05/17/2015 - 05/24/2015 60 °F
May 17 - May 24 2015 marked my second attempt to visit both Teton and Yellowstone National Parks as my first attempt to visit both parks was stopped dead in its tracks due to the Government Shutdown that happened in October 2013. During this Government shutdown, all National Parks were closed but I still went outwest and changed my places of visit to include the Durango to Silverton train trip in Colorado instead.
On Sunday May 17th I fly into Salt Lake City and drove to my "Base Camp" located in Park City approx 30 mins away in the mountains very close to several large well known ski resorts. I decided to use one of my 1 week "banked" usage weeks from my timeshare at this location so as not to lose the week as it was getting ready to expire and I of course didnt want to just throw that week away and receive nothing in return.
My planning from my intial trip in October 2013 had me flying into Salt Lake City and using Park City as my "base camp" again and then driving from Park City Utah to Jackson Wyoming for the Teton National Park and then from Jackson north thru Teton National Park into Yellowstone National Park at the south entrance of Yellowstone National Park. I decided that this would be the same route I would take on this trip and noted the same on my Tripit application (http://tripit.com) that I use for trip planning and documentation. There is both a free and paid version of Tripit and I highly recommend at least checking it out as I use it for all my travels since I ran across it a while back.
I stayed in the Park City area Sunday May 17th thru around lunch time on Tuesday May 19th at which time I headed out of Park City north towards my first overnight stop in Jackson Wyoming. The drive was partial Interstate but the far majority of it was smaller state roads that went thru the back country and mountain areas. There were large areas of nothing but fields and mountains with little to no civilization in the majority of the area I drive thru. The weather for the drive was cold, rainy and actually a little snow and sleet in some of the higher elevations but nothing that was anywhere close to effecting the drive.
The drive was about 250 miles and around 4 hours or so. Checked into Hotel and then went to dinner at the Gun Barrel Steak and Game House. http://jackson.gunbarrel.com/index.cfm I had the Big Sky Ribeye with the Onion Straws and it was very good. I thought about the Buffalo or Elk but was really hungry and decided i better go with something I knew I would enjoy eating. Besides, there should be plenty of other opportunities to try the Elk and Buffalo during the next week!
The next morning I checked out of the hotel and filled the car up with gas for the journey into Teton National Park and Yellowstone. Teton National Park entrance was only about 30 mins away and the weather was clearing up and looking like it might be a great day to get outside and hit some trails and see some of the parks from outside the vehicle.
Arriving at Teton National Park I paid the $25 entrance fee that was valid for 1 week for both Teton National Park and Yellowstone National Park. I began driving on the main road thru the park and shortly came across a sign pointing down a small gravel road to "Death Canyon Trailhead". Decided then was as good as anytime to hit a trail and start exploring so I turned down the gravel road and parked beside a few other cars and started walking toward the trail. There was a park sign explaining the length of time and distance to walk the trail and what you would see and I began heading down the path towards a lake called Phelps Lake. The trial was muddy and had some puddles of water due to the rain and seemed to head up hill passing across several small flowing streams which you could hear before you got to them due to the lack of any noise on the trail. As I continued along the trail I could see a waterfall coming out of the rocks on a mountain directly in front of me. Got some great pictures of it as I was able to zoom in on it with my nice 300mm lens. Continuing on the trail I came across several people walking back down the trail in the opposite direction and each one said that just a little further ahead there was a Moose with its calf just off the path on the right eating grass. I continued up the trail and shortly I saw the Moose on the right eating grass about 40 yards of the trail. I began taking pictures of it while also looking for the calf but unfortunatly I was never able to identify where the calf was but I am sure it was close to its mother. The moose gave me a few "what are you looking at" stares and continued about her business as she walked further into the woods away from me. As I lost sight of her, I proceeded up the trail towards the lake.
I finally arrived at the top of the trail and it overlooked Phelps lake. You could see reflections of the sky and clouds on the surface of the water and the water seemed to change colors as the reflections changed. Spent some time overlooking the lake and was able to take some pictures of some birds and more of the lake.
As I began to walk back down the trail another hiker stated that just in front of me was a marmot running around. I found him and took a number of pictures of him from about 15 feet away. He gave me no mind and did his thing, all the while I was taking pictures of him. I would swear that he knew what I was doing and was actually "posing" for me. He reminded me of a cross between a beaver and ground hog but officially they are actually large squirrels. He could care less about what I was doing and after a little while I went on my way.
