Sunday, September 27, 2009

Day 9 - Jack and Amy's Yellowstone and Grand Teton Vacation

Jack & Amy’s 2009 Vacation to Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons

Day 9 - Sunday, September 13th, 2009

Day 9 Photos:

This would be our last morning inside Yellowstone National Park. We checked out of the Lake Lodge Cabins, had a nice breakfast at the Fishing Bridge Restaurant, and hit the road.

We stopped at Moose Falls on the drive in, but decided to check it out again on the drive out. I'm glad we did, because the lighting was much better this morning making for some better photos than the first attempt.

Moose Falls

I had wanted to get one more hike in before leaving Yellowstone and the Terraced Falls hike came highly recommended. While the waterfall itself and most of the trail is located in the seldom visited South West corner of the Yellowstone, the trailhead is located just outside the park boundary and is accessed via Flagg Ranch / Grassy Lake Road.

It took much longer than I anticipated to drive the 15 miles on this very rough dirt road, but we eventually arrived at the trailhead. Amy elected to sit this one out and decided to wait in the car with her book, while I did the 3.6 mile (1.8 mile out and back) hike to Terraced Falls.

The trail starts out following Cascade Creek and almost immediately a small sign marks the spot where you enter into Yellowstone. A couple of nice cascades and waterfalls can be viewed along the way.

Small Waterfall on Cascade Creek

A little past the half-way point, Cascade Creek joins the Falls River at a very scenic confluence. The trail continues along the Falls River past a few nice cascades before ending at the top of Terraced Falls.

Terraced Falls is a nice one, however there is really no good spot to view it. Signs warn that it is illegal to leave the trail in the Terraced Falls area. Even without the signs, this is a very rugged gorge and it would not have been safe to explore any further, especially on a solo hike.

Terraced Falls

So I settled for the trailside views which were mainly from the top and side of the falls before returning back the way I came. It's a nice trail, but it would have been much better if it would have led to a better viewpoint of Terraced Falls.

Our lodging for the last night of our vacation would be at the Flat Creek Inn, just north of Jackson, WY. However, before that, we wanted to hit a few more sights around the Grand Tetons that we didn't get to earlier in the week.

The Grand Tetons

We hit a couple of the roadside overlooks and drove up Signal Mountain. Compared to the Tetons, Signal Mountain is not much of a mountain. However, it does rise about 1,000 feet above the surrounding landscape and offers some spectacular view of the flatlands to the East and the Grand Tetons to the West.

Grand Teton from Signal Mountain

Our last stop inside the park would be The Chapel of the Transfiguration. We almost skipped this, because the Chapel of the Sacred Heart that we stopped at earlier was not very noteworthy. I am glad we didn't because the Chapel of the Transfiguration turned out to be a very scenic spot.

The Chapel of the Transfiguration

Also, inside the chapel was very cool as well. The glass window behind the alter perfectly frames an awesome view of the Grand Tetons!

View of the Grand Tetons from inside the Chapel of Transfiguration

Our last stop in the Grand Tetons, was as we were crossing the Snake River, we saw a couple of Bull Moose hanging out, so we pulled off on the side of the road so I could snap a few Moose photos.

Bull Moose in the Snake River

I chose the Flat Creek Inn for our last night of lodging because we had an early flight out the next morning and it was the closest thing to the Jackson Hole Airport. It turned out to be a nice motel with large clean rooms and our first king sized bed since leaving home 9 days earlier. After we checked in, we decided to head into Downtown Jackson for dinner.

We both decided we were craving pizza, so the "Mountain High Pizza Pie" restaurant seemed like the obvious choice! If you ever find yourself craving pizza in Jackson, WY, this is the place to go! The pizza was almost as good as "The Brick", our favorite pizza joint back home in the Carolinas.

We enjoyed some awesome pizza at the Mountain High Pizza Pie!

We were going to do a bit more exploring downtown after dinner, but the rain had started falling. We had a few sprinkles early in the week, but for the most part our trip was rain free, so I wasn't about to complain about a little rain shower on our last day.

So instead we headed back to the Flat Creek Inn. None of the accommodations inside Yellowstone or Grand Teton National park have televisions, so after going 9 days without TV, Amy watched about 5 hours worth that evening.

