Two weeks of National Parks

Old Jun 4th, 2015, 03:20 PM
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Two weeks of National Parks

Namely Yellowstone, Grand Teton, Arches, Canyonlands, and Capitol Reef.

This was quite a journey and a new experience for us since the only major NP we have visited was Yosemite. We set aside May 20-June 2 and just returned.

Me, one month before birthday number 74. Mi Chica, aka DW a couple of weeks shy of her 69th.

We flew from BWI to SLC on a Delta non-stop, the only non-stop from our area. Other than the flight being 3.5 hours late, causing panic among those with connections, most missed, it was smooth. Delta contacted us about the delay, but we were already at the airport by then. Since it was originally a 7 AM flight, we could have used the extra sleep.

We used SLC as a base, driving north to Yellowstone and Grand Teton, and then as a day and a half stopover before going south to Arches, Canyonlands and Capitol Reef. Back up to SLC the late afternoon before our flight home.

Trip weather: For Yellowstone it was overcast when it was not raining - some hale too. Same for Grand Teton except for one day that was only overcast.

Will start with a brief review of where we stayed at each stop.

First night in SLC was at the Crystal Inn and Suites Downtown. Actually on the edge of downtown, but an easy walk. We really liked it there and they serve an excellent fresh and hot breakfast that was several notches above the usual hotel included breakfast. The room was spacious and spotless. We liked it so much that we cancelled our reservations for hotels during our north-south pivot days and our last night and made them at Crystal, although for the last night we stayed at the Crystal Inn in Murray, a suburb of SLC. That last night in Murray, we were upgraded to a suite that was very large with jetted tub in the living room. The only downside to the downtown location was that because there is a shelter nearby, there are some panhandlers a bit up the street hanging around Denny's, but no problem. The Crystal in Murray is in an upscale shopping area and they have a shuttle van to local restaurants. I believe both have shuttles to the airport which is about a 15 minute drive from either one.

From SLC we drove to West Yellowstone where we had a 3 night reservation at the Moose Creek Inn. That was a mistake. The room was tiny. Very. There was only room for one wooden chair, king sized bed and really little or no room for luggage. Calling it basic would be kind. It was clean though. Mi Chica declared on seeing the room (after the hale that greeted us on arrival stopped so she could go in) "We are not staying three nights." I agreed and we didn't. My first task on our Yellowstone portion then was to hunt for a new place to stay, although we did stay at the Moose Creek for the first night. Actually, it was a lucky break. Just around the corner I found the Three Bear (yes , it is singular) Lodge which was very, very nice. Not only that but it included a breakfast voucher in the very good restaurant ( Moose Creek did not include breakfast) and cost less to boot. We enjoyed the Three Bear. The lodge has motel style rooms and rooms in the lodge itself. Our room was a motel type but right next to the lodge. It was quite a good sized room and very clean. Everything worked. There are 3 bears story theme rooms in the lodge itself which we did not see. One is supposed to be huge and has a mini log cabin with bed IN the room. I am told that kids like it.

The town of West Yellowstone exists for the park and for the most part is shut down during the winter. The Three Bear though is year 'round and offers snowmobile trips to the park in winter.

At Grand Teton our two night reservation was at the Alpenhof in Teton Village. There we really lucked out. The Alpenhof is a lovely place modeled after a Swiss Chalet. We arrived a bit early and were given the only room ready at the time which was a beautiful suite. This suite had been the apartment of an owner at one time. It had two bedrooms, two baths, living room and mini kitchen. Furniture was of the painted, flowered type and quite attractive. It was a luxurious 2 nights. The excellent included breakfast was in the Alpenrose restaurant, itself a fine eatery where we had the best dinner of our trip. Some different things about the breakfast is that they serve a homemade muesli (of course) which was the best I have ever had, and unsweetened yogurt which is a nice change from the ubiquitous sweet stuff that I do not care for. The yogurt is a brand called Mountain High, and I wish it was sold in where I live.

Going south to Arches and Canyonlands, we stayed 3 nights at a motel called Bowens in Moab, another town that seems to exist primarily for the parks. Bowens is basic, but decent and has a pool. The motel has large clean rooms with comfortable beds. It is nothing very special, but a decent place to stay with a helpful and friendly staff. Breakfast is not included but there are two very nice breakfast places just down the street. The only negative about the hotel is the creaky floors - consider that atmosphere. Moab is convenient to both Arches and Canyonlands.

Arriving at Capitol Reef, we stayed one night at a place called "The Broken Spur Inn and Steakhouse." The rooms at the Broken Spur are particularly nice. Again, large, clean, and nice decor. The included breakfast was quite good and the restaurant at dinner was excellent, more about that later. The place has a separate indoor pool and would you believe, also a conference center. A rather upscale place belying its name.

Next: Into Yellowstone - A bear, A bear, see the people run!
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Old Jun 4th, 2015, 03:55 PM
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I love Yellowstone and it hailed on me while there also. No bear but plenty of moose and buffalo.

