Yellowstone and Grand Teton Trip

Hi all,

It has been a while since I have posted. As many of you know, I graduated this past May from Maryville College with a Bachelor of Arts in Computer Science. The past four years at Maryville have been a wonderful experience, specifically, in the fact that I have grown closer with the outdoors. Through the program Mountain Challenge, the 140-acre Maryville College Woods, and Smoky Mountain National Park’s close vicinity, it has really sparked my curiosity with regards to my connection to nature. Early in the spring semester of this year my parents asked me what I wanted as a gift for graduation. The choice was quite simple.. I wanted to explore the outdoors more, and one of the best places to do that in the world is in the Greater Yellowstone area.

My parents and I flew into Jackson Hole, Wyoming on Sunday, July 8th, around 3:00 p.m. Mountain Time Zone. As we got off the plane we looked around soaking up the view which was spectacular! When our hiking boots hit the tarmac we were extremely eager to get out on the trails as soon as possible. Below is a picture of my first ever glance at the  Teton mountain range.

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Sunday

Once we dropped our bags off at the hotel, we headed out to Grand Teton National Park immediately. It was around 5 p.m. and we were meeting many people leaving the park after their long day of hiking and adventure. We decided to stop at the Jenny Lake trailhead which is about a 35 minute drive north of Jackson Hole. Below is a picture of our view from the Jenny Lake trailhead.

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You can see Jenny Lake behind the trees with a gorgeous view of the Grand Teton on the far side of the lake.  We decided to hop on the Jenny Lake Inspiration Point/Hidden Falls trail which was roughly 4 miles round trip. As it was getting late, the sun was slowly creeping behind the west side of the Tetons which created gorgeous views as sun rays pierced over the peaks of the mountains into the valley. Below is a few pictures from the hike and Inspiration Point.

Inspiration Point is at an elevation of 7000 feet, a 1000 feet elevation change from the trailhead. Continuing on our hike with minimal people on the trail during the late evening, we were able to take in the sounds and sights of the beautiful forest and rocky mountain landscape. At the halfway point of the roundtrip hike is the beautiful Hidden Falls which flows into the base of Jenny Lake. Below is a picture of course!

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We really enjoyed our very first hike in Grand Teton to say the least. Below is one of my favorite pictures from the hike.

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We arrived back in Jackson Hole around 9:50 p.m., grabbed some dinner, and prepared for our next day at the park.

 

Monday

On Monday, July 9th, we decided to hike the Amphitheater Lake trail, a very strenuous 11 mile round trip day hike up the Grand Teton. When I say very strenuous, I am referring to the rocky terrain of the trail and the 3000 ft elevation change required to reach the apex of this hike, but you will see in the pictures to come why the hike was all the more worth it once you reached the top! We were greeted by two natural lakes, Surprise Lake and Amphitheater Lake, with the backdrop of some of the steepest peaks in the the Tetons. Below are some of my favorite pictures from the hike!

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The flowers above are Showy Goldeneyes which are found at higher elevations. The flower below is Bigleaf Lupine, also found at higher elevations.

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To the left of the picture above is Bradley Lake and to the right is Taggart Lake. Below is a picture of me enjoying Surprise Lake after refueling my belly with lunch!

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Above you can see Amphitheater Lake and why it got its name from the steep bowl shaped granite rock surrounding the lake. We hiked for roughly 6 hours and were in the park around 10 hours on Monday! Needless to say, we did not need help falling asleep.

 

Tuesday

On Tuesday, July 10th, we woke up around 6:00 am and headed off to Yellowstone National Park making a few stops in Grand Teton National Park along the way. We had to stop east of the Grand Teton to photograph one of the most iconic views in all of Wyoming. Below you can see the old barn built in 1912 by T.A. Moulton. The Moulton’s were the very last family to sell their land to the National Park Service to complete the addition of over 200,000 acres to the original Grand Teton National Park boundary, which originally consisted of mainly the mountain range.

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Below is a shot of the Teton’s from across the east side of the Snake River. This picture shows many of the major peaks in the range. From left to right is Nez Perce Peak, South Teton, Middle Teton, Grand Teton, Mount Owen, and Teewinot Mountain.

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Below is a picture of several bison grazing the land with Mount Moran in the background.

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The following picture was taken at roughly 7:15 a.m. The cowboy, who works for a cattle company owning grazing rights to the land, was trying to move the bison back to their side of the fence. Cattle cannot cross the fence, but surprisingly the large bison can jump over the fence.

