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Trip Report- AUG 30th-SEP 3rd (part 1)

Dunedin, Florida
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Trip Report- AUG 30th-SEP 3rd (part 1)

We got home at 2am last night after a long flight back to Florida and as I drifted off to sleep I was thinking about how soon we could come back to YNP and GTNP! Both places are amazing and exceeded our expectations. We spent 5 days in YNP and 4 days in GTNP. I am the female Clark Griswold of traveling and try to squeeze a lot into my time and so appreciated all the help from the TA community. I will post my GTNP part of our trip report on that forum so this doesn't go WAY too long. I will also attach a link with a few choice photos for each day.

I want to touch on a few topics that seem to come up frequently.

Bear spray- We didn't need it but rented it anyway (better safe than sorry) from Thrifty in Jackson where we picked up our car for $20 per can. They are unused but not new cans that you can do what you'd like with if you don't use them. We showed it to the ranger on our guided hike at West Thumb and he agreed it was a great deal and showed us how to use it if needed. We did over 40 miles of hiking and felt safer with it just in case. We did see a bear but he was just a young guy (no momma but not full grown) and he was more afraid of us than we were of him. We gifted the cans along with a bottle of bug spray, sun block and handy wipes to a lucky couple at the airport when leaving.

Cell phone reception-We both have iphones with ATT and found we had reception in most areas except the stretch north of Old Faithful to just outside of Mammoth as well as the Western half of Norris Canyon Road. Reception was also a bit sketchy in parts of Hayden Valley. We didn't drive the section of the Grand Loop that went from Mammoth to the N.E. entrance so we can't speak for that. We did find powering down our phones more often helped them to find a signal more quickly which we never usually have to do. We came to the park so early each day there was never anyone at the entrances to hand out maps and we kept forgetting at 6am to get them at the lodges so I was navigating by sense of smell and intermittent cell phone mapping along the way lol.

Ranger Guided Hikes-We did 3 guided ranger hikes out of the 5 we were interested in (one we missed and another rained out) and they were all VERY worth while. I believe the Labor Day weekend was the last time frame they were available and we are hoping the park's budget allows for a re-expansion of this program in the future. Lots of valuable information and these guys love their jobs! Thanks to ranger Mike, Bruce, and Wes for answering all our questions and bringing the park together as a whole by explaining the geological and anthropological history. These rangers are retired fire fighters and/or long time park volunteers who know and love YNP.

Coolers and groceries- We went to Albertson's and got two coolers and groceries in Jackson after we landed. We did one cooler for drinks and one for food. They were styrofoam and squeeked but I found by throwing a couple of towels from our room over each cooler they were quiet and stayed cooler longer. In retrospect I would have got one hard sided cooler that would be easier to drain as it was a bit cumbersome at 6am to tilt a foam cooler and have cold water splashing everywhere before we freshened up the ice for the day. The drink cooler I don't think it would matter but our food cooler needed attention each day. About the food-I'm sort of a foodie and thought about what we wanted to munch on each day. I ended up getting the fixings for lox bagels and club sandwiches each day. I bought some cheap square glad tupperware, one sharp knife, paper plates, and a roll of paper towels to get it done. The first night I cut up cucumbers, scallions, and tomatoes to go on the sandwiches/bagels. Albertson's had some tasty rolls and bagels and Boar's Head meats/cheeses so we were happy with our food. I got a few surprised looks in Hayden Valley when I popped out of the car at Grizzly Overlook with a bagel with chive sour cream, lox, scallions, cucumbers, and tomatoes lol.

Wildlife- I forget who posted this but it is so very true. The magic hours at the park are just before sunrise to about 9am give or take an hour. Everything (except bison which seem to be everywhere all the time) that we saw was around sunrise. Buffalo, pronghorn, mule deer, elk, badgers, moose, eagles, osprey, coyote, bear.... we saw everything I was hoping for except a wolf which I understand is pretty rare and so will try again next time! I may post a link of just wildlife photos at some point with labels showing place and times if I get that organized. Sunrise is such a magical time in both parks that we adjusted ourselves to nature's hours-up a couple of hours before sunrise so we could be at our first stop of the day 30 minutes before sunrise and in bed 1 hour after sunset. After the 3rd day it felt natural and I seemed to wake up w/o my alarm.

Day 1- We landed at Jackson Airport and did the grocery thing as I mentioned above. We opted for a SUV at Thrifty in Jackson which we felt was a good idea for us. With two coolers and over 1,200 miles clocked over 9 days the extra room was totally worth it. We were basically living out of the car during the day and had backpacks, food, cameras, etc taking up almost all the available room. The extra clearance also helped when we wanted to pull over (completely over with all tires outside white line lol) to see wildlife. A lower clearance car would have been a bit scary in some of the areas we off-roaded. We were staying at Jackson Lake Lodge the 1st night and had planned to drive to West Thumb for a ranger guided tour of the area but our plane was late so we just went to the lodge after grocery shopping and hiked around willow flats and hit the sack early.

