For a time you zig zag from Idaho into Wyoming before you get into Wyoming proper at a really quirky town of Afton. The main street was very cool with the main town sign made up of a collection of deer antlers. Deer and bear were represented at a load of the places in town. From there you work your way up and through Snake Canyon – a really nice stretch of road – with loads of water activity taking place – rafting, kayaking, fishing. You wind your way through the canyon before dropping down into to the town / city of Jackson – the southern hub to the Wyoming National Parks. We stopped and had a look around – the town still has a lot of the ‘old west’ style about it with it’s buildings and decor – very cool. We loaded ourselves up with info and advice and made for a camping ground up the road – Cros Ventre which translates I’m told to ‘camp by the water’. We had a good talk to some ‘locals’ and headed out in search of some of the wildlife the area is famous for (to date a small snake was the extent of our wildlife locally).
We joined the other wannabe wildlife spotters in completing one of the circuits in the Grand Teton National Park. A nice late afternoon drove yeilded us some Prong-horn Antelope but some wonderful vistas – the Grand Teton’s and the lakes in the area are quite stunning. We headed back to the camp and attended a ranger lecture on ‘bear awareness’. Being the better for it, we still hoped we might spot a bear in the coming days. The following morning we were up and away early and headed out via a back road and were rewarded by coming upon a large herd of Bison slowly wandering across the road, munching as they went – we were very lucky. The early morning vista of the Teton mountain range was stunning – Grand Teton stands at around 13000 ft so a bit bigger then Mt Cook. We stopped at a really nice area called Coulter Lake (this and Jenny’s Lake were both tranquil amazing spaces). From there it’s just a hop skip and a jump out of the Grand Teton NP and across into Yellowstone NP.
We stopped at the first Visitor Centre we came to Grants Village and the ranger team there helped us secure some accommodation for the night and then recommended the ‘Yellowstone must do’s’. First stop was to work up and around to Old Faithful which we timed well (along with the other 1000 or more people) to see it spurt and perform. From there we found a spot and hiked into an area called Fairy Falls – very nice, and the hike puts you in a really good aerial position to see the Grand Prismatic Spring. We then worked our way around to the Grand Canyon Falls area – very impressive, before dropping down to Yellowstone Lake and the Yellowstone Lodge. Our accommodation for the night was near by in a large camping areas at Bridge Bay (something like 400 plus camp sites for tents and RV’s etc.). It was a long day not getting ourselves parked up till after 7pm – knowing we would do it all again or part thereof of the next day.
Thursday turned out to be a quieter day for us – leaving the Bay Camp site we worked north, spotting some elk and bison on the way. We wanted to head to the north of the park which involved crossing Dunraven Pass. It was a good climb up (to around 9000 ft) but a very long windy way down so by the time we made it to Tower Falls we had smoke coming off of the front brakes – a bit hotter than planned. There is a camp site at Tower Falls so we secured ourselves a spot and parked Romin up to ‘cool down’. As we settled into the camp site (much more rustic and smaller than the first night) we were surprised by a large male Bison just wandering up and through the camp. We ended up having a quiet day in the camp and went out later in the day to hike down to the Tower Falls and explore that area.
Friday was another early start – we needed to see some wildlife so we were up and away and made for the Lamar Valley area – along with a load of other early risers it turns out. We were all rewarded with loads of Bison – many of whom decided to loiter on the road making for some slow going at times (that and cars forgetting that they had traffic behind them and stopping when they glanced something). Turned out we weren’t early enough on the road to get a prime spot and so the key bear spotting areas were already full when we got there. We ended up being rewarded with more elk and bison sightings and even came upon a wolf. We left the wildlife spotters to it – long range binoculars seem to be a must) and made our way across the top of the park to the Mammoth Hot Springs area – which doubles as the Park HQ. The hot springs area appeared to be something like I would image the Pink and White Terraces in NZ were before being destroyed by eruption.
Some of the buildings in the Mammoth area are amazing – we passed one area which had elk resting / eating on the front lawn – very cool. With that our National Park adventure draws to a close – from Mammoth it’s a 5 mile run to Gardiner and the Roosevelt Gates which mark the northern most entrance to the park. With that we had also crossed the border into Montana – Yellowstone is a bi unique in that it spans Idaho, Montana and Wyoming – I think 90 percent of the park being in Wyoming. We didn’t spot a bear, and we didn’t see a moose, but we’d taken in some great scenery in this area – let’s see what Montana has to offer.