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Belated Yellowstone/Grand Teton trip report - our adventures and misadventures

Belated Yellowstone/Grand Teton trip report - our adventures and misadventures

Nov 18th, 2004, 07:28 AM
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Join Date: Feb 2003
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Belated Yellowstone/Grand Teton trip report - our adventures and misadventures

Hi all. Seeing another tardy trip report posted prompted me to finally get around to our summer vacation. We've been going out West for the past several years, and we love these trips! This year took the boys to Yellowstone and Grand Teton NPs, flying into Bozeman, MT and home through Jackson, WY.

We spent our first night in Bozeman, a really nice, small town. I loved the Victorian houses! Flying from PHL, we did not arrive until later in the afternoon. It was wonderful that the Museum of the Rockies was open in the evening - we found it a perfect time to take in a museum. Wish more museums nation-wide would follow suit! We explored the exhibits and saw the planetarium show. The next morning we took in the outdoor exhibits, and headed down to Yellowstone.

On the way, we stopped in Livingston. I don't get the fuss made about this town! We walked the dinky main street, and saw several unimpressive stores and one really expensive restaurant. My younger son loves trains, and the museum in the train depot was OK, nothing special. After we got back in the car, I read my husband the gushing description of Livingston in the guide book, and asked him if he thought that described what we just saw, and he agreed that it did not live up to its billing.

When we go out west, especially Colorado, we love visiting hot springs pools, so we thought a trip to Chico Hot Springs down the road from Livingston would be fun. The place is nice, and clean (some of the smaller ones are disappointly not), but the pool is just basically a large rectangle. The boys were bored (they prefer a slide or at least a diving board) and it was a bit too hot outside to hang around outside the pool b/c there was no shade. OK, we're not doing so well so far - minor disappointments, so it's on to Yellowstone, en route to our hotel in West Yellowstone.

We have seem most of the major national parks out west, and I have heard that Yellowstone isnt' as impressive, it smells, etc. So I was unprepared for how beautiful I thought it was - wildflowers everywhere, pretty mountains, etc. And the thermal features were fascinating! Our first day in the park we saw the steaming land, small geysers and blue tinted hot springs at the Norris Geyser Basin. We stayed in the Holiday Inn in W. Yellowstone. They call it a Sunspree Resort, but not sure why. It seemed a regular ol Holiday Inn to me, but much more expensive! West Yellowstone lacked charm, but walking the tourist shops kept us occupied in the evenings.

The next day we explored the park. We did several small hikes - to the Grand Prismatic Spring, to see the boiling mud (what a hoot), the beautiful Sapphire Pool hot spring, and of course, Old Faithful. Wow, even my oldest child, 11, who is totally unimpressed with scenery, thought it was cool. We drove all around the lower loop and up to see the Lower Yellowstone Falls from Artist Point - again, wow. And again, even my older son was impressed. We got a great picture of the boys there that will be our Christmas card photo. We stopped at Sheepeater Canyon, which I thought would be a very short stop - there is a rock wall that has columns similar to what you'd see at Devil's Tower. My 11 y.o. thought it was so neat to climb up these "steps" all the way to the top. When my husband decided to join in, I busied myself with photographing the wildflowers. Everyone got safely down, and we continued on.

I read about how you could (legally) swim in the Firehole River, where the river water is warm enough to swim in. We changed into bathing suits and plunged in. We were warned not to let the boys swallow any water, so we kept a close eye on the younger one. He was starting to be swept downstream (not unsafely - the current wasn't dangerously strong and he's a good swimmer) so my husband followed him. In doing so, my husband smashed his leg into an underground rock. Yikes, what a gross looking wound. That ended our "swim", so we headed back to West Yellowstone, where my husband insisted he needed only a butterfly band-aid. (Yeah, right!) We called his (pediatrician) brother, who informed husband that just putting a band aid his wound would not be the smartest idea.

So bright and early the next morning, husband went to the West Yellowstone clinic and became the proud owner of SIX stitches and a tetanus injection. That day we were to drive the upper part of Yellowstone en route to Cody. A bit past the Mammoth Hot Springs, we were rear-ended. Our rented(!) SUV sustained rear damage (nothing major, thank goodness), but the 18 y.o. who hit us was driving a Saturn and her car was totalled. We pulled over and several really great people stopped, and pushed the Saturn out of the way, and some even stayed to comfort the young girl, who was very upset. She said she was paying attention to the scenery (which is very easy to do in Yellowstone!) and not to the road. She was driving her dad's car on the "trip of her lifetime" and was heading to SD to go camping with her girlfriend. We've never been in a situation like this, and were a bit worried about doing so much damage to a rental car. (We never order extra insurance) We called Budget when we arrived in Cody (no cell phone service where we were!) and the girl's dad's insurance apparently has taken care of everything b/c we haven't heard anything else about it.

