Grand Teton National Park, Idaho, Idaho-Wyoming trip, Montana, National Parks and Monuments, National Wildlife Refuges, Wyoming, Yellowstone National Park

Saturday: Yellowstone to Soda Springs, Idaho

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park

^^^The inlaid wooden map that gives the Map Room in Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel its name. The Carolinas were very much on my mind.

Saturday was another day of perfect weather. We left Mammoth Hot Springs Terrace behind and drove north to Gardiner, Montana, for coffee and breakfast at the Two Bit Saloon and to fill the gas tank, since Montana gas was cheaper. Then we drove south on the same road we had been on the day before, except we kept going at Yellowstone Falls through the Hayden Valley. Trumpeter swans swam in the river below us.

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park

We stopped at the general store at Yellowstone Lake for coffee, ice cream, and a hot dog. This is a HUGE lake. A lot of this area is still coming back from the big fires several years ago. We decided we didn’t have time to see Grand Prismatic Spring and the West Thumb Geyser Basin. Too bad, but that’s a reason to come back. 🙂

Yellowstone National Park

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A quick stop at Lewis Falls and down John D. Rockefeller Memorial Highway through Grand Teton National Park again. This time I saw the beginning of a wildfire in a canyon that turned major after we left. I think it is called the Roosevelt Fire. We listened to KHOL community radio from Jackson Hole and a New Wave program that was great for the drive.

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We stopped at the National Wildlife Art Museum to see the sculptures and I bought a beautiful coffee mug with an aspen design in the gift shop there.

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We drove through Jackson and south on Hwy 89, along the Snake River Canyon where we had rafted on Tuesday. Near Etna, we decided to take Hwy 34, a back road through the Caribou-Targhee National Forest and past Gray’s Lake National Wildlife Refuge. I’m so glad that we did because it was absolutely lovely. It also was a part of the Oregon Trail, as many of these older roads seem to be.

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In Soda Springs, Idaho, we were hungry and tired. We ate at a restaurant that I won’t name, because I don’t recommend it, and settled down in our room at the Caribou Lodge, an older hotel/lodge that was very inexpensive and comfortable and clean and had friendly staff. I recommend it if you don’t need air conditioning. I find these old hotels charming and I wish that more of them had survived here on the East Coast.

critters, Idaho-Wyoming trip, Montana, National Parks and Monuments, Wonderfulness, Wyoming, Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park, Old Faithful Geyser Basin

I guess that I thought Old Faithful would be one solitary nature soul surrounded by humans looking at their phones. In a way, it was, but it was one feature in a large field of thermal pools, geysers, and bubbling springs called the Upper Geyser Basin. While we waited for it to erupt, Judy and I went for a walk around the basin and Sandy hung out at the Visitor’s Center, then saved us seats on the benches for the main event.

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park

^^^Aurun and Anemone Geysers?

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park

Beehive Geyser was one of a few major geysers we did not get to see erupt. It’s just bubbling here. After Old Faithful erupted, we could see a large geyser erupting beyond the trees. We think that may have been Riverside or Grand Geyser. We saw so many geysers – honestly, I had no idea.

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park

^^^Click photo to see the video of Old Faithful erupting on my Flickr page.

Yellowstone National Park

The inside of the Old Faithful Lodge was almost as impressive as the geysers.

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Yellowstone National Park

^^^Critters on the way back to our cabin.

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That night we decided to drive five miles to Gardiner, Montana, just outside the northern entrance to the park. We ate bison cheeseburgers at Wonderland Cafe, and they were excellent. I was able to text with my sister and get a wifi signal to check in back home where everyone was prepping for a major hurricane.

critters, Idaho, Idaho-Wyoming trip, Montana, National Parks and Monuments, Wyoming, Yellowstone National Park

Wednesday: North to Yellowstone

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We eased out of Driggs after breakfast and a handmade doughnut at Yeti’s Post and a quick visit to the kind folks at Teton Arts Council. (HEY). Instead of going back through the parks, we chose highways 33 and 32 to enjoy the flowing hay and wheat fields and small towns in the Teton Valley on Idaho’s side of the range. Once we got to Ashton, the well traveled Hwy 20 took us into West Yellowstone, Montana, the home of the western entrance to Yellowstone National Park and the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center, a non-profit rescue and education center for grizzlies, wolves, and birds of prey at the edge of town.

Our timing was lucky, because the grizzlies in the area that the public can view included Grant and Roosevelt, two brothers who wrestled in the pool. We learned a lot about wolves, although the wolves in the exhibit area were only interested in sleeping. I did catch one doing downward dog between changing nap spots, but not on camera. They are about to open a river otter section. All the animals and birds in this center cannot live in the wild on their own. Most were brought to the center as orphaned cubs or injured birds. Some had become habituated to eating human food and would have been destroyed if they had not been rescued.

