Tag Archives: yellowstone

Yellowstone Trip: Day 8: The Grand Tetons

So it’s been over a month now: I seriously need to finish up my narrative of Jared and my trip out west…

Day 8 was our last in Wyoming, but we made the most of it.  After waking up to our final “Super Start” breakfast at Jared’s dreaded West Yellowstone Super-8-without-a-pool, we piled all our possessions back in the Corolla and drove into Yellowstone for the last time.  Turning south at Madison Junction and again after Old Faithful, we stopped in for one last cascade, and then found ourselves crossing the Continental Divide at a quiet, peaceful little lake called Lake Isa.  In wetter seasons, this lake drains in both directions, and ultimately feeds into both the Pacific Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico!
Firehole River CascadesA Duck Swimming the Continental Divide

This way to the Gulf of Mexico:
Isa Lake Drains That Way to the Missouri, Mississippi, and Gulf of Mexico

And this (currently dry) way to the Pacific Ocean:
Isa Lake Drains This Way (In Wetter Seasons) to the Snake River, Colombia River, and Pacific Ocean

Shortly past the Continental Divide, we found ourselves headed out of the park and into a National Forest of some variety between Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons.  The park itself didn’t hold our attention too long, other than a brief stop at some fancy lodge to try (unsuccessfully) to find an official map, but the view of what was coming next certainly grabbed our eyes:
Grand Tetons Ahead

Arriving at the park with no map, we made a few pitstops through ranger stations and such before we finally got our bearings, and then just made our way lazily down through the park, stopping wherever the view was awesome enough 🙂  One great spot was on the shores of Jenny Lake, where we actually met a couple from UW-Madison who took a picture for us.  This was the same spot that I had seen a picture from my friend Ben Broerman earlier, which convinced me to make the trip to the Grand Tetons in the first place.  Pretty awesome view, plus they have a glacier!
Jenny Lake and the Grand TetonsJared and Colin at the Grand TetonsTeton Glacier

We had lunch at an outdoor BBQ type place, with a grill and lots of picnic tables.  It was a nice change to just be sitting outside eating off a paper plate instead of in a restaurant.  Fit the location very well, though it would have sucked if it were raining…

After leaving the Grand Tetons through the southern entrance, Jared navigated me a scenic route (Wyoming Hwy 20) through the Wyoming countryside into Idaho, and over to I-15, which led us away to Montana in the north.  Once again, taking the scenic route over the main highway really paid off in terms of awesome scenery, and frankly, the bug count was only going up in either case anyway:
Wyoming Highway 20We Have Bugs.Idaho

Idaho was mostly sage… sage and sky and then there was a really cool rainstorm, which we could see coming for miles and miles.  And possibly the highlight of the trip for Jared: We stopped at a rest stop in Montana to get a hotel reservation and, well, use the restroom of course.  Except that Jared saw a portable toilet sitting out behind the main restroom, so he decided he had to use that instead.  Turns out it was the cleanest, best-smelling portable outhouse he’s ever used… ask him about it sometime.
Nothing But Sage and SkyNow Approaching StormThe Best-Smelling Porta-Potty Jared Has Ever Stopped At

And after the excitement of the outhouse, it was straight on to Missoula, MT, where we walked a mile or two to supper and back, and then hung out around the outdoor swimming pool with our beers.  Not sure whether that was kosher, but the college guy running the hotel for the night didn’t seem to have a problem with it, so there you go.  We even got to lock up on our way out.  Good show, Missoula.

Yellowstone Trip: Day 7: Geysers

Day 7 of our Yellowstone Trip was all about the Geysers. We saw a lot of awesome “thermal features” in the first two days at Yellowstone, but today we set out to explore the Geyser Basins, and definitely found something new to see.