Further along on my return journey down the trail I heard a strange noise that was definitely coming from some sort of animal. As I stood still and looked around I was able to get closer to the source of the sound and out of the corner of my eye I saw a small chipmunk sitting with his back to me on a log maybe 10 feet away. What caught my eye was his stripped tail was going back and forth while he was making this audible sound. I started taking some pictures of him and noticed that when he turned towards me, he had something in his mouth. As I zoomed in closer, I could see that he had a bundle of grass in his mouth. In my mind I figured he was making this noise, waging his tail side to side and "offering" a gift to a potential suitor of the opposite sex. This went on for about 10 mins as he went from log to log and thru the grass right beside me. Thinking I was messing up his "mojo" I decided to move on.
In this same general area I was able to get some pictures of yet another smaller ground creature that also looked like a squirrel. He was leaning against a log while he had his head up over the log taking notice of everything around him. I decided to give him his space also and completed the journey back down the trail to the car so that I could move on to the next stop on my journey for the day.
Further down the road in Teton National Park I start to see more wildlife out and about usually in the open fields or right at the tree lines. The far majority of what I saw during this time is Elk, but gave them the name of "white butts" because thats usually all I saw of them...their white "butts" facing me.
Further down the road still heading towards the south entrance to Yellowstone I noticed a wide field on my right with light covered brush and shrubs and a few vehicles pulled over on the right hand side and some people outside of their vehicles pointing and looking at something thru camera lenses and binoculars. I slowed down and thought I saw something light colored about 100 yards from the road in the brush. I pulled over and looked thru my zoom lens and I see a single grey wolf sitting with his back to me and the road. He blended in so well with the brush that it was really hard to see him until he moved. As he started walking towards the left I was able to really see him thru the zoom lens and began snapping as many pictures as I could as this was one of the top animals I really wanted to see in the parks. Wolves are very elusive and there are only approx 2000 in the Teton and Yellowstone National Parks so their numbers are limited for such a large area of land. He acted like he was on the trail of some sort of animal in the area but I was never ever able to see any animals beside this single grey wolf. I was able to zoom in on him and clearly see his fur and right into his eyes. If I was to end my trip and return home right then, I would have still been on cloud nine! I was so excited to say that I actually saw one in person and actually get some really good pictures of him before I lost him in the brush.
Continuing towards Yellowstone thru Teton National park I would get glimpses of the famous Teton peaks but due to the cloudy and rainy weather they would be obscured from full view most of the time but I did get a few pics when I could.
Jackson Lake was the next stop. Great views of the peaks with the lake in the foreground.
Not far from Jackson Lake was Oxbow Bend where the Snake river is cutting thru Teton National Park.
Finally entering Yellowstone National Park I see Yellowstone Lake on my right as the sun is beginning to set. I thought to myself this might be a great time to see wildlife out and about for the evening. I would not be disappointed.......
Old Faithful was next on the list. I had read some info about it and seen it on TV so I was excited to see it with my own eyes. Unfortunatly I was disappointed in its performance live. I had thought I would feel, hear and get wet with the eruption but actually none of that happened. As it errupted I could hear it a little but no feeling thru the ground and certainly didnt feel any moisture at all. The height of the spraying water was not nearly as high as I had expected and it really only lasted maybe 30 seconds total. Glad I saw it, but felt like it was a real letdown to my expectations.
Continuing thru the park I see several waterfalls on the Snake river.
More sights to be seen as I head north thru Yellowstone towards Gardinar MT. The road weaves and winds thru several mountain ranges with some great views.
After staying the night in Gardinar MT I went on a 2 hour horse back ride in the Gallatin National Forest looking down on Yellowstone National Park. The trail we went on was rocky and sometimes uphill but the horse I was on (Sunset) had no issues and was actually pretty easy to control as I headed up the back of the pack. The scenary was gorgeous and it was completely quiet except for talking between the other riders and the occasional verbal outbursts the horses felt compelled to utter.
Finishing up Yellowstone is the Yellowstone Grand Canyon.
This is only a small sample of the pictures I took on my Teton and Yellowstone National Park trip. This trip ranks pretty high on my list of trip experiences I have taken thru out my life. Look out Yosemite and Mount Rushmore, your time will come soon enough!