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Archive for Wyoming

Teton National Park, WY

June 20-21 were spent in the grandeur of Grand Teton National Park. In short, the attraction to this park lies in the contrast between abrupt rising granite and broad glacier-carved lakes. Even after four days of Yellowstone, the landscape of Teton still caught me off guard. Our first stop in the park was at the Colter Bay Visitor Center for a proper lay of the land. There, we toured the Indian Arts Museum which, “Displays some of the David T. Vernon Collection, an impressive variety of American Indian artifacts donated by the Rockefeller family”.

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Grizzly bear claw neclace

 

A sign outisde the park explains the origin of the name Teton:

The giant peaks were a famous early western landmark known to fur hunters and mountain men. Perhaps as early as 1819, the French-speaking trappers were calling them the Trois Tetons – the three breasts. More prosaic English-speaking mountain men named then the Pilot Knobs, but the romantic French name stuck.

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Baby moose on the roadside. Its mother was forraging in the bushes.

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Jackson Lake Dam and Reservoir

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Jackson Lake vista from a roadside picknick pull-off

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Teton panoramic

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We spent the majority of the day at Jenny Lake. From the southeastern side of the lake, we boarded a ferry and crossed to the base of the Tetons. There, we hiked the Hidden Falls trail.

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Marmot

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The Calypso orchid (Calypso bulbosa) - also known as the Fairy Slipper or Venus's Slipper

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Snake River

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Colter Bay boats

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Yellowstone National Park – Day 4

Day four in Yellowstone consisted of touring the Midway Geyser Basin, hiking to Fairy Falls, exploring the Old Faithful area, getting caught in a Bison traffic jam, and spotting another Grizzly Bear.

To start the day, we traveled to Midway Geyser Basin to view, amongst other sites, Grand Prismatic Spring (Yellowstone’s largest thermal feature). The springs and pools at Midway are some of the most colorful in the park. At times blue and red steam, rising from the pools, reflects the colors of the waters. Combine its vivid colors with its massive breadth, and Grand Prismatic Spring is probably the most beautiful of all the springs we’d seen at the park.

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Grand Prismatic Spring

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The low vantage of Grand Prismatic from the boardwalk left us wanting for a better perspective. Later on in the day, hiking to Fairy Falls, we branched off of the path, climbed up a steep hill, and were rewarded with a fantastic view of Grand Prismatic Spring.

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The trail up to Fairy Falls, through part of the forest that was scorched in the great fire of 1988.

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Fairy Falls

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Springs on the Fairy Falls trail

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More evidence of the 1988 fires

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Grand Prismatic Spring from the Fairy Falls Trail - a much better angle.

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Fly-fisherman in the Firehole River

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Next on the agenda was the Old Faithful area, where we caught the 5:41PM eruption of Old Faithful. The famous geyser spewed for about 30 seconds and then returned to its resting state – steam exhaust. After the main attraction, we toured the famous Old Faithful Lodge and explored the other thermal features of the area.

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Old Faithful Lodge

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On the way back to camp that evening, we ran into some significant wildlife. First, we caught sight of either a wolf or coyote darting in and out of the forest. Then, we happened upon a long line of cars stopped at a heard of bison slowly crossing the road. The multitude of bison and their respective calfs held traffic there for about half an hour. I witnessed one driver attempt to squeeze his vehicle between two bison, only to have the larger bison take a head-swing at the side of his car. That was enough to keep me between the painted lines.

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Yellowstone Wolf?

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Later, down the road and only about half a mile from camp, we spotted a Grizzly Bear ambling its way toward the highway. The great thing about this sighting was that Angela and I were the first people to spot the animal. Typically, you only see something like a Grizzly or a Moose after several tourists have pulled off the highway. The bear seemed to be heading right for us, so after a few photos, I thought it wise to get the heck out of there. The proximity of this sighting to our camp was uncomfortably close.

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At camp we boiled water, made a meal of dry camp food, and enjoyed a few adult beverages. Over our entire stay in Yellowstone, we took pleasure in consuming a smattering of excellent local brews: Teton Ale, Old Faithful Ale, Sweetgrass of the Grand Teton Brewing Co. and Headstrong Pale Ale of the Big Hole Brewing Co.

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Yellowstone National Park – Day 3

Our third day in Yellowstone was a day of short trails but breathtaking vistas. We started with a steep descent down a series of switchbacks to what was quite possibly the most jaw-dropping panorama in the entirety of Yellowstone, the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. This great canyon was carved up to 900 feet deep and half a mile wide by the Yellowstone River, and its walls are colored by the spewing of the surrounding hydrothermal features. All in all, its a ridiculously gorgeous site rivaling even that of the legendary Grand Canyon in Arizona.

