Home Away From Home, National Park, Wyoming

Hidden Lake and Inspiration Point Hike

It was our last day in the Tetons so we tried to make the best of it. As usual, we got a late start and then had to return to the campground not once but twice for things we forgot. We finally headed out to the Jenny Lake Visitor’s Center to catch the shuttle over the lake for the hikes.

We were planning to hike to Hidden Lake and then Inspiration Point, just a one-mile hike one way. Easy peasy. Right? Wrong! The hike to Hidden Lake was all uphill and though for the most part, the path was not difficult to walk the climbing was another story. We met a ranger who encouraged us to take it slow and take plenty of breaks because of the altitude. We were going to gain about 600 feet! The hike was nice. We had sun and shade and an occasional breeze which helped tremendously. We saw the turnoff for Inspiration Point but headed for the very lovely Hidden Falls. Situated near the mouth of Cascade Canyon, Hidden Falls drops roughly two hundred feet in a series of steps, thus easily making this the best waterfall hike in the park. As a result of its popularity, the waterfall is one of the most visited destinations in Grand Teton National Park.

When we got to Hidden Falls, we just sat by the falls enjoying the beauty and the sound of the rushing water plus we got to rest a little bit and catch our breath. Little did we know how much we would need it! After all, it was only a half-mile up. Right?

A pretty treacherous path
We began climbing along a very rocky and rugged trail stopping often to catch our breath and have some water. Near the Point, we passed over a short section with a fairly steep, narrow ledge. Of course, there were people going both ways but most of the time people would take turns on the more treacherous parts. It was however so worth the effort as we had an outstanding panoramic view of Jenny Lake, the second largest lake in the Tetons.

We made it!

The lake was named after a Shoshone Indian named Jenny Leigh who helped with the initial survey, the 1872 Hayden Survey. Another lake in the Tetons is named for her husband. As I researched Jenny Leigh, I learned that in 1876 Jenny and her six children all died of smallpox. What a sad ending for an outstanding woman.

The hike back to the shuttle was mercifully mostly downhill. We still had to stop for breaks but not as often. That was when I understood why the people we had met on our ascent had looked so ragged. I am sure we looked pretty ragged by then too. The shuttle ride back was blessedly cool.

After the return to shore, we headed for the car and hopefully a nice cool picnic area. I saw the sign for the Teton Village so told Jerry to turn there. I had not researched the village but I had read that it was a point of interest so off we went. We didn’t find any picnic areas so since it was after 2:00 Jerry just pulled off of the road and we did our usual, picnic lunch in the car. We rode right past the village and into Jackson Hole and did some light grocery shopping.

We returned to the campground for a little rest as we were both pretty exhausted from our hot, difficult but rewarding hike. A bit later we decided to ride out to Mormon Row. As we left the campground on Gros Ventre Road we saw a lot of cars pulled over and we all know what that means – an animal of some sort. It was a moose! I had been so disappointed that I had not seen a moose during our visit despite having been told that they were around. There he was, a huge bull moose. Of course, Jerry had left his good camera at the campground so we jumped in the car, rode back to the campground, returned to the sight of the moose and he was still there. He stayed until he was frightened by some guys entering the river to fish.

T. A. Moultan Barn
We continued on to Mormon Row. Mormon Row was a village started by members of the Church of Latter-Day Saints to sent out to establish new communities. They clustered their farms together to share labor and community which was in stark contrast with the isolation typical of most western homesteads. There are only a couple of houses there now and two barns which highlight Mormon Row. The T.A. Moulton Barn draws photographers from around the world to want to capture the barn with the majestic Tetons in the background.

Despite the fact that we only hiked a little over five miles total today we were pretty tired when we got back to the motor home. Jerry grilled pork chops and I prepared corn, peas and Mac and cheese knowing we’d have leftovers for dinner tomorrow night. Tomorrow morning will be an early start as we begin our trek back to North Carolina via Lawrenceville, Ga for some RV repair. It’s been a grand trip, more wonderful than I even anticipated but it is time to go home. The best part of every trip to me is returning home. It’s time to see our grands!!!!

Irrespective of hour or season, whether viewed on clear days or stormy, the Tetons are so surpassingly beautiful that one is likely to gaze silently upon them conscious of the futility of speech.

Fritiof Fryxell – 1958

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Home Away From Home, National Park, Wyoming

Taggart Lake Trail in the Tetons

Our hike this morning was Taggart Lake Trail which was off the Jenny Lake highway. It was a little more than three miles round trip and had sun and shade, ascent and descent, flat and rocky climb. All in all, a perfect hike. We ran into a young couple from Virginia on their way to San Francisco for graduate school and chatted with them for the last half mile. It made the hike go much faster and then suddenly we were at Taggart Lake. It’s a small lake but pretty with beautiful reflections in the water. We did see some small fish swimming around. It took us about 30 minutes to walk back to the parking lot.

We returned to the campground for lunch and then went into to Jackson Hole for me to get a haircut and boy did I get one! I told her I was going to let it grow out and just needed a trim and shape up. Glad I didn’t tell her I wanted it short but I did get a good cut.

