On our second day we decided to take the detour down to Grand Teton National Park. While Yellowstone is an incredibly unique park, it is somewhat lacking in the traditional National Park beauty that I’ve become accustomed to. Grand Teton makes up for that with huge craggy peaks and deep lakes. This time of year the aspens are glittering with golden leaves. By the end of the day the once clear sky was filled with a singular huge puffy cloud that glowed from the setting sun.
In the Tetons we saw antelope grazing in the plains and we caught a glimpse of a moose in a valley, although we joked later that the park might have just stuck a taxidermied head behind the bush and we wouldn’t have known the difference. We hiked up to Hidden Falls on a nice trail around Lake Jenny. It’s always more fulfilling to have something to strive for at the end of the path and the falls are lovely and cool and well worth the effort.
For the remainder of the week we explore Yellowstone. We went on two ranger-led hikes and learned quite a lot on the history of the park and the behavior of the animals. I think everything I‘ve related we learned on those hikes, plus lots of facts about bears. We saw a Great Grey Owl on the first ranger-led hike which we started early on a chilly morning. Another day we climbed to the top of Mt. Washburn for panoramic views of the entire park with the Tetons visible in the distance. Before heading back down a ranger casually asks us if we saw a bear coming up the path. He tells us in an almost bored tone that “apparently a Grizzly is headed up this way.” Oh, thanks for letting us know. So the hike down is punctuated by me singing and sometimes screeching Imperial March from Star Wars. It makes for good hiking music.
In my opinion the most gorgeous area of the park is the Canyon area, also called the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. The canyon itself is light sandy rock spires with deep rose colored bands bleeding into warm yellows below. And the only thing that could possibly make it better are the powerful and majestic Lower Falls visible from most vantage points. Especially Artist’s Point where both tripod wielding wanna-be professionals and point-and-click digital photographers jockey for position to get the best shot.
My mom and I hike down Uncle Tom’s Trail which takes you to a lower vantage point more than half-way down the canyon to get a closer view of the falls. The more than 300 rusty stairs take you down the side of the canyon and are scary enough without thinking that they used to have a rope system that took early twentieth century tourists to the very bottom of the canyon.