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Later in the day, after thoroughly exploring the north and south rims, we drove around the park to the west side to view the rest of the Norris Geyser Basin. The remaining section was dubbed the Porcelain Basin and consisted of much more colorful thermal features than the rest of the basin. Living in these thermal features are a host of tiny heat-loving microorganisms called Thermophiles. These are some of the most extreme living conditions on Earth, and scientists study these conditions to better understand similar deposits and the possibility of life on Mars.

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Last stop for the day was Mud Volcano Area – a cesspool of churning rank. The sign at the head of the trail reads, “Pungent sulphur smells hint at the seething, muddy hydrothermal wonders you will encounter on this trail”. At times, while walking this short trail, Angela and I were overpowered by sulfuric clouds. What a strange corner of the planet!

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Yellowstone National Park – Day 2

On day two in Yellowstone, we began with breakfast in Canyon Village’s cafeteria, and then headed north toward the Mammoth Springs area via Roosevelt. At about 10:00 AM we spotted an audience along the roadside, most armed with tripods and giant zoom lens cameras, looking out onto the hill. There they were – grizzlies, two of them! We parked, grabbed the zoom lens, ran up the hill to where the other photographers, one of which was a park ranger, had positioned themselves. From what I could gather by listening to the park ranger, these two grizzlies were a mating pair that have been spotted many times over the past months.

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Canyon Village cafeteria

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Yellowstone Tour bus

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Tower Fall Overlook

 

What’s better than spotting a mating pair of grizzlies in yellowstone? Probably nothing, but it’s pretty amazing to watch a newborn baby deer and its mother interacting just after birth.

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Newborn baby deer

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Petrified tree

 

Later, on the way to Mammoth, we pulled aside to snap photos of a large elk grazing near the road. Just after that, upon arriving in Mammoth, I caught a female elk grazing in someone’s front yard. We saw grizzlies, newborn deer, and elk all within two hours of each other!

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Large male elk

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Female elk grazing in Mammoth

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Finally we arrived at Mammoth Hot Springs for a tour of its thermal features. The strange minerals and chemicals in the waters of Mammoth change the rock over time to form a beautiful rainbow of colored stone. What I discovered is that Mammoth Hot Springs is basically a giant mound of travertine, or limestone deposited by springs. For thousands of years, hot spring water makes its way up, cools, and leaves calcium carbonate.

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Liberty Cap. From the National Park Service website: This 37-foot hot spring cone marks the northern portion of Mammoth Hot Springs. Liberty Cap was named in 1871 by the Hayden Survey party because of its marked resemblance to the peaked caps worn during the French Revolution. Its unusual formation was created by a hot spring whose plumbing remained open and in one location for a long time. Its internal pressure was sufficient to raise the water to a great height, allowing mineral deposits to build continuously for perhaps hundreds of years.

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Minerva Terrace. From the National Park Service website: Minerva Spring is a favorite not only because of its wide range of bright colors but also for its ornate travertine formations. Since the 1890s, when records were first kept on the activity of Mammoth Hot Springs, Minerva has gone through both active and inactive periods. For several years in the early 1900s, it was completely dry, but by 1951 reports state that Minerva was again active.

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During some cycles of activity, water discharge and mineral deposition have been so great that boardwalks have been buried beneath mounds of newly deposited travertine. Consequently, an elevated and movable boardwalk now spans the hill in the vicinity of Minerva. In recent years, hot spring activity has shifted dramatically from Minerva to other features on the Lower Terraces, and back again.

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Overlook of the main terraces

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Mammoth Hot Springs panoramic

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Out last event of the day was a five mile back-country hike to Beaver Ponds. On the trail Angela identified tons of wildflowers and we even saw beaver dams at the ponds. That afternoon, on the way back to camp, we spotted more elk alongside the road.

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Angela and I attempt to outrun a storm.

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Beaver Ponds panoramic #1

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Beaver Ponds panoramic #2

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Chipmunk

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A beaver dam.


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Elk grazing

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Full moon with telephoto lens from camp

Yellowstone National Park – Day 1

This is a continuation of our Summer ’08 Road Trip. Just a hop, skip, and a jump from Idaho Falls, and we were entering West Yellowstone. Immediately upon entering the park we spotted a fox, an eagle, a raven, and lots of bison. Bison are everywhere! They roam the valleys, hillsides, and even the roads. There were many times when traffic was backed up as far as I could see because bison were on the road. On this first day in the park, we set up our tents at Canyon Village campground and then motored around, stopping to see wildlife here and there. Later in the day we toured half of the Norris Geyser Basin and saw some really cool thermal features.

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Eagle

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The following images are from Norris Geyser Basin, an extremely hot collection of thermal features near the northwest corner of the Yellowstone Caldera (Yellowstone Super volcano).

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We returned to camp that evening, put a few local brews on ice, and made a campfire. Hoping that all food, drinks, and anything else that could attract a bear were stowed properly, we settled down for the night.

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