Afterward, we walked around Jackson Hole looking at t-shirts. If you can’t find one you want it’s not because there aren’t enough stores in town. They are everywhere! We ended up at Starbucks where we did some computer catch up. Both of us needed to sort pictures. I had already downloaded the pictures from Jerry’s camera to my computer but I wanted to put them in my Google photos in case something happened to my computer. Backup! We spent a good while in there.

Later we went to the Chapel of Transfiguration. It is a lovely log church which still holds Sunday services in the summer. I do wish we could have been there for a service. There is a large picture window at the back of the altar that frames the Tetons just behind the cross. Everyone is invited in to pray.

We then walked over to the Mentor buildings but everything was closed so we didn’t get to enter in the buildings.

We returned to the campground for leftovers for dinner. Jerry didn’t sleep well last night so an early night was in store.

Home Away From Home, National Park, Wyoming

A Day in the Grand Tetons

We slept in this morning. Since Jerry was not feeling well last night, I didn’t want to awaken him so he slept even later. We got a late start, almost 10:00. Heading to Coulter Bay where our first hike began was second on the list. First, Jerry wanted to find the overlook we had seen when we first entered the park. The view of the Tetons and their reflection on the water was a picture that couldn’t be described. We ran into the ever-present road construction but that didn’t slow us down too much as we headed back toward Yellowstone. Jerry wanted to get his pictures!

We finally found the turnoff – we think – and Jerry got his pictures. Again, the view was spectacular. On the way back we again were stopped for construction but it was a short delay. We headed on to Coulter Bay and made a stop at the general store first. It was a very nice store with groceries, gas, and then a gift shop on the other side. We ended up passing on the t-shirts but we did buy a fanny pack that would hold a water bottle and my phone. That will not be very pretty but it beats carrying a water bottle all of the time.

We decided to take the Lakeshore Trail which is a mostly flat trail that winds around Colter Bay. The views again are incredible. As we hiked along, we met someone who told us they had seen a bear and although we kept our eyes opened, we never saw one. We did sit on the shore of Swan Lake for a while. While sitting there a butterfly landed on my foot and stayed there long enough for us to get a picture. The water was not freezing but it was too cold for me to want to swim although there were others who did venture in.

After walking back to the Visitor’s Center, we got our lunch and found a picnic table in front of the center with a view of Colter Bay and the marina. There were some pretty nice boats out there all privately owned. It was the perfect place for a picnic and definitely the most perfect place we found to have lunch during the entire trip. Cool, shaded and peaceful.

After lunch, we walked back into the center and talked with a ranger about how to spend the rest of our day. Unfortunately, Signal Mountain is closed due to aggressive bear behavior. Apparently, someone had been feeding the bears and they were aggressive toward the rangers, thus the closure. We left the center and suddenly we were on the very picturesque road the ranger had suggested driving. We stopped at the Jackson Lake Dam and Reservoir. What power!

Our next stop was the Chapel of the Sacred Heart. The chapel, built entirely of logs was dedicated on August 15, 1937. It is a lovely church and they still have services on Sundays during the summer. Jerry decided not to stop anymore and take pictures and then there was another view that he couldn’t resist. The granite mountains are beautiful but the glaciers on top just seem to complete the lovely picture.

We then rode into Jackson trying to find someone to cut my hair. That is one busy little town! Traffic was terrible and of course, people were walking everywhere. We got a picture of the elkhorn arch and then headed back to the campground.

We had planned to have an early dinner and then go out animal watching or should I say animal looking. After dinner, we rode around for a while but we returned to the campground with our efforts in vain. Other than seeing a few bison here and there we haven’t seen any animals during our stay in the Tetons other than chipmunks which are abundant, almost like the prairie dogs in South Dakota.

Thankfully so far, we have had cool nights so one air conditioner has been sufficient. We’re a little worried about the trip home because we are headed to hotter and more humid weather. It has been cool and dry and we have been blessed with great weather these past seven weeks.

Home Away From Home, National Park, Wyoming

Our Introducton to the Grand Tetons

Today was a travel day but we were still moving slowly after a marathon yesterday. We finally pulled out of the campground a little after 9:00 and then it took us almost 30 minutes to get into Yellowstone Park. As usual, we were in the “Gale” lane, the lane you never want to get in.

Traffic through the park was not nearly as bad as I had anticipated but we did have to slow down for two animal sightings. We don’t know what the first one was as we didn’t see anything, just a ranger urging traffic on. The second was just above the parking lot at Fairy Falls where we were earlier in the week. It was a grizzly! After we passed by Old Faithful traffic thinned out but the elevations didn’t. Kudos to Jerry for a terrific chauffeuring job and for our 40’ gasser who handled those “hills” wonderfully.

We arrived at Gros Ventre just after noon and thankfully got an electric site. Leveling was interesting but we finally got it livable and decided that we really wouldn’t be spending much waking time in the coach so perfectly level wasn’t something we had to have.

After lunch, we rode to the Visitor’s Center at Jenny Lake. It is an astounding center with bronze statues of animals and people vital to the development of the park displayed. We watched a very good video about the history of the park and then when the video ended the curtains opened to a beautiful expansive view of the amazing Tetons. I have never been to a national park that ended a video in that matter. Very impressive.

