Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks

Our time in Cody, Wyoming included a day-trip to Yellowstone.  The 50-mile trip from Cody to Yellowstone -- the Buffalo Bill Cody Scenic Highway -- takes you through some of the most beautiful country in Wyoming.

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1--Double tunnels at the Buffalo Bill Dam; 2 -- Buffalo Bill Dam;  3-Buffalo Bill Reservoir;  4--Th
is rock formation has been compared to the Jerusalem skyline;  5--Eroded rock formations along the Snake River; Check out the "peephole" along the top of the ridge;  6--Snake River within Shoshone National Forest.

The Shoshone National Forest was established in 1891 as the first National Forest by President Benjamin Harrison.  It covers 2.5 million areas with over a million acres of wilderness and three mountain ranges.

When we visited Yellowstone in the Spring, we were unable to explore the central and southern areas of the park due to seasonal road closures and snow.  We wanted to be able to stay within the park at one of the campgrounds so checked out the full-hookup campground -- Fishing Bridge -- and found out that sites were available.  Fishing Bridge is located on the Northeast shores of Yellowstone Lake and It didn't take us long to change plans and move into the Park for five days.  

We have attempted to highlight the sights of Yellowstone.  Unless you have visited this National Park, you cannot imagine the beauty and grandeur at every turn of the road.  For us, spending two weeks in Yellowstone -- one in the Spring and one in late Summer -- was the best "back to nature" experience of our trip.  We observed Grizzly bears on both "first days" and saw snow during both seasons.  In the Spring it snowed 2-3 inches and in late Summer, it snowed 2 inches at 8200 feet in Sylvan Pass (our campsite was at 8000 feet).  The snow in August is not unusual.  As a matter of fact, a Yellowstone tradition is to celebrate Christmas in August.  Years ago, visitors were trapped for days in the Old Faithful Lodge due to an unexpected blizzard.  In order to pass the time, they organized a Christmas Party. . .thus, Christmas in August is now celebrated in all of the Lodge areas and campgrounds within Yellowstone.


Wildflowers and Grasses

The wildflowers were amazing!  The color was everywhere even in late August. 

Yellowstone National Park -- The first National Park established in 1872.

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1--East Gate
2--Museum of the National Park Ranger -- Norris. 
The Museum of the National Park Ranger houses some wonderful artifacts representing life for the early Park Rangers.  The Museum is staffed by Retired Rangers who volunteer their time for two weeks each summer so that there is no cost to the Park to maintain the Museum.
3 -- Rock Avalanche Along the Snake River
4--The Continental Divide winds through the Park -- this is the second highest point accessible by road
5--Lewis Falls (Southern edge of the Caldera). 
Water falls are an indication of past (and or future) seismic activity.  
6 -- Gibbon River near Virginia Cascade
7 -- Snowsled. 
Snowsleds like this one are used almost exclusively to get around in the Park in the Winter.  As much of the Park is closed to vehicles in the Winter, Guide companies offer tours to Visitors and use this snowsled as the "tour bus."
8 -- Wildlife on the Road Placard
9 -- Yellowstone Lake between Fishing Bridge and West Thumb (southbound)
10 -- Yellowstone Lake between Fishing Bridge and West Thumb (northbound)
11--Meadow in the Winter between Mammoth Hot Springs and Tower-Roosevelt (northern Park)
12--Rainbow over Yellowstone Lake


Grizzly Bears

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1--Female Grizzly
2--Grizzly Cub (born in Spring of 2004)
3--Female & Cub Crossing Road.  Notice the dark panel along the right of the picture -- that's the passenger side of our Jeep
4--Momma peering through woods
5--Male Grizzly observed in April 2004 between Madison and Old Faithful
6 -- Warning

Our Summer Grizzly encounter took place during our day trip to Yellowstone from Cody.  We had just cleared the construction area along Sylvan Lake and came upon a traffic jam.  In Yellowstone -- cars pulled over and people out of their care -- that usually means a Bison or Elk sighting.  We slowed down and were going to drive through when we were stopped by a Ranger to let 30+ people scatter back to their cars.  It turned out to be a this Cow Grizzly and her new cub.   Where the people were standing cleared quickly and Ron took advantage of the opening and pulled over.  The Ranger was telling everyone to "WALK TO THEIR CARS AND ROLL UP THE WINDOWS."  We originally thought that the bears were up in the woods and had simply started moving toward the road.  We were surprised to realize that they were, in fact, almost to the road and standing not more than 15 feet off the back bumper of the Jeep.  I was in the passenger seat snapping pictures as fast as I could.    The mother moved to the edge of the road, turned and bawled at the cub.  When the cub caught up to her, she turned, looked both ways -- up and down the road -- and then moved across the road into the woods and meadow on the other side.  We spent another two or three hours in the park and on our way out, got caught up in another traffic jam in the same area only to learn that people were watching the same Grizzly and her cub.   This time they were down in the pasture -- several hundred yards away from the road.  If you look closely through the trees in Photo 4, you can see the Momma.  The Ranger told us that this bear and her cub had actually migrated five or six miles East from her usual habitat area probably due to the construction in Sylvan Pass.   Grizzly sightings in Yellowstone are becoming rare as the bear population has decreased.  We felt very fortunate to have seen Grizzlies twice -- once in the Spring and once in the late Summer.

