Grand Tetons and Yellowstone National Parks

Our first stop on the way to the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone, was in Evanston, Wyoming.  Evanston is just off  Interstate 80, and was about half way to Alpine, Wyoming. Alpine would be our home for the time we explored Jackson and the Tetons.  It was a beautiful drive from Provo and we arrived early in the afternoon so we had time to check out the Evanston historic district and river walk.  We were pleasantly surprised by the great work the small town had done to preserve their old buildings and provide a recreation area (the river walk) for its citizens.

We had a conversation with a couple in their early 90s we met on the street, and learned even more about the town.  We stopped at a local brewery, the Suds Brothers and sampled their Bizzy Bee beer and the Red Monkey Butt Amber.  I love how creative the local breweries are with the beer names.  

While in Evanston, I also crowned the first Road King!  I must admit, there was alcohol involved.  Gerard was a good sport. He sort of looks like an old Italian lady, don’t you think?  🙂

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Road King Gerard Capra
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The Road Queens in a really good mood!

The next morning we were on the road to Alpine, Wyoming which is about 40 miles south of Jackson and the Grand Tetons. It was a steep climb over the mountains and it really pushed that Ford V-10 engine of mine.  We slowed to a crawl at 20 mph and I wondered if it would make it to the top.  We did. In hindsight, Reine should have driven the car instead of towing it behind the RV.  My bad; I hadn’t checked the elevation on the drive. Oh well…another lesson learned!  The route took us from Wyoming back through Utah, back into Wyoming, then into Idaho and finally back to Wyoming!  It was hysterical watching Reine try to get photos of the welcome signs as we went flying down the road.  When we saw the Welcome of Idaho sign, we both exclaimed, “Welcome to Idaho?  WTF?” I was wondering if I had taken a wrong turn somewhere. We had not.

 Alpine, Wyoming

We used Alpine as our home base for visiting the Tetons.  We stayed at Grey’s River Cove campground near the confluence of the Snake and Grey’s River.  It was a 45 minute drive to Jackson and just a bit longer to the Teton’s. Reine had to return home part way through our stay and then there were three!

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Sunset at our campground

 There is a lot to see and do in Jackson and we squeezed in as much as we could.  We visited the National Elk Refuge, created in 1912 to protect habitat and provide sanctuary for one of the largest elk herds on earth. It is home to 7,500 elk each winter.  The elk herd survives the hard winters of Jackson through a supplementary feeding program.  The elk shed their antlers and the Boy Scouts collect the antlers to sell with 75% of the proceeds returned to the refuge to help feed the elk.  The largest single herd of bison, (1000+) under federal management, also winter in the refuge.

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National Elk Refuge- No elk in the summer. This is their winter home.

 

 

The next day we went rafting on the Snake river one.  The scenery was absolutely beautiful!

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Rafting on the Snake River

Heading north from Jackson, it’s only a few miles to the Grand Tetons. We took the Jenny Lake ferry and then hiked to Inspiration Point. It was uphill for a mile and just about kicked our collective asses!  The view was worth it and the weather was the perfect.  Hiking down we broke out into song;  “The hills are alive…with the sound of music.”  It looked just like the Swiss/Italian Alps!  Such beauty!  At times, I could not believe my own eyes!

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Reine at Inspiration Point
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Hiking above Jenny Lake
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Mary and Gerard on the hike
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The Grand Tetons

 After dropping Reine at the Jackson airport, Mary and I visited the National Museum of Wildlife Art.  The museum preserves and exhibits wildlife art.  The 51,000 square foot building was inspired by the ruins of Slains Castle in Aberdeenshire, Scotland.  The building overlooks the National Elk Refuge and contains truly stunning art of the Jackson and Yellowstone area.  Our favorite exhibit was the photographs of endangered species by National Geographic photographer,  Joel Satore.  Joel is on a 25-year endeavor to document every captive animal species in the world using studio lighting and black and white backgrounds. Thus far, he has photographed 6,500 different species, which leaves approximately 6,000 to go.  Joel chronicles his project in his book, The Photo Ark. Here are a few of his photos.  Learn more here.

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I didn’t realize that it was only going to get more amazing in Yellowstone.

West Yellowstone, Montana

We drove through Grand Teton NP and Yellowstone NP on Hwy 191 to arrive at West Yellowstone and our base camp for visiting Yellowstone National Park.  What a beautiful drive! We camped at Yellowstone Holiday RV park on Hebgen Lake.  It was a very nice campground with views of the lake.  Unfortunately, the smoke in the air got progressively worse during our stay.  The last time I visited Yellowstone I was 19 years old and the only thing I remembered was Old Faithful.  Was I in for a surprise!   

Ever heard of Earthquake Lake?  Yeah…me either.  On the way to our campground we saw signs for Earthquake Lake on Hwy 287.  One afternoon we drove the 17 miles to the visitor center and were astounded that we had never heard of Earthquake Lake and the event from which it was formed.  The lake was created after a 7.5 earthquake struck on August 17, 1959, causing an 80-milliom ton landslide, which dammed up the Madison River. The landslide traveled down the south flank of Sheep Mountain, at 100 miles per hour and killed 28 people who were camping along the shores of Hebgen Lake and downstream along the Madison River.  The visitor center is built on the top of part of the landslide.  There are first hand accounts displayed in the visitor center. Downright chilling as we were camped on the edge of Hebgen Lake.  Learn more about this event and its aftermath here.

The rest of our time was spent exploring Yellowstone National Park.  Gerard did the research and we were able to cover three of the four sections of the park.  We missed the northeast section of the park including the Lamar Valley.  We did visit Madison Junction to Old Faithful including the Midway Geyser Basin, the Mammoth Hot Springs, Norris Geyser Basic, the Canyon Area (Grand Canyon of Yellowstone), Firehole Lake Drive and Haden Valley, Fishing Bridge Lake Village on Yellowstone Lake, the West Thumb Geyser Basic and, of course, Old Faithful. 

Yellowstone NP is the most unique park I’ve visited.  Yellowstone is a giant volcano caldera with hot springs, mudpots, fumaroles (steam vents) and travertine terraces. It’s crazy to realize that we were standing 3 to 5 miles above the hot magna that is our earth and could erupt at any minute!  Yellowstone is part of the Pacific Ring of Fire, which is a major area in the basic in of the Pacific Ocean where a large number of earthquakes and volcanos eruptions occur.  Learn more here.

Another lesson learned…don’t visit Yellowstone in the summer.  It was very crowded which made it difficult to relax and really soak in the natural marvels.  We tried going to the park early, late and in between.  Between the traffic accidents and the animals in the road, there were many delays.  We didn’t let this spoil our visit, but I learned my lesson.  I definitely will return to Yellowstone, probably in the spring.  Here are just a few of the photos I took at Yellowstone.

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At this point I had no idea what wonders awaited me!
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Steam spouts
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Microorganisms determine the color of the water
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White Dome
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Steam spouts everywhere!
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Bison on side of road
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Bison watching me, watching them.
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One very cold morning in order to get the proper lighting for photos: Gerard and Mary Ann Capra, Lynn Simpkin and yours truly
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Yellowstone Grand Canyon
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Grand Prismatic
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Yellowstone wonders
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A geyser, not Old Faithful

 

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Mary Ann and the Road Queen…I love traveling with friends.

 

Next stop Glacier National Park!

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