Do you all know that you must carry proof of insurance with you? We didn't! A ranger stopped by to make a thorough accident report and he aksed to see our drivers licenses, which he gave him. Then he asked where our proof of insurance was. Uh, it's in the car at the parking lot of the Philadelphia airport. He told us we are required to carry this with us, and if he wanted to, he could cite us for this and we'd be required to come back to Wyoming to appear in court at a later date. I think he felt sorry for us - my husband showed him his heavily bandaged leg with the new stitches!

So this put a damper on the drive. I was so nervous driving thereafter, knowing we didn't have our insurance info on us. And we missed the Beartooth. We were going to see how we felt - and drive as much of it as we felt we could handle, time-wise, knowing we had a long drive to Cody that day. Well, the accident ate up a chunk of time, and I wasn't too happy to do a lot of driving. Plus, there was major road construction outside Cooke City that delayed us for over 20 mins. The Beartooth was none too scenic in this part! So we just continued on to Cody via the St. Joseph, which was pretty scenic its own self.

Later that day we learned there was several serious mud slides that engulfed several cars outside the east gate of Yellowstone, thereby closing the gate for an indefinite period of time. We were planning on getting to Grand Teton through that very gate! We decided at this point, to just go and enjoy Cody and decide what to do on the next day.

More, later...
karens is offline  
Nov 18th, 2004, 09:44 AM
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Wow, Karens, interesting trip report so far. I never thought about carrying proof of insurance in a rental car. It sounds like everything worked out. Hope your hubby is fully recovered. Sounds like something that would happen to us. But hey, that's what happens when you go on adventures, right? At least he got injured a cool sounding place like Firehole River instead of while using a weedwacker or something!

Isn't Yellowstone gorgeous? We also went last summer and I wish I could go once a year. I put the pictures on my screensaver and I am still amazed when I see how truly beautiful it was. We'll have to check out Bozeman next time, too.

Nov 30th, 2004, 05:10 AM
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Hi Jayne. Yes, Yellowstone was gorgeous. And yes, my husband has an interesting story to tell about his injuries. Unlike me, when I sprained my ankle in the Grand Canyon. I'd love to say I did in during mile 8 of the uphill climb on Bright Angel, but the truth is that I was riding the mules and on the first stop we made, I sprained my ankle walking back from the BATHROOM. Not real impressive. But I digress...Back to Wyoming...It seems every time I wanted to continue this, the site was down, or then came the busy Thanksgiving period, and now maybe I'll finish this by our next summer trip...On to


Cody is a great little western town. We arrived early evening and went straight "downtown". We found the shoot-out a bit hokey, so we went to eat at the Historic Irma Hotel, built by Buffalo Bill. Very nice atmosphere - the huge cherry bar had a buffalo carved into it. We were surprised to find an outlet store for Sierra Trading Post, so we stopped in there. The only thing I bought was a black pair of mule heels for $15 - go figure that I'd find something like that there! Then we went to Trail Town. I am fascinated by Western US history, so I love stuff like this. The historic towns in Fairplay, CO and Ft. Steele, BC are larger but Trail Town I thought is worth a stop. Then on to the rodeo. What a uniquely Western experience - especially for us easterners. My older son really liked it. At one point they let the kids down on the grounds and let loose a calf and have the kids try to catch him. If you go - make sure your kids wear closed shoes! Mine was wearing sports flip flops and one came off. Let's just say we made him wash his feet extra well that evening!

WE would have liked to stay longer in Cody, but we had a decision to make. The east gate of Yellowstone was still closed the next morning, with no concrete info on when exactly it would re-open. The only other route added another 110 miles to the already long drive we had planned. I was disappointed to miss the drive from Cody to the east gate, b/c I heard it was incredibly scenic, but our detour was well worth it. It was truly western driving - long open spaces, lonely highways where you can go 65-75 mph. Parts of it, especially the approach into the Tetons and through the Wind River Mountains were very scenic. But the highlight was the little town of Thermopolis. We spent a fun afternoon here. There were hot springs pools here. These are my favorite - I usually find regular pools too cold and the temps of the hot springs pools are so comfy. My kids had a blast b/c the pool had two large waterslides and a high dive. We can't find high dives much out east anymore, so that was a real treat. Another treat was no lines! In the few hours we were there, the boys must have gone down each slide a dozen times. Thermopolis appeared to have different hot springs pools and dinosaur museum, so we could have easily spent more time here, but we had a lot of driving ahead of us, so we didn't get to stay that long.

