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Grand Teton and Yellowstone June 2010 - Chilly and Gorgeous!

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Grand Teton and Yellowstone June 2010 - Chilly and Gorgeous!

Old Jun 10th, 2010, 01:19 PM
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Grand Teton and Yellowstone June 2010 - Chilly and Gorgeous!

We (Mr. Pickle, 14yo DS Pickle, and I) just returned from an eight-day trip to Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks. This was an early 50th birthday gift for me. I'll post a link to our pictures once I upload them to Picasa.

Mr. Pickle's work schedule doesn't allow us to travel as a family from July to October, so we planned to see Yellowstone as soon as most of the park was open. In hindsight, we would probably delay another trip until at least mid-June, but we had a wonderful time despite the drizzly weather.

Day 1 - Albuquerque to Laramie

This day was pretty much devoted to driving. We stopped in Denver to visit the State Capitol, which was closed the last time we were there. It's a lovely, ornate building, free to the public, and gave us the chance to walk around a bit.

Our main reason for spending time downtown was for DS Pickle to visit his favorite restaurant, the Shish Kabob Grill, across the street from the Capitol. The gyros are just as good as we remembered from 2008.

At Fort Collins, we jogged northwest on Hwy. 287 to Laramie. It's a pretty, scenic drive.

We spent the night at the Econo Lodge in Laramie, which has an indoor pool, free wi-fi, and a deluxe continental breakfast. Unfortunately, the pool was closed because the heater was broken, and the wi-fi didn't work in our room. I had to sit in the lobby to check my email. Breakfast wasn't bad, though. To top it off, they didn't deliver the free newspaper on time, so we went without. We won't stay there again.

Day 2 - Laramie to Jackson

Most of this day was fairly unremarkable. We traveled on I-80 to Rock Springs, then headed north to Jackson. There is some good scenery in the Teton-Bridger National Forest; gives you something to look at while you're waiting to get through the road construction. The delay was at least 20 minutes, so be sure to use a restroom before you get into that area!

We arrived in Jackson around 4:30, checked into the Motel 6 (newly renovated, around $75 for the night and a great deal), and went to the Jackson/Grand Teton visitor center on the north side of town. The friendly, helpful ranger told us we had plenty of time to drive around the park before it got dark, and marked a map with prime wildlife viewing spots.

We took the Antelope Flats road off the main highway in GT, and found a moose by the river. A herd of bison with several calves stopped us a couple of minutes further down the road. It's hard to keep the recommended distance from the critters when they are walking right next to your car!

The Kelly campground is currently home to two great horned owlets - cute little balls of fluff! We decided we need a camera with better lenses to really get good pictures of wildlife, but we did OK with our camcorder and Canon point-and-shoot.

Mormon Row is on the north end of this loop - the antique houses and barns with the Tetons in the background make for nice pictures, especially with bison wandering through.

Reaching the main highway again, we continued north, stopping at the Snake River Overlook where Ansel Adams took his iconic GT photograph, and watching the pronghorn antelope, elk, and bison as we drove. It was cloudy, breezy, and cool, and the mountain tops were shrouded in cloud and mist. I kind of felt like I should have some Lord of the Rings music playing.

We looped around and drove south past Jackson Lake and Jenny Lake, stopping numerous times to take pictures of the mountains and wildflowers and getting back to Jackson around 8:00.

Dinner was at Bubba's BBQ; Mr. Pickle had the salad bar and DS Pickle and I had sandwiches on garlic toast. The brisket was a little tough, but still fairly tasty. After a trip to Albertson's for breakfast supplies and some fresh fruit, it was off to bed.

More to follow...
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Old Jun 10th, 2010, 02:32 PM
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Thanks for the report, I'm going there in a few weeks, trying to get as much detail as possible.
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Old Jun 10th, 2010, 02:55 PM
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Happy to help! I'll be posting more tomorrow.

Lee Ann
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Old Jun 10th, 2010, 03:29 PM
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I loved the Tetons and Yellowstone, and want to go back.
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Old Jun 10th, 2010, 04:03 PM
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And I love the start to your trip report, Lee Ann! Informative and fun, it gave me a few chuckles. I hadn't realized that you three had gotten away for a family vacation, that is lovely. Looking forward to reading about more of your adventures.
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Old Jun 10th, 2010, 04:46 PM
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Yay! Can't wait for more. I'm headed back soon too
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Old Jun 11th, 2010, 01:51 PM
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Day 3 - Grand Teton NP and Onward to Yellowstone

We had scheduled a float trip down the Snake River with Triangle X Ranch www.trianglex.com this morning, so got off to an early start. We drove up the highway past the ski areas and onto the dirt road that goes into the park. The ranger told us there was a mama elk nursing twins, but we didn't see her. We spent a few minutes at the Laurence S. Rockefeller Preserve, but didn't have time to hike.

Our float trip guide, Brian, met us at Moose Junction. We and another family piled into their van and set off for Deadman's Bar, where we got basic safety information and our life vests before getting into the raft.