I had to go out for a little exploring, and after darkness set in, I decided to try some more night time photography along side of the highway outside the motel.

Night time at the Flat Creek Inn

Additional Photos from Day 9 of our vacation are located here:

Our flight out the next morning was at 7:00am, which meant getting up around 5:00am. We were only about 10 minutes from the airport, and in this part of the world you don't really have to worry about traffic. But we still had to get there early enough to return the rental car, check in, and get through security.

Day 10 - Monday, September 14th, 2009

We were both awake earlier than planned, and after packing up our stuff, we headed on out to the airport. I was expecting it to be a breeze checking in and getting through security at a small airport like Jackson Hole. I was dead wrong!

It's a good thing we got there early. It seemed that every major flight out of Jackson Hole leaves between 6:00am and 7:00am, and the line to check in was huge! The line through security was just as bad!

Originally when we booked the flights, it was a smaller plane with only 2 seats on each side of the center aisle. Of course, we selected an aisle and window seat next to each other. Sometime between then and now, United did some flight consolidations, changed our flight times, and changed to larger airplane. We still had a window and aisle seat, but there was a third middle seat in between us.

So a gentleman in a large cowboy hat who had the seat in-between us graciously offered to switch seats with Amy so she could sit next to me while he took the window seat. Turns out we were seated next to a minor celebrity.

I had never heard of him, but Amy who is a much bigger fan of country music was seated next to country singer Derryl Perry:

The flight was smooth and on time. We had lunch during our 2-hour layover at the Chicago Airport, and the flight from Chicago to Greer, SC also went off without a hitch.

Our checked baggage made it through as well, and Amy's friend Kristi picked us up from the airport and drove us home.

After 10 days without internet, one of the first things I wanted to do when I got home was start catching up on all my eMails and various online forums that I belong to. Turns out our internet was dead!

Three frustrating hours later trying to figure out what the heck was wrong, I felt like a failure. I always like to figure these things out on my own, but Amy finally convinced me to call AT&T customer support.

They eventually got us hooked up to a low speed connection, but it would be several days before a technician could make it out and finally get us back up to full speed.

I was happy to learn that there was nothing I could have done to fix the problem. The issue was caused by a connection gone bad in one of the junction boxes out by the road.

It was an awesome vacation and I enjoyed reliving it by going through all the photos and writing these trip reports, but it also feels good to have it complete and the last days trip report posted!

Additional Photos from Day 9 of our vacation are located here:

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Day 8 - Jack and Amy's Yellowstone Vacation

Jack and Amy’s 2009 Vacation to Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons

Day 8 - Saturday, September 12th, 2009

Day 8 Photos:

Yellowstone is famous for its thermal features like Geysers, Hot Springs, and bubbling mud pots. However, to me the most impressive part of Yellowstone was the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone.

While I spent a good bit of time exploring the Canyon on my solo hikes, as we were leaving Canyon Village, it dawned on me that Amy didn't get to see nearly as much of this area as I did. So I decided to take Amy to Artist Point, which has one of the best views of the Canyon and Lower Yellowstone Falls.

Jack and Amy at Artist Point

We also stopped and checked out a couple of the Upper Yellowstone Falls overlooks, before heading on to the Lake Lodge Cabins where we would be spending our last night in the park.

Upper Yellowstone Falls

On the way to the Lake Lodge we made a stop to check out our last Geyser Basin; the Mud Volcano. As stated in earlier reports, we had pretty much had our fill of Geysers and bubbling pools of mud, but the name Mud Volcano brought visions to my mind of something pretty cool. Plus it was right along the way.

Amy reluctantly joined me on this hike of a little less than a mile. Well, the Mud Volcano didn't come close to living up to the visions in my head, and Amy was equally unimpressed. Just more sizzling streams, Geyser Mist and gurgling pools of mud. Pretty cool if it is your first time seeing it, but after a week of this stuff, it got kind of old.

Amy walking through some Geyser Mist

Next up I had picked out the Storm Point trail, which is about a 2-mile loop hike and from the description it sounded very Amy friendly. Apparently I did good, because Amy declared this to be her favorite hike of the week.