Grand Tetons.

We stayed at Jackson Lake Lodge. The view from the upper lobby is amazing, and the food here - even in the cafeteria was very good.
karens is offline  
Nov 30th, 2004, 05:23 AM
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Grand Tetons (contd).

Our first day here we did the boat ride across Jenny Lake and hiked up past Hidden Falls to I think what they call Inspiration Point. We had a good pizza lunch at Moose and then did a verys short hike at Lupine Meadows. I thought we would see fields of lupines. We started to hike and saw lupines here and there, but no meadows. By now the boys had declared that hiking is "wicked boring". I asked hikers passing the other way just where the lupine meadows are. Oh, just go several miles up and you will see them. Uh, not with this group. So we turned around. Did I mention that my older son got stung by a bee -twice - on the previous day? His ankle had swollen up, and it mysteriously had seriously affected his ability to hike. It did not bother him going up and down the water slides 18+ times, or from wrestling with his brother in the motel room. But it seriously impacted his ability to hike. Hmm. Well, another clinic visit to another National Park clinic resulted in an $18 bottle of Benadryl. (The nearest Rite Aid was probably 30 miles away).

That evening we drove up to a look-out point whose name I forget. Nice views.

The next day my husband's back was still painful, and the boys were fed up with hiking. So I told them we would walk only a small portion of the Taggart Lake Trail. This was so beautiful. Can you guess that we did not make it to Taggart Lake? My husband and I love to hike out west, so it was hard to cut it short. The trail was filled with all sorts of different wildflowers - I'd like to hike all of this trail one future day.


The boys needed less nature, so it was fortunate that we headed to Jackson, another great little western town. We strolled the many stores and rode the alpine slide. My boys love these. I used the local gym, which I thought would be a bit nicer than it was. It wasn't bad, I just expected a bit swankier from Jackson. The next morning I went for a great run through town. It was cool and the scenery was great - much better than the heat and humidity back in Phila. The altitude did not affect me here. (I found I cannot run in Colorado. Even after being in Colorado for 8 days, I lasted only 12 mins. running in Telluride.)

We had a noontime flight the next day, so that morning we took the boys back to the alpine slide for one last ride. Then we went to the airport, which has the best setting of any airport that I've seen so far. Our flight home was another adventure that I'll have to continue later...
karens is offline  
Dec 1st, 2004, 05:05 PM
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I think I shall finally finish this report with our flight home. We were scheduled to fly home from Jackson thru Denver on to Phila. The flight from Jackson to Denver was to take one hour. About 15 mins. from Denver our pilot informs us that a strong thunderstorm had settled over Denver and that we would be put in a 30 min. holding pattern. However, we did not have enough fuel to hold that long, so if we weren't released from the holding pattern shortly, we would be diverted to Scottsbluff, Wyoming. About 10 mins. later the flight attendant comes on and tells us that, actually Scottsbluff is in NEBRASKA, and guess where we're going?
We land in the metropolis of Scottsbluff to re-fuel. During the re-fueling, they run out of fuel and have to go get more. While waiting, the flight attendant comes back and tells us that United does not serve Scottsbluff (uh, who DOES serve Scottsbluff?) and that therefore they had no fueling privileges there. The pilot had to pay for the fuel on his Personal credit card! (We then tried to figure out how many frequent flier miles you would earn for that!) So, after a lengthy delay, we are back in the air and heading to Denver. The airport had re-opened, but by now we had already missed our connecting flight to PHL.
We land and decide to go and find the departures board to see when the next flight to PHL was. As we disembark, we notice that right across the terminal is a gate that reads "Philadelphia". I tell everyone to run. It is now 5:15pm, and the scheduled departure was 5:20! The gate agents didn't even take our tickets - they just told us to hurry and get on the plane. We discovered that this flight was actually our scheduled flight - it too, was delayed. It was diverted to Colorado Springs for re-fueling.
So all's well that ends well. We landed only 1 hr. 45 mins. later than scheduled, which is amazing considering the long delay we experienced by having to go to Scottsbluff. We had a lot of problems, but I'd do it again in a second. We love it out West, and every time we go it is getting harder and harder to come back home!
karens is offline  
Dec 1st, 2004, 08:40 PM
Join Date: Oct 2004
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Hello everyone!

