The 2019 Road Trip: Grand Teton National Park – Day 1

I have a habit of waking up early in the morning when traveling.  It might be a certain restlessness that comes with being in a new place, and a need for me to explore and find out more about the new surroundings.

Thus it was this first morning at our log cabin in Victor, Idaho.  This was the view outside the window of the bedroom we were occupying when I woke up.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALater in the morning, from the front of the house, we could see the neighborhood where our cabin was located.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe morning light streamed into the dining room area of our house through the giant windows as we had our morning coffee,OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAwhile a little, stout, bird warmed itself in the sunlight on top of an evergreen tree in front of us.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe rising sun revealed open fields behind the house.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter a leisurely breakfast, we headed towards Grand Teton National Park, crossing the Teton Pass once again, this time on the way east.  After descending into the valley on the Wyoming side of the mountain range, we turned onto the road to take us into the park.  This turnoff was well before the town of Jackson.

We passed the resort area of Teton Village before we reached the entrance to the park.  The ski slopes behind the resort were bare.  The traffic around the area was light.  I am sure the place is busier during the winter season when the ski slopes are covered with snow.  The entrance to the park itself was a small, unmanned, affair, and the road beyond it narrow and winding, with a section that was still unpaved.  It was apparent that this was a less developed section of the park.

After a short while of driving in the park, we arrived at a section of the road where temporary road signs indicated that vehicles were not allowed to stop by the roadside.  Beside the road were either woods or an open low-lying area.  A stream meandered through the flatland.  Reeds and shrubs, and the occasional tree, dotted this space.  All of a sudden we began to see vehicles stopped on the roadway, blocking it partially (because of the lack of space beside the road), and people getting out of their vehicles.  We were curious, but we were also inclined to follow the park rules.  We made our way (with some difficulty and a feeling of annoyance) past the stopped vehicles.  As we were leaving the area of the cars, there was a shout from the back seat that a couple of moose had been sighted!  We were really excited because one of the objectives of this trip was to see a moose.  Unfortunately, I was still driving and did not see the animal, and there was also no place to stop.  A short while after that we arrived in an opening with a big parking lot.  I was able to pull in.

We got out and started looking for moose.  Below the parking lot was a creek, with woods on the other side. There were ducks in the water, but there was no moose to be seen.  We had to leave the place without a moose sighting (for some of us), but we were resolved to come back to look for moose once again later in the trip.

The road now entered a more open area of the park.  You could see the Tetons off in the distance to the left.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOur next stop was the park headquarters at Moose Junction.  At this point we ended our drive on the narrow road that we had been on, and entered a more developed section of the park.

We watched a video about the park at the visitor center.  At the end of the movie the curtains opened up behind the screen to reveal the Tetons.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe then drove further north into the park.  We were now on a stretch of road that was wider and more suitable for the more significant tourist traffic.  We had come to the park at a time of year when the traffic was dying out due to the colder weather, as is obvious by the looks of the empty parking lot in the picture below.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA bike trail ran beside the road, leading me to imagine some future adventure on a different set of wheels.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOur lunch stop was in a parking area near the Lupine Meadows trailhead.  We were constantly on the lookout for moose, but none obliged!IMG_20191013_133816804_HDRWe drove further north through the park.  It was past noon by now, and the position of the sun had shift further west.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe arrived at the parking lot for the String Lake trail.  Our plan was to hike to Inspiration Point, overlooking Jenny Lake.

This picture was taken as we were starting the hike.  The first part of our hike would take us from the parking lot for String Lake towards Jenny Lake.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe crossed String Lake early on.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is where an inlet from String Lake feeds into Jenny Lake.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe colors of Fall were in full display beside the trail along Jenny Lake.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere is a boat that takes tourists across Jenny lake. We had to leave the trail beside the lake and start a climb up a different trail towards Inspiration Point just beyond the place where this boat docks.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe passed Hidden Falls on our way up the hill.  There were short stretches of snow and ice on this section of the trail, at places where the sun does not reach that easily this time of year.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe reached Inspiration Point after a short climb in an open section of the trail higher up the mountain.  This was the view of Jenny Lake for Inspiration Point.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOnce we left Inspiration Point, we continued to climb towards Cascade Canyon Trail. We turned right at the intersection with Cascade Canyon Trail in order to head back to Jenny Lake, and to the parking lot where we had left our car.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACascade Canyon Trail in the other direction actually goes between mountain peaks to a point where you can catch the Teton Crest Trail and get closer to Grand Teton mountain, the highest peak in the range.  A hike in that direction had to be left as a possible adventure for another day.