We took the Jenny Lake scenic drive which led us through a forested area. We were wondering exactly what was so scenic and then bam, there was Jenny Lake in all its splendor plus the Tetons in the distance. It was stunning, to say the least. As we got out of the car I noticed that despite the number of people it was so very quiet. There was such a serene and calming feeling. In fact, we saw two people stretched out on benches napping. The beauty of the mountains and the lake left us speechless, meditative, reflective, peaceful. One thing that makes the Tetons stand out is that there are no foothills. The mountains just go straight up.

After leaving the park we got some gas and then headed back to the campground. Jerry was not feeling well so a quiet evening was in store for us. We ended up taking a couple of walks around the park after dinner and then Jerry made some strawberry ice cream. The front AC/Heating Unit was on the blink but fortunately, it was cool enough to open the windows until the campfire smoke started drifting in through the windows. Luckily, the back unit was working fine so we had air conditioning this evening and will have heat tomorrow morning.

Home Away From Home, Montana, National Park

Last Day in Yellowstone

What an exciting morning. As our boys would say, we got up at 0 dark thirty and headed to Lamar Valley via Mammoth. We saw a few elk as we traveled along but little else during our hour ride to Mammoth. Leaving there we continued on to Lamar Valley through Tower-Roosevelt. As soon as we turned toward Lamar Valley at the Tower, we immediately saw a lone bison strolling down the highway. Our cars didn’t seem to bother him a bit as he passed very closely by our car. A little further on we saw another bison taking his morning stroll and then we began to see herds and herds of bison. Now we know where they all are!

As we journeyed on, we saw a crowd of people stopped at a bridge. Several had high magnification scopes so we stopped to see what was so interesting. According to everyone, it was three grizzlies eating on a carcass. We looked through the binoculars and the camera plus someone’s scope. I never saw a thing!

A little further on we saw another group of people stopped so we pulled over. One of the guys said they had been tracking a wolf all morning and they were expecting him to come by. Suddenly someone cried out “there he is” and he was on the other side of the road. I actually saw him loping along. Not only did I see him with the binoculars but also with my naked eye. He was really big!

We continued on down the highway marveling at the number of bison we were seeing. At one point we watched some that appeared to be running from something but we never saw any kind of predator. We finally turned around and bam, we were in our first bison jam and we were the first car. We patiently waited as they sauntered along. The biggest guy just stood in front of our car like he dared us to try to come through. We didn’t move! There were several young calves. Eventually, they moved on by and we were able to proceed. There were bison all up and down the road, some by themselves and some in herds, large and small.

As we rode along, we saw another group of cars pulled off of the side of the road so of course we stopped and jumped out to see what everyone was looking at. It was a bear! He was on the other side of the little stream sitting on the rocks eating. It was a black bear, not a grizzly and he had been tagged.

Next, we hit Mammoth again. We walked into the hotel, used the bathrooms and then went into the gift shop to get the pink cap I had looked at earlier in the week. A quick walk down to the General Store where we got a blueberry muffin. After all, we had been up five hours and it was time for a snack.

I had been looking forward to seeing all of the elk in Mammoth as we saw several on our earlier visit but they must have been still sleeping. We saw none. I had been dreading the drive leaving Mammoth headed to Norris because of the construction we had run into earlier this week. Apparently, the road construction comes to a halt on Saturday because they were not working today. Yea. That was an extra 30-40 minutes subtracted from our road time today.

We finally got to visit Artist Paintpots after two earlier attempts. We were both kind of dragging but we soldiered on. The hike was 1.6 and part boardwalk. The first stop was a boiling mudpot and a boiling spring. It was amazing to stand and watch the seismic activity imagining what lies beneath. We continued up to the overlook and the scene below did indeed look like an artist’s palette. Further up we came to a large mudpot and boy was the mud shooting up. Beware flying mud! It looked like one big muddy hole which I guess it was, only a lot hotter. I could just imagine children enjoying playing in that were it not for the depth and the heat. Within the Artist’s Paintpot were colorful hot springs, mudpots and small geysers. It seems there are geysers all over Yellowstone but we only hear about Old Faithful since it’s predictable.

We continued our trek through the park and decided today was the day to have our picnic along a flowing stream. We found a picnic area on a stream and luckily a free picnic table but when we got out, we realized that it was a little chilly and windy for a picnic on the water. Obviously, we had a quick lunch. One of our earlier plans had been to stop by a stream and put our feet in the water. In fact, I had put a towel in the car for that purpose. Well, it was just too cold to do it. Instead, we used the towel as a tablecloth.

We wanted to get a short visit to West Thumb Geyser Basin so that was our next stop. West Thumb is on the Yellowstone Lake and is the largest geyser basins on the shores of the lake. West Thumb is still thermally active and we saw hot springs, mudpots and geysers steam and percolate along the shore. In fact, one geyser was called Percolate. One of the more interesting features was Fishing Cone, a hot spring. Old tales talk of fishermen catching a trout in the lake and then swinging it around to the spring with the end result a boiled fish!

After the hike around the lake we decided to head on back to the campground. We were planning on one stop at Black Sand Basin. Black obsidian or “sand” gives the basin its name. The oranges, greens and other colors in and around the hot springs come from the thermophiles. The colors were so vibrant especially a bright yellow that we hadn’t seen anywhere else. As soon as we walked up the Cliff geyser erupted. What a sight to see.