Amy hiking towards Storm Point

The Storm Point trail has some short ups and downs, but for the most part it is very flat and offers up some great views of Lake Yellowstone.

Lake Yellowstone from Storm Point

After our hike it was on to the Lake Lodge Cabins. We were too early for check-in, so I decided to do a little hike around the grounds, while Amy sat back for some reading and relaxation. There was a large herd of Bison by the lake, so my plan was to hike the trail from the Lake Lodge to the Fishing Bridge.

Bison at the Lake

I got some shots of the Lake and the Bison, but as I got closer to where the trail ends at the fishing bridge there were Bison everywhere including on the trail. While they appear harmless, if you get too close, the Bison can get a little pissed off. And you don't what to be around an ornery Bison!

So I went off trail a little to get around them. It wasn't really bushwhacking, more of just walking through some high grass. The biggest obstacle was trying to avoid all the large piles of Bison crap, which seemed to be everywhere.

As I got closer to the Fishing Bridge I heard the sirens from an ambulance, and at the bridge area there were about 50 Bison, 20 Park Rangers, and hundreds of tourists. Apparently one of the tourist got attacked by one of the Bison and the Rangers where doing their best to keep the people away from the wildlife.

Bison grazing along the lakeside

I roamed around the Fishing Bridge area doing my best not to piss off any Bison or Park Rangers before deciding to head back. Problem was that the rangers had closed off the trail back to Lodge to prevent people from getting too close to the Bison. So I ended up hiking the road back to the Lodge.

By the time I got back to Amy, our cabin was ready so we checked in and went for an early dinner. Afterwards, I planned another solo hike along the Pelican Creek Trail.

The first mile of the hike was uneventful. That is, until I saw the bear!

To the left of the trail was a heavily wooded area, and to the right a thin row of trees along side an open meadow. Through the trees I saw some movement in the meadow. A large brown blur was heading in my direction. My first thought was of a galloping Bison, but I soon realized that that was no Bison.

The large mass of brown fur broke through the thin tree line and stopped dead on the trail about 20 yards up from where I was standing. It was probably only about a second or two, but it seemed like much longer that I was looking eye to eye with the largest bear I have ever seen in the wild!

I would have loved to have had my camera at the ready and got a few shots in, but my mind was too busy trying to avoid crapping in my pants and thinking thorough all the bear encounter survival tips that I have read and heard about. What the hell would I do if this beast came charging at me?

Fortunately, it didn't get to that. Instead I went with the waving my arms in the air while making some goofy noises. That did the trick and the bear quickly darted through the heavily wooded area on the left and was out of site in an instant. Wow, those guys can sure move fast!

This is where I saw the Bear - Unfortunately, I didn't get a photo of the Bear

By the time I was calm enough to go for the camera, the bear was long gone. For the most part, Bears do not want anything to do with Humans. The danger comes when people are careless with their food storage and a Bear gets a taste of people food. Once that happens, the bear will associate humans with food and becomes much more of a danger.

The second major cause of bear attacks is people getting too close to bear cubs. In this case the adult bears will likely attack to defend their young. The third major cause of bear attacks are hunters dressing in camouflage and covering themselves with Deer or Elk urine. The fourth cause, is the one that I was concerned with, just plain old bad luck of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

I was freaked out enough that I thought about turning back, but I decided to continue on as I had only gone a little over a mile. Based on how fast he ran away, I was pretty sure the bear was just as afraid of me as I was of him, and would likely long gone by now.

Pelican Creek

The trail left the wooded area and entered into the wide open meadows surrounding the winding Pelican Creek. Some beautiful scenery with views for miles in every direction. I kept seeing brown spots in the distance, and my mind kept flashing back to the bear. But they all turned out to be either Bison on rocks!

I got to a trail junction alongside the creek. There are the remains of an old bridge, but not something that could be used to cross the creek anymore. Continuing on the trail across the creek would required wading across. The trail sign said I was 3.4 miles from the trailhead, however my map said I was 2.8 miles.

The remains of an old bridge across Pelican Creek

Not sure which was correct, but since I wanted to go about 4 miles each way for an 8-mile out and back hike, I continued on to the trail that didn't require crossing the creek.