Nice of you not to make your wife stay in that hotel. Glad it worked out well.
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Old Jun 4th, 2015, 04:36 PM
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basingstoke2, I am so pleased to see your trip report. We have a very similar trip planned this fall, so I will look forward to hearing all about your adventure.

We love the Alpenhof! Unfortunately, the routing this time had to give way in a couple of spots and so we won't be able to stay there again. Maybe next time. Three Bear Lodge we have seen, but not stayed as we use our Worldmark timeshare in West Yellowstone.

OK, now bring it on!
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Old Jun 4th, 2015, 04:52 PM
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I'm looking forward to reading this.

Lee Ann
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Old Jun 4th, 2015, 05:18 PM
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I visited Yellowstone for the first time this December and was blown away by its beauty. Because of weather and work, I couldn't take the time to see the other parks. Can't wait to read your impressions. Thanks, dear basingstoke.
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Old Jun 4th, 2015, 06:15 PM
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This has the makings of a very good story.
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Old Jun 4th, 2015, 11:37 PM
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great start to your report, Basingstoke, and thanks for posting the link to it.

my knowledge of US national parks is more or less limited to yogi bear and booboo so you are definitely adding to my education!
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Old Jun 5th, 2015, 01:08 AM
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We loved Yellowstone and the Tetons - looking forward to your story
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Old Jun 5th, 2015, 08:10 PM
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A bear, a bear, see the people run!

West Yellowstone, Montana is as close as you can get to Yellowstone without actually being inside the park. After letting the motel people know we would be cancelling the next 2 nights, we headed off to the park entrance reaching it in about 3 minutes. Question: what may be the best bargain in the USA? Answer: The National Park Senior pass. For a measly $10 a senior (over 62) can buy a pass to all of the NP, NForests, etc., and the pass is good for a lifetime. It admits the senior together with all in the car gratis. What a dea!

OK, it is mandatory to visit Old Faithful, maybe a law. In any case we thought we do it first and get it out of the way first. Driving through the park, we soon got into a traffic jam and for the next ten minutes followed a group of Bison that were walking down the road. Continuing on, we arrived at the old Geyser having passed several interesting looking hot spring areas, fumaroles, and such. These were accessible being surrounded by raised boardwalks.

The rain had stopped and it was cold and windy. There was a good crowd occupying the benches with a view waiting for Old Faithful to pop off. It had last blown about 45 minutes earlier, so it seemed that we would not have to wait more than a half hour, and so it was. Almost exactly a half hour later it the old Geyser decided it could no longer bear the pressure and blew its top. I dutifully recorded the event and we hit the road. It was nice but frankly I liked the geyser area in Iceland more. Because the rain started up again, we decided to stick with the car and drive the southern loop road and perhaps walk a bit if the rain let up to get the lay of the land and a sense of where things are. Yellowstone's road system is formed like a figure eight with a northern and southern loop and a number of offshoots. One can't get lost driving in Yellowstone.

We drove until it began to darken, leaving the car between periods of rain to take photos and try to walk some. We saw many Bison but nothing else in the animal kingdom. We returned to WYellowstone and our one and only night at the Moose Creek Inn.

In the AM, after an OK breakfast in town, we checked into the 3 Bear and headed back to the park. The weather report called for more rain, and there was, but not nearly as much as the day before, so things were looking up. We stuck to the southern loop, saw many more Bison and visited several areas we had noted the day before and hiked some. One of the places was Prismatic Springs, a truly unique sight. The hot spring pools and run off are a myriad of colors - golds, green, pinks, yellows all due to microorganisms, algae, and minerals. I have been processing my photos and the ones taken there look like impressionist paintings. I can't wait to post them.

Driving further we ran into another traffic jam with Rangers directing traffic. This time, no Bison but a herd of people running up a hill. Of course we had to join them, grabbed my camera, and when we got closer we heard cries of "bear, bear" Grizzly!!! Were they (we) running away from the bear? No way, they (we) were running up the hill TOWARD the Grizzly, who thankfully was taking a stroll on the other side of a narrow river and ignoring the folk on the other side. It had started to rain lightly again, but my new camera is weather proofed so no worry. It has a 50X reach and although I did not carry my tripod up the hill I braced the camera best I could and snapped off a few photos before the grizzly vanished into the bush.

Next: Hacking my way through a forest...
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Old Jun 6th, 2015, 04:19 AM
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I'll be in Yellowstone in two weeks(my 2nd time there). Your report has me ready to go.
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Old Jun 6th, 2015, 04:29 AM
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Great trip report! Sounds like a terrific adventure. I look forward to hearing more!
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Old Jun 6th, 2015, 04:58 AM
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funny story, basingstoke, about the people running towards the bear.

I read a detective novel recently set in the Yellowstone National Park so I know about Old Faithful. You say the geyser in Iceland is better? well, I've seen one of them!
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Old Jun 6th, 2015, 08:33 AM
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In general bears are shy and all they want to do is eat berries and prepare for next winter.

Well, they also don't like being surprised and the mothers are very protective of their babies.

Just give them a bit of room and everybody should be happy.

I think you're finding out the difference between staying in the park and outside.