The steam almost covered the geyser!
We were on the way back but decided we could drive to Firehole Lake Drive. We thought we were going to take a nice simple drive. How surprised we were when we realized that there were many cars and people lined up around a geyser. We snagged a parking place and walked over to see what was going on. We knew it wasn’t an animal despite the attraction. It was actually a geyser, The Great Fountain and they were expecting it to erupt any minute. A couple we talked with had been waiting for three hours. While we were waiting for the Great Fountain, we saw a smaller, yet still significant geyser, the White Dome erupt and then the Great Fountain began erupting. What a sight to see. It was amazing to see the water fill the area around the geyser plus we got sprinkled as we watched through the tremendous steam. It lasted several minutes.

What a wonderful way to end our time at Yellowstone National Park! We drug our tired selves back to the RV after a twelve-hour day. Tomorrow, the Tetons!

Home Away From Home, Montana, National Park

Hiking in the Canyon

We headed for the Canyon area this morning and our first stop was the Visitor’s Center. It was a very different center in that it seemed to focus on the volcanic activity more than the geysers. We did get to see the 9,000-pound globe that showed the hot spots in the world. Just by touching it you could move the globe in a different direction.

Our first stop was Lookout Point. We walked down to the observation point where we could have a clear, though distant view of the Upper Falls. They were so beautiful and powerful that against our better judgment we decided to take the Red Rock Trail. It descends about 600 feet and the path is a little rocky at times. But the end result was so worth it. What majesty and power we observed as the falls rushed down the mountain. We took a lot of breaks going back up and in spite of Jerry’s doubts, we made it.

Our next stop was the trailhead for Inspiration Point. Now, in all honesty, I must admit that if we had known that we could have driven just a little bit further and arrived at Inspiration Point we probably would have done that. Instead, we took the trail. After we’d walked just a short distance, I told Jerry it should be called Inspiration Points – with an “s” because there were several spots that had breathtaking views. We continued walking and entered into a forested area. I was feeling really assured because I knew that for once we had the bear spray. Wrong! Jerry had the holster for the bear spray but he had taken the spray out and forgotten to put it back in. Oh well, I just kept making noise. The bonus was smelling the wonderful firs along the way. It smelled just like Christmas.

We finally made it to Inspiration Point after a somewhat rocky path to the overlook. The views at Inspiration Point were indeed worth the hike. Again, we saw the majestic falls tumbling down to the viciously bubbling stream below. We then realized that some of the people we had seen on the trail were only hiking one way with someone in their party picking them up at the end. No such luck for us. We turned around and headed back to the car. Interestingly, neither of us thought the hike out was nearly as far plus it was a lot more pleasant. It took us about 30 minutes.

We returned to the Visitor’s Center and in lieu of a vacant picnic table, we had our lunch in the car – again! We rolled down the windows and there was a very nice cool breeze.

Since we were on a deadline to return to the campground, we decided to ride into Hayden Valley to see if we saw any animals. Suddenly we saw a great many cars parked but couldn’t determine what everyone was looking at. People had chairs set up and some had a long-distance lens. We parked and as we were getting out of the car someone asked if we wanted to know what we were looking for. Certainly, because it surely wasn’t obvious. It was a bear eating a dead bison! With the binoculars, I could barely make it out and only saw the rump of the bison and the bear’s head. It didn’t take too long to decide that we had seen enough.

That was the end of our touring for the day as we had dinner plans for the evening. Our older son Trent had arranged for us to have dinner at the posh Spanish Peaks Clubhouse in Big Sky. It was only 47 miles away but took longer than an hour due to some mountainous roads near Spanish Peaks. It is called “Peaks” for a reason. Our dinner was delicious. Jerry had an elk chop and I had a petit filet. We topped it off with a yummy dessert of flourless chocolate cake and ice cream cover with crunchies and caramel sauce. Wow, I was hoping that the button on my jeans didn’t fly off and hit someone across the room. After dinner, we walked out on the deck to look at the beautiful surrounding. Marring the view but still beautiful in its own right was a crane being used for building. It was boasting an American flag and a Montana flag. Both were floating gently in the wind.

We stopped for gas before we left Big Sky as it is less expensive than in west Yellowstone and we knew we’d be driving a lot tomorrow. The road back to West Yellowstone was desolate, to say the least. We met a few cars but saw none going our way. There was no cell service so if there was a problem we were on our own. Jerry spotted two deer on our way back and despite the warnings, we didn’t see any other wildlife.

Home Away From Home, Montana

Mammoth Hot Springs and Norris Basin

Leaving really early is just not in our list of possibilities. Of course, I slept later today too so we ended up leaving a little after 8:00 and then had to stop for gas but really to clean the windshield so we could see the beautiful things ahead of us today.

As we traveled through the park on the way to Mammoth Hot Springs, we passed numerous fumaroles. A fumarole or steam vent is the hottest hydrothermal feature in the park. A small amount of water in fumaroles flashes into steam before it reaches the surface. They are easiest to see in cool weather and today with a temperature of 35 this morning we were blessed with being able to see quite a few. When we passed Terrace Spring steam was on both sides of the road and then just before we reached Beryl Spring the sky was covered with steam and it was rising. It looked like a huge sauna.

