Yellowstone National Park South Entrance to Canyons

by - July 10, 2018

After our breakfast cruise, we packed up our rooms and checked out of the Tetons to head to Yellowstone. The weather changed on us, and I was suddenly thankful I'd packed two umbrellas and ponchos as well as warm jackets. The rivers were swollen to levels that my dad had never seen. We didn't let the weather get us down ... just a little wet. With six hours between check-out from Jackson Lake Lodge and check-in at Canyons Lodge, and just over a two hour drive, we leisurely worked our way up 191 and Grand Loop Road. There was still snow on the side of the road at the higher elevations, which was an unusual site for a group of southerners in the middle of June.

Moose Falls on Crawfish Creek was yet another place we didn't see a moose. We did see a lovely waterfall.

At a bathroom stop, we came across a pair of elk and subsequently were fussed at by a ranger for pulling off on the side of the entrance to a campground. I was out of the car snapping pictures, and I was probably too close. When the elk raised his head and looked at my squarely in the eyes, I had to catch my breath. The elk still had velvet antlers and some of their winter coat. Aaaand a month ago I never would have used the term "velvet antlers" because I wasn't familiar with the term. The best part of travel is all the learning that happens. We were one of many cars of tourists freaking out over wildlife, and after that we quickly learned our manners in the park and stuck to pullouts for snapping photographs.

West Thumb was our first foray into the hydrothermal features of Yellowstone. It was rainy and gray and we did it anyway.

Below, Wookie stands in front of Black Pool. We could feel the heat coming off the pools, and there was low mist all around. I've read that the color brilliance of these features is better in the sun, but the colors were still gorgeous. I originally thought the colors were due to the elements in the water, but they are more closely tied to the organisms living in the water, which is dictated by the water temperature. 

"Black Pool: At one time, Black Pool really was black. Lower water temperatures allowed thick mats of dark and brown thermophiles to grow in the pool, causing it to appear black. The water temperature rose during the summer of 1991, killing the organisms. Black Pool also erupted that summer and several times the following winter. Black Pool is now a quiet and beautiful pool."

The water temperature can change due to natural occurrences, but there is also research showing that humans have altered the features with trash. It was sad reading that some of the geysers no longer erupted due to being clogged with trash.

LeHardys Rapids were so impressive! The water was really moving. We parked at a pullout below the rapids and walked up a wet trail to a couple overlooks. The strangest site we saw was a dead cow under the water snagged on a branch at the bank. My question is - where was the bear? Supposedly in Yellowstone, a meal is never wasted. We watched a documentary where I grizzly was guarding a carcass from all the other critters who were inching in for a bite. Also, was it really a cow? What was a cow doing in Yellowstone? We didn't inspect too closely.

We pulled off the side of the road in a crowded parking lot of Mud Volcano Area, and wafts of sulfur and steam were blowing from the surrounding pits and springs. This was so smelly, we could still smell it on our clothes when we finally checked in to our hotel that evening. There was no end to the "Who did that?" jokes. There was a lower area near the parking lot, and a paved loop going up an incline lined with fallen trees where there were more hot springs and pools. 

I do love the rolling hills of Yellowstone. They almost seemed like a canvas for the bison and wildlife for those cars driving by. These vistas could be deceiving. For what we view from the road, there were thousands of square miles we couldn't see. 

The final stop, Artist Point, overlooks Yellowstone Falls in the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. The pictures I took don't do justice to the vivid colors of the canyon walls. This was also the most crowded spot we had been to so far. It was one of those spots where you had to bump shoulders and nudge yourself up to the rail to get a good view. 

I may have to come back and edit this post later to add other details I remember. It was a very busy day! Joe joked that this would read, "And then... and then... and then..."

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