Yellowstone National Park, 2017

On day 3 of the wilderness medicine conference, Alex and I decided to take things easy after having hiked the equivalent of a marathon (and roughly 8000′ elevation gain) over the previous 48 hours. So we drove down to Yellowstone and checked out some of the geysers, hot springs, and waterfalls. Nothing groundbreaking, but a few pictures:

Mystic Falls

hot & malodorous water

Bison causing a traffic jam

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Published in: on August 1, 2017 at 1:56 pm  Comments (1)  
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Yellowstone National Park, Part 3

Alas, we have finally been vanquished by the frozen north. Our original plan was to spend four days in Glacier National Park (northwest Montana), but they’ve received 200% normal snowfall this year and many of the good trails are buried 4 feet deep.

Then we thought we’d try Rocky Mountain National Park down in Colorado. We called RMNP this morning, and apparently they’ve received RECORD BREAKING snow this year [insert witty Al Gore joke].

Plan C? Make like Napoleon Bonaparte and retreat to warmer climes with our tails between our legs. As of now, we hope to leave either tomorrow or the next day for Grand Canyon National Park.

But this post is about our day in Yellowstone:

Our plan for Saturday was to hike some trails in the Tower Area of the park. When we stopped at the ranger station, however, we learned that a rockslide had completely shut down the Mammoth-Tower road.

Instead, we stumbled upon the Sentinel Meadows trail a few miles north of Old Faithful. We initially thought we’d hike a few miles and be back for lunch, but ended up going 11.3 miles to Fairy Falls and Imperial Geyser. Since the trail was wet, soggy, and remote, we had it almost completely to ourselves.

Morning snow

Fairy Falls

Imperial Geyser

I really enjoyed the trail, since it gave us a bit of everything: hot springs, waterfalls, marshes, rivers, pine forests, and open fields. With the exception of two brief but heavy snow storms, the rest of the day was nice and sunny.

Afternoon snow

Hiking alongside hot springs

Staying high and dry

At one point we found ourselves cornered by a small group of bison. We hugged the tree-line in case they decided to get aggressive.

Grazing bison

Waiting for them to leave

Yep. I stared down the bison, and the bison blinked first. They left us alone.

As we approached the falls, the ground became completely saturated. A crude walkway helped with some areas, but we still ended up with a few slippery stream crossings.

Crossing a footbridge

Stream crossing

We finished the hike (I insisted on calling it a “morning stroll”) around 4:00pm, made some sandwiches for lunch, and spent the rest of the afternoon and evening in the Old Faithful area.

We hiked another 3.0 miles through a geyser basin to see some of the more well-known landmarks (Morning Glory, Grotto geyser, Daisy geyser, etc.).

Morning Glory hot spring

Daisy geyser

We arrived at the Daisy geyser 48 minutes after it was due to go off, and ended up sitting there for another hour before it finally started spraying. By then all the expectant onlookers had given up, except for us and another 8 or 10 people.

Approximate Total Distance: 14.3 miles

(Bringing the total to 36.6 miles for our 2.5 days in Yellowstone)

Published in: on May 29, 2011 at 2:20 am  Comments (2)  

Yellowstone National Park, Part 2

For our first full day in Yellowstone, we ate an early breakfast at the hotel before starting a hike to Undine Falls via the Lava Creek trail (8.6 miles). We followed two sets of grizzly tracks for several miles, but only ended up seeing some elk, bison, and a bald eagle.

Elk

Crossing Lava Creek

Bald Eagle

The falls themselves were pretty impressive, particularly because the creek was running high due to the spring snow runoff.

Route to Undine Falls

Undine Falls

We finished the hike around lunchtime, then swung by the visitor center for trail updates before starting on the Beaver Pond loop (5.2 miles). The trail meandered past several mountain ponds and beaver dams, but the elevation changes were very tiring.

Beaver Pond

Snack break

By the time we finished around 4:00pm, we decided to drive down to Canyon Village (overlooking the Yellowstone River). On the way, we passed a group of bison walking in the opposite direction. Traffic was backed up for at least half a mile, but they didn’t show any signs of moving to the shoulder. We also saw another grizzly bear on the return trip.

And I thought tractors were slow

Even though the temperature was down in the 30’s, we were fortunate enough to avoid snow for most of the day. The exception, of course, was when we stopped to take pictures of the canyon.

Lower Falls (honest)

On the way back, we decided to stop in Norris to walk through the geyser basin (2.0 miles).

