Saturday, June 11, 2011

Tetons and Yellowstone

Adjectives just cannot even begin to give expression to the majesty, splendor and sheer awesomeness of the Tetons and Yellowstone.

So…it’s hard to know where to begin. We drove from St Charles to Jackson on Hwy 89 where we met our first Moose; literally walking across the highway! Jackson is a great town whose economy is centered on tourism and Elk, so much so that the main Square has 4 huge Arches constructed entirely from Elk antlers. Elks who reside on the National Elk Refuge shed their antlers every spring after which local boy scouts and rangers collect the antlers; the town of Jackson holds a Charity auction of the antlers in May. The money raised is spent on food for the elk in the colder months. While we were there we saw no live elks as they had started their annual migration in early May. But, boy are there lots of dead ones adorning the walls of the restaurants?  Wherever did that idea ever come from? There am I eating Buffalo Steak and Elk chops with the poor animal heads looking down at me. It’s enough to turn one into a vegetarian!!   The town is busy with tourists, the shopping is good and the restaurants are plentiful and good.  There’s a gun fight at the town square at 6pm each night; sure gets those tourists into town!  It was raining the day we went to see it so instead we were treated to a bullwhip demonstration; 6’10’ 12’ and 16’ the cowboy made those whips spark and crack. As we stayed in an RV park behind the Virginian Lodge very near the center of town we were able to walk to downtown.
Touring the Grand Tetons was the motivation to visit Jackson. The weather was cold with lots and lots of snow on the mountains and we dressed appropriately. It was more like a winter scene than a summer scene.  We decided to hike up to Lake Taggart, an alpine lake one and a half miles from the car park.  At the start there was snow on the ground but not too much on the path; however, as we climbed it got worse so much so that by the time we were a mile into the hike the snow was 4’ high and packed hard where the hikers had trod. But in trying to let someone pass you, you could end up on your bum buried to your neck in the snow. When we got to the lake it was frozen solid…so no blue sparkling alpine lake!  Later, we went to Jenny Lake and took a boat ride over and back as we had been advised by the rangers not to try and hike around the lake. We spent 2 days exploring the Grand Tetons and saw a large moose hanging around the visitor’s center – we saw him both days around the same spot.

We then drove up to Yellowstone Park and were delighted to meet German friends we had met in St Charles and again in Jackson pulling into Fishing Bridge Campground behind us. They were looking for us as it was too cold for them and they were leaving.  It was nice to see them so often and we look forward to staying in touch with Petra and Mike. We are well equipped for both hot and cold weather with a furnace, an electric blanket, a big warm duvet and my hot water bottle; when it gets hot we pack all that stuff away and put on the A/C.
We arrived in Yellowstone on Tom’s birthday so we went to Lake Yellowstone Hotel for a celebratory dinner. Reservations are required as they are so busy and as we were late booking we could only get a 5.30 time. After dinner we went for a drive and saw our first grizzly bear, about 50 feet away between the lake and the road - so very near us! There were 3 bison even closer but we ignored them as we were so fascinated by the bear.  Of course the lake was frozen and the weather was freezing!

The following day was very cold, so we wrapped ourselves up and off we went to see Old Faithful.  We had a wonderful day hiking among and looking at geysers, clear scalding pools, mud boiling and steaming rivers. Only photos can portray how wonderful it all is. It truly is like watching the world being created. We spent 3 days touring out of Fishing Bridge during which time we saw bears with their cubs, 2 wolves eating an antelope and ravens waiting their turn.
We then drove north to Mammoth Spring for 2 nights, where elk are all over the town – jokingly referred to as “our lawnmowers!” One little elk calf decided half way across the road that, that was as far as he wanted to go, then lay down in front of a ranger’s truck and caused chaos for about an hour - I loved it! On our last night I cooked dinner in the RV and we took it outside to eat because by now the weather was beautiful - getting warmer and warmer each day until it reached 100F. Anyway back to dinner; while we were eating a passerby advised us to move indoors with our dinner as there was a bear close by. We were looking downhill and the bear uphill behind us. Think 50 feet! You never saw two 60 something people move so fast into the RV and slam the door!  After we had calmed down we joined the crowd watching the bear who put on a show by hanging around for about 2 hours bothering the elks and the rangers but amusing the crowd.

Yellowstone is a wonderful place, most especially in early June with all the newly born young animals around. I am so glad that the American Government had the foresight to keep this vast area unspoiled. Not forgetting the contribution of the Native Americans through their respect and veneration of the earth.
Yellowstone and the Tetons should, most definitely be on everyone’s “Bucket List”.

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