We headed back towards Jenny Lake.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe sun was setting behind the mountains as we arrived back at Jenny Lake.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAs we were leaving the area of the lake, I noticed these markings on the side of a tree. From what I had read that morning at the visitor center, these were most likely the markings of the paw of a bear.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThroughout our stay in the park, we were warned about how to handle encounters with bears.  We were on the lookout for them constantly, but did not see any in the end.  They do recommend carrying bear spray to deter the animals.  The spray contains an extract from cayenne pepper.  Apparently, it is quite potent, and something you do not want to get in your eyes.

This picture was taken as we were crossing String Lake to get back to the car.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe sun was setting as we started our drive out of the park.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOn the way out, we came upon a herd of pronghorn deer in the fields a short distance away from the road.  This is the first time I was seeing pronghorn.  We stopped by the roadside for a few minutes so that I could take pictures.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPA130921.jpgAs we were leaving the park, we could see the mountains of the Gros Ventre range on the eastern side of Jackson Hole valley lit up in the fading light of the setting sun.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADinner was at a place called Liberty Burger in Jackson.  Some of us tried out bison burgers.  Then it was back over the Teton Pass, and onward to Victor, Idaho, for the night.

Later in the evening, back at the cabin, I tried to take more pictures of the moon.  It was the day after a full moon.  For some reason, just as it happened the previous night, I was still not getting a clear picture with the camera. It was a strange image, as if some diffused light from around the moon was falling on the lens of the camera through the night sky. Weird!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe did not stay up too late that evening.  We were tired after the day’s activities.

Next blog in this series here.

The 2019 Road Trip: Yellowstone – Day 2

It was another cold morning in Park Spring, Idaho, but not as bad as the previous one.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe had to depart the cabin that we had been staying in for two nights and move on to the next destination.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe eyes on the deer seemed to be following me through the house as we prepared to leave.  I could not make out any particular expression.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI turned over the driving responsibility for the day to Jesse.  This allowed me to better see what was going on all around us as we drove to the park.   Here you can see one of the big ranches that we passed.  There was a lot of cattle and horses out there.  We were wondering how the animals survive out in the sub-freezing temperatures of the night.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe passed through West Yellowstone for the last time.  A search in the town for Yaktrax, cleats that you put over your shoes to let you walk more easily on snow and ice, was unsuccessful.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe had forgotten to take our obligatory National Park picture at the entrance of Yellowstone earlier during our visit.  We took the pictures that morning.  In case you are wondering, the other side of this sign welcomes you to the park.  We chose to take the picture from this direction because of the direction of the sunlight.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe fly fishermen were out in the rivers early in the morning.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe first stop within the park was roadside at Beryl Spring.

Steam rose from below the boardwalk as we walked from the parking lot.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAFumes filled the air from the fumaroles.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABeryl Spring is supposed to be the hottest spring within the park, with temperatures close to boiling.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe combination of the steam with the below freezing air temperature made for interesting formations.  We were thinking that some of these scenes would have been suitable for Christmas cards.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe ice crystals formed delicate patterns on the leaves.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe next stop was Artists Paintpots.  We had to walk a little bit to get to the terrace where the underground activity was obvious.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAYou can climb a hill behind the terrace from which you get a view of the activity below youOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAand also some of the venting activity on the hillside.

The small holes in the ground in the pictures below allow gases and steam under pressure to escape from below.  The symmetry of the hole below was interesting to see,OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAand also the manner in which the deposits can grow with time.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWater bubbled out of the mud pots.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe could see both levels of the trail as we walked back to the parking lot.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe next stop was the Norris Geyser Basin.  The trails were a little tricky in this location because of snow and ice.  Some of us walked to one of the terraces.  We followed a small loop in the back basin.

