A whirlwind tour of western national parks...
Trip Start Jul 11, 2012
7Trip End Aug 24, 2012
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As we departed Montana on a fast-paced road trip back to the Bay Area, our minds were still reeling from the whirlwind of memories created and our overwhelming feelings of gratitude.
Our first stop: Grand Teton NP where we spent the first night of our honeymoon on a deflating air mattress on Danielle's living room floor. But the view from her window made it worth it! Before bedtime, we took a wildlife drive and observed some beavers working on their dam and a great grey owl silhouetted against the sky, along with some elk
Still recovering from an energy intensive celebration, we had a leisurely next day of taking the tandem down to the shores of Jenny Lake for a picnic. In the evening, we checked out a couple of breweries over the pass in Victor along with Dani and her friend Eric.
We were up early the next morning to squeeze in some more wildlife watching with Dani's local expertise before hitting the road again. We tried for wolves, but three bull moose and a herd of bison with frolicking calves were the main highlights. Our only other significant stop of the day was at Fossil Butte National Monument in western Wyoming where we checked out a fascinating collection of--you guessed it--fossils from the ancient dried lakebed there.
After spending the night and eating a full breakfast in the funky settlement of Baker in Nevada, we ascended the flanks of Wheeler Peak along the usually scenic drive in Great Basin NP. The weather was not working with us as our views were obscured by clouds and it was drizzling on top. We took refuge in the visitor center instead to get a sense of place and decided it would be worth another trip someday to further explore the park
We happened to time our arrival to the south shore with lovely evening lighting to stroll amongst the "tufa," calcium carbonate deposits that form oddly shaped towers around freshwater springs bubbling up in the lake. Since they form underwater, seeing so many on land far from the shoreline was an impactful visual of how much the lake level has been sucked down by diversions to LA. While a compromised restoration plan has been gradually raising the water level for close to two decades now, there is still quite a void to fill. It's not just about quantity, it is quality too. With all of the freshwater diversions, the salinity and pH threatened the alkili fly and brine shrimp populations, which are the essential sustenance of literally millions of migrating and overwintering birds at the lake. An interesting ecosystem and conservation story, brought alive while bird watching with our friend Erica the next morning after crashing on her futon the night before. She is loving her position leading bird walks and staffing the bookstore for the Mono Lake Conservation Association???
The last leg of trip took us through Yosemite NP via Tioga Pass Rd
Hawaii here we come!