Double the Fun - Grand Tetons & Yellowstone NP

Trip Start Jul 05, 2012
Trip End Aug 01, 2012

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Flag of United States  , Wyoming
Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Day 20 - We are headed east today and will go through Grand Tetons and Yellowstone and then onto our hotel for the night in Cody, Wyoming. These two parks are connected by the John D. Rockefeller Parkway. Finally we have cooler temps in the 70s and low 80s.

This is going to be a very long day. There are not many places you can spend the night around Yellowstone and Grand Tetons. Idaho Falls was the closest we could find that was not full and we could afford to the entrance to Grand Tetons. And Cody, Wyoming was the closest after we left Yellowstone. Jackson and W. Yellowstone were closer, but the hotel prices were over $200 per night and most, if not all, were already full.

We get an early start and set the GPS for Grand Tetons, 2 hours away. There are several roads all leading out of Idaho Falls. Somehow we get on a road that is going more North than we planned to go and soon realize that we are not traveling on the right road to Grand Tetons. However, it turns out to be a great mistake. We are near Rexburg and so we take an easterly turn.. We begin to see the Grand Tetons peaks sticking up above all other mountains from this direction.We see them grow larger and larger as we travel, going through beautiful Idaho farmland. And of course they are growing Idaho potatoes!  The farmland is beautiful and I am so glad we came this way. We go through the towns of Teton and Tetonia. We stop at a small outdoor bicycle shop for a quick peek in Teton and continue on our way.The Grand Tetons grow larger as we travel. However, we have to turn south and go through Jackson, Wyoming, so we lose sight of them before we actually get there. So it is a great mistake. Much prettier to come at them from the West.

We stop for an early lunch in Jackson and pick up some extra food to take with us to the park. It is so crowded there! A lady is hit by a car as we are pulling out of the parking lot. We hope she is OK. We continue on to Grand Tetons. Soon we are seeing the grand mountains on the left side of the road. They are HUGE. There is one GRAND Teton and then there are three smaller Tetons that some call the sister Tetons. There is some snow we see tucked deep into their valleys.

We enter the crowded park area with our pass and search a bit for a parking place. We finally find one and take a lot of pictures of the Tetons as they are really close now and look even more grand than before. We visit the gift shop and then we walk down to the boat dock. There is a one hour scenic boat tour you can take, but the boat was already full way before we arrived and had left early. We could catch the next one in three hours, but we do not have time to wait. So we take the shuttle boat across the lake and enjoy the view as we get closer to the mountains. The boat lets us off on the other side of the lake and we can look straight up at the huge mountain range. We decide to hike a little way and soon find ourselves making our way UP toward the Hidden Falls. The sign says .2 miles (really! see the picture). We walk for about 20 minutes, rocky, steep and crowded pathway and find out from people coming down that we still are only half way there. The sign lied! However, it is beautiful, walking along side smaller waterfalls and we really enjoy the hike, but decide to go back. We still have Yellowstone to visit! We walk back down to find a line of people waiting on a returning shuttle boat. That wait and ride takes us another 30 minutes.  We really enjoyed this park and wish we had more tine to explore the trails.

The drive from the parking area of Grand Tetons to the Yellowstone entrance takes us across the John D. Rockefeller Hwy. The travel is slow as there is road work and slow drivers ahead. About 30 to 45 minutes later we make it to the entrance gate to Yellowstone.  We will drive another 20 minutes or so and finally reach the southern loop. It is now around 4:00 in the afternoon. This park is HUGE. There are two main loops and we plan to go around about 3/4 of the southern loop. Because we will stop at lots of the attractions as we go, we will be lucky to get through the park before dark, although we learn it doesn't get dark until 9:30 here.

After stopping for snacks at the General Store, we head left around the Southern Loop toward Old Faithful. We are on the lookout for wild animals and see one female elk. After driving for 20 minutes we finally approach the area where Old Faithful will be. I am looking for the road that leads to the parking lot when we see water shooting high in the air... IT IS OLD FAITHFUL!   shooting high above the buildings and trees.  We pull into the parking lot and see the area where Old Faithful is located and just erupted. It is still steaming (maybe it always steams). So we did get to see Old Faithful erupt, but not close up.

Across the road is the Upper Geyser Basin (Black Sand Basin). The whole area is filled with boiling hot areas of water. Some shooting up in the air, and some steaming. There are bridges and walkways where you can walk across the hot boiling pools. If you step off the bridges, you would be scalded to death. There are warning signs there about people who have died or been badly burned here. There is even a clinic located there in the park at the Old Faithful Lodge. I collect some Black Sand as a souvenir in a cup we have in the car.

We then travel to the Midway Geyser Basin. This place is amazing too. We climb stairs to get to the area which his higher than the parking lot. There are two areas here -  Grand Prismatic Spring is beautiful because it is and Excelsior Geyser. Both areas are so steamy that you have to wait until the wind blows a little just to see them. The Grand Prismatic Spring is beautiful, so full of changing colors!  I love it. The Excelsior Geyser is like a huge crater in the ground that once would shoot boiling water high in the air. The last time it exploded was 1985, but it could explode again at any time. The hot water could shoot as high as 300 feet. It is scary just to be standing near the Geyser. I later read this Excelsior Geyser (now a hotspring) discharges 4000 gallons of hot water in the Firehold River EVERY MINUTE. Amazing!

 We then come across a herd of buffalo grazing on the side of the road, paying us no attention. We stop and take pictures. The drive around the Southern Loop is long. We continue on and it takes us almost an hour to get to the next attraction we want to see, the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone and the Lower Falls. By the time we arrive there, it is starting to get dark. However, we are able to take in the beauty of the deep gorge and the waterfall from the lookout. It is so far down! I am very afraid of heights. (Guess you already figured that out).

We continue on and come to the Yellowstone Lake. This is a huge, HUGE  lake, but it is almost dark by the time we arrive, so we do not get to see much of it before it is too dark. This lake is higher in elevation than Mt. Mitchell.  We stop for a sandwich at the General Store at the Fishing Bridge before we head out of the park.

Heading out of the park in the dark is easier said than done. We travel for another 40 minutes at a good pace on the dark mountain road with other cars just to get to the exit to Yellowstone. And then we drive another 30 minutes (it seems at least) to Cody, Wyoming.

We arrive about 12:AM. However, we check into the very best hotel room we have had on our entire stay. It is wonderful. The recliner was so comfortable I could sleep in it.  The decor is beautiful. Even the curtains are quality and very pretty. There is a little bed buddy that we find there in the room, a Buffalo. He is sooooo cute and his tag says he is offered at the gift shop for sale. I will remember that tomorrow!

This has been one of the best days! LONG, but wonderful.

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