We also had absolutely stunning luck with our timing. We were able to watch the eruption of nearly every one of the geysers that the rangers make predictions of, plus a bunch of geysers that they don’t predict because they are too random! On the way in to the Old Faithful Geyser Basin (our primary target), we stopped and saw a few more pretty pools and bubbling pots before checking out the timetable at the ranger station:
More Bubbling PotholesOpal PoolThe Schedule

The ranger said Old Faithful would be erupting with 15 minutes, so out we went to catch a glimpse of that famous geyser:
Old Faithful

There it was, right on cue. With that checked off, we started hiking around the Old Faithful Geyser Basin. One cool geyser on the way is this little guy, called the Anemone Geyser because it drains totally empty, then all of a sudden fills up its pool, overflows, erupts, and then drains again, on about a 15-ish minute cycle:
Anemone Geyser

After some gawking and meandering we came around the corner to a huge geyser called the “Grand Geyser.” This guy only goes off every 11 to 15 hours (yes, a 4-hour window makes this a “good” predictable geyser), but the guidebook says “If you see people sitting and watching, and the pool looks like it’s overflowing, stick around, you just might be lucky. Let’s see: people gathered around? Check. Dozens. Pool overlowing? Check. Aaand, 30 seconds later: kawoosh! This geyser was pretty awesome: I’d honestly say better than Old Faithful, because it was taller, more “ferocious”, and you are much, much closer to it.
Grand Geyser: Only erupts every 11-15 hours, but it erupted 30 seconds after we arrived!Grand GeyserIt might go off... sometime...

Once that settled down a bit, we traveled on to take in the Morning Glory Pool and took a brief hike out to the Artemesia Geyser, a very pretty blue one, that. We passed about the 10,000th little “Danger, Thermal Area” sign of our trip, so I decided to snap a picture. Of course, this exact area is ok, seeing as someone walked out to put that sign in… but nevermind. I also snapped a picture of this last guy, because he’s evidently not as toxic as a lot of his peers: there’s some nice live greenery around his rim.
Morning Glory PoolArtemisia Geyser in a beautiful blueNot Safe To Walk Here.  Unless You Are Installing This Sign...An apparently less-toxic geyser sporting a halo of greenery

By the time we got back from our hike, it was time for the Riverside Geyser to erupt, and so it did, arching out over a pretty little river:
Riverside GeyserRiverside Geyser

Walking back, we came upon the Grotto Geyser, which had been placid when we walked in but was now beginning to erupt from it’s cool castle-like formation. We then took in the Old Faithful Lodge from afar, and stopped to watch Old Faithful erupt from the other side:
Grotto GeyserOld Faithful InnYe Olde Faythful

This magically put us in the right place at the right time to turn around and be surprised by the Beehive Geyser going off behind us. This little cone geyser funnels its plume into a narrow jet, making it really tall… it also only erupts once or twice per day, and we had heard when we arrived that we just missed it. Guess we were lucky:
Beehive Geyser

After all that geyser excitement, we went and wandered the Black Sands Basin to see some more hot springs, pools, and assorted landscapes:
Grasses Still Trying to GrowUnfathomable DepthsOne Small Section of the Miles of Yellowstone BoardwalksSuch Vivid Colors

Following lunch near the West Thumb area, we checked out the West Thumb Geyser Basin, and then decided to call it a day. For whatever reason, my pictures of that area didn’t turn out as well, so I won’t bore you any further with them 🙂 Instead, I leave you a parting shot for the wildlife… as we were driving back toward West Yellowstone, MT, to get supper at a cool 60’s-style diner with awesome milkshakes, we got stopped behind this big line of cars waiting for: you guessed it: two elk. Yes. We took a picture, too.
All These People Stopped for Two Elk...Aaand there they are...

