Yellowstone and Grand Teton – So Good
We arrived in Jackson, Wyoming on a rainy afternoon. It’s a busy little tourist town, even in the off season, between the ski fields and the national parks. We checked out some of the galleries and shops in the downtown and admired all the elk antlers and wildlife sculptures decorating the main square. Deciding to wait until the next morning to head into Grand Teton we drove through the National Elk Refuge and into the national forest to find a campsite for the night. We ended up perched at the top of a little mountain, looking over the valley and the mountains, a perfect spot.
Grand Teton is a beautiful park, the mountains rising up out of the plains, reflecting in clear lakes and rivers. Apparently the mountains get their name from a group of French Canadian trappers who named them le trois tetons (the 3 breasts) and the nickname stuck.
We were on the lookout for wildlife here and were rewarded for our efforts, seeing a herd of bison with new calves, elk and pronghorn antelope, beavers swimming in the river and a beautiful moose happily munching willow.
The weather was cool and we had snow overnight and some rain during the day, but it was a great 2 days. And it passed enough time so that we could drive into the southern end of Yellowstone, which had been closed for winter up until then.
Yellowstone had been one of our main destinations for this leg of our journey through the states. And we were not disappointed, it is amazing. We spent 4 very full days in this park and did manage to see all of its main attractions, but you could easily spend another week hiking trails, watching bears and waiting for geysers to erupt.
Yellowstone is an old volcano, and most of the park is actually in the caldera. It is apparently due to erupt again, and there has been lots of recent (and unfounded) speculation that the time may be soon. But this seems to always be the case, so I wouldn’t let it deter you from a visit here! The roads were not melting and the animals were not evacuating.
In fact we saw so much wildlife here. On our second morning driving back into the park over the very snowy Sylvan Pass we came upon a group of cars pulled over and spotted a Grizzly in a clearing.
We stopped at the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone and admired the waterfalls and the yellow cliffs that I assume give the park its name. There is a lot of sulphur in the area…
On day three we headed down to see Old Faithful and the biggest concentration of thermal pools and geysers in the world. Thermal activity is evident all over the park, steam rises randomly throughout the forest and even out of the lakes and rivers.
While Old Faithful is not the biggest or even the most regular geyser in Yellowstone it is impressive. We didn’t have to wait too long and it erupted in a burst of steam and hot water. Just a few quick facts about it; it erupts about every 90 minutes and expels up to 30,000 Litres of boiling water reaching as high as 50 metres straight up in the air. We were impressed.
We wandered along the boardwalk checking out the other geysers and brilliantly coloured springs before heading to the Grand Geyser which was due to go off at 1:30 (give or take 60 minutes). We packed our lunch and settled down to wait at about 12:45, just in case it was early. It was not, and we waited for 2.5 hours before anything happened. Grand Geyser is the tallest predictable geyser in the world, and it was one of the most impressive things I have ever seen. Well worth the wait.
We saw so many bubbling and boiling and colourful thermal pools but the one that stood out the most was the Grand Prismatic Spring. There are many pictures of it, and if the colours look fake, they aren’t. It was stunning.
After chatting with other people in the park we realized that we had been lucky with all the wildlife we had seen. We spent a good chunk of time on our last day watching a black bear with three cubs playing and trying to climb trees. We saw a few other bears, and everywhere we went we saw the majestic bison. They grazed near the hot pools, wandered along the roads, had naps in the meadows, and generally seemed unbothered by all the company they got.
Overall Yellowstone was amazing, each bend in the road offered something new, from wildlife and canyons to incredible thermal activity. The only thing that was disappointing was that there was no where to get in the water! (There is a place on the boiling river you can go in but it was closed due to high water.) So we searched out a place just outside the park to go have a soak. At the little resort area of Chico Hot Springs we found what we were looking for. Built in 1900 the old hotel was still going and the pools were a bit retro but for $7.50 we loved it. It was a good way to end our thermal adventures.