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Below is a picture of Moose Falls, which is fed by Crawfish Creek. Interestingly, Crawfish Creek is one of the only places you can find crawfish in Yellowstone. The geothermal waters that are flowing into the creek keep it warm enough allowing crawfish to survive.

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Below is one of the many hot springs which can be found in the park. The Grand Prismatic is the most famous which we visited later.

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Below you can see the coloration caused by the different thriving thermophiles near the geothermal features.

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Below is an elk cow enjoying some grass in southeast Yellowstone.

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Below is a six-pointed bull elk. This was one of the largest elk we saw.

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Below is a bull bison. Bison horns are made of keratin while the above antlers are made of bone. Bison bulls have horns that point up to the sky while bison cows have horns that curve back over their head. If you look closely you can see that the bison is peeing.

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Below is the Lower Falls, one of the most iconic American landscape views. Thomas Moran, who was sent by the U.S. government in 1871, painted the beautiful falls which he brought back to congress. This painting was instrumental in getting the government to create the first national park, Yellowstone National Park, in 1872. The painting was done in watercolors using the Hudson River School style.

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Below are some of the mudpots found in the park.

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Below is one of the most famous fumarole areas in the park, named Colter’s Hell. It was believed that the Shoshone Indian Tribe originated from inside this this fumarole. John Colter, believed to be the first European to visit the area, described these mysterious fumaroles in his personal journal, with influences from the Shoshone tribe. When he shared his journal with others, no one believed that these kind of features could actually exist, leading to the area’s name, Colter’s Hell.

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Below are pictures from a grizzly bear we saw in the park! We also saw two small black bears during our trip.

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Wednesday

On Wednesday, we decided to embark on a journey down the Snake River. Over a thousand miles long, the major river played home to the Shoshone and Nez Perce Native Americans roughly 11,000 years ago. We put our raft in at Dead Man’s Bar, which provided excellent views of the Teton mountain range. The most impressive part of the scenery is how our perspective of the mountains changed so much with only minimal time floating down the river. Our morning trip lasted roughly 3 hours. Below is a picture of me at the bow of the raft.

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We grabbed a quick bite for lunch and headed to back to the Snake River south of Jackson Hole. Below is a picture of us rafting an 8 man raft at Lunch Counter, one of the best rafting rapids of the Snake.

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After a long day of rafting we decided to head back out to Leigh Lake for a short hike. Leigh Lake provided us our third sighting of a bear, a small black bear, probably aged 2 years old. We didn’t get a picture of the bear, but we did grab some great shots of the Grand Teton with the gorgeous transparent waters of the lake.

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Thursday

On Thursday, we explored Yellowstone’s geothermal features on the southwest side of the park. Before going into Yellowstone, we stopped to see the sunrise around 5:30. The sun reflected off the mountains at just the right angle to create a beautiful reflection in the Snake River. You cannot see it in the picture but we spotted a beaver swimming up the brush channel to the right.

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Below is the most famous geyser, Old Faithful, erupting around 9:45 am.

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Below was my favorite geyser, Castle Geyser, named for its castle like shape. The travertine terraces are formed from broken down limestone. The more limestone built up, the older the geyser. Castle Geyser is thought to be the oldest geyser in the world and erupts every 10 – 12 hours.

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Below is the Grand Geyser, our beautiful lunch spot for the day. Grand Geyser erupts every 7 to 15 hours and is much less regular than Old Faithful. The Grand Geyser erupts up to 200 feet. The smaller geyser on the left is known as Vent Geyser.

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Below is the Grand Prismatic. We hiked 1.2 miles to see the Prismatic from the overlook. The color range was incredible! This is the largest hot spring in the park and the third largest hot spring in the world.

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Conclusion

All in all, this was one of the best, if not the best trip I have ever taken. I learned so much about the history of the National Park Service. I got to explore a coniferous forest which provided a different ecosystem than the temperate deciduous forest of Great Smoky Mountain National Park. I saw a ton of wildlife, unique from anything I’ve seen in the southeast. We were able to spot and identify some of the following cool birds: Western Bluebird, Western Meadowlark, American White Pelican, Killdeer, Red-Tailed Hawk, Bald Eagle, and Steller’s Jay. I learned how vast and expansive Yellowstone is. It is incomprehensible.

I am disappointed we did not get to navigate the upper loop of Yellowstone into the Lamar Valley, but this just gives us a reason to go back. I am thankful I was able to spend the time I did in one of America’s most beloved places. In less than 5 days we spent 48 hours in the park, hiked more than 40 miles, and rafted about 15 miles. Below are our tacky tourist photos.

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