No trip to Yellowstone and Wyoming is complete without a few days in the Grand Teton National Park. In order to escape the chaos of another large campground with 350 sites, Andrew and I decided to risk the trip up a winding, rough road to the US Forest Service campground, Atherton. It was complete worth the drive, especially because we parked in a fabulous site overlooking Slide Lake (double positive for getting lots of solar too).
With only a few days in the Teton area, we picked a few recommended hikes. Our first day we thought we’d try an easy hike at the L.S. Rockefeller Preserve; however, we were told that we’d have to wait 20-30 minutes for a parking spot. Instead of waiting, we decided to move on. Fortunately, we had the opportunity to see an owl and moose at one of the pull overs along way.
Feeling ambitions on the second day, we were up early and at Jenny Lake before the crowds. Our goal was to hike the 7.2 miles loop around the lake. The first half of the trail was quiet with only a few people passing. Due to fire and vegetation restoration, the trail detoured towards String Lake and across a bridge. This detour turned out to be quite eventful for us. We managed to surprise two marmots (one decided to pose for a few candid photos) and fox. Also, we saw a few osprey, including a nest with young. Once arriving at hidden falls and inspiration point, there was an large increase in the amount of people on the trail and define decline of wildlife. In the evening, we made up for the wildlife sightings at Oxbow Bend Turnout, where we watched two beavers swimming.
On our final afternoon, we decided to visit Colter Bay area for 3 mile hike to Heron Pond and Swan Lake. While this hike didn’t have any wildlife (other than a friendly chipmunk or territorial squirrel), it did have a nice view of the mountain ranges and Jackson Lake. On the way home, we stopped by a historic Mormon settlement. This settlement included several homes, barns and workshops with a beautiful view of the Tetons in the background.
Andrew, Ame and I just spent two weeks at Yellowstone National Park, camping in Bridge Bay, which is centrally located on Yellowstone Lake. For anyone living in the sweltering heat, I would highly recommend a visit to Yellowstone. Even though Yellowstone is a giant volcanic area, comprised of hot springs and geysers, it was in the 40s most nights and 70s by day (perfect summer weather).
Upon arriving at the West Yellowstone entrance, we realized that all of the travel guide references to August being the park’s busiest month were true. We sat in line for 30 minutes just to enter the park. On several occasions all this traffic caused animal traffic jams that went for miles, including one 1.25 hour jam for a single bison who enjoyed walking in the road.
Regardless of the traffic and crowds, we enjoyed our time in the park. It helped that we devised a plan to only hit the popular spots early in the morning. Old Faithful, along with all the other geysers, was spectacular to see at around 9:00am. Over the two weeks we managed to visit each of the popular geysers and hot spring areas, as well as multiple trips to Lamar and Hayden valleys for wildlife viewings.
Yellowstone had an abundance of wildlife, especially bison. On a trip to the northern part of the park, we had the opportunity to watch a mother black bear and two cubs play close the road. Along Sylvan Pass, we encountered a juvenile grizzly snacking. Thanks to patience and perseverance (and maybe a little birthday luck), Andrew was able to see three wolves at twilight. On our final night, we watched one grizzly in field near Hayden Valley. At the same time, a coyote came running along the hills nearby. Oh, and did I mention that we saw bison? We even had one visit our campground.
Andrew and I are a little late on posting our adventures around Lewis & Clark Caverns. With one more week left in Montana, we decided to head towards the gateway to Yellowstone. Hoping to stay somewhat centrally located to a few activities and big towns, like Bozeman, we parked in Lewis & Clark Caverns State Park. While the campground was the perfect spot to park with solar, neither Andrew or myself realized it would be so hot, reaching between 90 and 100 degrees everyday. The high temperatures meant that we needed to alter plans a little, so that Ame could be comfortable away from the heat during the days.
Twice we drove into Bozeman for trips to the different stores and visits to the acupuncturist. One afternoon we visited their adorable Main street area. Ame’s favorite shop was Dee-O-Gee, a doggie boutique, which had a large selection of natural dog treats. Also, we grabbed lunch at the local outdoor “pet-friendly” restaurant, The Garage.
On the days when we wanted to stay closer to the campground, we drove around the area. We visited Ennis Lake, which is quite large. This lake had the potential to be beautiful; however, the algae infestation marred the beauty. In contrast to Ennis Lake, we did a white-knuckled off road drive up to South Meadow Creek Lake. While this lake is much smaller, it offers the serenity, peace and cool temperatures that we’d been looking for. Our final water adventure was a repeated visit to Norris Hot Springs. This small spring was the relief needed to help heal some aching bones.
Our week at the Caverns wouldn’t be complete without a trip into the caves. On our ranger-guided tour we walked, bent and slid our way through various cave rooms to see different formations. We were even greeted by two cavern locals, bats.
After a month and half in Montana, it is time to move south and explore Wyoming for a while.