Day 2-We woke up early and left Jackson Lake Lodge at 5:15 for West Thumb. I love photography and had heard this was a fantastic place for sunrise photos over Lake Yellowstone-it did not disappoint. The steam of the thermal features rising with the sun over the lake was magical. We were the only people there at first with only a couple of photographers showing up a bit after us.

Our first wonderful wildlife experience happened here- we were walking through a stretch of the boardwalks where the steam was thick and the boardwalks slightly wet when I heard a rustling ahead. As the steam started to clear we saw a huge bull elk waking towards us. I froze (a little scared) and then he bugled and hopped up on the boardwalk right in front of us-AMAZING. We let him lead the way as we followed and I took pictures. A small family of Japanese tourist showed up and we gestured to be quiet and look around the blind corner they were approaching where the elk was and they were so excited to see him too.

We had some time to kill before the ranger guided hike on the Lake Overlook trail at West Thumb and so we drove to Isa Lake which was close by and straddles the Continental Divide to have breakfast. My fascination with geology was fed a bit here as it's the only natural lake in the world which drains to two different oceans backwards.

We headed back to West Thumb for our first guided ranger walk at 9:30 and found the place JAMMED with cars in that short time difference. No elk and crowded now with lots of families and tourist. We met up with Ranger Mike who is a wonderful source of information and seemed to truly enjoy walking and talking to our group of about 8 people. We hiked to the top of hill 8034 (it doesn't have an official name) and enjoyed the panoramic vista of Yellowstone Lake. Ranger Mike showed us a clawed up tree from the resident Grizzly named Preacher (he has a white collar hence the name) and we took pictures of the small thermal features around the trail.

After our hike we headed to Fairy Falls trail to get a bird's eye view of Grand Prismatic Spring. I have read that the way to truly appreciate this feature is by hiking one of the social trails up the hillside overlooking Grand Prismatic and so wanted to try to make it happen. This was the first time I truly felt the change of elevation coming from about 20 ft above sea level where we live in Florida. We are in average shape at best and could afford to lose a few lb's but we got it done! It was very worth the steep hike over the fallen trees to get the view we read about. The hike down was hard because I have a fear of falling (not high places just falling which is different). I must have looked like a crab crawling down the hill to the other hikers passing me both ways but I did it lol. The rest of the Fairy Falls trail was easy & the falls were lovely. We were surprised how much cooler the falls area was than the rest of the trail. Temps were above average while we were there so we appreciated the cool breeze while we rested at the falls.

We then drove to Lower Geyser Basin and explored that area and had fun seeing some of our first geysers of the trip. Tired and ready for dinner we headed to Canyon Village for our first night in the park. We had a Western cabin and like some have mentioned these cabins are in what we considered the best area in Canyon section P. We were a stone's throw from a great little trail that took about 15 minutes to walk to where it popped out to Grand View lookout on the N rim drive of Canyon. We saw a young bull elk and buffalo along the way. The Western Cabins are spacious and clean but our kurig coffee maker was broken which of course we didn't find out until 5:30am the next day :-( The cabin was spacious as well as the bathroom and beds comfortable. Note to the weary the tub/showers are slick. Clean but slippery and not a lot to hold onto if you are bathing instead of showering and are getting out. Dinner at the dining room was very good imo-we went at 5:30. It was very quick and everything was healthy and satisfactory-not gourmet but good. I got the trout almondine and the hubby got the bison burger. We liked Canyon and hope to stay there again!

Here is a link to a few photos from day 1- …smugmug.com/Other/…31747415_gwp5ST

Day 2 to come!

Atlanta, Georgia
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1. Re: Trip Report- AUG 30th-SEP 3rd (part 1)

So glad you had a great trip!! Yellowstone is such an amazing place and you are exactly correct when you say I am already thinking about returning to the park.

Thanks for sharing with us and looking forward to your other reports and photos.

Driggs, Idaho
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2. Re: Trip Report- AUG 30th-SEP 3rd (part 1)

Very nice trip. Thanks for posting a review!

Can't wait to read the GTNP one.

Indiana
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3. Re: Trip Report- AUG 30th-SEP 3rd (part 1)

Sounds like a wonderful trip! We were not as lucky as you were in the wildlife department - it sounds like you got some great pictures!

PA
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4. Re: Trip Report- AUG 30th-SEP 3rd (part 1)

Great report so far... and AMAZING pictures! Looking forward to the rest soon.

Like you, I can't wait to return to the parks.

Dayton, Ohio
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5. Re: Trip Report- AUG 30th-SEP 3rd (part 1)

Sounds great! We haven't been back to Yellowstone since the big fires or the wolves, so we are planning our return for next year. Your report makes us even more anxious to go!

Dunedin, Florida
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6. Re: Trip Report- AUG 30th-SEP 3rd (part 1)

Thanks all! It was amazing and we are looking so forward to a return trip next September! I just got home and am going to try to report on the next couple of days and add another photo link.