We continued on through Madison and headed toward Mammoth. Again, we encountered more steam. Just before we got to Clearwater Springs the entire side of the mountain had steam rising. We had earlier decided that we wouldn’t stop anywhere but would go directly to Mammoth but we had a change of heart when we saw the volumes of steam rising. What a sight to see.

And then we ran into construction! We were one of many in a long line of traffic that was not moving either way. Just a 30-40-minute delay while they worked on repairing the roads.

We had been advised to drive to Upper Terrace and hike down to Lower Terrace so that’s what we did. The parking lots were jammed but we luckily found a small place to pull the Jeep in. The Hot Springs are amazing, otherworldly, and beyond description. I mentioned that it looked like the land that was forgotten. With cascades of waters streaming down the mountainous rock, it looked surreal. The water is heated deep underground and then rises to the surface. As it rises it penetrates through limestone, dissolving calcium carbonate. Above ground, the travertine terraces are formed. Underground channels sometimes shift or clog causing the water to change course. When that happens springs may slow down or stop thus it is an everchanging landscape.

We walked along the boardwalk in amazement focusing on the various bright colors, some earth colors and some vivid greens and blues. There wasn’t much wind this morning but apparently, it had been windy sometime earlier. We saw several hats in restricted areas.

When we got to the bottom we walked into Mammoth and stopped in a couple of stores. Then we turned around and started the trek back up to the car. Near the beginning to the walk up was the Liberty Cap, a dormant hot spring cone. It stood as a sentinel all alone.

As we were walking someone mentioned that there were elk in a meadow below us so we walked down there and sure enough we saw about seven elk grazing and ignoring the people. All of the elk except one crossed the road while the other one seemed to almost disappear. We returned to the boardwalk to continue our climb and suddenly there she was, right beside the boardwalk.

The walk back up was exhausting whether from the altitude or the climb. We had to stop a couple of times to catch our breath. We chatted with a nice gentleman from France who offered to take our picture. He even offered me some water.

We finally made it to the car and drove into town hoping to find a nice place for our picnic. Parking was at a premium and when we finally found one it was pretty far from the picnic area so again, we ate in the car with air condition.

After lunch, we went to the Visitor’s Center. It was quite a busy place. Since it’s near the North Entrance I would guess some people were in there getting ideas.

Next, we walked to the Mammoth Hot Springs Hotel. Our main interest was in the Map Room which contains a large wooden map of the United States constructed out of 15 different blocks of wood from nine countries. We found North Carolina which was made from walnut. We walked in the gift shop but didn’t make a purchase. We went outside the hotel and sat down just to rest a bit and began talking to some other RVers. They are on a Fantasy Tour visiting some of the same stops we have visited.

We continued our stroll in the town returning to the gift shop and there right next to the sidewalk was an elk. We were really too close to her but our choice was an elk or moving cars. We hurried on by.

As we left Mammoth our intention was the Norris Basin but we remembered that yesterday as we passed by there on our way in, the parking lot was full and cars were parked down both sides of the highway in both directions. I really doubted we’d get in but we did and found a parking place in the parking area very near the trail.

The Norris area is described as “a world of heat and gases where microorganism live in such massive numbers they add color to the landscape”. The area is on the edge of a giant volcano, the Yellowstone Volcano, which is one of the largest on earth. And why were we there?

There were two loop trails, the Back Basin Trail and the Porcelain Basin Trail. We started out of the Back-Basin Trail which had a surprising number of steaming geysers and hot springs. There was a very prevalent odor of sulfur.

Our first stop was at Emerald Spring, a beautiful clear pool. “A hot spring’s color often indicates the presence of minerals. In a clear blue pool, the water is absorbing all colors of sunlight except one, blue, which is reflected back to our eyes. The 27-foot deep pool is lined with yellow sulfur deposits. The yellow color from the sulfur combines with the reflected blue light, making the hot spring appear a magnificent emerald green.” We are still amazed at the vibrant colors we see in all of the hot springs and the springs are very prevalent on the Back-Basin Trail.

The two most popular geysers in Back-Basin are Steamboat Geyser which is the tallest geyser in the world at 300-400 feet and Echinus Geyser. Both are acidic geysers which are very rare. We didn’t get to see either erupt although Steamboat was due.

We continued on the trail and were nearly done when Jerry saw the sign pointing to Porcelain Basin. As tired as we were we knew we wouldn’t get back to see these oddities again so we soldiered on. We followed the boardwalk around and through the basin which is totally devoid of trees. It again looked like a forgotten barren land.

As we continued on the boardwalk we saw some people along with a ranger stopping by a small geyser. The ranger told us that it was due to erupt in about 15 minutes so we waited – and waited! It did finally erupt and was amazing. We were so close to it! The ranger advised guarding our phone screens, sunglasses and camera lens as the acidic water and steam would etch them. We could actually feel the water from the steam.

Another long day and an even longer ride back to the campground as we ran into an elk jam. We just waited patiently and ate potato chips!

Home Away From Home, National Park, Wyoming

Afternoon in Yellowstone

Plan A: Get up early and get on the road as quickly as possible as we will be going to the East entrance of Yellowstone National Park and traveling through the park to West Yellowstone. We had already been told that the crowds are immense and it would take a long time to get through. Plus, there could be animal jams so up early and on the way.

