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Trip Report Trip Report - Yellowstone & Grand Tetons National Parks - July 18-25, 2014

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Three years ago I took my daughter and then 4 year old granddaughter to Yosemite National Park. Last June my granddaughter asked her mother if we’ll ever go on another of grandpa’s trips. I immediately booked lodging in Yellowstone and Grand Tetons; One night at Old Faithful, three nights in Canyon and two nights at Signal Mountain Lodge.

During the year between booking the lodging and the actual trip I told them about things I did on my last visit to YNP & GTNP in 2010. I told them about the Mt Washburn hike and that I didn’t expect to do it again. Well, the next time I saw them my granddaughter told me that she wanted to try that hike. Always looking for a challenge. She also decided that she didn’t want to take part in the Jr Ranger Program. I guess at seven she’s too old.

I tried to plan activities and sights that would interest all but mostly my granddaughter. Thermal features, waterfalls, hiking, wildlife. All three of us are photographers. My granddaughter even has her own DSLR camera. I had an extra telephoto lens so I took it along.

We arrived in Jackson around 8PM. The Alamo shuttle took us to their Jackson office that’s located right near Albertsons where we picked up breakfast and lunch supplies.

We stayed the night at the Ranch Inn on Pearl street. The location was convenient to get to from Albertsons and then the next morning to the road into the parks.

I planned to break up the drive to Old Faithful and the Upper Geyser Basin with a few scenery stops.

We stopped at the Mormon Row Barns, Schwabacher Landing and Oxbow Bend. Along the way we saw a roadside herd of bison that decided to cross the highway right in front of us. A good introduction to the parks. We phoned one of the lodges in the Old Faithful area and asked for predicted geyser eruption times.

We got to the Old Faithful area around 1PM and immediately walked over to Old Faithful as it was starting to erupt. That was a very rare day. All five predicted geysers were predicted to erupt within a 2 ½ hour period. We walked the full length of the Upper Geyser Basin to Morning Glory and its spectacular colors. We saw all of the predicted geysers erupt except for Daisy that appeared to be taking its time. It’s amazing how geyser eruptions are the same and yet so different. The scenery near Castle Geyser was even dressed up with a bison.

The next morning we went on a much shorter walk around Geyser Loop and met a woman who’s been renting a summer place in West Yellowstone for the past 10 years. Her hobby is watching geysers and she told us that the Beehive Geyser Indicator was spouting so we could expect an eruption double the height of OF’s within ten minutes. That was spectacular.

We then began to make our way over to Canyon. We stopped at the Fairy Falls trailhead. My intention was to hike as far as Grand Prismatic Spring and go up the hill for an elevated view of GPS. We stopped at a spot with an unobstructed view. My granddaughter wanted to go higher. She went a little higher but never found a better view.

When we got back down to the bottom, she decided we should do the rest of the hike to Fairy Falls. Fairy Falls is a lot more impressive than I thought it would be.

After returning to the car we drove to the GPS parking lot and walked around the boardwalk to see those colors up close. Impressive colors even though the view isn’t as good as up the hill.

We checked into Canyon in time for dinner and decided to eat at the full-service restaurant. Not a very good experience. We decided to go to the ice cream parlor for dessert and backed up plumbing resulted in another not very good experience.

We walked over to the general store that has a snack bar with counter seating. It was after closing time (8:30) so we bought a bucket of ice cream, sat down and shared it. The snack bar satisfied us for the next two evenings.

The plan for the next day was the Mt Washburn hike. Just as we got there around 10AM it started to drizzle. My daughter decided we’d do the hike the next day. We then drove up to Lamar Valley to photograph some bison close up. After a picnic lunch at the Yellowstone Picnic Area we headed down towards Canyon and saw about 30 ewes (female counterpart to bighorn sheep). We pulled over and jumped out of the car. I then heard what was to become a common request. “Grandpa, put on the longer lens”. Of course, my granddaughter wanted to climb the hill to get closer shake hands and introduce herself. We got a bunch of great photos.

When we got to the Mt Washburn Dunraven Pass trailhead we pulled into the parking lot. It was around 2PM and we were debating whether we should start the hike then. We saw some people who started when we were there in the morning. They said it never rained on them and was pretty nice. We decided to go for it.

About halfway up the clouds started rolling in and so did the thunder. Then some hail. It wasn’t too bad and we made it to the ranger station at the top just in time. It started to pour and that lasted about an hour. When it stopped we got into our rain gear and started the hike down. It poured on us just about the whole way down. We got back to the Canyon snack bar a little before 8 with more than enough time for some dinner. We were chilled and frozen. But those few hours were the only bad weather, cold or clouds we experienced on the whole trip. And my 7 year old granddaughter conquered Mt Washburn.

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