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

Yellowstone National Park, Day Three

On Friday, Judy joined us again and guided us to the areas where wildlife is most often spotted. We drove to the Lamar Valley where wolf watchers scan the meadows for members of the packs that were re-introduced there years ago. Judy spotted a wolf and aimed her spotting scope at it so we could take a look. This area with its wide vistas was stunningly beautiful in a difficult way to capture with a photo.

Yellowstone National Park

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We saw hundreds of bison in this area of the park. At Soda Butte, we joined a small crowd of humans where the bison were very close. The little ones pranced around and butted heads in play. When one large male decided to cross the creek in a place where he could have come at us quickly, we all backed toward our cars while he eyeballed us. Fortunately nobody in this group was stupid enough to think that stare meant that he wanted to be petted.

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park

^^^Click the photo above to see a video of the bison on my Flickr page.

At the top of Mount Washburn we stopped because someone said there was a grizzly on the hillside across from us. It must have slipped into the trees by the time we parked and got out. The pink of the fireweed was beautiful, though.

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park

One of the big attractions is the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone and Yellowstone Falls. We viewed it from Artist’s Point and walked down to the edge of the upper falls on the other side of the canyon.

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park

Here’s a petrified redwood tree stump from a time when the climate was very different here. There used to be more of these, which is why this one is fenced off. People, please. This is why we can’t have nice things.

Yellowstone National Park

More wildflowers

Yellowstone National Park

We said goodbye to Judy and she headed back home to get ready to go on her next backpacking adventure. I admire this woman so much! Thank you, Judy, for your companionship and guidance on our trip!

There was a large bull elk wandering around our cabins with his harem of does. Rangers stayed close to make sure people stayed back from this one. Elks were in rutting season and we heard their bugle calls every morning and evening.

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That night we ate in the Mammoth Hot Springs Dining Room and planned our trip back through the two national parks south toward Salt Lake City the next day. We decided that instead of exploring Salt Lake City on Sunday, we would swing east in Wyoming and pick up a fifth National Park/Monument for our list: Fossil Butte National Monument.

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.

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

Yellowstone National Park, Day Two

Judy met us for coffee and we got on the road reasonably early for us. First we drove up to the top of Mammoth Hot Springs Terrace where a good photographer obliged us to take photos of the three of us. This is the lookout over the top of the terraces. You can see the hotel complex in the background on the top photo.

Upper Terrace Mammoth Hot Springs, Yellowstone NP

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We meandered around the upper terrace and then we went to the Artist Paintpots and then the Fountain Paintpots which was a delight in all senses. We walked the trail up and around to see the mudpots. Bloop, bloop, bloop. Sulfur smells. Crusty textures. Unexpected color.

Upper Terrace Mammoth Hot Springs, Yellowstone NP

Upper Terrace Mammoth Hot Springs, Yellowstone NP

Upper Terrace Mammoth Hot Springs, Yellowstone NP

Artist Paintpots. Click photo to see the video of the mudpots on Flickr

Upper Terrace Mammoth Hot Springs, Yellowstone NP

Artist Paintpots, Yellowstone NP

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Fountain Paintpots:

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park

As artists, Judy and I were particularly drawn to the patterns and colors that the different kinds of bacteria make in the thermal pools.

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park
Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park

Judy brought us lunch, which we had “Western style” in the parking lot of Black Sand Geyser Basin.

Okay, break for a new post.

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.

critters, Grand Teton National Park, Idaho, Idaho-Wyoming trip, National Parks and Monuments, Wyoming

Grand Teton National Park and the Teton Valley

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^^^Overlooking Jackson Hole from the Teton Pass

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^^^The view of the Tetons from the “other” side in Driggs, Idaho, near our AirBNB.

We didn’t really have an agenda on Monday so we went looking for a late breakfast and ended up eating at Barrels and Bins, a natural foods grocery in Driggs, which reminded me of the old Deep Roots Market that I miss so much. It was privately owned but it had that co-op vibe. Then we looked at the museum at the geotourism center and crossed the street to The Local Galleria, where Sandy bought me a sweater that I wore a lot on the rest of the trip. We wished that we could go to their painting class that night because it sounded like fun, but we couldn’t make it. I always meant to stop in Victor, a smaller little funky town on the way to Jackson, but we never made the time for it. Either the stores were closed or we were tired.

Other good spots to eat breakfast in Driggs: Rise, and Yeti’s Post.

(It seems to me that Driggs, Idaho could benefit from the presence of a weaver from North Carolina each summer, ya think? Yeah.)

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Another reason why I’ll never be a cowgirl – the seats at the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar in Jackson are real saddles. Fun, but not good on elderly hips. Also, my horseback riding abilities were proved to be lacking in Girl Scouts.

Sandy loves to shop so we spent a good part of the day going in and out of shops and galleries in Jackson. I bought him a hat but he later decided he didn’t want to wear it so I happily snatched it away for my own use, since my hair was driving me nuts.

Then we drove up through Grand Teton National Park. We did not hike any but we made lots of stops. It was hazy throughout our trip in this park so for the most part I couldn’t get the quality photos I’d have liked, but on the other hand, that finally made me put the camera down for much of it. A good thing. The Tetons are impressive because they stick up suddenly from the valley like a row of jagged teeth, with rivers and lakes at their feet. The grand scale of it means it is best experienced in person. We didn’t see any wildlife in this park other than a mother mule doe and her two fawns. I guess somebody forgot to tell the elk about the National Elk Wildlife Refuge!

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^^^Click to view the video and turn up the audio.

The next day we went whitewater rafting with Barker-Ewing Whitewater on the Snake River. I didn’t use a camera all day, a refreshing change in perspective. The rapids were class 2-3 so it was a fun ride without being scary, and the weather could not have been more perfect. I was accommodated in not being able to paddle, but we were put in the smaller raft anyway – yay! An osprey circled above our heads and we saw an otter very briefly.

After rafting, we ate stew and I drank the local brew at Snake River Brewery in Jackson. Many of the meat dishes out there contained bison or elk, which worked great for me. I don’t get a chance to eat venison much any more.

Something seems to compel me to caress every moose statue I see. Maybe I had a crush on Bullwinkle as a kid, or maybe I’m just weird. We did not see any live moose on our trip. I hear that these sightings are increasingly scarce.

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On Wednesday morning, we said goodbye to the good people of Driggs, Idaho and headed north to Yellowstone National Park via West Yellowstone, Montana.