Some more nice views and many more Bison grazing and sleeping in the wide open meadows. Eventually, the trail came within about 4-feet of a sleeping Bison. I didn't feel like coming that close to a Bison, it didn't appear that the big guy would be moving anytime soon, and I didn't feel like leaving the trail to get around him.

Bison sleeping about 4-feet from the trail

So I took this as a sign to turn back. It had been a few hours since I saw any other humans and I got a little concerned about having to hike back through the area of my earlier bear encounter. Fortunately, when I got back to the earlier mentioned trail junction I ran into a couple of hikers taking a break.

Like me, they were doing the hike as an out and back and were just getting ready to head back. I told them about the bear and asked if they would mind if I hiked back with them. While I knew I couldn't outrun a bear, I was pretty sure I could outrun these people.

Alan and Penny from Minneapolis, MN were a nice couple. I would guess about 50 years old. After some chatting I learned that their youngest of 4 children had just started college leaving them as empty nesters after 30 years of raising a family. They were celebrating their newfound freedom with a Yellowstone Vacation.

We actually didn't talk a whole lot, but having them along with me sure made me feel a little safer. They were in pretty good shape and the hiking pace was not much slower than my normal solo hiking pace. We made it back to the parking area without any issues or bear encounters.

On the drive back in I saw that the Lake Yellowstone Hotel Cabins had been invaded by Bison. Even though I already had about 500 photos of Bison from this trip, I couldn't resist rolling down the car window, pulling out my camera, and snapping a few more!

Bison hanging out at the Lake Yellowstone Hotel Cabins

Back at the cabin after spending some time with Amy, I decided to head out to the lake for some more night time shots. The stars sure are beautiful out here!

Stars over Lake Yellowstone

Additional Photos from Day 8 of our vacation are located here:

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Day 7 - Jack and Amy's Yellowstone Vacation

Jack and Amy’s 2009 Vacation to Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons

Day 7 - Friday, September 11th, 2009

Day 7 Photos:

Today we planned to explore the North Entrance area of the park. So after a quick breakfast we hit the road. Again there was a nice display of wildlife out during the early morning hours.

Our first stop was to Virginia Cascades. A nice roadside waterfall worth the stop if you are driving past, but not one I would go out of the way for. We then hiked the short half mile trail to Ice Lake. I was hoping to see some Moose, but instead we just got Elk

Elk at Ice Lake

We continued our drive towards Norris to Artist Paint Pots. Amy informed me that she had seen enough Geyser Basins, hot springs, bubbling mud pools, boiling rivers, etc. So she elected to stay in the car with her book while I did the short hike to Artist Paint Pots.

Geyser Mist at Artist Paint Pots

After that we visited the Norris Geyser Basin. Amy reluctantly did this hike with me. Afterwards I decided that I too had my fill of Geyser Basins for this trip. So onward to Mammoth-Hot Springs.

We stopped at several overlooks, including Roaring Mountain and Rustic Falls before reaching a nice view of Mammoth-Hot Springs down below. There is another popular Geyser Basin here, but we elected to skip that one, and instead drove down the Mountain into “Town”

Heading down towards Mammoth Hot Springs
Rather than walking around the Geyser Basin, we decided it would be more interesting to stroll around though town. Mammoth is the only area inside Yellowstone that actually has year round private residences, so it is definitely more town-like than any area in the park. Except, there sure is a lot of poop around here!

The Elk roam through town without any fear of the humans. Just a few feet from the sidewalk we saw a group of Elk sitting in the shade of a building watching all the people walk by.

Elk hanging out in the shade at Mammoth Hot Springs
We checked out the visitor's center and gift shops before deciding to head on. Rather than taking the main road, a one-way dirt road leads from Mammoth to Gardiner, MT. It is suppose to be a great place to view wildlife, but we didn’t see any. Still a fun drive with some really nice views.

Approaching Gardiner, MT

We stopped to take some photos of the Famous Roosevelt Arch at the North Entrance of the park, before temporarily leaving Yellowstone to visit Gardiner, MT.