This area has the tallest geyser in the world, Steamboat geyser.  Here it is before it eruptsOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAand here is an eruption in progress.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe sound that emanates from the Vixen geyser below, and its appearance, is quite unique and notable.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere were many geysers and hot springs of different kinds in this area.  Apparently, they are caused by the faults running below the ground in this particular section of the park. These faults allow moisture to seep into the ground through the cracks, and through the crust, into the thin mantle of the earth and close to the magma bubble beneath.  What is interesting is that every geyser has its own personality and character.  It could be in the size, the timing, in the noise that it generates, the nature of output – clear water spray vs. the spraying of drops, the pattern of eruption, etc.  And all of these characteristics change with time as the dynamic underground forces impact the crust above it.  Unfortunately, some of the changes are due to the humans who have been visiting Yellowstone.  One of the geysers closed due to visitors throwing rocks into the vent for their own amusement.  It is a disappointment that we humans indulge in this kind of destructive behavior even today, and not just in the context of taking care of the nature around us.

This is a general picture of the activity going on in the back basin.  In the background, on the hill in the midst of the trees, is steam rising from some kind of geological activity in the ground.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe area in front of us in the picture below is called the Porcelain basin.  There is a trail that runs through it.  We had no time to explore further.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is a picture of the venting in the Porcelain basin.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt was tricky walking back to the car in the snow and ice.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOur next stop was at Canyon Village.  They had an interesting museum with a focus on the geological history of Yellowstone.  There are very few places in the world where the forces inside the earth are close enough to the surface to be revealed to us.  Iceland and Hawaii are two other such regions.

We took a drive to Inspiration Point on the north rim of the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe then went to Artist Point on the south rim of the canyon.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThese are views of the Yellowstone river and the lower falls from Artist Point.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe walked from another parking lot on the south rim to get a closer view of the upper falls.  The view might have been more impressive from the North Rim, but the parking lot there was closed.PA120619.jpgThis was going to be our last day at Yellowstone.  We began our drive south towards Jackson and the Grand Tetons.

On the way, while still in Yellowstone, we stopped to see Sulphur Caldron, considered the most acidic hot spring in Yellowstone.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere was a newly formed vent in the parking lot.  It was cordoned off.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOur final stop in the park was at the location called Mud Volcano.  We had to walk a trail up a hill to get to the location of the activity.  This area was interesting because of all the “mud” activity.  The picture below was a scene next to the parking lot.  I believe it is called the Mud Caldron.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Here is a bubbling mud spring half way up Cooking Hillside, with mud flowing out of it all the way to the bottom of the hill.  I think it is called Sizzling Basin. There are bubbles constantly coming out of the muddy surface, like the surface of a sizzling pan.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is Churning Caldron.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is Black Dragon Caldron.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is Mud Volcano.  It stopped erupting a long time ago.  It is now just a hot spring.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADragons Mouth Spring.PA120693.jpgAs we drove south, we came upon a section where a single coyote was hunting for food in the grass beside the trail.  We stopped for a little while to take in the action.PA120697.jpgOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe sun was setting as we left the park.   It was a pretty sunset over the lake with the Tetons in the distance to our right.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe sun set behind the Tetons a short while later.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere was a full moon out.  I tried to get a picture of the moon but did not do too well.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe stopped at Jackson for dinner.  We went to  Pica’s Mexican Taqueria in a Hispanic side of town.  It was a small place serving the locals with authentic food.  They had some canned local beers that satisfied my thirst.  A huge heaping of fajita vegetables and chicken satisfied my hunger.

Then it was on to the town of Victor for the night, crossing the Teton Pass into Idaho once again.  This was something that we did several times during the trip.

It was not difficult to find the cabin that we were going to stay in that night.  We were very happy to find a spacious place with all the modern amenities, and best of all, two full bathrooms!

The house seemed to be located on a plain in the middle of nowhere.  We got a better idea of our surroundings the next morning.  I took a few pictures of the clear sky before we went to bed.  I still need to develop my skills when it comes to taking nighttime shots.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnd that was it for the long day!

Next in this series of blogs here.