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Well, hey there, Miss Ground Squirrel.

Rolling into Yellowstone National Park, we saw anglers, elk, and bison in the Madison River. We turned toward our destination and stopped at the Norris Geyser Basin, hiking down to see Steamboat Geyser, which had become active early that morning. This is the world’s tallest active geyser, going up to 300 feet in a major eruption! There was a long boardwalk trail that led to many other geysers and hot springs in the basin. We did not go farther, but I did check out the Porcelain Basin before we left. Parking was a bit scarce, so I can’t imagine what it must be like in July or August on a weekend.

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^^^Click the photo to see the video of Steamboat Geyser erupt on Flickr.

Can you imagine building the boardwalks that cross these thermal areas?

There was major road construction between Norris and Mammoth Hot Springs, where we were renting a cabin, so there were times that we sat in stopped traffic. We had our first up-close and personal view of a bison. One casually walked down the yellow line between the two lines of vehicles. The other munched at the side of our lane.

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^^^Click the photo to see the video of the bison on Flickr.

Once we got to Mammoth Hot Springs Terrace, there was a large herd of elk in the meadow between the parking lot and the terraces. We would learn that this herd hangs out around the hotel and headquarters complexes there, including in front of our cabin.

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We checked in to our cabin, which was comfortable but had no bathroom, TV or wifi. I was becoming increasingly worried about the forecast for Hurricane Florence, and I did not have phone service. The front desk told us that one of the bartenders at the dining room bar was from North Carolina and to ask him to turn the TV to the Weather Channel. We did this, had a couple of drinks and ate huge appetizer plates at the bar for dinner. In the middle of the night we regretted the drinks, since we had to dress and go to a separate building outside to go to the restroom! It wasn’t that bad, though, I just haven’t had to do that in a long time. I’d stay there again. It was much more comfortable than camping, and not terribly expensive. I found out later that I could get on wifi at the Visitor’s Center for free, but the wifi in the whole park was unreliable and generally reserved for park operations. Understandable.

Next: More geysers, steam, bubbles and bloops.

Glacier National Park, Montana, Montana/PNW trip, National Parks and Monuments, Wildflowers

Glacier National Park, May 17, 2016, Part II

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Next we headed north to the east side of Going-to-the-Sun Road at St. Mary’s Lake. I wanted to do a bit more hiking but we had no water left in our bottles and every store in the little town there was closed. We drove up as far as we could to the point where you could see Jackson Glacier. It looked like a snowfield in the distance, which was a bit disappointing after some of the dramatic glaciers we saw in Alaska. I took photos of wildflowers everywhere that I could.

Near the bottom of the road a grizzly bear ran in front of the car ahead of us out of a meadow into a little stand of trees. I only got a glimpse because I was fumbling with my camera. Lesson learned – I mostly missed seeing the bear AND I didn’t get the shot. But still! A grizzly bear!

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^^^There it is. “Jackson Glacier is approximately the seventh largest of the remaining 25 glaciers in Glacier National Park…In 1850, there were an estimated 150 glaciers in the park. Glaciologists have stated that by the year 2030, many if not all of the glaciers in the park may disappear completely.”

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^^^This was a lovely little stream with several waterfalls and a good trail. Those are colorful rocks, not leaves.

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^^^The sedimentary layers in the Lewis Overthrust were fascinating.

In front of the East Glacier Depot

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^^^We returned the car, hung out at the historic depot, and got on the train with no problem. Taking clear photos from the train was not easy, so I don’t have many. I smuggled a few Montana beers with us which I ended up lugging around for most of the trip! We had dinner on the train and I got off for a few minutes at Whitefish, but after that we slept through the rest of Montana, Idaho, and the edge of eastern Washington.

Glacier National Park, hiking, Montana, Montana/PNW trip, National Parks and Monuments

Glacier National Park, May 17, 2016, Part I

We decided to explore the east side of the park on Tuesday, sticking fairly close to the East Glacier depot since we didn’t want a repeat of nearly missing the train. After a visit to the Spiral Spoon and Brownies next door, we headed to Two Medicine Lake.

On the way, we stopped for a small herd of horses in the highway.

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A young couple equipped with bear spray let us tag along with them on an easy trail to Running Eagle Falls. Part of the waterfall seemed to pour out from inside the cliff. We saw moose scat on the trail and later we saw a female moose back in the trees, as well as a big-horned ram running along the road.

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Then at Two Medicine Lake, there was a spot on the shore that must have had a special meaning for Native Americans.

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I wonder what the story was behind these two sites. I told Sandy that this was a place that I would like for my ashes to be scattered. I’d like to think that I might end up in a rocky stream headed for an ocean. Traveling after life.