The Roosevelt Arch

Gardiner is a nice little town. It is definitely a touristy type town, but compared to the other gateway villages that we visited early in the week, it is much bigger than Silver Gate, Cooke City, and Pahaska Tepee combined.

We enjoyed a nice lunch at a place called the Sawtooth Restaurant-Deli, which offered up some great sandwiches and Burgers. After lunch we topped off the gas tank and headed back into Yellowstone.

Jack and Amy at Lunch in Gardiner, MT

Right at the boarder of Wyoming and Montana is the Boiling River Trailhead. It’s a mile out-and back hike to one of the only legal places inside of Yellowstone to swim in a hot spring.

While technically not actually boiling, the Boiling River emerges from a cave at around 140-degrees. Too hot to swim directly in the Boiling River, but after about a 100-yards, the Boiling River empties into the Gardiner River forming a great soaking spot. I just had to try it out!

Jack Soaking at the Junction of the Boiling River and Gardiner River

If you decide to soak right next to where the Boiling River enters, it is pretty darn hot! But the closer you move towards the Gardiner River, the more cooler water joins in and you can adjust your location to whatever temperature mix you prefer.

Warning, while the soaking is nice and warm, the air sure feels cold when you get out. Especially since I didn’t think to bring any towels along!

Continuing our drive we stopped off at Undine Falls, which is a roadside view. After that I did the short hike to Wraith Falls. Both of these are worth the stop if you are driving past, but probably not worth going out of your way to see.

Jack and Amy at Undine Falls

We also did the “Forces of the Northern Range” Trail a short half mile loop with many interpretive signs along the way. We hopped off the main road and instead took the Blacktail Plateau Drive, which offered up some different views.

We saw a sign for “Petrified Tree” and decided to check it out. From our car we could see a tree stump surrounded by a fence. We looked at each other and decided that this was not worth getting out of the car for. But I did roll down my window and snap a quick shot of the Petrified Tree from the vehicle before moving on.

The Petrified Tree

Our last stop was Chittenden Road which takes you part of the way up Mount Washburn. From there a trail leads to the Summit. I thought about hiking it, but I knew Amy wouldn’t be up for a hike with that much elevation gain, and I didn’t want to leave her alone in the car for as long as it would take for me to do the 6-mile hike.

View from Mount Washburn
Instead, I would plan my days solo hiking for later after we get back to the comforts of our cabin. It actually wouldn’t have been too far for me to drive back here later, but instead I decided on the Cascade Lake Trail.

I had a little over 3-hours of Daylight left, so I would just hike for an hour and a half and then turn around. The Cascade Lake Trail is nice and easy, with just a few minor ups and downs.

Cascade Lake

Cascade Lake was a nice little pond and apparently a good fishing spot. I continued on to Grebe Lake before my watch told me it was time to turn around. I could have hiked this trail forever, but knew if I didn’t turn around now I would be risking darkness.

This was supposed to be a good trail for wildlife viewing, but all I saw was a lone deer and a lone Bison. I saw a few other hikers and some people fishing at Cascade Lake, but for the most part I had the trail to myself. An enjoyable way to spend the late afternoon / early evening.

Grebe Lake
It was almost dark and I thought about heading to one of the waterfall overlooks for some evening twilight waterfall shots, but instead elected to head back to our cabin to spend the rest of the evening with Amy.

Additional Photos from Day 7 of our vacation are located here:

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Day 6 - Jack and Amy's Yellowstone Vacation

Jack and Amy’s 2009 Vacation to Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons

Day 6 - Thursday, September 10th, 2009

Day 6 Photos:

For today, amy wanted a break from hiking and exploring around the park, but I just couldn't spend a day in Yellowstone without hiking. So while Amy's plan for the day would be to relax at our cabin with some good books and explore around the various Canyon Village gift shops without feeling rushed, my plan for today was to pick out a nice long solo hike.

For the first morning of this trip I actually slept in well past sunrise. Since I knew I would be leaving Amy alone for most of the day, I at least wanted to spend the morning with her. So after some morning snuggle time and a nice breakfast together I ventured out on my own.

