Grand Teton National Park, Part 2: Buffalo, Kamikaze Deer, and a Mountain Climb. And an Introduction to Yellowstone.
Sorry for the delay everyone! I haven’t found a fast enough 3G connection to upload pictures until now and I was going to post a proof-of-life message when my phone lost 3G too. In any case, we’re in Seattle now but I’ll pick up where I left off with updates. We spent three more days and nights in and around beautiful Grand Teton. A highlight of the next day was encountering a herd of buffalo in the national forest area:
The following day we were scheduled to hike up to 10,000 feet in Upper Paintbrush Canyon to camp. We set off from the trailhead with full packs under bright sun but 2 1/2 hours and 3,000 feet in elevation gained, huge dark clouds appeared, travelling over the mountains in front of us. Ten minutes later cold rain started falling and cracks of thunder were heard. We quickly crossed the last part of an open rock field and took cover for 20 minutes while the storm passed. As the sky lightened we were sure the storm had passed and we continued our ascent. Just reaching the designated camping zone however a second storm rushed over the mountain and an even colder rain began falling. At this elevation we were already above some glacier tongues and had even crossed snow on the trail so we quickly erected our tent in order to rewarm and change into dry clothes. We then swiftly descended as the storm worsened.
Although we were forced to abandon our camping plans for that evening the hike itself rewarded us with amazing views of glaciers nestled between the peaks, staggering views of the forest and Jenny Lake below, cold streams of rushing water, patches of snow and blue ice along the trail, and fields of disparate boulders and rocks left by glaciers long since retreated.
After recovering from the grueling ascent and rapid descent the day before, we hiked out to Phelps Lake the next day, setting up camp in the trees near a white sandy shore after descending into the valley. We walked around the lake a ways where Carrie indulged in a cliff jump while I dipped in the icy water. On our return to camp we had to stand our ground as we were charged by an errant deer who clearly didn’t see us on the trail. It finally pulled up short as we were laughing. The hike out the next morning provided us with equally stunning views of the lake and was a fitting end to our time in Grand Teton.
From there we headed north to Cody, Wyoming, the nearest town to Yellowstone. We entered the park and drove along Yellowstone Lake for most of the way before climbing over mountains of mineral rich rock. Rocks dominate the landscape here too, piled into mountains, deposited by retreated glaciers, or strewn across flat prairie. We camped next to a reservoir outside Cody for the night and were treated to a double rainbow created by a passing storm.
The next day we drove back into Yellowstone for what ultimately was a 4 night, 5 day visit. We camped in the backcountry each night but unlike at Grand Teton, we picked sites closer to trailheads so that we had the freedom to travel to different parts of the 2.2 million acres in the park for hiking and exploration of the plentiful geothermal features, waterfalls, canyons, lakes, and forest.
Yellowstone was a mixture of rich beauty and incredible sights surrounded – arguably even choked – by never ending swaths of burned forest and mountains scarred by dead trees. Too large a park to explore in its entirety, we nonetheless explored large portions of the park experiencing various habitats home to elk, pronghorns, buffalo, deer, coyotes, and eagles, all of which we saw firsthand. We saw moose tracks near our campsite on Mallard Lake as well but no live moose unfortunately.
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