Remember our encounter in April was from a distance of 300 yards not 10 feet!  We witnessed a male Grizzly feeding on an Elk kill.  A Wolf pack brought down the Elk and the Grizzly stole the kill for himself.  That sighting was just as incredible as this one because we witnessed him feeding, moving into the nearby creek to "wash his paws" and then crawl up onto the bank to take a nap.  We have met folks who travel through Yellowstone multiple times a year and have never seen a live bear in the park.  So you have to realize now lucky we feel having seen Grizzlies on the first day of two separate trips into Yellowstone..  

Birds and Waterfowl

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The Osprey in Photos 1 and 2 were spotted by accident.  We like to explore roads in the National Parks that are less traveled -- usually unmarked and gravel.  We spotted the nest on this exact kind of road in Grand Teton National Park.   We realized that there were chicks in the nest because we watched the parent "sharing food" down into the center of the nest.  Look closely at Photo 2 -- the second Osprey is perched at the end of what appears to be the trunk of this damaged tree.  We stopped to watch and take pictures and both birds were watching us very carefully.  In fact, the Osprey in the nest was squawking very loudly as a warning that we were not welcome.

3--Bald Eagle perched along the Yellowstone River in the Hayden Valley between Fishing Bridge and Cannon Village.
4--Momma Duck and her ducklings on Yellowstone Lake.
5--Ducklings swimming upstream in a rapids area of the Lewis River just below Lewis Falls.  Lewis Falls is on the southern edge of the caldera and flows into the Lewis River.  It had rained the previous two days so the waters were high and running swift.  These ducks swam upstream with such precision -- staying together -- to a calm alcove in the river. 
6-- Canadian Goose
7 -- Trumpeteer Swans
8--Unknown.  I haven't located pictures of this bird to make a positive identification but it appears to be a Crane of some type.


Bison and Elk

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1 -- Can you pick out the Bison?  This guy was "rubbing" his horns on the trees.  The Bison are in rut (mating season) in August.  This would be our equivalent of preening for a date.

2 -- Tourist, make my day!  The Bison roam Yellowstone at will.  In many areas, the roadway actually was built along the Bison migration paths.  You will find them walking right down the middle of the road and "daring" you to advance until they have moved.  This guy stared us down, moved within a couple inches of the Jeep and then walked away.

3 -- This is the herd as it continued to roam past the Jeep.

4 -- These warning signs are all over the park yet every year several people are gored by Bison when they get too close and the animals become threatened and rush.  Many people get so excited when they see their first Bison or Elk in Yellowstone (and we did too on our first day into the Park) that they are seeing "a rare and endangered" animal.  In some ways they are; however, in Yellowstone the Bison and Elk herds number in the thousands and it becomes a challenge to be able to sight other wildlife.

5 -- Buffalo herd in the Hayden Valley in August.

6 -- We visited and toured the Ranger Museum at Norris and found three Bull Elk simply laying down in a pasture along Gibbon River "posing" for pictures.  This one in particular had a beautiful rack and was probably one we had seen in the spring when the racks were smaller and still in Velvet.   Because the wildlife in Yellowstone are not threatened, other than by natural predators, they have little fear of humans.   These Elk were within 15 yards of the river and were permitting people to come as close as the opposite bank of the river -- probably another 15 yards.  They never bolted; just moved their heads from time to time as if posing for pictures.

Elk are the 2nd largest deer family members and predominantly reside in high, open mountain meadows in summer and lower, wooded areas in winter. Elk are nocturnal animals that graze on woody vegetation and lichen.  Their main predators are wolves and Grizzly bear.  The babies are also threatened by Golden Eagles.

6 -- Elk Nursery:  This was a herd of what appeared to be fairly young Elk so I named it the nursery.

7 -- This Elk was spotted along the road between Madison and Old Faithful.  He was traveling alone -- grazing and rubbing as necessary. 

8-- Warning placard

9 -- Young Elk -- Spring of 2004.  This is what the Elk Antlers looked like in the Spring compared to those in Photo 6.

10 --  I mentioned above about velvet.  "Velvet" is the down-like covering found on antlers to protect them while they are growing.  The Elk will eventually rub their antlers against trees to remove the velvet and strengthen and sharpen their antlers.  This is a grove of trees at Norris close to the Gibbon River.  

Other Mammals

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1 -- Pika.  We spotted this Pika on the rocks along the Snake River.  All we saw was movement and finally this little guy stopped long enough to get a picture.  The Pika is a small, tailless animal and is found in the mountain regions.   They are active during the day, appearing in early morning and disappearing into its grass-lined nest, hidden in rock crevices, shortly after sunset.  The Pika spends considerable time sunning itself on a favorite lookout rock, against which its ‘salt-and-pepper’ coat is difficult to distinguish.   Remaining active throughout the winter under the snow, the Pika subsists on stacks of cured grasses and sedges which it stockpiles during the summer months.   Natural predators are eagles, hawks, bears and foxes.

