Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Yellowstone and the Tetons

Yellowstone National Park

Yellowstone National Park is famous worldwide for it's vast number of hot springs, geysers, and paint pots along with many other geological features such as forests, canyons, waterfalls and such. However, the main draw to Yellowstone is definitely the wildlife. And during my trip, I saw quite a bit of all of it. Mostly through driving, however, a friend and I did get a nice, hard bike ride on the west side of the park one day, which is my favorite way to tour any new location. The rest of the park doesn't have much shoulder to bike on, but the west side was excellent.

 A waterfall is always a nice spot for a break.

The colors at Midway Geyser Basin were spectacular.

Here is one of many hot springs. Most of which, were on the west side of the park.

 I didn't notice until later that I wasn't supposed to be in this area, but...
the water really wasn't THAT hot.
I think it only scalded my toes a little bit...

From the picture it's hard to notice the steam,
but this little pond would have been a HOT swim for sure 

 Elk are a common sighting in the park. Like this one, chilling on his own little island.

 Or these fellas, basking in the sun near the West Thumb springs.

 This spring was so clear and deep, it felt like you could see down to the
center of the Earth if you shined a flashlight down it.
Unfortunately, they don't let you get closer than this...

 This was just the thumb of Yellowstone Lake (the West Thumb).

I thought the east side to be a bit more scenic for the most part.

 These bison were hanging out on this little island with it's own little geyser. Way cool.

And later, we find that, bison are simply everywhere!

Including right at your door!

Snakes too! This one got him a fish!

 And of course, there are huge waterfalls like the one at Lower Falls.
Warning: it's one heck of a hike (at least that's what the sign said.
I thought it was nothing. If you have no problem walking up the stairs
 of a 40 or 50 story building at 7000ft, you will too)

 My favorite scenic piece. The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone.
I heard it was snow covered and iced over in the winter. All I could think about
was snowboarding down to it...

And finally, the oldest, the faithfullest, the most spectacular, Old Faithful
in all her glory, blowing her load!

Grand Teton National Park

Coming out of Yellowstone I had no idea what to expect of the Tetons as I really hadn't heard much about them. Quickly though, they became a favorite, as I fell in love with the beautiful glacier formed lakes and rugged, sharp edged mountain peaks. It also didn't hurt that I saw...

 A grizzly and her three cubs almost as soon as I entered the park!

Luckily I was in my car (after the park ranger yelled at me to get back in it...)
and thus safe at this point.

 But soon after I encountered one on the trail as well! This though was a young, 
lone black bear and thus much less dangerous (I think...)

Who decided to meander down onto our trail! Since I had the big knife and the bear spray,
the group that had formed to watch the bear unanimously decided that I now lead...

So I made a bunch of noise as I walked after him and he smartly
scampered up away from the trail to cover and let us pass.

 The rest of that hike, however, was somewhat uneventful as far as wildlife sightings.
Though there were plenty of ground squirrels (they look like chipmunks) like this little
guy all over the place.

 The hike had originally been planned for a 20+ miler to include the Paintbrush Divide and back through Paintbrush Canyon, however, because of all the snow, this area was ice axe required. I had thought about chancing it, until I saw how snow covered and iced over Solitude Lake, at approximately the midway point, was. After slipping on snow and sliding down the mountain a ways on a previous hike, I was aware of just how dangerous a situation it could be, particularly if it was all snow and not just a few patches.

So I took in the beautiful view at Solitude lake and ran most of the 9.25 miles back down
through Cascade Canyon and around Jenny Lake (where I saw the bear).

 The more difficult hike of the trip was a 16-17 mile roundtrip up and then down to Phelps Lake seen here and then along the Death Canyon Trailhead to the Alaska Basin trail, and then up to the Static Peak Divide.

 It starts, like many trails do, following a river that flows down from the mountains, which, most always, offers gorgeous views of white water and falls.

 After a few hours of going up (approx 5000ish ft gain over 8 or so miles), Static Peak Divide is completely snow covered and is the end of the road.
Unless of course you brought a snowboard and decide to slide down a ways and head on over to the Idaho side of the Alaska Basin Trail. This was tempting, as it would have been the easier way back, if you happened to have a ride waiting on the other side.

 From here, it was a fairly simple scramble up to the top of Mt Albright peak on the right side and a 360 degree view of gorgeous, snow covered mountain peaks and lush valleys, streams, and lakes.

 If I'd had more supplies, It would have been nice to walk/climb across to some of the other peaks.

 But the view from this one was simply breathtaking enough.

And the weather had of course cleared up nicely for the return trip to Phelps Lake, which is also a nice little recreational area for swimming and picnicking.

With so many glacier lakes and jagged peaks surrounded by forest,
it's no wonder I fell in love with this place.

For me, it was the perfect backdrop as I swam in String Lake, biked down to the entrance of the park on the dedicated multi-use trail that winds through it, and ran on the trails around String Lake for a nice 26 mile triathlon to celebrate my 26th birthday.

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