Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Grand Teton, Yellowstone, Beartooth Highway

After 2 days of hiding from the bad weather in Montpelier, Idaho, I headed to Grand Teton and Yellowstone. After attending church in Jackson, I drove straight into Grand Teton. Just a few miles into the park (Near Moose Junction as luck would have it), I saw this moose grazing in the river. This was apparently a stroke of luck, since I overheard others talking about the scarceness of moose since the fires which burned much of their habitat in accessible areas and I never saw another one after moose junction.

Maybe I’m just becoming jaded, but I didn’t see much more in Grand Teton, other that repetitive views of lakes and mountains. I am including this one additional picture of the Tetons over Jenny Lake. I spent less than half a day in Grand Teton, being so anxious to get on to Yellowstone.

My first stop was Old Faithful. It was spectacular, of course, but what really surprised me was the diversity of geysers, hot springs, fumeroles, and mud volcanoes. Everywhere I went, there were roaring steam, water and mud. Some gush continuously, pumping thousands of gallons of boiling water into various rivers. Others have gone through active stages and are just simmering now. Also amazing was the spectacular colors in some of the springs, related to the minerals in the water, although the cold weather meant that it was almost impossible to get a decent picture because of the steam. Apparently, this is an advantage of being here in the summer, when you can get clear pictures of the springs. I’ll only put 2 pictures here out of the dozens I’ve taken. This second picture is looking directly into a deep blue pool of boiling water. Grand Prismatic, which is probably the most spectacular, was completely obsured by steam.

I hiked up to Mystic falls and to an overlook 500’ up to see a view of the upper geyser basin.

I also was lucky to catch this grizzly bear near the road. I was close to the car in case he was aggressive, but he just walked right by probably a hundred people and cars, ignoring us completely.

One picture of Lake Yellowstone, with the Abasoka mountains in the background and a hot spring in the foreground.

Probably the best hike I took was along the south rim of the grand canyon of Yellowstone. I got numerous spectacular views of both the canyon and the lower and upper falls. This one is of the lower falls.

Tower Falls

I had a good hike along SheepEaters cliffs named after a tribe of indians who lived in the area and lived primarily on bighorn sheep. They were the only indian tribe that lived continuously in the Yellowstone park. They moved to the Wind River Reservation with the Shoshone when the park opened. I captured this picture of basalt columns. These are lava, which was forced up and cooled. I didn’t see the bald eagle or bighorn sheep which are supposed to be along this route, but I could imagine camping there in the evening and catching a glimpse from a cliff above the Gardiner river. By now, I was planning my escape from more rain and snow by driving up the Beartooth highway to Red Lodge, Montana and a warm hotel room. I found ice crusted on the outside of my sleeping bag this morning when I rose. I was pretty comfortable until I got out of the sleeping bag.

Last stop in Yellowstone, at least for now, was at Mammoth springs, where I photographed these limestone formations. Here the runoff is so slow the water evaporates and deposits limestone.

I drove out through the NE entrance through the BearTooth Highway, quite a spectacular route through the Gallatin, Shoshone, and Custer National Forests. The sharp peak in the center of the picture above is beartooth mountain. I got a bit concerned with the amount of snow around 11,000’, what with all the signs indicating the road could be closed without notice in case of a storm and recommending tire chains. And, of course, I was on the road because the forecast called for snow within a few hours. Ultimately, I got through well ahead of the snow, although everyone here in Red Lodge was talking about the likelihood that the Beartooth highway will close again. Apparently it was closed during the weather last week.

And, of course, buffalo. These were everywhere. They seemed to love walking down the highway. Wildlife traffic jam, as they say here. I like them better in the meadows, as per picture. Apparently there were so many they started leaving the park, presenting a problem that required them to reduce the herd. I also saw lots of elk. In fact, my campground was near a river and meadow, so I was treated to bugling each evening and into the night.

Meanwhile, I’m in hotels for the next 2-3 days. The forecast is for rain/snow through Thursday/Friday, so I’m debating my next move. I thought about Glacier, but the weather there is the same as here, except colder. Looks like lows in the teens as far as the eye can see there.

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