Cistern Spring

Norris geyser basin

Approximate Total Distance: 15.8 miles

Published in: on May 28, 2011 at 2:08 am  Comments (3)  

Yellowstone National Park, Part 1

I hate to sound like a grouch, but this lousy weather seems to be following us around. Normally, daytime highs in Yellowstone are in the 50’s and 60’s this time of year. Instead, the majority of the park is covered in several feet of snow, and the forecast calls for more snow every day this week. Highs in the mid-30’s.

Welcome to Yellowstone!

On the bright side, we’re still determined to make the most of things. Today we watched Old Faithful erupt (while standing in a mini-blizzard), hiked ~2.0 miles along boardwalks through nearby hot springs (in a mini-blizzard), drove through much of the park (in a mini-blizzard), and hiked the ~4.o mile network of boardwalks and pathways at Mammoth hot springs (…you guessed it).

Old Faithful

Matt by a geyser

Colorful hot spring

Gibbon Falls

The geysers and hot springs were very neat – well worth standing in the snow for. I particularly enjoyed some of the otherworldly landscapes up near Mammoth:

Oooh

Aaah

As with Grand Teton, the highlight thus far has been the wildlife. We’ve already seen some buffalo, two bears, some goats, and a momma elk with her 3-hour-old calf. I definitely lost some man points carrying on about how cute the little guy was.

Bear #1

Bear #2

Goat with kid (behind rock, but I promise he's there)

Bambi learning how to walk

Elk and calf

Tomorrow we plan to bundle up and hit the trails all day (or until the snow becomes too much to handle).

Approximate Total Distance: 6.0 miles

Published in: on May 27, 2011 at 1:38 am  Comments (6)  

Grand Teton National Park

It seems we picked the wrong time to visit Grand Teton National Park. Allison and I had been planning to stay for 2-3 days to do some serious hiking and climb a mountain or two, but that wasn’t really possible. Apparently snow levels are 200% normal this year throughout the entire region (where’s global warming when you need it?) – so there are only two or three trails in the park that are even partially accessible.

Park Entrance

We ended up spending only one full day in the park hiking around Phelps Lake (6.8 miles) and up to Taggart Lake (3.9 miles). At least half of the hiking was on top of several feet of packed snow, which made for slow, cold, tedious going.

Hiking on snow

We started the morning with Phelps Lake, which was supposed to be a 7 mile loop. It was very scenic, so I was able to get some nice pictures. Unfortunately, much of the trail was buried under snow and difficult to follow. At one point, we lost the trail completely and spent an hour or so wandering around in a marsh before finally backtracking and trying a different route.

Phelps Lake

Allison + Phelps Lake

Since it was a warm day, snow runoff from the mountains made everything wet and soggy. As we were searching for the trail, I slipped on a wet log and smashed up a finger:

Bear bait

Eventually, we gave up on circling the lake and just returned the way we’d come. After lunch, we decided to try the hike up to Taggart Lake, which was supposedly the least snow-covered trail in the park (it ended up being about 40% snow and 60% dirt). It was considerably easier to follow, and offered some good views of the Teton Range and the partially-frozen lake.

Taggart Lake

Teton Range

The highlight of the park was definitely the wildlife. During our short time in Grant Teton, we saw numerous moose and buffalo, some deer, a wolf, a bald eagle, and some fresh bear tracks (I tried following them, but no luck). We saw an adolescent moose and its mother from just a few yards away after nearly running into them on a trail, which was pretty cool.

Buffalo crossing

Adolescent moose

Bear print

We spent two nights camping in the Gros Ventre campground, and actually had a large bull moose walk right past our tent on the second night.

Campsite

Bull moose behind tent

Since it was cold and rainy for much of the time, we constructed a shelter to cook under using a giant blue tarp:

Tarp shelter

“Grand Teton National Park strives to provide its visitors with an aesthetically pleasing camping experience. We regret to inform you that your hobo tent fails to meet these standards and has been the cause of numerous complaints. Please remove it immediately, or face a fine in the amount of –“

“Real funny Matt.”

Taggart Lake trail

Our next stop is Yellowstone National Park, much of which is also buried under several feet of snow. According to a man I met at our campsite, parts of the park near the hot springs are relatively snow-free…so we’ll see how things go. Right now we’re leaning towards skipping out on Glacier National Park (another several hundred miles north) and doubling back to Rocky Mountain National Park down in Colorado. I guess the other option would be to invest in some snow shoes and/or a dogsled.

Approximate Total Distance: 10.7 miles

Published in: on May 26, 2011 at 11:33 pm  Comments (2)