Brian said the 10-mile trip would normally take about 90 minutes (less than an hour when the water is higher). The poor guy was rowing into a headwind the whole way, so we were on the water for about 2 1/2 hours total. We were glad we had bundled up because it was...well, just plain cold. But we saw a bald eagle and had a great time nonetheless. Brian was an excellent guide, very knowledgeable about the geology of Grand Teton and the flora and fauna we passed. He let DS Pickle row the raft for about five minutes, which he really enjoyed.

Once we returned to Moose, all Mr. Pickle wanted was some hot soup. Brian recommended we stop at Dornan's across the river, where we thawed out while enjoying lunch. I had a cup of chicken chipotle mole soup with my caprese panini; Mr. Pickle had the other soup on offer with a meatball sub; and DS Pickle had the chipotle soup with a calzone. The food was delicious and fairly reasonably priced.

We stopped at the Moose visitor center, then at the Chapel of the Transfiguration, a little log chapel with an outstanding view of the Tetons, before driving up to Jenny Lake. We considered taking the boat across the lake and hiking, but decided we had had enough wind chill for one day. In fact, we were all tired enough that we napped in the parking lot for about 30 minutes before continuing our journey.

After a stop at the Colter Bay visitor center, which has some nice displays of Native American art, we headed north to Yellowstone.

I must say it was a bit odd to see ice ringing Lewis Lake in June, but the park hadn't been open all that long, so I suppose I should have expected it.

We got to Old Faithful Lodge, our first night's stop, a few minutes before the next geyser eruption. It was exciting seeing it in person after viewing pictures and videos all these years!

We booked all our Yellowstone lodging in January, and every time I checked in somewhere, the desk clerks were turning people away. Make your reservations early!

Being the cheap - er, frugal - travelers we are, we went for the least expensive lodging choices in the park. I wasn't sure what to expect when I saw a picture of the Old Faithful Lodge Cabins online, but we were very pleased with what we got. We had a fairly spacious cabin with one full and one twin bed and a sink in the room. The restrooms and showers were a very short walk away, and our cabin overlooked a pretty meadow.

Dinner at the OFL cafeteria was pretty tasty with a good variety of food. We had chili, a hummus wrap, and something else.

Poor Mr. Pickle was a bit taken aback at the food prices in the park. They weren't anything we couldn't afford, but $3 for a little box of cereal and a half-pint of milk is a bit pricey. He got over it, though, once I told him to stop grumbling and be thankful we could afford to travel at all. If we do a trip like this again, we will figure out a better way to bring some breakfast and lunch fixings along.

After dinner, we walked part of the boardwalk past other smaller geysers and mineral pools. It reminded me of Rotorua, NZ, just more spread out and with bigger mountains.

In all our years visiting national parks, we've never been able to fit in a ranger talk, so we were glad we had time for one that evening. One of the rangers did a living history presentation, telling us what the park was like for visitors in 1905. He was fun and entertaining, and when he saw DS Pickle's Red Sox cap before the program, he gave him a "Hey, Boston!" shout out.

When the talk was finished, we strolled over to the Old Faithful Inn to gape at its spectacular lobby (and so I could find the espresso cart for the next morning). It is spectacular!

After one more Old Faithful eruption, it was back to our cabin for the night.

If you stay in the cabins, note that there aren't any street lights. Bring a flashlight.
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Old Jun 11th, 2010, 02:02 PM
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Great report! I can't wait to read more. We went to Yellowstone last October, and the Old Faithful Inn was already closed for the season. I wish we could've gone in to check out the lobby; I haven't been inside since I was in high school. It's so amazing!
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Old Jun 11th, 2010, 03:07 PM
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We just returned also so I'm really enjoying reading your report. I believe the campground where the owls are is the Gros Ventre campground on Gros Ventre road (there could be more at another campground that you are talking about that I am unaware of). The two at Gros Ventre are very visible and great fun to watch, but they are out of the nest now sitting on the branches so I don't think they will be there much longer.

There was another one on Moose-Wilson Rd where owls were also but we didn't find them. Also, in Mammoth there were owlets, but I think they have been out of the nest for a week or so (for anyone going out there soon).
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Old Jun 11th, 2010, 03:55 PM
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Old Jun 11th, 2010, 05:08 PM
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Bring a torch?
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Old Jun 11th, 2010, 07:04 PM
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Pickles, all--
Thanks for sharing your memories with us. I have enjoyed your info and help in the past about traveling in the UK (we went in 2008 and are going back in--wow! 7 weeks from right now we should be flying!0. And I remember when you posted some questions about this National Park trip. Rejoice with you that it seems to have been so successful and look forward to hearing the rest. We were there last July and it's always fun to hear what others say about shared places and experiences. Keep writin'!

(And I am positive you "know" this, but it bears repeating--in about 2 seconds your 14yrold will be 21--oops, 23--no, 25--at least it's so with mine--so this trip will always be a priceless memory for you all--and there's definitely abundant life after 50!)--Alecia
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Old Jun 12th, 2010, 03:12 AM
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Thank you for the report, I was hoping you would write one. We'll be there end of August into early September.
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Old Jun 12th, 2010, 03:35 AM
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So I didn't see any owlets on my June trip in 08. Guess that is a good enough reason to return. I liked June because it didn't seem overly crowded and there was a lot of babies. It did snow a bit on us and the roads had just opened the day before our arrival.
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Old Jun 12th, 2010, 02:14 PM
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You're right, maj, it's the Gros Ventre campground. I was too lazy to find the map.

