The Great Outdoors - Grand Tetons & Yellowstone
Trip Start Apr 17, 2011
23Trip End Jul 20, 2011
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The drive into Yellowstone throught the East Gate entrance once again took us through towering mountains. In the Rockies it's a normal weather pattern to have good weather in the mornings and thunderstorms build up in the afternoons. So far we had been very fortunate with our weather but the next few days turned out to be unseasonaly wet
We decided to drive south to visit another spectacular National Park called "Grand Tetons" which borders on Yellowstone, hoping that the weather might clear for awhile so we could view the spectacular peaks that rise sharply from the flat land around it. Unfortunately, the rain didn't abate so we only saw the lower levels of the mountains and the peaks were shrouded in cloud.
So we headed North again to see the rest of Yellowstone. Although it was wet it didn't stop us from seeing some of the wildlife - just inside the entrance of Grand Teton there were a lot of cars stopped (a sure sign there is something interesting to see!), so we joined the crowds and sure enough there was a black bear in a nearby meadow. There are heaps of signs in all the Rocky Mountain parks about keeping your distance from the wildlife. Bears, moose, buffalo & elk can all be very dangerous if they feel threatened
We had hoped to see "Old Faithful" erupt, and although it happens regularly we didn't know how long we would have to wait for the next display. We arrived about 3:40pm and rushed to the viewing area, asking someone along the way when the next eruption was due - fortunately it was 4pm. They can't be exactly sure so they tell you that you need give or take 10 minutes. Fortunately this time it was pretty much on schedule and we got a good display. From there we made the mandatory visit to the National Park Visitor's Center. I should mention that early in our trip (at the Statue of Liberty in New York) we bought some souvenir books called "National Park Passports". At every National Park in America there is a place where you can stamp your book with a stamp that has the current date and the name of the Park. Sometimes they also have stamps with etchings of the main feature of the park - like the Statue of Liberty or Mount Rushmore. So, it's been kind of fun to make a point of stopping at at least one Visitor Center in each park - the Visitor's Centers also have gift shops and lots of information about the park
As we were about to leave the "Old Faithful" area we noticed a bus that looked similar to one of the buses on our Eastern States tour. We knew that our tour guide was doing a cross-country tour after our tour finished. I had thought about contacting her to see where her tour was, but didn't get around to it. To make a long story short, Max talked to the bus driver and surprise, surprise - yes, it was the same tour guide! He phoned her and we saw her shortly after in the Old Faithful Inn. It's a small world sometimes, isn't it??
Accomodation in the National Parks is usually very expensive, so the alternative is to stay in a town just outside of the park - but as can be imagined, these areas are also expensive because of their location. So we have been aiming at staying in some of the "less popular" places, but within reasonable driving distance of the parks. After Yellowstone our next destination was Glacier National Park in northern Montanta. The drive from Cody through Grand Tetons and Yellowstone and to Glacier took about 8 hours, so we started looking for accommodation at about 4pm that day. (Thank you Lord for the iPad!) There is a large Indian Reservation which we had to drive through and we weren't sure if accommodation would be available, but I came across a good review for a Bed and Breakfast in the area
We were glad we took pictures before the sun went down (at about 10pm!) because the weather wasn't so good the next morning when we got up. In fact, quite a big weather front is over this part of the country at the moment - especially over the Rockies. Unfortunately, it looks like the rainy weather may last a week or more. Glacier National Park is supposed to be one of the most scenic mountain parks, but the weather didn't cooperate and we never actually saw the top of the mountains because of the clouds and rain. There is a road that goes through the center of the park (East/West) that is called the "Going Into the Sun Road" - this would have been our most direct route through the park, but because the snow pack this year is 2-3 times normal the road hadn't been cleared yet at the higher elevations. Nevertheless, we drove about 16 miles down it and went for a (very wet) nature walk at the end. Coming back to the entrance we stopped at a Lodge for a light lunch. We were amused by the local brew - "Moose Drool"!
After leaving Glacier at about 4pm we headed north and into Canada.