2 -- Coyote:  Yellowstone's coyotes are among the largest coyotes in the United States; adults average about 30 lbs. and some weigh around 40 lbs. We watched a pair of Coyotes in a meadow between Norris and Madison.  This animal moved across the meadow toward the Gibbon River while the other ran to take shelter along the timber line. 

3 -- Gray Wolf.  In 1973, the Rocky Mountain gray wolf was placed on the endangered species list.  In 1995, fourteen wild wolves were relocated to Yellowstone's Lamar Valley from Canada.   In 1996, an additional seventeen wolves were relocated.  According to the Wildlife Service, the reintroduction of wolves into the Yellowstone eco-system was successful.  Within six years, the population had grown to around 270.  Today, wolf packs have migrated to areas south of Yellowstone including Grand Teton National Park and Jackson Hole, Wyoming.

Geysers and Hot Springs

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1 -- West Thumb Geyser Basin viewed across Yellowstone Lake; 2 -- West Thumb Fumeroles; 3 -- West Thumb Geyser Basin; 4 -- White Dome Geyser -- Midway Geyser Basin between Madison and Old Faithful

There are many geysers and hot springs right along the edge of Yellowstone Lake as well as the rivers that run through the Park.  Interestingly enough, even with all the hot, thermal water running into the Lake, the average temperature in the summer is 45 degrees.  Anyone for a quick tip in the lake????

 Old Faithful

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1 -- Old Faithful;  2 -- Old Faithful Lodge.  The Lodge is celebrating its 100th Anniversary in 2004!
3 -- Old Geezer visits Old Geyser


Grand Teton National Park

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1 -- View of Grand Teton from bank of Jenny Lake; 2 -- Grand Teton from along the park road;  3 -- Mt. Moran.  Notice the glacier in the middle;  4 -- Jenny Lake Shoreline;  5 -- Jenny Lake (looking down the lake embankment);  The 45º water is so clean and clear.  This picture was taken from 50 feet up the embankment.  6 -- Kayaks on the Snake River;   7 -- Aspen Trees recovering from fire damage;  8 -- Recovering meadow from fire;  9 -- Sunset Over the Tetons;  10 -- Spaulding Lake; 11 -- Rocky Cliffs -- Note the lone tree growing out of the rocks;  12 -- Pasture along the Snake River.  Look closely, there are Elk grazing among the horses;

Moose In Grand Teton National Park


Due to fires in recent years, there are very few Moose left in Yellowstone.  Many have migrated south to the Tetons so we went looking. . .

Around 6:30 pm, we pulled into an observation area along the Snake River where the bank was covered with willow and the water was shallow.   Within ten minutes, more and more cars pulled into this area and along the road.  We soon realized that we had found an area where Moose sightings had occurred within the last week so we waited patiently.  Around 7:00 pm, this large bull Moose walked out of the woods into the water to graze and feed along the river bank.  The antlers were still in velvet and the animal was magnificent.  As we were watching this one, everyone realized that a second Bull was in the woods just to the West on the other side of the river.    

Hogs For Dogs 


We met these folks at the Snake River Overlook in Grand Teton NP.  Check out Max and Bailey in the sidecars.  Hogs for Dogs is a volunteer-based, coalition charity dedicated to supporting people with disabilities and the Assistance Dog community.

This is information contained in the brochure for this great cause:  "The Riders. . .Blaine and Janet Parks, the founders of Hogs For Dogs, have volunteered their time for the seven-month journey across America.  With their two Golden Retrievers, Max and Bailey, riding along in sidecars, the couple will travel on two Harley-Davidson motorcycles to raise awareness and financial support for Assistance and Guide Dog organizations that provide services to individuals with disabilities involving sight, hearing and mobility."  Their trip started in Raleigh, NC and they will travel more than 25,000 miles criss-crossing the lower 48 states between May and November, 2004.



Gary's Wildlife Photographs (Photographs by Gary Pumplin)

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1 --  Bear Cub near Roosevelt Lodge
2 -- Golden Eagles and Chick
3 --  Moose in yellowstone
4 -- Grebe and chick -- Benton NWR
5 -- Pair of Bald Eagles with Chicks (May 2004)

During our visit to Yellowstone in the Spring, we met a photographer near the Eagle Nest.  We spent probably three hours observing the Eagles and chatting with Gary.  He is fortunate to be able to spend much of his time observing and photographing wildlife in and around Yellowstone.  We have kept in touch with him all summer through eMail and look forward to his messages because they always have unique wildlife photos attached. These five photographs are from his portfolio.

Gary is the person who kept us up to date on activity in the Bald Eagles nest.  When we first observed the Eagles' nest, the parents were still sitting on eggs.  Several days later, and while we were still in the Park, the eggs had hatched.  The chicks were too small and down in the nest to see them but the habits of the Eagles had changed and you could tell that "something" was being fed in the bottom of the next.  Photograph 5 above was taken by Gary just days before a wind and rain storm caused the bottom of the nest to collapse.  The baby Eagles were unfortunately killed.