Other than bison, most other wildlife is most active early in the morning and quite late in the afternoon. That means you'd have to be on the road in the dark and take great care not to hit anything.

Yes, Grand Prismatic Spring has amazing colors.

I thought Old Faithful would be a run-of-the-mill consumer sight. I was very pleasantly surprised. Of course, not all eruptions are the same. So if you can see it early in the morning (with the sun behind you) in clear weather, and get a really good eruption it really is amazing.

Great story so far. Can't wait to see the photos.
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Old Jun 6th, 2015, 08:36 AM
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Following along! We leave for our NP trip in 8 days!
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Old Jun 6th, 2015, 01:55 PM
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Hacking my way through a forest....of selfie sticks.

I think that day was "Asian day" at Yellowstone. I swear at least 65% of those there that day and the next were Asian and on that day my guess is Chinese based on the cadence of speech and the word "Lucky" as part of the tour operator name on 2 of the tour buses. We thought that interesting. We also learned that when we went to a site and the buses were there, we would see more selfie sticks in one place than I haver ever seen before. Also I found it interesting that some had some really serious photo equipment - nothing strange about that, Yellowstone seems to be the serious photo equipment capital of the world, but those with the super equipment were always women. Always. I wonder if that is cultural or what - perhaps someone reading this can enlighten me, that is about the women carrying the serious equipment, not the selfie sticks.

Yellowstone is a geothermal extravaganza. Not just in the geothermal designated areas, but the entire park. Fumaroles, hot springs, boiling ponds, and boiling mudholes abound wherever one goes. Many of these are surrounded by areas similar to Prismatic Springs, but on a smaller scale. It is really quite amazing!

We hiked to Artist Point, another colorful thermal area and about a ten minute walk (at our pace). Once there having observed and photographed I walked the steep trail leading to an overlook of what we just saw down below. Mi Chica stayed behind. Once up above I noticed that no one seemed to be looking in any direction but right which gave the view down below. That was a shame because the were a number of interesting areas if one just looked to the left. As I was looking at things up above, it started to rain, so I went down as fast as I could to meet up with my lovely who had taken shelter under a small tree. I made a mental note to leave the car keys with her if I went off without her and we both made mental notes to take our rain ponchos with us even though the rain seemed to have ended when we hit the trail. We never followed through on that last one though.

It was getting toward dinner time and we had heard good things about the dining at Snow Lodge, so we drove there and arrived just in time for a heavy downpour. We arrived just before the dining room opened and it is a very nice place for an upscale sit-down dinner. Mi Chica ordered a vegetarian dish consisting of a portobello mushroom and other veggies stacked upon a polenta cake. She said it was delicious. I had an assortment of 3 different game sausages with red cabbage and mustard and it was very tasty as well.

Finishing dinner, we were able to catch the late afternoon light, the rain having ended, so we revisited Prismatic Springs once again to take advantage of the better light and were rewarded with some beautiful views and photos. With dusk coming on we thought we would drive and stop until dark before returning to 3 Bear. Our reward was, as noted by Myer, with many more animals, nearly all Bison with a female Elk or two, but this time the Bison were out in force with herds on the hillsides. It is a magnificent sight and we had no trouble imagining ourselves in the wild west.

Next: Our favorite sight, 3 bears - real ones this time, and you can't get there from here.
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Old Jun 6th, 2015, 02:45 PM
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This is a great report with lots of very good, helpful information. Thanks for posting!
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Old Jun 6th, 2015, 05:51 PM
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Basingstoke,

Did you have time to see any other geysers? There are SO many. I really love Riverside Geyer and Castle and Grand is amazing, but can be a long wait. It's not a predictable as Old Faithful, duh.
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Old Jun 6th, 2015, 06:30 PM
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Dayle, we were in the areas of the others but Old Faithful is the only one that went off while we were there.
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Old Jun 6th, 2015, 06:48 PM
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There are 5 predicted geysers in the Upper Basin. However, you should never really plan for Old Faithful as it's the easiest to see since it erupts approximately every 90 minutes.

Last summer I took my daughter and granddaughter. We flew into Jackson and arrived around 9PM. The plan was to sleep in Jackson and go to the Old Faithful area the next morning.

When we got to the OF area we checked the predictions. It was amazing that all 5 predicted geysers were scheduled to erupt in a 2 hour period.

Even better, we had enough time between each to see them all. Daisy was late and the last.

We also were fortunate enough to see Beehive Geyser erupt. We were on the boardwalk right beside it when its indicator told us to wait.

Dayle's post brings back memories.

I was in Yellowstone 4 years ago standing in front of an erupting Grand Geyser when my youngest granddaughter was born.

I really like the shape of Castle and the direction across the river of Riverside Geyser.

Basingstoke,

You're weaving a great story. More!!!!
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Old Jun 6th, 2015, 08:49 PM
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I think the hot springs area is more spectacular than Old Faithful - still worth seeing but! The before we were in Yellowstone a hiker was killed by a bear - he was walking with his wife . Some say to carry whistles not sure why??? Whether it's for signaling help or so the bear will choke on it!!!
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