Part 24: West Yellowstone and Jackson Hole, WY


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The Trip

After we completed our hub repair in Helena, MT, we headed south. The plan was to see west Yellowstone National Park and if lucky, spend the night there in one of the campgrounds. From there, we planned to continue south through the Tetons and then spend the night in Jackson Hole, WY. The photos below are what we saw.

This is Ben's "Cheap Jeep" that he let us use while we were in Helena. This rig was part of a "budget build" contest that he and his buddies had in the recent past. As you can see, the body met Mr. Sawz-all to make room for the larger tires. We were instructed to not lock the doors as the key did not work. The paint combined with the interesting tire squeal that was the result of the welded spider gears got us curious, if not disdaining, looks nearly everywhere we went. In Montana, folks know their trucks.

We said goodbye to Ben and Krista and headed south. On the northern flanks of Yellowstone, we passed a large range to the east of our route. The range is the home of the Big Sky ski area, although it is accessed from the other side of the range from our position.

The range was quite high as can be seen from the bald areas above treeline. Just like me, my head is bald and above treeline.

Near the west entrance to Yellowstone Park, we came upon the "earthquake area" that was hit in 1959. The quake caused a big landslide that dammed up the Madison River. The Corps of Engineers did an emergency excavation to unplug the river before it broke on its own accord and flooded large areas downstream. The landslide area, including on the river banks, is clearly visible above.

The water rushes through this channel quite fast and it would be very bad if one were to fall into the water. Likely fatal, I am guessing.

After we got into the park, we came upon this bull elk with his harem.

Just down the meadow, there was another bull with his cows. There were substantial racks on these bulls. And, like I tell Kathleen, "Big Racks Rule!".

One of the many falls on the Madison River.

Another rapid area on the Madison River.

We spent the night at the Madison Junction Camp Ground and it was ok. Nothing special, but it did get quite cold. Cold enough, in fact, for us to fire up the heater. Next morning, in a fog of white, smelly cold-diesel smoke, we departed and headed toward the geyser area and Old Faithful Lodge. Along the way, we spotted a small herd of buffalo right next to the road. Folks were out of their cars and within 15 feet of these bulls despite tons of signs warning against such behavior. Many tourists are gored each year by buffalo so I got this shot from a good distance, just in case.

The geothermal activity of the Geyser Basin area is visible from quite a distance.

This crow clearly knew how to exploit the tourists. He came close begging, but never that close. When I reached into a box of Wheat Thins, for me, he came right to my feet. In the end, he won and I gave him a crumb.

One of the hot pools in the Geyser Basin.

There were plenty of fumaroles in the area, generating great clouds of sulfurous steam.

Some of the vent holes were quite large.

Several of the vents had large jets of steam and water coming from them. Unlike Old Faithful, this activity was continuous. From Geyser Basin, we continued south to the main area around Old Faithful.

The lodge was nice. Very rustic, but with good accommodations. They had an outside seating area allowing viewing of the eruptions of Old Faithful.

The "before" photo. Old Faithful always emits some steam between large eruptions. During these times, the water in the rock drains down toward the heated magma below generating steam.

When sufficient water and steam has accumulated, the geyser erupts. The period between eruptions is determined by the seepage rate of the water in the surrounding rock. When we were there, it was about 90 minutes between events. It was actually very impressive, one of the true natural wonders of the world.

From the main Yellowstone area, we headed south toward the Tetons and Jackson Hole. Kathleen had managed to get a early seating at the only 4 star restaurant in Jackson. The Wild Sage only had 6 tables, so getting a seat at all was lucky. We knew the timetable, so we pointed the mog south and set out at max speed, about 45 mph. The shot above shows some of the fall colors in the brush.

Our path took us along side of Jackson Lake. The Grand Tetons are in the distance on the right of the photo above.

More nice fall colors. The aspen trees were starting to turn color and I am guessing that in a week or so they would be at their peak.

A view of the east shore of Jackson Lake.

The Tetons are massive and very rugged. It was a shame that we were not in the area when the light was more favorable, but things happen.

The ranges to the east of the highway were impressive as well, but nowhere near the height of the Tetons.

We made it in time to find a motel right next to our restaurant. The hotel associated with the restaurant was about $400 a night, and our choice was about 25% of that rate. But, they had a shower and hot water and that was what we wanted. Plus, since they were close, we did not have to drive, thus enabling massive wine consumption. A bottle each pretty much did the trick. The dinner was spectacular and that assessment was made before the second bottle. I cannot recall what Kathleen had, but I had the bison rib eye and it was awesome. After a good night's sleep, we prepared to continue south. But, our progress was blocked by drained batteries. It seems that we forgot to isolate the camper from the truck and left (at least one) piece of equipment on in the mog. The batteries were not fully drained, but since the temperature in the morning was around 30 degrees, starting required a lot of current. So, we fired up the generator to top off the battery array and I sprayed ether into the air intake and we were good to go. Advice to self: double check electrical when stopping for the night. What was interesting was that this was the only time this happened during our 66 day trip and was solely caused by us attempting to hurry to meet our dinner reservation time. Haste, does indeed, make waste.

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Photos and Text Copyright Bill Caid 2008, all rights reserved.
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