Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Where has Mike been?

I know it's been a while. I've been on vacation in Yellowstone/Grand Teton National Parks. Sorry I didn't announce ahead of time, but I don't feel comfortable announcing on the Interwebs that my house is empty and ready for burgling.

It was an awesome vacation. If either of you readers are considering it, I would highly recommend it. We flew into Jackson Hole airport, rented n SUV and drove north, through the elk refuge and into Grand Teton National Park. If you enjoy fishing, boating, hiking, fantastic scenery and wildlife, Grand Teton is the place to be. There are a number of great places to stay, and the people were super nice. The weather was great too, with sunshine every day and daytime temperatures in the 70s (and nighttime temperatures in the 30s).

Yellowstone is, of course, the "first and best" national park. Established in 1872 it is literally the first national park in the world (according to the park rangers). There are a lot of different types of terrain in the park. In the southwest is the famous Old Faithful geyser basin, where steam and water shoot from the barren ground. The ground is level and paved walks or boardwalks make for easy viewing, but the sheer size of the geyser basin makes it a long day. The General Store has 16 delicious flavors of ice cream to cool off after that walk, and the Old Faithful Inn is a building that has to be seen. The lobby is simply amazing.

To the east of that is Yellowstone lake, the largest high altitude lake in North America (according to the park rangers). It is huge and beautiful (but chilly). Driving north we got to Hayden Valley, home to many of the parks 3500 bison. We continued on to the stunningly beautiful Yellowstone canyon and its waterfalls. Much of the canyon can be seen from the road or a very short walk. Being more adventurous, we walked the 328 steps down the trail 3/4 of the way down the waterfall for an even more gorgeous scene. Sadly, we had to walk back up the 328 steps.

Continuing on we reached Tower Roosevelt and Tower falls. Smaller than Yellowstone falls, but a shorter hike to the bottom. Heading west, we went to Mammoth Hot Springs, where water has created huge terraced structures of stone. Heading south brought us to Sheepeater cliff, which is a weird landscape of tumbled basalt columns. The cliff is named for the Shoshone, who made good use of the local big horn sheep. A short drive south brought us to Roaring Mountain, which is a hillside peppered with fumaroles (steam vents) that make a roaring sound.

Lastly, we visited Norris geyser basin. While not as famous as the Old Faithful basin, there are some beautiful colors and features to see, including Steamboat geyser, which I am told is the highest shooting geyser in the world. Of course, we didn't see it erupt, as it only erupts every one to fifty years, and the last eruption was in 2005. However, it did "spit" water as we watched, which was cool.

Of course we stopped at numerous roadside turnoffs to see other site, and wildlife. A couple of cool places were the Chapel of the Transfiguration and the Chapel of the Sacred Heart. These are both log buildings in Grand Teton Park, set in the mountains, with beautiful scenery all around. I wished I could have stayed for mass at the Chapel of the Sacred Heart, but we had a flight home, and had to get back to Jackson Hole.

Several of my experiences in the parks gave me ideas for future blog posts, which I will write as time permits. Hopefully that will be soon. I also have lots of photos, which I will eventually post for your viewing pleasure.


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