Monday, September 1, 2014

The Big Road Trip: Sunset in the Grand Tetons

We drove out of Yellowstone and into the Grand Tetons in hopes that there would still be enough light to see the Tetons and in hopes that they wouldn't be entirely socked in by clouds and fog.

Our first glimpse was pretty, but it certainly looked as if dark clouds would rule the evening:

But a glimpse farther to the West showed hope. The sun was coming down to an opening on the western edge of the clouds. We might just get a sunset!

We drove along in hopes of good light and a good place to watch the mountains.

The brightness along the horizon grew. It looked as if we would have a sunset to watch after all! We pulled off next to a big meadow, looked behind us, and this is what we saw:

Join us for a sunset in the Grand Tetons....

By now you know our rules. What do we do with a vision of sublime natural beauty?

Photobomb it, natch:

The sunset carried on despite our photographic hi-jinks.

With the color fading from the sky it was time to get back in the car and head on our way.

And that was that. The color left the sky entirely. Night fell over the Tetons.

We continued our cruise south, stopping for dinner at the Pizza Hut in Jackson, Wyoming. There the world was treated to the rare and desperate sight of Malcolm and Henry eating salad in a Pizza Hut. I am assured by them both that all France will view this photo with amazement:

After dinner it was back in the car and a bit more driving south in Wyoming until we stopped for the night in Pinedale.  Yellowstone and the Tetons were behind us, but Colorado and Rocky Mountain National Park lay ahead.

The Big Road Trip: Sunday in Yellowstone

After another chilly but restful night of camping in Yellowstone we hit the road for our final day in the park. Our route took us back through the Hayden Valley again, in hopes of seeing another bear or at least a slightly closer look at some bison.

The bison were a good deal closer to the road this time. They were standing in it:

When confronted with a vast herd of dangerous wild animals what did your sensible travelers do?

Get out of the car and stand in front of them, of course!

Henry and Malcolm.

John and Monique.

Eventually a fire truck came along. It really needed to get through, so it blew its horn and siren until the herd gave way on the road and let traffic pass through.

Our next stop was the overlook at Upper Yosemite Falls:

Henry, Malcolm, and John (left to right.)

Henry and Malcolm.

We headed north from the falls and went through the Dunraven Pass on our way to Mammoth Hot Springs.

Mammoth Hot Springs are indeed mammoth. Here hot springs have created a vast series of travertine terraces. Most of the hot springs look like the surface of the moon, but where active springs bubble up you can find brightly colored streams filled with orange, yellow, and red thermophilic bacteria.

The view from the top of the Upper Terrace. From here you're looking North out of the park and into Montana.

For scale, that's me in the red shirt standing atop the stairs.

When I was here in 1993 the Minerva Terrace was the showpiece of the springs, a wide and brightly colored set of terraces fed by a hot spring. However, the hot spring sources shift. Minerva Terrace has been mostly inactive for the last 15 years, though there's a new spring emerging near its top. In another few years Minerva may once again be a brightly colored cascade.

Henry and Malcolm.

After our walk through Mammoth Hot Springs it was time to head back through the park and out the south entrance and back into Grand Teton National Park. Along the way we stopped at the Mud Volcano complex, which is next to Yellowstone's stinkiest feature, the Sulfur Caldron.

Blogging has its drawbacks as a communications medium. I can show you lots of pictures and add lots of words. But I can't truly give your the smell of the Sulfur Caldron. No matter. Just go visit the Seventh Circle of Dante's Inferno and you'll get a nice whiff. We gave the Sulfur Caldron a pass, and instead went over to the slightly less stinky mud volcano.

The mud volcano platform with several other large boiling mud pits.

The mud volcano itself.

One of my other favorite features at this stop is the Dragon's Mouth Spring, a hot spring that comes out of a burbling, roaring cave.

The Mud Caldron.

Then it was back on the road. Oh, sure we made a few little stops ...

... but that was it for Yellowstone. We'd seen and done a lot, but there was obviously nothing more to ....

Wait a second. What's that in the woods by the road?

One last bear! By the side of the road a black bear tore up logs and stumps looking for grubs to make a nice supper.

And that really was it for our Yellowstone adventure.  We were back on the road...

... hoping to make it to the Grand Tetons in time to catch the sunset. If indeed a sunset could peek through the low, dark clouds.