We rolled into Yellowstone National Park on Friday July 4 with no reservations, brilliant plan huh? (I would make reservations if you didn’t get charged a fee!) We ended up trying for one of the smaller campsites but no luck, all full, so we had to race back to get one of the remaining spots at Mammoth Hot Springs (don’t be fooled by the name, they are not the soaking kind of hot springs) but we were pretty happy with the view.
Of course we decide to buy firewood and cook over an open flame only to have thunderstorms and rain all evening, although we did feel better knowing that US long weekends can have crappy weather too (not just Canadian and British ones). The next morning we got up and went for a run. I used to like running, but now I feel like running is trying to kill me, I’m pretty sure that may just be the altitude, the trails are lovely and groomed and yes we had our spray but they say when you see a bear not to run, no one has yet to tell us what to do if we are already running. We spent the rest of the day reading our books and enjoying the changing colours of the canyon and the wildlife.
That evening we went for a stroll to the Hot Springs, they are just one of the many geothermal things to see in the park, but we couldn’t handle the hoards of tourist, I guess we’ve been spending a little too much time in the back country (but I don’t think that’s going to change).
Early to bed, early to rise, at 4:00am the next morning. We had big plans for the day starting with a sunrise hike up Bunsen Peak. We hit the trail at 4:45am and made the peak in just over 45 mins, mostly motivated by the quickly lightening sky and the fact that we were in bear country in the dark. It was worth it though, the last few hundred feet of climb were tough, but sitting on a mountain top alone watching the sun come over the mountains makes you feel very calm and rested.
The nice thing about being up so early is that after we climbed back down we got to visit lots of view points and other sights with nobody else around. We also got to see a bison right on the side of the road and a bear!! (If I have a choice it would only be to see one while in the safety of my vehicle.)
Next summit for the day was Mt Washburn. This trail was already busy judging from the parking lot, it was easy to see why once we started though. It’s actually an old jeep road leading to the fire tower (still in use) at the top, so the climbing is quite gentle. I love that we got to see so many wildflowers in bloom along the hills, even if I have no idea what they were called. We saw lots of ground squirrels and even had some snow to deal with, but then right at the top a herd of bighorn sheep were lying in the sun across the road. Hmmm, they say not to go within 25 yards of the animals but again no guidance if they are in your way (because you’re not meant to go off the trail either). Eventually Dan got us around and we made our highest summit yet at 10, 243ft/3122m, the view was again stunning and we got our first glimpse of the Tetons to the south.
On our wander back down we decided to go and visit the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, we knew it would be busy but thought we were up for it. By the time we had parked up, I knew I wasn’t, but I put my brave face on as we made our way to Artist Point. It’s beautiful but it’s sometime hard to see past all the people jockeying and pushing to get their picture taken in front of it, I wanted to scream at them to turn around and look at the damn view! Dan convinced me to walk along the South Rim Trail and once again we were more or less alone, it’s sad that so few people use the trails, but at the same time I’m grateful to be away from the crowds. The rim trail leads to Uncle Toms Trail, which is a 500ft steep staircase (more than 300 steps), there is warnings everywhere telling people if they are not fit not to go down, and to make sure they have water and proper foot wear, and yet there we were passing people struggling going down! Hello! If you can’t go down how do you think you’re going to get back up?!?! At the bottom is a viewing platform of the Upper Falls but it was packed, I guess everyone was waiting to see if an elevator would appear, we climbed out of there like two hermits at a mall on Christmas Eve.
We got some much needed rest in Grant Village and did another trail run in the morning, followed by an afternoon of laundry (sadly it has to be done) but that evening we gathered our best selves up and headed to Old Faithful. We timed it perfectly only having to wait 10 minutes to see her blow. Then we walked around the geyser boardwalk viewing all the lesser known geysers and springs. It was actually kind of neat, much better than I had expected.
After 4 nights in Yellowstone we headed south out of the park and straight into Grand Teton National Park, we weren’t really sure where we were going to stay here (we wanted to back country camp but were told we’d need ice axes, ah no thanks) but the view of the Tetons as we went by Colter Bay made us turn around and stop their for a night. We walked the Lakeshore Trail and waded into the warm waters of Jackson Lake and that night we got to go star gazing with some guy who knew a lot about constellations and had a telescope! We got to see the rings of Saturn which was pretty cool.
Next day involved another trail run but I think I’m going to save that one for another post. Our time in Yellowstone and Grand Teton was short but I think you could spend a year in the parks and never see it all, so we weren’t sad to say goodbye, we just left it at see you later.