When we left the Escapees Escapade RV rally in Gillette, Wyoming on Sept. 4 we had different options on which route to take. We had no commitments until late September when we need to be in Albuquerque, NM to host 40 Boomer rigs for the ABQ International Balloon Fiesta for two weeks.
After glancing at the map we decided to head west and then drop down south to visit Yellowstone National Park and the Grand Tetons. We were here many years ago (1975?) and then again a few years ago. Over those many years, things have changed – or at least our memories of those stops – and not all for the good.
The saddest part of visiting this area has been seeing the devastation caused by wildland fires. I understand that fire is a natural part of the ecology system (see this link to view the Wildland Fire Management Plan), but it is still sad to see how much of this huge park is blackened. Yes, natural seeding is rebuilding the forests, but, after 25 years since the huge fire here, the trees are still years from being full grown.
Yes, there was devastation, but there was still lots of beauty in them thar’ hills, valleys, meadows, and lakes…
I love waterfalls and I did get to photograph a number of them.
Undine Falls near the north end of the park, about 4 miles east of Mammoth Hot Springs. It flows into Lava Creek.
Lewis Falls, about halfway between Grant Village and the South Entrance.
Lakes, Rivers, and Meadows
I don’t have all the names of these places, but they begged to have their photos taken:
ON THE ROCKS
Cliffs and mountain vistas are also favorite photo subjects for me…
GEYSERS AND OTHER YELLOWSTONE ATTRACTIONS
On previous visits to the parks we took the time to visit Yellowstone’s other major attractions – the geysers, mud pots, and natural springs. This trip we limited ourselves to just “drive-bys”.
ABOUT OUR STAY
I probably should have stated at the beginning that this was just going to be a short, two-day stay for us and our touring would be by car, not much on foot. We did get to drive most of the park’s major roadways (we missed from Canyon, Fishing Bridge, down to West Thumb). We also took an evening drive to look for wildlife (see below).
When we stayed near the West Entrance a few years ago we paid the high commercial campground rates to be in West Yellowstone. We also learned back then that there was a popular nearby Forest Service campground that had electrical hook-ups available on a first-come basis. To increase our chances of getting into a park without reservations, we opted to arrive on Labor Day when the “campers” would be heading back to work and/or school. The strategy worked and there were plenty of sites. We were able to get an electrical hook-up at Bakers Hole for just $14 per night with Luke’s Golden Age Pass. BTW, that pass also allowed daily FREE entry into Yellowstone NP.
Rather than touring the loop from Madison to Old Faithful by car, we opted to use that route with the motorhome and toad to exit via the Southern Entrance towards Grand Tetons NP and Jackson, Wyoming.
As you leave Yellowstone, the highway gets a name: John D. Rockefeller Memorial Parkway. Maps show this road co-numbered as US 89, 191, and 287.
GROS VENTRE AND JACKSON
As with our stay in Yellowstone, we wanted to stay away from the congested commercial parks near Coulter Bay so we opted to stay at the Gros Ventre Campground located about 10 miles north of Jackson. We wanted a space where we could use our DirecTV satellite (Go SF Giants!), so they placed us in their “A Loop”. Length of the sites maxed–out at 42-feet, which normally would have been sufficient, but they used large logs to mark the end of their parking pad and to keep the RV from rolling down into a drop-off area. We were able to get the rig in, but they suggested parking our toad in a neighboring space. Not a big deal since we went out touring once we got settled. We also had a “view” lot.
We have actually learned to read maps in our many years of extended traveling. If you asked us 30 years ago if we had been to Jackson Hole, WY we would have said “yes”. But, as it turned out, we actually missed the village of “Jackson Hole” and have visited the town of “Jackson, WY” on all three of our visits to this area. Yes, we definitely saw the Grand Teton Mountains, but we never took the Jenny Lake route through the Jackson Hole tourist area. Next time when our schedule permits.
Once we settled into our campground space we headed south past the National Elk Preserve (didn’t see any live Elk), past the local art museum’s elk sculptures, and toured the town of Jackson. (We actually went beyond the town to see where the truck route would take us to Idaho the next day.)
They also like antlers in this town. Two of the many antler archways in Jackson.
We saw some wildlife during our short time in Yellowstone, but nothing spectacular. Pronghorn and bison herds were visible across the meadows and we spotted a couple of moose in the ponds adjoining the interior roadways.
Mule deer provided the only “up close” photo opportunity during our evening wildlife viewing drive. The one above on the right was “shouting” at the onlookers.
-- GRAND TETONS…
The only live critters we saw on this leg of our trip were a Moose cow and her calf lying in the grass just below a pull-out along the Gros Ventre River. She wasn’t posing for the many cameras pointed at her, but that’s okay. The “bull moose” was across the river but stayed out of camera range. (We never saw a bull moose during our Alaska trip and I really hoped to see this one a little closer-up – but not too close! I did get a glimpse of him as he trotted off into the bushes.)
NEXT: DRIVING WYOMING TO CALIFORNIA