brightly colored hot springs also look good with my monochrome filter...and THAT was fun too!

Water seeping down the rock...

and yes! There are a few flowers, in sheltered places. This is Shrubby Cinquefoil.

Cleopatra Terrace

Palette Spring

Liberty Cap: a dormant hot spring cone (which is what the sign said...)

We left Mammoth Hot Springs and drove east across the park; I immediately started saying the word LUNCH loudly and often. We pulled over at Sylvan Falls picnic area and had lunch at a table in the trees by a beautiful river. Ellen is mugging for the camera. I do like traveling with people who don't mind being silly for pictures!
We stopped for gas and ice at Tower/Roosevelt, but didn't go to the lodge. Then we headed south, stopping for pictures in Canyon Village and Tower Fall.

And half a Jo is better than none...

And that was it. It was time to go back to our campground, after a really awesome day sampling the different delights of Yellowstone National Park...but wait! there's more to see on the way back!
Buffalo. Beautiful landscape. A river with a ton of oxbows...and what's that on the other side of the valley? Yup! Another buffalo!
Now, you have to realize that to get to the point where we could see this guy, we had to crawl along in a one-lane traffic jam for about 40 minutes because everyone was slowing and stopping to was really the only time we had bad traffic in Yellowstone, so I guess we were lucky...
We got back and had dinner, and Ellen said, I'm going to do it. I'm going swimming in Leech Lake. Do you want photographic evidence? I said, I won't take pictures if you don't want me to...Sure thing! she said. Document it! So here it is, Ellen braving Leech Lake and living to tell the tale. Go Ellen!
And tiny leeches notwithstanding, our last night in Grand Teton NP was beautiful. We had had fun here, and were sorry to be leaving in the morning...

Tuesday, August 14

Tuesday. The day we leave Grand Teton National Park and drive to Casper, Wyoming. The up side? Motel, dinner, showers and laundry. The down side? We'll lose Ellen; she's flying home at oh-dark-thirty Wednesday morning from Casper, while Kelly and I will continue on to Rocky Mountain National Park.

But wait! Remember a couple of days ago, when we called the float trip people and signed up for one? This is the morning! So we all got up REALLY early, packed up everything and left our campsite by 6:30; we were supposed to be at Moose, where the float trip gathered, by 8:15 am, and it was a 50 minute drive (we had timed it, believe it or not, when we came back on Saturday)...and we all believe in giving ourselves extra time. Which was a good thing, it turns out...

One last picture of Jackson aka Leech Lake, as we sadly leave our wonderful campsite.

On our way south, we FINALLY got a picture of this sign, which we all loved: PIZZERIA/BOAT DOCK

And we saw a buffalo on the way to the southeast entrance!

Now, we had BEEN HERE three days before. We had seen the place where the float trips take off, and knew where to go...and we still overshot it, had to figure that out a few miles down the road, turn around and come back! It was early and we were tired. But this is why we left early, and we made it with plenty of time.
We got taken in a van about 10 miles up the Snake River, to Deadman's Bar. You can see our empty raft being towed behind a van, and here is the raft, with about 10 of us on it, floating down the river. The guy in the middle is our guide/rower, Jim, and he was awesome. Funny, full of great stories and information, and quick to point stuff out to us.
We saw a lot of animals, especially bald eagles, which were everywhere. The next set of pictures were taken from a float raft that was not only moving downstream constantly, but was also moving up and down with the it was REALLY HARD to get clear pictures. We did as well as we could!

Bald eagle



Merganser ducks

Teenager bald eagle

Golden eagle

Bald eagle nest

Teenager bald eagle (it takes five years for their heads to turn white)

Bald eagle

Bald eagle

More mergansers

BABY mergansers, awww


Bald eagle


We finished our float trip and hit the road for Casper, which was about six hours away.
It was actually a pretty nice drive, across Wyoming, with a lot of varied scenery. We saw a herd of pronghorns but didn't have time to get our cameras out, but Ellen and Kelly did get pics of these beautiful hills.
We reached Casper around 6, tired and hungry, and when we put the address of our motel into Waze...this...was where she took us. We finally figured out that the street curved, connected with another street, and continued to our actual motel, but it was not obvious...!
After checking in, we went downtown to see what food we could find. There wasn't much happening in Casper on a Tuesday night, but we did see this statue, outside a western apparel shop, natch. And then...there was a Himalayan/Indian restaurant down some stairs and inside a was totally deserted except for us, but we had a WONDERFUL dinner!
And the next morning, Ellen left before dawn to fly home...but she sent us this picture from the airport. And I have to say, on a long and often wonderful trip, this segment was one of the best places, mostly because it was so much fun being with Ellen and Kelly.