Dunedin, Florida
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7. Re: Trip Report- AUG 30th-SEP 3rd (part 1)

Trip Report- AUG 30th-SEP 3rd (part 2)

Day 3-We left at 6:00 am from Canyon to head to Hayden Valley and arrived at Grizzly Overlook at 6:15. We got some great sunrise photos but didn't see much wildlife except some bison in the distance. The folks with the scopes at the top of the hill a few minutes walk away from the parking area said there were wolves earlier but we weren't going to show up when it was pitch black out lol. We chatted with some locals and then headed to mud volcano which had recently reopened after the fire closure. Along the way you could see evidence of the fire and there was a slight haze but nothing too noticeable. We also hit our first bison jam of the trip and got some great up close photos of some bison bulls fighting and making a spectacle rolling around in the dust. The babies from the spring were running around and bucking having such a good time.

After mud volcano we headed to Indian Pond where we met up with ranger Bruce and went on a guided hike to Storm Point on Yellowstone Lake. The ranger led our group of 10 through the Storm Point trail and gave us some great insight on the soil and weather conditions that contributed to the types of trees and plants in the area. He also explained that after the 1988 fires the spruce and fir trees didn't come back strong in most areas and that's why moose were a rare sighting in YNP vs GTNP. We did run into a large buffalo on the trail and had to give him space until we could continue. We got to the point which was spectacular and enjoyed the view and beautiful weather. The marmots had already gone under ground for the year apparently but the ranger did tell us a great story about the critters. He was leading a hike a few years back and was pointing the marmots out to his group when the alpha male at the top of the hill ran all the way down to him and bit his foot! It didn't hurt him but went back up to his post and continued barking at the group until they left lol. Ranger Bruce said he was the only reported marmot attack in the park haha! We wrapped up the rest of the day by backtracking through Hayden Valley on our way to Old Faithful where we were staying that night. We stopped at Artist Paint Pots, Gibbon Falls, and Firehole Canyon Drive on our way to the lodge which were all worth a stop imo.

We got to Old Faithful and were feeling the climbing/hiking from the prior day and so had to cut our hiking short a bit. I had originally planned to hike all the way to biscuit basin and back before dinner but we settled for the immediate upped geyser basin area and were rewarded with a few eruptions. Although the room we had (West wing) was small and the bed not very comfortable we did enjoy being so close to all the geysers in the area and the lodge itself is gorgeous. We ate dinner (so glad we made reservations) and the food was pretty good. I swung by the buffet and have to say I hope it tasted better than it looked lol. We explored the lodge a bit and then hit the sack early for the next day.

Day 4- We headed out early so we could drive through Firehole Lake Drive on the way to Mammoth for another ranger guided hike. Great Fountain Geyser wasn't going off while we were there but White Dome Geyser did and it was fantastic. We did get some pretty sunrise pictures on Great Fountain Geyser and saw some more bison.

Ranger Wes at Mammoth had the largest group of any of our guided hikes in YNP. I believe we had about 15-20 people on the Mammoth Hike. Wes had to run and wrangle in 2 different tourist during our hike for leaving the boardwalk and trying to walk on or touch the thermal features. I was ready to start body checking some tourist too while there and couldn't believe how people were disregarding the safety rules and preservation of the area. I suppose those folks were the same ones who tried to pet the bison on Grand Loop road lol. Mammoth was an impressive sight and we learned so much from the ranger. He explained that the same amount of water is always seeping up from the earth but it moves around year after year. Where some of the most impressive features were in recent years looked dried up but yards away where grass and trees used to be new features were forming with water streaming and creating new shelves.

We left Mammoth and headed to Norris Geyser Basin which was by far our favorite thermal area in the park. It started to rain lightly while we were there which worked out great for us because the place cleared out! It was the first time during the middle of the day in YNP where we felt we had the place to ourselves. I agreed with Bill074 that the area is so expansive you really feel like you are on another planet.

After Norris we headed back to Canyon for our last lodging stay in the park. Our second cabin was far better than the first even though they were both Western Cabins. The 2nd cabin had sliders that opened up to the forest and trail and of course the coffee maker worked! We opened the sliders and listened to the rain for a bit and then headed out to see if our last guided hike was still on or canceled.

We arrived at Uncle Tom's trail head to find our guided hike was in fact canceled and so decided to explore the S Rim road on our own. I opened up "Yellowstone Treasures" in the Kindle on my Iphone and scrolled to the chapter on The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. What a great guide it ended up being! The revised edition had just been released before we came and so there were some new helpful nuggets we used throughout the trip. Lastly we headed back to N Rim drive and hiked down to the brink of the lower falls. I do believe my quads were falling off by the time I dipped into a hot bath that night.

Photo link- …smugmug.com/Other/…31774812_TJ2HPf

Pittsburgh...
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8. Re: Trip Report- AUG 30th-SEP 3rd (part 1)

Great pictures and great report. You are so right about getting out early. Looking forward to the next installment.

Dunedin, Florida
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9. Re: Trip Report- AUG 30th-SEP 3rd (part 1)

Thanks dh6040....I hope to finish YNP report by tomorrow and then head to GTNP forum to try to do that park some justice. Both are such wonderful parks with one of a kind experiences.

Atlanta, Georgia
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10. Re: Trip Report- AUG 30th-SEP 3rd (part 1)

Enjoyed reading part 2. Thanks for posting your trip report and photos.