Friday, November 6, 2009

Better Late Than Never: Yellowstone/Teton Highlights

Dateline: The Western U.S., 8/20/09 - 9/1/09

Melody was worried about me because I haven't posted to my blog for so long. She wondered if I had died or was in triple traction. No need to worry; everything is fine. Sometimes I just get into a non-blogging mood. But I have been intending to post about our trip to Yellowstone and Grand Teton parks. So, better late than never, here are some highlights from the trip.

Jim and I drove to Yellowstone and met my brother Larry, sister-in-law Mary Beth, and nephew Max, who had flown from New York. I wanted to drive because I had never been to this part of the country, and wanted to see it up close. Idaho, Wyoming and Montana have now been added to my list of "states I've been in". We took three and a half days to get to Yellowstone, driving across Nevada, through parts of Idaho, and through a small corner of Montana. (We couldn't work out spending a night in Montana, which I wanted to do.) In Twin Falls, Idaho, we walked from our motel to the Perrine Bridge and got a beautiful view of the Snake River (picture above).

Our first stop in Yellowstone was to see some of the geysers, one of the many features that make the park unique.

The next day, we saw two eruptions of Old Faithful, the most famous geyser of all.

"Bison jams" are common on the park roads. Sometimes bison would walk onto the road, but more often people would stop their cars in the middle of the road to take pictures of the bison at the side of the road. It was fascinating to see the bison up close, but the jams added travel time to our sightseeing. (Yellowstone is huge, and to see the sights you have to do a lot of driving. The problem was compounded by the closure of several sections of the main road.) On our first day in the park, we were late for our 35th anniversary dinner because of a bison jam. And since we didn't have cell phone service, we couldn't let the family know we were going to be late.

Led by Mary Beth, an avid hiker, we took a 6.5-mile back country hike. I was tired and there were some steep sections, but with the help of improvised walking sticks, we made it. We heard that 90% of visitors to Yellowstone never get out of their cars, much less take a hike like this.

On a cowboy cookout, we rode in covered wagons pulled by horses to a picnic area and ate a delicious steak dinner. The cowboy who rode in our wagon told us the story of Truman Everts, a member of one of the first expeditions to explore Yellowstone in 1870, who became separated from his group and survived (barely) on his own in the park for 37 days. We were fascinated by the story, and I later read Everts' book about the adventure. (I've always had a morbid fascination with survival stories.) After his rescue, Everts ended his career by working in a post office in Maryland.

Grand Teton Park, while only about 30 miles from Yellowstone, has a completely different feel: less wild and rugged, but equally beautiful. We took a raft float trip on the Snake River, and enjoyed beautiful views of the mountains.

Instead of staying in the park, we stayed in the town of Jackson, Wyoming, about 20 miles away. One day I took a break from the park and went shopping in town while Jim did some horseback riding.

On our way home we stopped in Salt Lake City, Utah, where we caught the reflection of some of the Temple Square buildings in the windows of Abravanel Hall (home of the Utah Symphony).