Sunday, November 28, 2010

Western Vacation 2010 Day Five: September 7

This is the log of my western vacation in September 2010. Some of my own photographs are included and some from Wikipedia.

We set off to the east from Mammoth, through Tower Junction and up into the Lamar Valley. Along the way we saw many bison and a single coyote who crossed the road very near our car.

Then we saw a traffic jam caused by many people watching a wolf feed on a carcass in the Lamar River. Several coyotes appeared and started calling (howls and barks), and before ten minutes passed at least three more coyotes appeared. They made an attempt to run the black wolf off but another gray wolf appeared on the bank and the coyotes dispersed. We went up a bit further and saw a bear-jam, but saw no sign of the animal. The ranger said it could be all day.

Somewhere during this time we stopped to see the Petrified Tree. We ate our lunch at Tower Falls, just past the Hanging Cliff. Out of Tower Junction we headed south towards Canyon Junction. This road crosses the Dunraven Pass near Dunraven Peak and Mount Washburn, the highest road in the park.

At Canyon, we first walked the trail down to the brink of the Lower Falls. From this trail we got our only glimpse of the Upper Falls.

Next we walked out to Inspiration Point. You cannot see the falls from here, but the view of the canyon is truly inspiring. The point itself is a precarious looking rock hanging out from the edge. Finally we went to Artist Point, which is the most famous spot for viewing the Lower Falls.

Next we took the trail to Cascade Lake to check out the fishing. There was no chance of catching anything there with my rod, so we all hiked the trail to Observation Peak.

The hike to the peak was about 3 miles of uphill, to around 10,000 ft. From the top we could see the Tetons, the Absarokas in the east, the Gallatins in the northwest, the Boiling Spring, and a bit of the canyon. There's much fire damage to see in the area. Round trip on this hike was about 10 miles. That would prove to be the most difficult hike we would make.

We were unable to eat at Canyon, so we drove back to Mammoth via the Norris Junction and ate at the cafeteria.

Western Vacation 2010 Day Four: September 6

This is the log of my western vacation in September 2010. Some of my own photographs are included and some from Wikipedia.

This morning we took a float trip on the Snake River with the Triangle X Ranch. They do a good job in coordinating the trip and providing the gear and a knowledgeable guide. Except for a small cloud which covered the peak of Grand Teton itself, we had perfect cool weather. This bald eagle was the only animal we saw though. We met folks from Virginia and Carlisle, PA on the raft.

Now after we ate our leftover lunch in Jackson Hole, it was time to head north to Yellowstone. It takes a long time to get around GTNP when you leave from Jackson - the lake is long. Once you get past the lake, you start to climb up to the divide which runs through southern Yellowstone.

In southern Yellowstone, we saw vast pine forests damaged by the great fires of a few years ago. There's a large gorge right next to the road on the way in (Snake River), and a waterfall coming out of Lewis Lake. The lakes in Yellowstone are very large. We also saw the first of many bison grazing in the woods and fields.

We took the Grand Loop Road to the west at West Thumb (on the big lake), and stopped at Old Faithful. We saw an eruption about 10 minutes after we arrived.

The rest of the day we drove north on the Grand Loop Road from Old Faithful to Madison Junction, then Norris Junction, then finally to Mammoth, where we stayed. Most of the thermal areas in the park are along this stretch, visible from the highway. They look like Pennsylvania strippings with steam rising from them. The Firehole River parallels the road through some of this stretch too, and many people were fishing there.

After dinner at the fast-food restaurant in Mammoth, Dad and I tried fishing in the Lower Gardner River below Mammoth, but didn't have any luck. We did see some deer there though. This let us cross the border into Montana for the first time on the trip, as well.

We stayed in a rustic one-room cabin for the rest of our time in Yellowstone. It was small, but comfortable (once we got the heater working), and the public bathrooms were right behind our unit. There's a rather sizable village in Mammoth with several restaurants, the large Hotel, a post office, and many other buildings. The elk are pretty tame, and lay around throughout the day in the public areas.

We could hear the elk through the night bugling in the hills. Quite an eerie sound. I took a walk in those hills after dark, just to stretch my legs.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Western Vacation 2010 Day Three: September 5

This is the log of my western vacation in September 2010. Some of my own photographs are included and some from Wikipedia.

Our first stop in the morning was at the Jackson Whole Grocer. Their deli made some very good sandwiches.

We drove north out of Jackson Hole into Grand Teton National Park. This drive is perfectly designed- you cannot see the Tetons until you come around the northern edge of the Western Gros Ventre Butte. Once you do, you can see them in all their glory. This is the only place I have ever seen that brought tears to my eyes by its striking beauty.

There is a park road that parallels 191 and the Snake River, at which point you must pay the joint park access fee of $25. Along this route, we stopped and took pictures and saw a large herd of elk. We stopped at the Colter Bay on Jackson Lake.

After our lunch we did a hike from Jackson Lodge on the Lakeside Trail. It was very windy and cold- so much so that the boats stayed off the water.

Next we did our first mountain hike - up the road climbing Signal Mountain. This is a paved road, so many cars were taking passengers to the top. We saw deer, elk, and even a black bear in a tree. There are a few places here where the mountains peek through the cover too. Of course, there is a great view of the mountains from the top. We took a woods trail back down and saw another deer.

After dinner at Signal Mountain Lodge, we drove south on the park road with stops at Jenny Lake and the Lupine Meadow Trailhead. There were many more elk in this area. The Trailhead was the closest we came to the base of the Tetons.

And then just at dark we saw two bull moose feeding at the Snake River. Cross another new animal off the list!