Yellowstone Trip: Day 6: Northern Yellowstone

Day 6 sends us back into Yellowstone National Park for the day. To keep from driving back and forth aimlessly in this enormous National Park, Jared and I tackled the northern and eastern regions of Yellowstone as a group today.
Steaming Morning StreamsIn Fact, The Whole Mountain Steams Like Crazy...The Corps of Engineers had their work cut out for them in this park

We started out by driving up to the Mammoth Hot Springs region, passing a ton of springs and pools steaming in the cooler morning air. The hot springs themselves were, indeed, mammoth- over hundreds of years they built up like coral reefs into terraces and various patterns, consuming even the trees around them.
Mammoth Hot Springs looks like dinosaurs should be walking it, not humansBizarre Landsacpe: white terraces, gray bubbles, and orange rivers all in one placeThese Trees Were Buried Alive By GeysersThe Angel Terrace came right up to the parking lot

Also at the north end of the park we found the Old Fort Yellowstone, where the army was originally stationed to manage the park and prevent the then-rampant vandalism from destroying it. To be honest, the fort was not much to see, as all the buildings have been repurposed for various government offices that are not open to the public. Many of them are even private residences with satellite dishes on the back…
The Old Fort at Yellowstone- Now private residencesThe old fort now sports dual Dish Network hookups...

We headed out the North Entrance to Gardiner, MT, for lunch, which was quite the interesting town… Jared and I don’t think there were more than 5 buildings in business there that were not hotels, restaurants, or tourist services of some kind. Much of it was closed or for sale, as well, including the place we had lunch at. Coming back in, we passed through the Roosevelt Arch, which was quite impressive, but clearly designed in a time before buses and RVs. We also passed a gas station with machines so old they could literally not cope with > $4 / gallon prices…
The Roosevelt Bridge at the North Entrance is NOT wide enough for a car and a bus.$2.33 Gas Looked Really Good At First... Psyche!

In the afternoon we saw a fair bit of wildlife, including a pronghorn and black bear. For good measure, we also include the robin, spruce moths, and tent worms we saw along the way 🙂
Pronghorn!Bear!Ordinary Robin!Just a few of the millions of spruce moths that hatched this weekTent Worms- NastyJared by the world-famous Petrified Tree

We saw the famous petrified tree, and a bunch of other interesting geysers, springs, pools, waterfalls, etc., with only one disappointment: we walked down one path which had been posted as “No access to base of falls” hoping to at least see the falls from below… no luck whatsoever. It was a completely fruitless walk for a rather obscured view of the river that did not include any falls. Jared was pretty upset, heheh.
Tower Falls are pretty from the top.We Should Have ListenedNice Reflection in the SpringBubbling Mud PotA Hidden GeyserA New Color: GreenLeHardy Fire Still Burning

Our last stop of the day was to follow a gravel road up to the trailhead leading to Mt. Washburn. There is apparently a cool overlook up there, but it turns out to be a 4-5 hour hike rising some 1400 feet from the trailhead, which we were not at all keen to take at 4:30pm…
Mt. Washburn... 4 hours and 1400 vertical feet away.  We vote no.

Yellowstone Trip: Day 5: Big Sky to Yellowstone

On day 5 of our Yellowstone Trip, Jared and I left behind Big Sky, MT, and headed to Yellowstone National Park for the second half of our sightseeing.

Before we left, though, we took one final hike in Big Sky, to Ousel Falls. The trail was a really nice community project that was well-maintained and fun to walk, and the falls were wonderful:
Our Last Big Sky TrailOusel Falls in Big Sky, MT

After filling up the car we set off to Yellowstone, where we started our tour at the Lower Geyser Basin. The volcanic scenery in the caldera is absolutely surreal. Everything looks just like your imagination would paint a primordial planet with bubbling cauldrons, sulfurous steam hissing up out of every crack and cavern… one thing that came to mind immediately when we took our first walk out on the boardwalks that the Park Service has put in place is that the designers of the Channel Age in Myst have most definitely been to Yellowstone. It was cool, in a really nerdy way: it was like walking through Myst, with the howling winds coming from holes in the ground, the brilliant red and orange colors in an otherwise dead landscape, everything.
Brilliantly Colored WaterThermophile MatsHowling FumerolesThis Geyser Pumps 500 Gallons Per Minute into the Firehole RiverFirehole LakeSteady Geyser: This guy is continuously erupting