I had planned about a 10-mile Loop hike:
  • Starting from Artist Point
  • Hike to Point Sublime
  • Backtrack to the Ribbon Lake Trail
  • Ribbon Lake Trail to Ribbon Lake and Silver Cord Cascade
  • Backtrack back to the Ribbon Lake Trail
  • Wapiti Lake Trail to the Clear Lake Trail
  • Clear Lake Trail to the South Rim Trail
  • South Rim Trail back to Artist Point
Artist Point was already getting crowded when I arrived, so I quickly snapped some obligatory shots before beginning my hike.

 Lower Yellowstone Falls from Artist Point

The Ribbon Lake Trail starts out by following the South Rim of the Canyon downstream from Artist Point with some spectacular viewpoints along the way. The side trail to Point Sublime also has some great views. However the actual view from Point Sublime is no better than what I had seen along the way.

 The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone

There was also no good viewpoint to safely check out Silver Cord Cascades. I decided that the best view would be from the other side of the Canyon. Hopefully I would get to check that out later.

From there the hike was uneventful and nothing that pops out as being extraordinary. However the constantly changing landscape made for a very interesting and enjoyable hike.

I went through thick groves of pine, past scenic mountain lakes and ponds, across wide open meadows where only the Bison roam. Through dry creek beds, past thermal features, over rolling hills, all the time just enjoying my solitude. In fact the meat of the hike from Artist Point to the South Rim Trail I only encountered two other humans.

 Along the Wapiti Lake Trail

Since it was mostly flat and all the trails were well marked and easy to follow I hiked at a quick pace and finished up a few hours before I thought I would. Therefore I decided to explore a little on the North Rim before meeting back up with Amy.

The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone from the North Rim Trail

I moved on to the parking area at the Brink of the Upper Falls and hiked the North Rim trail from there. I passed by Crystal Falls on Cascade Creek which is a nice waterfall on it's on, but since it falls into the Canyon between Upper and Lower Yellowstone Falls it doesn't get a lot of credit compared to the other two Falls.

A steep series of switchback leads to a viewpoint right at the top of the Lower falls where a nice rainbow awaited me. Didn't find any gold, just crowds of people here!

 Rainbow at Lower Yellowstone Falls

Once back away from the more crowded areas, I saw dozens of Deer including some impressive Bucks with some very nice racks.

By now it was getting close to the time I told Amy I would meet back up with her, so I returned to our cabin. We had an early dinner together and then I was out for some more solo hiking.

I drove over to Inspiration Point on the North Rim and hiked the Cascade Overlook Trail to see the view of Silver Cord Cascade from the North Rim. It's a distant view across the Canyon, but good enough that you can clearly see why it's called Silver Cord Cascade!

Silver Cord Cascade

Plus there are plenty of other great view of the Canyon from this trail. I then hiked the North Rim Trail past some of the popular roadside overlooks and took the steep Red Rock Point Trail.

The view of the Lower Falls from Red Rock Point is awesome and the sun had just descended below the ridgeline offering up some excellent lighting to photograph the falls.

 Lower Yellowstone Falls from Red Rock Point

I took a few more photos along the North Rim Trail and from Inspiration Point before calling it an evening and rejoining Amy in Bed. The day ended just how it started!

 Jack at the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone

Additional Photos from Day 6 of our vacation are located here:

Monday, September 21, 2009

Day 5 - Jack and Amy's Yellowstone Vacation

Jack & Amy’s 2009 Vacation to Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons

Day 5 - Wednesday, September 9th, 2009

Day 5 Photos:

I woke up shortly before sunrise to get some early morning shots of the lake. It was probably the coldest morning of the week and the frost on the car windows was scraper worthy. Fortunately with our location at the Lake Lodge cabins I didn't need the car to get to the lake.

It was a beautiful morning! The lake was calm with a little bit of mist rising from the surface. The actual sunrise was less than spectacular, but the colorful twilight sky just prior to the sunrise more than made up for it.

Morning Twilight at Lake Yellowstone

Amy was awake by the time I returned to the cabin, so after a quick breakfast we checked out and hit the road to Canyon Village.

The wildlife was out in full force alongside the road this morning. We saw several Elk including one of the most impressive Racks I have ever seen, a few Deer, and hundreds of Buffalo. When driving through Yellowstone, the earlier you get started the more wildlife you will see.

