Idaho 2011, Day 29—Road Trip No. 5

Eastern Idaho, in the shadows of the the Grand Tetons, near AshtonSeems like the older we get, the later we get started!  This morning it was 10:30 AM when we headed south, driving in the shadow of the Grand Tetons in Idaho through Tetonia, site of one of the original rendezvous’, and Driggs, before ascending the Teton Pass, and descending near Jackson Hole, WY.  Southeastern Idaho is an agricultural area with lots of potatoes, wheat, and other grains being grown in the wide-open spaces.  As we approached the Tetons, it became apparent that the area was also becoming a resort mecca, with HUGE houses and condominiums dotting the hilltops.  We bypassed Jackson Hole—been there, done that—and drove toward Grand Teton National Park.

The Grand TetonsGrand Teton National Park.  This small national park has many beautiful vistas of the Grand Tetons, some with meadows in the foreground, others with either Jenny or Jackson Lake in the foreground.  We were surprised to find a significant bicycle trail extending from the southern terminus to Jenny Lake, and many park visitors were taking advantage of it.  Grand Teton National Park is best taken advantage of via hiking the many trails along the lakes.  Our aggressive schedule today did not allow time for hiking, so we just drove through, and headed north to visit the remaining areas of Yellowstone National Park we had not seen on this trip.

Yellowstone NP, Lewis Lake Drive.  Despite signs saying “No construction delays”, we found ourselves at a standstill soon after entering Yellowstone NP, waiting about 30 minutes for the pilot car to lead us through re-surfacing the roadway.  Then, it was slow going for the next several miles, even after the pilot car left us.  Because of the traffic, we were not able to stop and take in any of the sites along the way; and, our already tight schedule had just become tighter.

Along the shoreline of Yellowstone Lake, West Thumb Geyser Basin, Yellowsone NPYellowstone NP, West Thumb and Grant Village.  Our drive took us to West Thumb and Grant village where we stopped to view the West Thumb Geyser Basin.  I can’t recall ever stopping here before, but Kay says we had, but that it looked different.  This was an interesting area, and very scenic, with many of the thermal features in or near the shoreline of Yellowstone Lake.  By the way, Yellowstone Lake is quite large:  20 miles long, 14 miles wide, and 430 feet deep.

Yellowstone NP, Bridge Bay, Lake Village, and Fishing Bridge.  Next, we drove through the Bridge Bay, Lake Village, and Fishing Bridge area, mainly to see Fishing Bridge, and the only “full hook ups” RV park inside Yellowstone NP.  Fishing Bridge is known for the wild trout spawning spectacular that occurs most of the summer; we didn’t see any activity there.  In olden times, the bridge would be lined with fishers taking advantage of these spawning fish, but the bridge was closed to fishing in 1973.  The “full hook up” RV park had some vacancies, surprisingly, but was “naturally” not as aesthetic as those in a more natural setting; the gravel lot reminded us of those in Canada and rural Alaska.  We did see a few cow elk in the campground areas.

Hayden Valley, Yellowstone NPYellowstone NP, Hayden Valley.  Continuing north, we walked the Mud Volcano trail which climbs onto a ridge overlooking the Yellowstone River.  The thermal features were different, as they were comprised of sulphur-laden, hot bubbling mud.  As we began departing the parking lot, traffic came to near complete stop.  We inched our way forward to find a herd of bison along and crossing the road, stopping all traffic in either direction.  Several bison were dusting themselves, Hayden Valley, Yellowstone NPSeveral of the large males were dusting themselves, and we saw one rubbing against a 12-inch tree so furiously, that he destroyed all the limbs up to about 6 feet, and tore the tree, roots and all, from the ground.  Though I knew down deep that they were strong, I was overwhelmed by the raw power of these beasts.  This “bison jam” lead to another just up the road, again with traffic at a near standstill.  After witnessing the bison uprooting the tree, we kept our windows shut as we passed them, fearing the worse!  A bit further up the road, traffic again came to a standstill.  Kay asked, and folks along the road said a grizzly bear had been spotted on the far side of the river.  We were lucky to find a parking spot in a turnout, and found the grizzly sow and one of her two cubs with our binoculars.

We observed the bears for awhile, and began our long trip back to the RV park, passing through Canyon Village and Norris before coming to another standstill.  For another 30 minutes, we inched along the road thinking there had been an accident, but to our surprise another small herd of bison had opted to use the road as well, and wouldn’t budge since there were steep slopes on either side.  Finally, we made it to Madison Junction, then to West Yellowstone, and to Red Rock RV Park at 10 PM, the beginning of quiet hours!

Mud Volcano near the Hayden Valley, Yellowstone NP

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