Monday, October 27, 2014

Yellowstone and Geezer VII - Yellowstone Day 4

October 1

Today when we got up we were surprised to see that it had snowed during the night.  There was probably a couple of inches on the ground, but the skies were partly cloudy with a lot of blue sky, quite a change from what we’ve been seeing.  Today our plans were to visit the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone and Hayden Valley.  We were on the road by 9:30 and the Old Faithful area was beautiful with snow covering the ground and hanging in the branches of the trees.  The snow must have been pretty localized because as we drove north the snow faded away until there was no sign that it had snowed at all.


Because of the road closures, our drive was a little longer as we had to go through Madison, Norris and Canyon Junctions to get to the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.

Again, our route for the day is highlighted in yellow.

We made it to the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone in a little over an hour and  took the North Rim Scenic Drive where we had beautiful views of the Upper and Lower Falls as well as the canyon itself.  The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone was formed by the Yellowstone River, which you can see flowing through the bottom of it.

We finished the North Rim drive and then took the South Rim Scenic Drive.  Our first stop was a view of the Upper Falls, which has a trail to the bottom of the Lower Falls.  I hadn’t intended to take the trail as it is very steep with a lot of stairs, but at the last minute I decided to do it.  Val didn’t want to so she waited for me at the top.  The trail is called Uncle Tom’s Trail because at some point in the past Uncle Tom set up a tourist concession where he had a series of steps and rope ladders to get people to the bottom.  The park service has developed it so there are no more rope ladders, but there are over 300 steps and now it only goes about two thirds of the way down.  It was a pretty easy walk down and the view of the falls at the bottom was beautiful, but I have to admit the trip up was pretty grueling.  I huffed and puffed and finally made my way back to the top and found Val.  I’m really glad I did it, but I need to be in a little better shape to tackle a steep climb at 8000 feet.

A view of the Upper Falls with the highway bridge in the background.
A view of the Lower Falls as I make my way down.
I made it and here's my picture to prove it, but the really hard part was yet to come.

The trip back up was much harder than going down. 
Here is the beginning of the 300+ stairs up.
As I walked back up, I could see a rainbow in the mist.
We finished our drive at Artist Point, which is another view of the Lower Falls and the canyon.

A view of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone from Artist Point.

By this time it was almost 2:00 and we were starving.  Most of the services had shut down for the season so we drove south through Hayden Valley down to Lake Village where we had lunch in the Lake Hotel.  The weather had been changing all morning with some sun, then heavy clouds with a few snow flurries and temperatures were in the lower 30's.  While we were eating lunch it started snowing in earnest and was really coming down.  Surprisingly, when we went outside after lunch there was no snow on the ground as I guess it was just warm enough so it didn’t stick.

We drove back north through the Hayden Valley which was beautiful with the Yellowstone River running down through it.  The Hayden Valley is known for it’s wildlife and we saw plenty.  There were of course plenty of buffalo, but we also saw our first two grizzly bears, that was pretty exciting.  We also saw swans, geese and duck on the river.  We made many stops to photograph the scenery and wildlife.  At one point we saw some buffalo getting ready to cross the river so we had to stop and take more buffalo photos.

Those dark dots in the back of the picture are buffalo. 
They were everywhere.

Our first grizzly bear sighting.  You can tell it's a grizzly bear by the hump on its back.


 Just as we were approaching the north end of Hayden Valley, the temperature dropped and it started sleeting, we had seen it all today.  It was late in the afternoon so we decided we’d had enough and headed back to the Old Faithful Inn.  As we turned south towards Old Faithful from Madison Junction the sun came out and the temperature warmed up to 45 which was a welcome relief compared to most of the day.  All in all a great day with lots of different wildlife and weather.

A couple more shots of the Old Faithful Inn from the front.

I had wondered whether we would regret spending so much time in Yellowstone, but it is so big with such a diversity of things to see, we didn’t have nearly enough time to do everything we wanted to.  I guess that means a return trip.  Tomorrow we will be driving south to Grand Teton National Park and staying at the Jackson Lake Lodge.  Again, because of the road closures we will be retracing our route today in order to get to the south park entrance, which will add a few hours to our trip.  No better place to have a long detour in!

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