Plan B: the real plan. Sleep until almost 7:00, have coffee and breakfast, shower, dress, break camp, hook up car, stop for gas, leave Cody around 9:00. It really was around 8:30 when we pulled out of the campsite but we had to stop to attach the car and for gas and that took a long time. Jerry wanted to make sure we had a full tank so when the pump cut off at $89.00 he continued to put gas in until $124.00. We have a full tank! We don’t know how accessible gas will be nor how expensive it will be so trying to avoid running low.

As we traveled along passing by the Buffalo Bill Reservoir I was again impressed by the stunning beauty of the vivid blue sapphire calm waters set again the immense mountains. I can’t imagine living here and being able to see that splendor every day.

We arrived at the East Entrance at 10:00 and inched our way on, sometimes at the high speed of 21 mph. Jerry pulled off at several overlooks to let traffic pass by. We climbed to 8500 plus feet above sea level past Sylvan Pass before we started descending some. I’ve heard about the slow traffic in Yellowstone. Guess today it was us!

After we passed Lake Yellowstone which was breathtaking, we knew it would deserve a return visit so elected not to stop. Shortly afterward. we saw a sign indicating a rough road ahead for four miles. Indeed, it was a rough, dirt, partially traveled road with badly needed construction going on. Before long we were at Fishing Bridge and then Canyon Village. We had talked about stopping at the Visitor’s Center at Canyon Village but not knowing what was ahead we decided to go on to the campground.

I enjoyed the ride through the park but I can’t say the same for Jerry. As he had done every leg of this wonderful journey, he did a fantastic job of driving the coach. The traffic was heavy but not terrible and the road was winding but not terrible. Though it was a short drive it was very tiring for him.

We arrived at Yellowstone Grizzly just before 1:00. Check-in was easy and efficient with three ladies handling the deluge of people checking in. Getting to our site was another deal though. We detached the car at the staging area and Jerry told me to lead him to the site. I couldn’t find it! We both got out of our vehicles and tried to find someone to ask but didn’t see anyone. To make a long story short, Jerry figured it out. I traced the map all the way through Yellowstone but couldn’t read the campground map. ☹

After we set up we had some lunch and then tried to decide what to do for the afternoon. Finally, I suggested the Visitor’s Center. While there we sort of mapped out our plan for the next four days by dividing the park into quadrants and doing one quadrant a day.

We did ride on into the park today though. Our first stop was at an elk sighting. There was one and he was pretty far away so we didn’t linger too long.

Our next stop was Terrace Spring, a small grouping of thermal features just off the Norris/Madison road. We took a short boardwalk trail around to the spring where the steam was rising and the stream was bubbling. We saw some fluorescent spots in the water.

Our next stop was at Gibbon Fall. We went to both the upper falls overlook and the lower falls overlook. Gibbon Falls is the spot where the Gibbon River flows 84 feet over the erosion-resistant rock of the giant caldera rim. A paved trail guides you high above the banks of the Gibbon River giving you great views of the falls. You could easily see the grooves in the rocks where the dynamite had been put to create the retaining wall.

Our next stop was Beryl Spring. Oh, my goodness. Never having seen a geyser before I was totally amazed. The water in this thermal feature is extremely hot, with temperatures being above the boiling point. There were signs in several places warning about the hot water. The thick white cloud of steam varied with the wind but as it blew towards us we could definitely feel the heat.

We decided we would make one more stop at Artists Paintpots but were never able to find a parking place so we left it for another day. As we returned to the spot of the earlier elk sighting, we realized that there were several elk out there. You can always tell by the number of cars around! There was a cow with a couple of babies but no bulls around.

On the way back we ventured off on the Riverside Road which is a road that runs next to a stream for fly fishing. That’s all!

Back at the campground for a nice cool 70-degree evening.

Home Away From Home, Montana, Wyoming

Chief Joseph Scenic Byway and the Beartooth Highway – in One Day!

We started our morning headed for the Chief Joseph Scenic Byway and scenic it is. As we wound our way up to the peak we stopped often to take pictures that are beyond description and our pictures just can’t do the panorama views justice. As we stopped at one overlook we began chatting with some bikers, two from Australia and the rest from Nebraska. As we continued up the mountain we met them again and again.

The highest point was Dead Indian Hill, 8,000 feet above sea level. The views are incredible. We moved on down about 200 feet and again amazing scenery. Among the snow-capped mountains, we saw a flat plateau that looked like it had been carved and set down in the lower valley after cutting the top off. The temperature was 59 with high winds. It was cold! I would love to know what the wind chill was but we had no cell service so no way to find out. We saw a sign for “cattle crossing” and indeed we saw numerous cows along the roadside as we traveled. There were all tagged. It was a 7% downhill grade. Glad I was not in the RV although we met several trucks with tagalongs.

Jerry saw a graveled road leading off of the main highway so he took it. It actually led to a trail down to the canyon. It looked like it might have been a great trail to hike but since we didn’t have bear spray we opted not to do it. I think we’ll put the spray in the car and leave it. We had taken it out because we had been cautioned that it would explode if it got too hot.