I am so excited to read about people who visit our state. I live in the center of Wyoming in a community of 50,000. Jackson and Cody are beautiful indeed, but they are also pricey and a bit of a tourist trip in the ski and summer seasons. Still...I wouldn't pass them up.

Thermopolis (90 miles away from us) is a fun weekend activity and if your kids like swimming an natural pools, it's awesome...especially in the wintertime! Imagine swimming in a pool in the middle of a snowdrift! It's a hoot! And a ski trip to Jackson is equally awesome.

Another fun thing to think about is attending Cheyenne Frontier Days. It's always the last full week in July located in Cheyenne....the south east corner of Wyo (and only 100 miles n. of Denver!). They have an awesome traveling amusement park, rodeos, parades, street dancing, and incredible night shows ranging from the Beach Boys, Alabama, etc. The evening old time melodramas are an experience of a lifetime. You'll laugh until you hurt. Excellent family time. Every other day they have a parade which includes Native cultural dancers, marching bands from across the country, etc. and even a pancake breakfast held in the downtown parking lot. They use a real cement truck...the Wyoming Cowboy Joe truck....and mix up pancake batter! It's pours down the ramp thing where the local organizations hold big bowls. One of my favorite memories is watching these guys cook the pancakes on the outdoor grills and flip them in the air while the boyscouts and girlscouts run aimlessly to catch them on a platter. It's a scream! Meanwhile, folks are sitting on bails of hay and enjoying a country fiddle player or entertainer. If you want an Old West experience, it's really fun and inexpensive. And one could even drive 40 minutes and go fishing in mountain streams and lakes near Laramie.

Thanks for the nice compliments on our state and it's people. It's a beautiful place to visit and an even better place to call home. Hope you can put it on your travel list soon!
ilovemaui is offline  
Dec 2nd, 2004, 03:03 AM
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Thanks Karens for a great trip report. And thank you Ilovemaui for the extra info about your home state. This is a part of the country we've never been to but hopefully we will in the near future.
dfrostnh is online now  
Dec 2nd, 2004, 04:38 AM
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Hi Karen! Loved your trip report, thanks so much for posting! Sorry to hear of your mishaps but glad you had a great time despite them!

I appreciate all the info on the little towns around yellowstone as we'll be returning there again next summer as part of our out west trip. We'll be in cody the night before our yellowstone ressies so wondered if you would recommend staying at the Irma Hotel, or just eating there? (is it anything like the Hotel Colorado in Glenwood Springs?) Did you happen to notice cody's Holiday Inn - which hotel is closer to trail town and the shoppes?

Wondered about the alpine slide - our kids are a bit older than yours, think they'll still like it? Will we?! Also, you mentioned water slides when writing about jackson lake lodge -- were they there, or did you mean later in thermopolis? We're still looking for a place in the tetons and that might make a difference. Also, is it possible to run from the lodge into town? I'm always looking for running paths on vaca.

TIA Karen!
ellen_griswold is offline  
Dec 2nd, 2004, 05:41 AM
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IloveMaui - I really found the people of Wyoming so friendly. I enjoyed talking to a lifeguard at Thermopolis - I told him how much I enjoyed the "smaller" feel of Thermopolis v. the long lines, and crowded waterparks we have back home. Everything just seemed more laid back, and more relaxing and fun. We constantly wonder about moving somewhere West, but right now we will have our sons finish school out here. Plus, we have family out here. Sometimes it's harder to rationalize than others!

Hi Ellen. In Cody we stayed at the Holiday Inn. It was nice and had a pool - always a plus when traveling with the boys. I can't comment on the rooms at the Irma Hotel, but I would recommend a meal there - the atmosphere is great! I was shocked at how expensive lodging in Cody was. We are used to paying really reasonable lodging rates when we travel to the smaller towns out West, but Cody's rates are much higher. The Hotel Irma is right in the center of the "shopping district", but the Holiday Inn was maybe a 5 min. drive away. A bit further then to Trail Town, but again not so much.

The waterslides we enjoyed were in Thermopolis, I believe about 1.5 hrs. south-ish from Cody. The Jackson Lake Lodge did have a pool - but no slides or diving board. The Lodge is probably about 30-45 mins. from Jackson. We stayed 2 nights at Jackson Lake Lodge and one night down in Jackson.

I think your kids will like the alpine slide - my husband still loves them!

The run I took was through and around the town of Jackson. I went early (for me, which is around 8am) and it was nice to run through the then-quiet streets, small downtown park and a bit out of town. It's hard to go back on the treadmill after a run like that! I try to do one run when we're on vacation, and it's fun when it's such a scenic one!
karens is offline  
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