Elk Crossing the Road - Nice Rack!

We made several stops along the way at various roadside overlooks, thermal features, and a place called LeHardys Rapids. Maybe I completely missed it somehow, but what I think was LeHardys Rapids was not very special. However, the mist rising from the river did make for a cool shot.

LeHardys Rapids

One of Amy's co-workers who visited Yellowstone last summer gave us three pieces of advice based on his experience:

1. Don't bring kids
2. Don't visit in the middle of the summer
3. Don't stay in one place all week

We don't have any kids to bring, I already came to the not visiting in the middle of the summer conclusion on my own, but we did take his advice about not staying in one place.

However, when planning our trip earlier in the year, the Canyon Village area sounded like the part of the park that I would enjoy most. Plus we didn't want to be packing and unpacking every day. And since the Canyon Village area is kind of centrally located, we decided that for the middle part of our trip we would stay put for a few days. Therefore, we booked (3) nights in the Canyon Village Cabins

Once near Canyon Village, we took the North Rim Road and stopped at several overlooks along the "Grand Canyon of Yellowstone" Now this was very impressive! We got our first peak at Lower Yellowstone Falls which has to be one of the greatest waterfalls in the United States. The lighting was lousy, but it did give us a rainbow and there would be plenty of other opportunities to visit in better light and from many different viewpoints.

Jack at the Lower Yellowstone Falls Overlook

Since it was too early to check in and since we would have three whole days in this location, we decided to explore the Northeast Section of the park. So we drove on to the Tower-Roosevelt area.

Tower Falls was another one that was definitely on my must see list. The short and easy hike to the main overlook makes it a very popular attraction. A great view of this spectacular waterfall can be had from the main overlook, but I didn't want to settle for just that. Unfortunately the trail to the base was closed, so I was forced to settle for the main overlook view.

Tower Falls

The Northeast Entrance Road through Lamar Valley is known for being one of the best places to view wildlife and we definitely saw our share of Buffalo. I think we saw some Pronghorn Antelopes, but they moved out of view too fast for me to get a photo. It's definitely a nice scenic drive that takes you away from the crowds.

Rutting Buffalo in Lamar Valley

We entered into Montana and decided to leave the park for a little while to check out the towns of Silver Gate and Cooke City. As expected they were touristy little towns, but a nice change of pace from what you find inside the park. We had lunch at a little Bistro called "The Bistro", before returning back into Yellowstone.

The Bistro - Cooke City, MT

Our main hike for the day would be the Yellowstone River Trail which follows the East Rim of the Canyon. It's about a 4-mile out and back hike (2-miles each way). There are a few steep climbs, but for the most part it is fairly level.

You can also make a slightly longer loop out of it, but Amy was feeling a little tired, so I elected not to add any extra distance, especially since I didn't have any detailed maps. Loop hikes in unknown areas without a good map is generally not a good idea. It was still a great hike with some spectacular views.

The Yellowstone River

Behind the Roosevelt Lodge, a short trail leads to Lost Creek Falls. Since we were in the area, I decided to check this one out. Amy decided to pass and waited in the car with her book. Maybe after a good heavy rain, this one might be worthwhile, by I definitely wouldn't put Lost Creek Falls on any must see lists.

Lost Creek Falls

By now it was close to check-in time, so we returned to Canyon Village and checked into our room at the Canyon Village Cabins. Since we had a heavy lunch we decided to go for a light dinner and just ordered salads. The salads weren't that great, but they did the trick in getting some veggies in us and tiding us over till the next day.

After dinner I went out for a little solo exploration of the South Rim of the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. I hiked Uncle Tom's Trail to a spectacular viewpoint of Lower Yellowstone Falls. I wouldn't really call this a trail, but a series of over 300 grated steel steps. Amy would have hated it, but the climb out definitely gave me a good little workout.

Lower Yellowstone Falls from Uncle Toms Trail

I also checked out the view of the Lower Falls from Artist Point and a couple of viewpoints of the Upper Falls. All spectacular!

Upper Yellowstone Falls

On the drive back to the cabin, I saw a large Bull Moose, but it was too dark by this point to attempt any photos.

Additional Photos from Day 5 of our vacation are located here: