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Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks

post #1 of 8
Thread Starter 

Ok, I guess I misinterpreted Jim (4ster)'s request for a trip report.  I thought he was asking for a report of my biking, but he evidently was looking for a report of my spouse's and I's trip to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Park.  We've been making a more or less annual voyage to the Northwest corner of Wyoming for the past 10 or so years.  This year was another in our belt.


This year, I realized we could leave the night before our usual Friday departure and drive to Casper Wyoming.  Not that Casper is a destination for us, but it put us 6 hours into the journey, which gave us the opportunity to take an indirect route to Cody.  That indirect route took us through Sheridan Wyoming and over the Bighorn Mountains.  I lived for nearly 5 years in Sheridan.  However, that was from the time I was 6 months old until I was nearly 5.  So I don't have a lot of specific recall of the terrain and geographic features.  I've been back to Sheridan since, but not in 35 years.  And I've not been in the Bighorns since I was 4, about a half-century ago.


I remember the stories of my father driving back to Sheridan and washing off the car after descending Shell Canyon.  The tie rods fell off of the car!  That must've been pretty intimidating.  Here's a few pics of descending Shell Canyon.  First, the pallisade"






And looking down the canyon:




The falls were closed.  Fortunately, someone had turned into the driveway and parked in front of the gate.  We followed suit, dismounted, and hiked around to get a shot of Shell Falls:






Stopping a bit below the falls and shooting down the canyon, an incredible view:




We stayed that evening in our favorite Bed and Breakfast:  The Mayor's Inn in Cody.  Bill and Dale are the proprietors, and it is a great place to stay and dine.  You've got to do dinner there if they are serving. It is truly food for foodies.  Bill is the chef, and he has a toolkit.  We were there on closing weekend, and the guests were not able to get dinner as all of the locals were trying to get served prior to closing up.  Fortunately, the spouse made reservations, and we had a fantastic meal.  Breakfast is nothing to scoff at either.


The next morning, we decided to finally drive over the Beartooth highway into the Northeast entrance to YNP.  Here we are starting the ascent up the pass"




This is on top:




And on the other side just before the road through the Sunlight Basin (over Dead Indian Hill) comes in:




This section of highway is spectacular.  It is different from going through the Sunlight Basin, which is special in it's one accord.  I highly recommend either route.  Of course, Sylvan pass is also quite lovely.  But going through Red Lodge and over Bear Tooth Pass is a long route, particularly when you are staying at the Snow Lodge at Old Faithful.  We much prefer to stay at the Lake Hotel, which is the oldest lodging in the park, but Xanterra, the concessionaire, has recently started closing the Lake Hotel in the middle of September.  Bummer.  So, given our long sojourn from Cody through Red Lodge to Old Faithful, I was anxious to get out and stretch my legs.  Connie, my spouse, wanted to hike Storm Point, a very short, level, but spectacularly beautiful route just past Fishing Bridge.  Unfortunately, bears had been active in the area, and the trail was closed.  So back we went, and hit Elephant Back, a short 3.8 mile hike with 800 feet of elevation gain.  It gives you some great views over Yellowstone Lake:




Yep, some of that white stuff is smoke from a fire burning on the east side of the lake.  And the weather is changing, so you can't really see those beautiful Absaroka's that Bob Peters has been lusting about shredding a few lines in.  This shot also is looking down towards the Southeast Arm of the lake, the region that is the most remote (e.g. furthest from any road) in the continental US.  I really would like to hike that route, but it requires backpacking, and while Connie is a trooper, she likes her creature comforts at night.  Perhaps one of these days I'll convince one of my buddies to do it.




After 2 days in the car, I was set to get onto our vacation.  We generally hike.  This day was no exception.  We decided to hike Sepulcher Mountain, a 13 mile 2,700 foot route.  That photo above is the spouse onto of the peak looking east.  And the photo below is looking west towards Electric Peak.  This section of the park is the one I've not extensively explored as the routes are long (12+ miles) and generally require an overnight.  I really really want, however, to hike the Skyline trail.  Perhaps next year!




Coming off of the peak, there is this amazing view:




The next day, we wanted something unusual.  One issue with coming this late is that the visitors centers that are open generally do not have as much knowledge of stuff that is not in their area.  I had been eyeing a hike up the Thunderer cutoff trail in the Northeast section of the park.  Given that it was the last day forecast to be clear before the weather turned, we thought it'd be good to get high.  So we went for it.  About 10 miles, and 2500 feet of elevation gain.  I've never seen as much sign of wildlife on any trail as I saw on this one.  Tons and tons of bear sign.  It also required fording the river.  What fun!  Some interesting rocks with moss:




The unfortunate thing was that when we hit the pass, we were still in the trees.  You could seen some of the interesting formations around you, but there were too many trees to get a great view.  Of course, the view from the bottom was better:




And coming back through the Lamar Valley, the light was incredible:




The next day, we moved south to  Grand Teton.  Coming into GTNP, we found the aspen in full color:




And while the weather was changing, with less than stellar lighting conditions, I always love Oxbow Bend:




And change the weather did.  We stayed at our favorite place, the Jenny Lake Lodge.  This place is incredible.  You stay in these funky rustic cabins. Dinner and breakfast are included in your room rate, which is in the realm of if you have to ask, you can't afford it.  But the food!  And the location!  It's incredible.  Did I use that term already?


The next day, we hiked Avalanche Canyon.  This is a social trail above Taggart Lake.  It also has tons of deadfall across the trail, lots of extremely steep morraines that are wet and boggy to be climbed.  Needles to say, it wasn't Connie's cup of tea.  That being said, she hung in there, and we made it to the big scree field before it started dumping.  As i'd made a rookie mistake of leaving my rain pants in my other pack and was soaked from the dew on the vegatation  along the trail, we turned for home.  It was still beautiful, and we completed an 8 mile tough terrain hike.


After enjoying our afternoon brewski at Dornan's, we had a lovely dinner at the lodge.  The next day dawned gloomy.  It was forecast to snow.  We decided to stay low rather than fight the weather in  the canyons.  So, around Emma Matilda Lake did we go.  This is a great relatively flat 13 mile hike, about 1300 feet of elevation gain.  We made the far end of the lake where we had a lunch (packed at great expense by the lodge).  Then it began snowing.  And blowing.  As a result, I have no pictures, but I do think the views would be spectacular across the plain towards Mt. Moran when it was clear.  When we got back to the car, I had to dump 3-4 inches of snow from my hat and pack.  The car had a greater accumulation.  In fact, they closed the entrances to YNP because of the storm.


The next day dawned with snow on the ground.  We again stayed low, and hiked to Trapper lake.  Here's the view of Leigh Lake"




And looking at the boulder island in Leigh Lake:




And up towards Paintbrush Canyon across the lake:




It was a beautiful hike.  Relatively short, at 9 miles, with not much elevation gain.  But still enough to work off some of dinner (I hope!).  We headed back to Oxbow Bend, where the sun was shining on the trees, but the tetons had their heads in the clouds:




Last year was the first year that we've been in sufficient shape to do some of the bigger canyon hikes in GTNP.  We went up Paintbrush to Holly Lake (also in the snow, what a hike) and to Amphitheater and Surprise Lake.  These are spectacular views.  The trail to Ampitheater/Surprise Lake actually branches, and this year we followed the other branch  into Garnet Canyon.  Garnet Canyon is the jumping off point for many of the classic climbs in the Tetons, including the Grand, Middle, and South Teton.  


We had originally planned to hike Granite Canyon, but the road was closed.  A grizzly was near the road, and the park service was concerned about the congestion that would ensue.  I had been lobbying Connie to hike Garnet Canyon, and with the road closed to Granite, she acquiesed.  It's a bit of a slog uphill, but the view was unbelievable.  Here's where you turn the corner into the canyon and are confronted with Nez Perce peak:




Somehow, I don't have an adequate view of the top of the canyon.  You can go up to the Meadows where you are at the foot of the South, Middle and Grand Teton.  Given the trail conditions and that you have to cross a scree field (which was covered in the first snow of the year), Connie didn't want to go further.  And I was fine with what I saw.  It was unbeliveable.  The skies cleared as we made the head of the canyon.  I think it was the highlight of our trip.  Here's a view as we descended:




And nearing the mouth of the canyon:




So that's it.  8 days of hiking, 72 miles, and we met 7 people on the trails. A week after this trip, Connie and I went on a hike in the Indian Peaks wilderness area above Boulder.  We must've met 40 people on that 8 mile hike.  I know where I'd prefer to hike!




Edited by habacomike - 11/1/11 at 8:00pm
post #2 of 8

I believe you and mom are CONFUSED regarding what the term "vacation" means. 


Good god.

post #3 of 8

This is a Vacation, not to be confused with a vacation. 

post #4 of 8

beautiful pics- the last few with the snow-capped peaks and lake are awesome. Very peaceful

post #5 of 8

Now that's a Trip Report!!  Thanks for posting it Mike & you did it the way it should be done.  I have lived within striking distance for 11 yrs., & still haven't spent time up there.  I keep saying that I am going but keep getting drawn to southern UT & other places.


Now I am getting very motivated for a northern adventure.




post #6 of 8
Originally Posted by Cricket Barking View Post

I believe you and mom are CONFUSED regarding what the term "vacation" means. 


Good god.


Originally Posted by Jane Snuggling View Post

This is a Vacation, not to be confused with a vacation. 

Mike, you've been outed!



post #7 of 8

I loved the report and photos, Mike.  You two are hiking machines!  


I never get tired of visiting Yellowstone and I'm lucky enough to live where it's possible to just drive up there for a day.


For anyone who is a fan of Yellowstone National Park, I have a book suggestion for you.  Nathaniel P. Langford was one of organizers of and the scribe for the Washburn Expedition of 1870, led by Henry Washburn.  That expedition took the explorers through much of what is now Yellowstone National Park.  The written accounts and sketches from Langford and others were considered almost scandalous at the time because the general American population almost refused to believe that there were such incredible natural wonders that could still be discovered.


The book is really meaningful for me because of the circumstances of how I came to own a copy.  I had been intrigued by Yellowstone even as a little kid.  One day about 30 years ago, my wife came home from having been to a garage sale in Des Moines, Iowa (where we lived) and gave me a present.  It was an original leather-bound copy of the Langford book and she bought it for the enormous sum of twenty-five cents.  I didn't even know about the Washburn Expedition at that point, but I read the book cover to cover the first night and I've read it many times since.  That book remains one of my most prized possessions.  


It almost gives you goose bumps to read the book today while hiking on a backcountry trail in Yellowstone.You think about the fact that these explorers were seeing many of these wonders for the first time that "civilized" people had ever come upon them.  Better still, most of these sites are almost unchanged from the time Langford first saw them 140 years ago.


Yellowstone National Park was established by Congress two years later, the first National Park in the world.  Langford became the Park's first superintendent. 


Here's a link to the reprinted form of the book:




And here's a map of Yellowstone Lake and the route of the expedition, sketched by Langford while on the expedition 140 years ago last month:



post #8 of 8
Thread Starter 

Thanks Bob.  I'm ordering the Langford book.



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