Wyoming - Grand Tetons - Rain Rain Go Away

Trip Start Apr 16, 2009
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Trip End Jul 12, 2009


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Flag of United States  , Wyoming
Sunday, June 21, 2009

DAY 62, Tuesday, June 16--Our last day at Yellowstone we toured the Norris Geyser Area, where there are the hottest thermals: steam vents, geysers, and fumaroles. On the way, we found a beautiful, tall waterfall called Virginia Cascade off the main road down a narrow one-way road leading uphill. Our favorite at Norris was Black Growler, a steam vent that continuously let off a 4-5 foot wide breath of steam while making a loud roaring sound. Green Dragon Spring was cool, too, with its greenish cave with steam roaring out, as if a dragon was inside. In the evening, we had dinner at Canyon Village, and then went back to Hayden Valley to observe the wildlife. At Hayden Valley, there are gently sloping meadows with the Yellowstone River in front and trees up on the distant horizon. Wildlife seem to love it. We added a beaver to our wildlife list, but the most amazing event was yet to come. Around 8:45 a large grizzly appeared from the west over the hill and ran toward a herd of about 40 elk. When he got within 50 yards of the elk, the herd bolted to the east. Suddenly two bears came out of the woods from the east, apparently working with the first bear. The elk panicked and ran back towards the first bear. In the link of any eye, the first bear was scrambling in the middle of the herd, but was unable to down an elk. The adult elk were too nimble and quick.The grizzlies have more success catching the calves, but tonight, they were out of luck. It was like a wildlife movie on TV, except we had to use binoculars to see it. A crowd of people hung out waiting for something to happen, and we were not disappointed. That event will be one of the highlights of our trip.

Birds we saw today in Yellowstone: Gray Jay (at Canyon Lodge), Rufus-headed Sparrow (at Norris), Western Grebe, California Gull, and American Avocet (all at Hayden Valley ponds)

DAY 63, Wednesday, June 17--We drove to Grand Teton National Park, just south of Yellowstone. Leaving Yellowstone, we passed another incredible site, Lewis Falls, where we had lunch. The admission fee of $25 for Yellowstone also covers Grand Teton. It is a much smaller park, but with gorgeous mountains. The jagged peaks and deep canyons arise abruptly from the Jackson Hole Valley with no foothills to obstruct your view.  100 million years ago, the collision of tectonic plate on the west coast bowed up a vast block of sedimentary rock deposited by ancient seas. Ten million years ago, movement on the Teton fault generated mass earthquakes causing the mountains to rise while the valley floor dropped. Today the vertical displacement difference is 30,000'. In geologically recent times, about 2 million years ago, glaciers eroded the range to the jagged edges we see now.

We are tired of the rain. It has rained a substantial amount each day for the last three weeks, since we were in Moab, which was before Salt Lake City. We seem to be in a small pocket where it is cold and rainy while the rest of the country is hot and sultry. Winter clothes near the end of June!

DAY 64, Thursday, June 18--The first full day in Grand Teton, in the early morning rain, we took a ranger walk to Heron Pond and Swan Lake from the Coulter Bay Visitors' Center. We didn’t see either heron or swans. The wildlife seemed to be avoiding the bad weather as well. Gray jays,
however, swept closely near our heads as we rested by the pond, most likely protecting a nest.
The female ranger talked about the rocks in the park, Her cute, memorable phrase was "Our rocks are gneis, but don't take them for granite." California's Yosemite mountains are granite.

After the walk, we had a great breakfast at the Ranch House Restaurant. Linda got the Ranch Hand Breakfast that included fresh fried trout. Trout fishing is really popular out here. That evening we went south about 40 miles to Jackson, an active small town servicing the summer Grand Teton tourists and the winter skiers. We strolled around the western town, seeing the town square with its four corners inviting visitors with elk antler arches. At the historic Cowboy Bar, the seats are saddles.  At the National Elk Refuge on the edge of town, we saw trumpeter swans, yellow-headed blackbirds, and a variety of ducks. Jackson was the only place we could get internet reception, so we uploaded our last blog entry from there.

DAY 65, Friday, June 19--Our second  day in Grand Teton, we got an early start for a very popular hike to Cascade Canyon, passing  Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point (elevation 7,200’), which overlooks Jenny Lake.  We caught the boat shuttle to begin the walk. The half-mile uphill climb to Hidden Falls was "easy" by trail standards, but nothing uphill is easy for us. The second half-mile to Inspiration Hill was “moderately strenuous” by trail standards, so it was slow and very strenuous for us. We saw a marmot running across the boulders. We found the last 100 yards of the hike was a knife-edge ledge on the side of the cliff for a hundred feet or so, but we made it. Chipmunks were running around begging food. After Inspiration Point, the trail gently climbed up passing both muddy and snowy parts into Cascade Canyon, the most beautiful site we have encountered. Think beautiful snow-capped mountains, deep green fir trees, cascading, fresh river in between, and clear blue sky. It was a memorable site, right out of the national park videos. Some folks ahead of us had seen moose in the willows, but we never got a good look at her and her calf. Fortunately, we completed the return hike and got back to the boat before another downpour. After getting off the boat, we finally saw a moose in the willows. We had hiked about five miles in all.

DAY 66, Saturday, June 20--The third day at Tetons was a washout. A 4-wheel drive side-trip on River Road turned out to be rough and boring, ending with ferocious mosquitoes alongside the Snake River. Then our planned float trip on the Snake River was canceled due to thunderstorms and heavy showers. We headed back to Jackson for dinner, and possibly the rodeo, but the rain was so heavy, the rodeo didn’t even seem like it would be fun.

Sign on the Road Back to Grand Teton warning drivers about the wildlife: " That bull my be some cow's beau!"

On the return, we explored a couple of roads known for wildlife. Yellowstone was much better overall for wildlife, but tonight we were lucky enough to see bison, elk, and pronghorns along Antelope Flats Road. By chance, Mike spotted a caramel brown grizzly bear frolicking across a field. We followed him for a few minutes. It is amazing how much territory a grizzly can cover running. Check out the videos. Animals we saw in Grand Teton: elk, bison, pronghorns, red squirrel, yellow-bellied marmots, chipmunks, snake, moose (just a glimpse), and grizzly bear, as well as 12 different bird species.

Birds we saw in Tetons: Trumpeter Swans, White Pelicans, Red-Winged Blackbirds, Yellow-headed  Blackbirds, Cowbirds, Red-Headed Ducks, Mallards, Raven, Canada Geese, Gray Jays, Robins, Western-Wood Peewee, American Wigeon

Wildflowers we saw:
Arrowleaf Balsamroot (yellow daisies in clumps)
Heartleaf Arnica (yellow daisy single)
Silvery Lupine (purple on stalks)
Larkspur (flowery purple, more sparce-like)
Oregon Grapes (small white)
Biscuit Root (yellow like parsley, bears eat roots)
Rosy Pussy Toes (soft pink paw-like)
Sticky Geranium (ping with flat pedals in circle)

Other Plants & Trees:
Sagebrush
Lodgepole Pines
Fir
Spruce
Slideshow Report as Spam
Where I stayed
Coulder Bay RV Park

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