We took a break for lunch at a pizza place in West Yellowstone, MT, called Murphy’s, which had really excellent pizza. Later in the afternoon we traveled deeper into Yellowstone to the Canyon Village area, where we drove and hiked around the “Grand Canyon of Yellowstone”. Awesome views there, too, of the Upper and Lower Falls on the Yellowstone River.
The Upper Falls of the Yellowstone RiverThe Lower Falls of the Yellowstone RiverJared Taking In Artists PointStunning View of the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone from Artists PointJared and Colin at the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone

Then as we were just driving back out of the park, Jared yelled “Buffalo!” right in the middle of his sentence as we came around a corner and within a few hundred feet of a buffalo enjoying his evening meal:

Later on, since everyone else had stopped and blockaded the roadway anyway, we snapped a few photos of a group of elk cows having their own meal:
Elk Cows

Finally, just to comlete the theme of evening meals, Jared and I stopped at a local counterpart of a Dairy Queen (across the street from an actual Dairy Queen, in fact) to pick up malts and some chili for supper. Add a few Grolsch from the supermarket and you have a great 10pm dinner!

Yellowstone Trip: Day 2: Yellowstone is on Fire

Jared and I reached Big Sky, Montana, today, after another lengthy road leg of our trip.  We only covered 624 miles today, according to Google, but it felt twice as long as yesterday, since we spent so much of it twisting up and down mountains.  It was beautiful, but it was long.

To keep things interesting (especially since Montana is largely lots of open sky that I have already seen before), we took I-90 only as far as about Sheridan, WY, and then took smaller Wyoming highways across to Yellowstone National Park, went through the park, and finally northward to Big Sky:

View Larger Map

The biggest surprise of the day (other than how pretty the Big Horn National Forest was) was reaching a gas station just outside Yellowstone National Park and realizing that the “clouds” we were seeing in the sky over the mountains were actually plumes of smoke… as in, Yellowstone is on fire.  We drove past the “Gunbarrel” fire burning between Cody, WY, and Yellowstone, and were forced to detour on a longer route to the West Entrance due to a road closure caused by the “LeHardy” fire burning within the park itself.

I don’t have my pictures ready to go yet, we didn’t reach Big Sky until after 9pm due to the slow going through Yellowstone and a surprise bit of construction a mere 3 miles south of the exit we wanted for Big Sky itself :-/  I’ll put some up tomorrow.

Update: Photos are now uploaded! See below to be warped into our Day 2 gallery.
Wyoming Lodgepole PinesRed Hills of Wyoming - Big Horn National ForestSilver Wisconsin Corolla and Red Wyoming AsphaltMountain LakesThere is STILL Snow in Wyoming (over 9400 feet anyway...)The Corolla at the Top of US 14 Alternate: 9430 feet above sea levelPlease Study Sign CarefullyA Firetruck stopped at our gas station just East of YellowstoneThe Gunbarrel Fire in Shoshone National ForestThe LeHardy Fire in Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone Trip: Day 1: Badlands at Sunset

Jared and I began our Yellowstone vacation (and my move to Seattle) on Wednesday, with an 830 mile trek from Green Bay to Wall, SD, via I-90 and the Badlands National Park:

View Larger Map

Highlights there included seeing the Badlands National Park at sunset, finding a hotel open in Wall, and that hotel having a free hot tub which was basically a private pool room since you had to ask for a key.  Very nice end to the day of driving 🙂

Here are some pictures from the journey:
The BadlandsLeaving WisconsinThe Cervaces in the Badlands Are Pretty DeepDo not Look Directly Into the SunSilhouette of the HillsI am Obviously Not Good at Self-Portraits