Further down we stopped at another overlook where we could actually see the Clarks Fork River. There are three classes of rivers: recreational, scenic and wild. This was classified as a wild river and I can certainly see why. We tried to get some pictures but it was 300 feet down and fenced off so we couldn’t get too close. We did wander down a bit and as Jerry walked ahead of me I thought I heard the tell-tell sound of a rattlesnake. I tried to caution him but he couldn’t hear me and he didn’t appear to be in any danger. I stopped and took another route and the sound faded away. We have seen numerous warnings about bears but nothing about snakes.

As we continued down we saw signs indicating “open range” and “cattle on the road” and we soon found out why as we met cows several times. The road straightened out some and the curves were gentle, no drastic u-turns or switchbacks. We were still at 7000 plus feet though and only slowly descending. We passed by several ranches, some advertising “open”, possibly dude ranches. There was a rolling stream escorting us part of the way, a perfect place for our picnic lunch but inaccessible.

When the Chief Joseph Scenic Highway ended we turned to the Beartooth All-American Highway. Of the 838 things to see in Montana according to TripAdvisor, Beartooth Highway is number one and I can certainly see why.

Our first stop was at 8900 feet and we continued up in elevation and down in temperature! It was 58 degrees. Beartooth Highway reminded me of the Going to the Sun Road with its narrow roads and twists and turns. At one stop we saw a lovely waterfall cascading through the trees and suddenly we were at Beartooth Lake. We followed the signs to the camping and picnic area and there we had our picnic lunch. I wish I could say we sat on the side of the lake and had lunch but alas, it was cold and windy so again we ate in the car. We didn’t even have a good view as cars were parked in front of us. We did walk down to the lake but again it was so cold and windy we didn’t tarry long.

Up and up we continued to climb above the snow line and the tree line to over 11,000 feet and 49 degrees. The views were incredible and we stopped at nearly every overpass. Put on the coat, take off the coat, put on the coat. I hope I don’t ever take another trip no matter what season that I don’t bring my warm Patagonia jacket. What on earth was I thinking? I know – trying to conserve space and surely I wouldn’t want it in August. Wrong again! Jerry said that he could feel a difference in his breathing but I didn’t notice anything. I can’t imagine trying to hike at this altitude though. Suddenly we crossed a state line and were in Montana.

We continued on the highway and realized that we were 76 miles from Cody. We had a long way to go to get back to Cody but what a wonderful last day in the area. As we rode along we saw what looked like an abandoned mine. We later discovered that it was the Smith Mine which exploded in 1943. The Smith Mine Disaster was the worst coal mining disaster in Montana. Since it occurred on a Saturday there was a small crew, only 77 men working but only three survived. A rescue worker later died.

As we traveled back to Cody we could see the Beartooth Mountains in the distance, a memory of a grand and unexpected adventure.

When we got back to Cody we parked the car – we have had no trouble finding parking anywhere in the city – and walked up and down and in and out of the various stores. We tried to find some “Cody” t-shirts but after going to three stores, two of them twice, we decided that we couldn’t really find what we wanted. It was time for the “shootout” at the Irma hotel so we walk over to that. Since it was 30 minutes long Jerry paid the $4 for us to have seats. We were seated right next to a couple from Asheville. We chatted for a while exchanging ideas on where we had been and where we were going. She assured me that we could easily go from Cody to East Yellowstone and then through the park to West Yellowstone. While there Jerry talked with someone who had just left Yellowstone and he said it was very crowded and to expect long delays. That’s pretty much what we expected to hear.

After the shootout, we headed to Walmart to restock our freezer, fridge, and pantry before we go to Yellowstone and the Tetons. We decided today to change our route a little bit. I had scheduled two days in Arco, Idaho to visit the Crater of the Moon but since we need to return via Lawrenceville, Ga to NIRV for some motor home work we decided to cut the trip two days short. Not much but it may make the difference in our being able to get the work done while we are there and not leaving the coach.

After a very exciting and exhilarating day, two very tired people returned to our little home away from home.

Home Away From Home, Wyoming

A Full Day in Cody

We started our day with a tour of Old Trail Town which shows the old West as it really was. It was a sunny but cool day, perfect for wandering in and out of the authentic cabins moved to Cody. This was where the original town of Cody was located. There were over twenty buildings, some we could enter and some roped off. All had authentic items in them and nearly all had either a bison head, a pronghorn head, a deer head, antlers from various animals or animal skulls. Each cabin is unique in its own way.

Bob Edgar, a Wyoming native with an interest in archeology realized that old historical buildings were rapidly disappearing so in 1967 he began the work of gathering the buildings and relics that are now located at Old Trail Town as this was where Cody had chosen for the first townsite of Cody in 1895. Many of the buildings were taken completely apart, moved and then reassembled. Among the relics at Old Trail Town are horse-drawn vehicles, memorabilia from the Wyoming frontier and Indian artifacts. While much of the memorabilia is in the various cabins the majority is housed in a very extensive museum viewed at the end of the trail.

The first cabin we entered was “Curley’s Cabin”. Curley was an Indian scout for Custer and luckily was able to escape the carnage at Little Bighorn as he was on the outside circle of the Sioux and Cheyenne. Many believe he was the first to bring the news of Custer’s defeat. The cabin was originally built near Crow Agency, Montana.

In 1882 some of the first sheep arrived in Central Wyoming brought by Luther Morrison. Morrison originally came west on the Oregon Trail in 1853 and built this cabin in 1884 located at the foot of Copper Mountain east of Shoshone, Wyoming. As in the other cabins, the walls were encircled by mounted animal heads but in addition, there was a two-headed calf! There was also a lovely old organ. Talking about juxtaposition.

Hole in the Wall cabin is a two-room cabin which was built on Buffalo Creek in the Wall Country, west of Kaycee, Wyoming by Alexander Ghent. It was known as the rendezvous place for Butch Cassidy, The Sundance Kid and other outlaws of the famous “Hole in the Wall Gang”.

Our next stop was the graveyard where five of the more infamous folks were buried. The first grave we visited was that of Jeremiah Johnson or better known as “Liver-Eating’ Johnson. Johnson was a trapper, hunter, wood hawk, army scout, marshal and Civil War veteran. He got his nickname because reportedly after he killed someone, he would take a bite of their liver. Yuk! Johnson’s body was moved to this location and one of the pallbearers was Robert Redford who played Jeremiah Johnson in the movie.

Other graves were those of Jim White also known as Buffalo Hunter, Jack Stilwell known as Frontiersman, Phillip Vetter, a trapper killed by a grizzly, W.A. Gallagher and Blind Bill, cowboys who were murdered and then the famous or more likely infamous Belle Drewry, the Woman in Blue. Supposedly she was involved in the murder of Gallagher and Blind Bill. She was buried in a blue dress.

Next, we visited a tribute to the famous Mountain Men including James “Old Gabe” Bridger, a hunter and trapper and Jim Bridger. Possibly the first man known as a Mountain Man was John Colter, a trapper who worked for Lewis and Clark. During his journey, he found “Colter’s Hell” which is where a tribute to him is now located. Although it cannot be accessed from Old Trail Town his monument can be seen in the distance. Legend has it that when captured by the Blackfeet he was forced to run for his life. He outdistanced the entire tribe for seven miles and survived, naked and weaponless but alive.

One of the last places we visited was the Rivers Saloon. It was frequented by Butch Cassidy, W.A. Gallager, Blind Bill and many other colorful cowboys of the old west. It is the oldest remaining saloon in northwest Wyoming. I saw bullet holes in the door!

Last but certainly not least is a museum filled with artifacts of the Old West including a horse-drawn hearse from the late 1800s. Initially, I didn’t realize what it was and then – wow!

We had decided to picnic again today so we went to the park at the Cody Visitor’s Center and had a nice lunch on the grounds. We still had two more museums to visit at the Buffalo Bill Center for the West so we returned there. We immediately went to the Plains Indians museum because we knew we would spend more time in there.

Jerry had remarked earlier that most of the photographs that we see of the Native Americans are either of children or men. Why not women? We asked at Old Trail Town but they were mystified as well. When we entered the Plains museum the very first and very large photograph we saw was of a woman. The first part of the museum emphasized the important role that the women played in their everyday lives.

“We women had our children to care for, meat to cook, and to dry, robes to dress, skins to tan, clothes, lodges and moccasins to make. We not only pitched the lodges, but took them down and packed the horses and the travois, when we move camp. We were busy, especially when we were going to move. I love to move, even after I was a married woman with children to take care of. Moving made me happy.” Pretty Shield, Absaroke (Crow)

Continuing on through the museum we saw life-sized women and men mounted on horses. Interestingly, before horses arrived on the Plains, dogs were essential to maintaining the season rounds. Dogs were not only family pets, but they were also used to carry the lodge poles and covers when families moved. After horses arrived the poles became longer and bigger so dogs were no longer used for that purpose.

One of the most interesting exhibits consisted of a life-size buffalo hide tipi. As buffalo disappeared from the Plains, women began making tipis from canvas so very few buffalo hides tipis exist today. This tipi showed evidence of many patches and repairs as well as hands and circles painted in red pigment. The audio that accompanied the exhibit explained the life of the Indians throughout each season.

The last museum we visited was the Cody Firearms Museum. It houses the most comprehensive collection of American firearms in the world with over 7,000 firearms and 30,000 firearms-related artifacts.

By this time, we were getting a little weary so we returned to the campground for a little rest as we knew we had an exciting night ahead.

After a little respite, we went to the Cody Cattle Company for dinner and a show before the rodeo. We were assigned seats for dinner and unfortunately, we were at a table with four people from Denmark. I chatted with the lady sitting next to me briefly but other than that neither of the others spoke to us keeping to themselves. I’m not sure they could speak English as I never heard them say anything in English. Dinner was beef brisket and/or chicken served with a choice of salad, slaw, vegetables and cowboy beans. It was good but the best part was the outstanding show. The band, The Three C, played a varied selection of old and new western songs. The guitarist was absolutely outstanding and has won several national titles. Watching him strum each of his guitars was mesmerizing.

Immediately after the show, we walked over to the rodeo. A PBR rodeo, it features all of the usual contests: bull riding, bare bronc riding, barrel racing, roping, and others. The rodeo started with a salute to the flag and prayed to our Lord and Savior. What a nice way to begin an evening. Someone had told us to take a jacket as it might be cold and when the wind started blowing it did indeed get a little chilly. Jerry and I have watched rodeos on television in the past but the real thing is a little different. The cowboys and cowgirls are a brave bunch and from the junior contests we saw, it looks like the future of the rodeo is on solid ground.

What a great day!