Wednesday, April 26, 2017

May 2016: Yellowstone/Grand Teton National Parks--Archival Post

Lodgepole Pines with new snow on them in May
I took a year and a half break from blogging.  I don't know why, but I did.  I did not take a year and a half break from Yellowstone or other travelling.  Sometimes a guy just gets busy.  But now I need to play catch-up.

This blog post details a trip up to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks that the Hot Chick and I made near the end of May last year.  We love Yellowstone at any time of year and are always looking for excuses to drive up and see the park.

Last May, toward the end of the month we had a free Saturday and we went up.  We figured, May, should be fine, the weather should be good.  Then when we got to Island Park, the weather started to turn.  The further north we traveled, the worse it got.  We were starting to second guess our decision to go to Yellowstone, but we soldiered on anyway.  By the time we reached Mack's Inn (22 miles away from Yellowstone),  we were engulfed in a blizzard.  We weren't sure if we had packed warm enough jackets for this trip.  But we went on anyway.

Blizzard on the Henry's Fork of the Snake River at Macks Inn

The ducks didn't like it either

After we crossed the Continental Divide and the state line into Montana, the weather cleared up a bit.  It was still cold but at least the blizzard stayed on the Idaho side.

We had gone up to Yellowstone without an agenda.  We wanted to go but didn't know what we wanted to see.  Because of the weather, though, we decided it was going to be more of a 'see what we can from inside the car' day.

One of the first things we saw around Madison Junction was a very cold bald eagle sitting in a tree.  We took the Firehole Loop Road and saw the falls.  The water was quite muddy with the spring runoff.  Apparently we were going to Old Faithful.

Because of the cold and the fact that we were unprepared for it to be cold, we did not stop at any of the geyser basins between Madison Junction and Old Faithful.  I did stop for a trumpeter swan, though.  It was near Nez Perce Creek, and the swan was on an island just preening itself.  I watched for quite a long time and took a lot of pictures.  Suffice it to say, I had no idea a swan's neck was that maneuverable.  I could post a dozen pictures of the swan's neck in different contorted positions, but I won't.

When we got to the Upper Geyser Basin, we pulled in just in time to see Castle Geyser in full eruption.  Castle is one of the great geysers in Yellowstone and it's eruptions can last twenty or thirty minutes.  It's quite the sight.  We had a decision to make at this point.  Do we sit out in the cold and watch Old Faithful?  Do we turn around and go home?  Do we pay twice the regular amount and buy a winter coat inside the park? or do we head south and go home by way of Grand Teton National Park?

We've seen Old Faithful ten hundred million billion times, and while it's really cool and we never get tired of it, we decided not to sit in the cold and wait for it.  We had intended to spend the day in the park, and had already committed the time and the gas money to be there, so it seemed a waste to just turn around and go home.  There is no way I'm going to spend the money to buy my clothes in Yellowstone.  I love the park, but the stuff in the shops is too expensive for my tastes.  So Grand Teton it was.

The Bald Eagle, who seemed as cold as we were

National Park Mountain at Madison Junction.  Below this site, a hundred and fifty years ago or so, the explorers who were investigating the claims of this part of the country, camped and dreamed up the idea of setting Yellowstone apart as a national park so everyone could enjoy it.  This was a revolutionary idea because there had never been a national park before, anywhere on earth.  I'm glad they did.

So I'm packing my bags for the Misty Mountains, where the spirits go now, Over the hills where the spirits fly now, ooh.  I really don't know.

Firehole Falls, the muddy version

One of the tamer poses of this swan

Castle Geyser happening now.

We headed towards Lake and south to Grand Teton National Park.  On our way, we stopped to see Lewis Falls and Moose Falls.  Not surprisingly, the further south we went, the better the weather became.

Yellowstone Lake

Yellow Bells, why is everything yellow in this park?

Snow covered hill 

Lewis Falls

Looking down the canyon

Moose Falls

From further away

This guy considered us to be uninvited guests

I've always loved old bridges

The weather started getting better and there was less snow, so we continued on our journey.  As we drove through the northern part of Grand Teton National Park, we saw a large grizzly bear.  We also saw a pelican swimming in Jackson Lake.  When we got to the Signal Mountain Turnoff, we realized we had never been there, so we headed up.  It was a very spectacular view of the whole valley.  While we were up there, we surprised a dusky grouse and her husband.  I'm not sure they were excited to have us in their living room.

While we were up on Signal Mountain, we saw some strange looking wood piles.  They were underneath the forest canopy and were piled up as if they were going to be made into tepee fires.  Then we saw burnt fire circles.  This was a mystery until we discovered a sign.  These were made of fallen timber and were an attempt to clean out the fuel on the forest floor to mitigate the damage in case of a forest fire.  In other words they were doing controlled burns to try to avoid the big one like they had in Yellowstone in 1988.  I'm not sure how I feel about that.  We thought the fires of 1988 were devastating for Yellowstone.  We left in 1988 and went to the east for six or seven years, then we ended up in the Seattle area for another six years.  When we came back, we were amazed at how healthy Yellowstone had become as a result of the fires.  Forest fires are an integral part of the life cycle of a healthy forest.

The Teton Range with cloud cover on Jackson Lake

More cloud cover

Da Bear

Da Bear again


View from Signal Mountain

USGS Survey marker on Signal Mountain

Incredible view

Another incredible view

The dusky grouse 

And her husband

More view

Strange tepee fire thingys

The rest of the trip was punctuated by glorious views of the cloud shrouded Teton range.  It was really pretty.  The west is a land of superlatives.  I don't have words to do the scenery justice here.  That is the domain for the great poets I think.  So as a lesser poet, I think I'll finish by showing pictures.

Lily-pads on a small lake or pond

Clouds shrouding the majestic American Alps

More clouds, more alps

It was difficult to have to be exposed to such beautiful scenery all day, but we managed to survive

We had to drive on this road

Who said clouds could be so low?

It was really quite amazing

Can't get enough of this

As you can tell

It was really pretty

Last shot of the day

We drove home through Jackson Hole after a really beautiful day in two national parks.  We love living here.

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