Goodbye mighty buffalo

Trip Start Jun 04, 2010
Trip End Jun 11, 2010

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Flag of United States  , Wyoming
Thursday, June 10, 2010

Well, here we are...the last day at Yellowstone.

We woke up a little late this morning since we didn't have big plans to do in the park.  We only had one destination in mind: Midway Geyser Basin.  There were no traffic jams at the entrance and only sparse vehicles all the way into the park.  We quickly came upon the basin and were off on our first walk of the day.

This little walk was super easy and had a dozen or so thermal features.  The two highlights were Grand Prismatic Spring and Excelsior Geyser Crater.  Prismatic was very large for a clear blue spring.  And it was surrounded with rust colored earth.   It was so cold, that most of the surface was blocked from view from the steam.  We were able to get some pictures, none-the-less.  Excelsior was simply BIG.  This giant bubbling pool was a good 150 foot across and 15 feet in a crater caused by explosive eruptions.  This big guy was not going to erupt anytime soon as it has been quiet since the 1980s.  The run off from Excelsior drains into the river nearby which is visible from the main road.  This runoff is a beautiful rainbow of greens and oranges from the algae growing in it.

After leaving the Midway Basin we headed toward our second predetermined destination, the south entrance to the park.  It was a pretty uneventful trip most of the way  to the entrance.  However, on the way we saw a sign that said that the Grand Teton National park was only a few miles past the entrance.  So, we decided to go for it after giving up on being able to go a few days ago. 

We were pretty bummed that it rained almost the entire way but we still had some awesome views on the way.  We stopped at a visitor's center near Jackson Lake, the lake you usually see in all the mountain pictures of Grand Teton NP.  While Liz browsed the center, I looked at a map to see where to go.  I saw that there was a single loop that covered most of the park so we were on our way to partake.

The western side of the loop headed south was beautiful.  We saw pronghorn and elk and awesome lakeside views.  There was also a dam on the Snake River just dumping water from one of the lakes and at the dam were over a dozen people fishing and a flock of large pelicans.  The amount of elk on the drive was stunning, even compared to Yellowstone.  The elk here were in much larger groups than Yellowstone and one herd measured more then 40 head.  They were like the buffalo of the Grand Tetons...just everywhere.

At the end of this western edge of the loop was a brand new visitor's center at Moose Junction.  This place was incredible with tons of exhibits and statutes combined with video effects.  It was truly worth the trip.

On the eastern part of the loop, we hit a bit of a snag...OK I hit a snag.  I made a turn at a place call Moran Junction ( Moran is the name of the largest mountain peak on lake jackson ) but the area didn't look familiar so I plodded on.  I was expecting that the loop I read on the map didn't require any turns off the main road.  I guess I was wrong and Liz got me to turn around about 20 miles past our turnoff.

I think the extra side trip made for great weather ( at least, that's my excuse).  By the time we got back to the Moran Junction, the rain had subsided AND the sun had come out over the mountains.  So, we headed straight up a road called Signal Mountain Summit.  This took us from the main road near the Snake River Dam about 1000 feet up this tiny road to the top of Signal Mountain.  This provided fantastic views. 

By this point it was 6:30 so we had to start heading back.  This was the latest road trip we ever made and we had about 100 miles to get back.  The going was slow due to the weather and bad drivers but we saw more elk and deer along the way then we had for most of the week due to the late start and bettering weather.  As we made the last turn toward West Yellowstone we both got melancholy about our moments in the park. 

What was probably one of the best weeks of our relationship was coming to a close and we didn't want it to end.  We were even hoping for one more buffalo caused traffic jam but even the buffalo had bedded down for the night. 

By the time we got back tot he resort it was past 9 pm.  We had a full 12 hour day of driving and sight seeing and it was all worth it.  We leave bright and early tomorrow to hit the 9am checkout time ( BLEH!) but we already miss this place.

Goodbye Yellowstone, thanks for all the memories ( including 200 video clips and over 1000 pictures ).  We will miss you.
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