Judyrem, only if your name is Jeanette or Isabella. ;-)

Thanks, texasbookworm! I'm envious of you heading back to England. We hope to take DS Pickle there, though at the moment we're talking more about a return to New Zealand. We didn't get to see the South Island, and DS hasn't been there yet.

I figure I'm finally hitting middle age, and I can't wait to see what the rest of life has to offer!

Lee Ann
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Old Jun 13th, 2010, 03:10 AM
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This is great!!!

I'm going the first week of August and hopefuly the weather will be a lot warmer.

Awaiting the rest and the photos. Thanks.
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Old Jun 13th, 2010, 05:42 AM
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Glad I caught this! Thank you so much for sharing - what a delightful trip report and time you had Happy Birthday!

The chill made me go brrrrrrrrrrrr on that raft trip. I have to ask what is Mormon row? I will google it but was curious.
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Old Jun 13th, 2010, 06:14 AM
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A lane where the Mormons lived full of little houses and barns. Sweet as can be
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Old Jun 13th, 2010, 01:30 PM
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Okey dokey, back to the report!

Day 4 - Old Faithful to Mammoth Hot Springs

The cafeteria at Old Faithful Lodge doesn't serve breakfast, so we made do with cereal and muffins from the deli. I should have walked over to Old Faithful Inn for some coffee, but we decided to walk over there after we packed the car. Bad choice - we missed the parking lot entrance and Mr. Pickle didn't want to circle around to get back to it. Let's just say it was a bleary-eyed, headachy morning.

We drove north along the Firehole River, visiting the Grand Prismatic Spring and the other hot springs and geysers in the Midway Geyser Basin. They are an easy trek along a boardwalk, and there is a very cool spot by the parking lot where a boiling waterfall empties into the river. We also took the Firehole Lake loop, but missed the turn into the Fountain Paint Pot area. As you exit the Firehole Lake loop, it's right across the main road.

After a brief stop at Madison to use the facilities and call our daughter, we turned east toward Norris. This highway has 20-30 minute delays for road construction, so plan accordingly.

Norris has a very nice park ranger museum in an old military housing cabin. It's worth a few minutes' time.

On the way to Mammoth Hot Springs, we stopped briefly at Roaring Mountain. We heard more traffic passing than roaring scenery, though.

As you approach Mammoth Hot Springs, take the turnoff to the left and visit the terraces, formed by the mineral content in the springs. The minerals and extreme thermophile bacteria provide quite a variety of colors - it's pretty otherworldly.

We drove into Mammoth around 1:30, checked into our cabin, unloaded the car, and had lunch at the Terrace Grill. The sun was peeking out and there was only an occasional drizzle.

Mammoth Hot Springs is the location of Fort Yellowstone, from early in the park's history when the military ran it. Now it is the park headquarters and employee housing. We walked over to the visitor's center to learn a little more about the area. BTW, all the visitor centers in the park are worth visiting; each features some different aspect of the park.

None of us had ever been to Montana, so we took the north entrance out of the park into Gardiner. On the way, we saw several cars parked alongside the road. I didn't mention it before, but this is always a clue to stop and find out what people are looking at!

Up the steep, rocky slope were a couple of mountain goats. As we watched, four or five kids suddenly appeared. Yes, readers, I did the squealy "Oooh, look, what cute little baties!" thing...but they really are cute as they scamper and leap about.

There isn't a lot in Gardiner, but there is a store with good coffee. Hurray!

We walked around, did a bit of window shopping, and headed back into the park.

Mr. Pickle's not one to waste daylight, and he really wanted to hike up to Beaver Springs. At this point, it was around 4:30, my feet were tired, I was a bit cranky, and I really didn't want to go, so he and DS Pickle took off up the trail while I walked back to our cabin. I took the opportunity to look over the menu at the Mammoth dining room on the way. It felt so good to put on a pair of handknit socks, sit on our cabin's porch, and relax.

The Pickle men weren't gone more than 45 minutes. It started raining a little harder, and the trail was longer and steeper than either of them wanted to tackle. We hung out at the cabin for a bit until everyone was hungry enough for dinner.

Our meal at the Mammoth dining room was our favorite in the park. DS Pickle had trout tacos, Mr. Pickle had lasagna rollups, and I had a really tasty salad with smoked trout, warm goat cheese "croutons," pine nuts, a little bacon, and a big pile of greens. It was all pretty reasonably priced and well prepared.

Rather than head right back to the cabin, we walked over to the hotel and read in the lobby for a while. It's not as spectacular as the Old Faithful Inn, but it's pleasant and well-lit, and the fire felt good.
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Old Jun 13th, 2010, 04:51 PM
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Sounds like a fantastic trip so far, thanks for the report.
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