Sunday, September 13, 2015

The Yellowstone Experience

Post by Henry

We moved north from Colorado several weeks ago, along with our friends Ken and Trisha, and have been staying on Hebgen Lake in Montana.  We are a stones throw from both Wyoming and Idaho and just outside Yellowstone National Park.  I have been to both Yellowstone and it's neighbor to the south, Grand Teton National Park several times, but have always wanted to spend an extended period here.  Those two parks together are so massive that a one week vacation doesn't do it justice, so we're here for a month.

The first week or so was difficult to see the mountains as we were experiencing the smoke from the huge forest fires in Washington and Oregon blowing this way.  Passing through GTNP, the massive Tetons could barely be made out in the smoky haze.

Smoky Haze Over Grand Tetons
(Look in the Background)

Closer View of Smoke Covered Tetons

It has since cleared out and we've had mostly great weather.  The mornings start out quite chilly (20's and 30's), but warm up quickly to the 70's and mostly blue skies.  And, of course, we are still loving the low humidity.

So, in Yellowstone we've seen lots of wildlife.  Bison can be found almost everywhere and seeing herds of them in the valleys is a site to behold.

Where the Buffalo Roam

On one smoky morning, we were lucky enough to see a grizzly bear strolling along the Lamar River.

Grizzly on Lamar River
(Zoomed from long distance, so fuzzy)

We did catch a glimpse of a wolf, but mostly it was a dot on the horizon.  In the Madison River Valley, we've seen a lot of elk and now in September, they are in rut.  Hearing a bull elk bugling is one of the true sounds of the wild and sends chills up my spine!

Bugling Male Elk

The scenery in Yellowstone is not bad, either, though evidence of the big fire of 1988 is still visible almost everywhere.

Evidence of 1988 Fire

One of our favorite areas is the hot springs and the geysers.  The hot springs come in all shapes and sizes.  Seeing them bubbling and steaming is both amazing and kind of eerie.

Steamy Hot Pool

Grand Prismatic

A "Not So Steamy" Pool

Colorful Bacterial Run-Off

The geysers come in all shapes and sizes, too.  Of course, there's the most famous geyser of all, Old Faithful, with bleachers built to accommodate the crowds that come to watch it erupt every hour (+/- 10 minutes).

Old Faithful

There's plenty of geysers that aren't as predictable as Old Faithful, and then there's some that are constantly erupting  We did a hike to Fairy Falls, which was nice in its own right, but an additional half mile hike past the falls (which almost nobody did) took us to Imperial Geyser  This geyser was constantly bubbling and spewing hot water and sat in a beautiful turquoise pool.

The Grand Tetons are a bit of a haul for a day trip from where we are staying, so we loaded up the car with our camping stuff and headed down for four nights of tent camping in the GTNP.  Of course, the Teton range is the centerpiece of the park, rising 5,000+ feet from the surrounding valley floor.  We caught four days of about perfect weather with clear, blue skies and the views of the mountains were outstanding!

The Grand Tetons
on a Clear, Sunny Day

We went on a few good hikes while we were there.  One out to Bradley Lake set directly beneath THE Grand Teton was absolutely beautiful.

Bradley Lake

Another day was a hike of endurance, which started with a boat ride across Jenny Lake.  Once across, we hiked a short way to Hidden Falls, followed by a heart rate busting uphill hike to Inspiration Point.

Inspiration Point
Overlooking Jenny Lake

We topped it all off with a hike back around Jenny Lake to where we originally caught the boat ride, for a total six mile hike.  Phew!  We slept pretty good that night.

When I think of the Tetons, mostly it's about the mountains, but we saw quite a bit of wildlife here, too.  Near the campground we spotted moose in the Gros Ventre River and a herd of bison was usually seen in the fields nearby.  Several times at night, we heard coyotes yipping up a chorus.  We saw a family of beaver hanging out near their lodge they had built in the Snake River, directly below a bridge which gave us a birds eye view of them.


Bison Herd and Baby

Beavers Under Bridge

Near the Moose Visitor Center, though, was a road with an abundant supply of ripe Hawthorn berries, which attracted an abundant supply of black bears.  It also attracted crowds of bear watchers too, but the bruins hardly paid them any mind as they gorged themselves in preparation for the upcoming winter.  They were even in the tops of trees!

Mama Bear

Baby Bear One - Black

Baby Bear Two - Cinnamon

At the top, I mentioned how a week didn't do a visit here any justice  After being here for close to a month now, we've been able to see a lot at a more relaxed pace, but I can't say we've seen it all.   Plus it's changed quickly from end of summer peak vacation crowds to somewhat less crowded early fall, and Ken and Trisha have now headed home. The mornings are cool and crisp. The sky is clearer.  The lakes and rivers are bluer, and the aspens are turning more golden every day.

Fall Colors

It makes us want to stay a bit longer, but we know it will quickly change to winter, too, and we are not set up for that.  We'll be like the birds, instead, and start our migration to the south.


  1. A month in that area sounds just perfect! We were in Yellowstone a couple of years ago for 10 days but the weather turned and we couldn't get to the Tetons. It must have been a blast for you to have been there with Patricia and Ken. Your wildlife sightings and photos are fantastic -- I especially love those baby bear shots, and your images of Yellowstone are wonderful. We'll be in Florida for the winter -- how about you guys?

    1. Hi Laurel, it was wonderful to spend a month in Yellowstone. We got to watch it turn from summer to fall and even winter! We now have snow capped mountains! Thanks to you guys, I am now able to get better photos of wildlife. A couple above are not too sharp, but they were a long distance away and zoomed way out. We will not be in Florida this winter, but maybe we will catch you on Lopez Island next summer! Good to hear from you.

  2. We feel so blessed to have been able to share this wonderful trip of a life time. Enjoyed seeing your continued journey and all the info and more beautiful pictures.

    1. We were all blessed! It will be hard to beat Yellowstone! What a fantastic place....Keep checking back for updates;)