Cross-Country Trip Day 4: Jackson to Greybull

Today, I bring you many, many videos and photos of Yellowstone. Enjoy!

Another free hotel breakfast then we were on the road to Yellowstone! From Jackson, you can’t see much of the surrounding landscape, but as you drive out, you come up a hill and onto a high plain, and all of a sudden there are the Tetons! They are truly stunning.

Sadly, the photos we took of Grand Teton were all lost in the Great Spontaneous Memory Card Self-Deletion of 2015. What I do have is a few beautiful photos we took of Mount Moran reflected in Jackson Lake.

mount moran

mount moran

We would love to return to Grand Teton for some hiking someday. Not to try to summit any of the Teton Range as those are some crazy, craggy mountains, but just to hike around the area would be awesome.

Once we were into Yellowstone National Park, our first stop was West Thumb on Yellowstone Lake, home to the West Thumb Paint Pots. The ground here, and in the many other similar parts of the park, seems to be alive - mud bubbles, steam spouts steadily out of the ground, and deep, turquoise pools are everywhere. To protect the ground, and the tourists from falling into it, the paths through these areas are all raised boardwalks.

west thumb

hot spring

hot spring

Even though we knew this was the kind of thing we would find in Yellowstone, it took us by surprise just how much of it there is, and how big some of them are. Later in the day, we went to see the Grand Prismatic Spring, which is approximately 300 feet across and is the largest hot spring in the US. The coolest part to us was that the steam rising from it was colored, as well - blue steam rose over the center, and orange steam around the edge.

grand prismatic spring Water pouring from the spring into the river

grand prismatic spring

grand prismatic spring

Nevermind about our 1-hour long accidental hike in trying to get to the Grand Prismatic Spring. And nevermind about the awful sunburn I got that day as a result. I have sworn off spray sunblock after that day. (My dad points out that the higher elevation definitely plays a role here, but I apparently did a lousy job of applying the spray, as I ended up with stripes on my arms).

Next stop after West Thumb was Old Faithful, which really did not disappoint.

As Brendan said, you worry that any played up tourist attraction is going to turn out to be like the Mona Lisa - much smaller than expected, and way too crowded to really enjoy. But Old Faithful was just as cool as we hoped - the water shoots up over 100 feet and it lasts several minutes - and while crowded, it’s big enough that it’s no trouble to get a good view by standing back a ways, or going around the edge to a less crowded area, as we did. It goes off about every hour, but we only waited 5-10 minutes thanks to good timing and killing some time in the gift shop first.

We spent a couple hours next driving the central loop road and stopping at various waterfalls and other short hike sites.

waterfalls

waterfalls

One short hike highlight was a close-up viewing of a bison that was lounging by himself along a stream. We had planned for a longer hike up toward Yellowstone Canyon but found ourselves tired out from our earlier hike and the elevation, so we instead chose to hike down to the top of the Lower Falls on the Yellowstone River for a dramatic view over the cliff and into the canyon.

yellowstone canyon Hashtag no filter

yellowstone falls

yellowstone falls

At this point, it was time to head out of the park, and we felt a bit disappointed at not having seen more wildlife, but we had some hopes because it was now evening - one of the best times for catching the bison and elk out grazing. Sure enough, as we drove away from the Yellowstone River falls, we spotted a bison close to the side of the road, and shortly after that, an adult male elk about 200 feet from the side of the road (close enough to identify easily, but just too far to get a good photo).

bison Hey look, it's some bison.

elk And an elk.

We stopped a couple more times for elk and bison viewing before The Encounter. We were driving out with a river on one side and wooded hill on the other when we suddenly came to a complete stop in the road behind several cars. There, in the center of the road, lumbering along down the yellow line, was a huge bison. As he approached our car, he made a swerve toward the car for a few steps and really freaked us out, but ultimately swerved back and passed by Brendan’s window, close enough that Brendan could have reached out and touched him. It was the quintessential Yellowstone bison encounter. All captured in this rather shaky video:

One final stop to see the Mud Volcano and Dragon's Mouth Spring was definitely video worthy. Turn up your volume to hear the dragon breathe!

The drive out of the park was gorgeous, as well.

hills

lake

The area around Yellowstone Lake is recovering from what must have been a serious fire - it stretches for acres and acres:

We exited through the east entrance and headed out through Shoshone National Forest. The dim light made for poor photos, but the road took us down a mountainside and through red canyons, before coming out to a flatter area around Cody.

canyon

drive out

My dear friend Kathryn is from Cody, so I was happy for the chance to stop in and check it out. I had thought it might be a bit like Jackson, but it is really much more of a real town, though certainly with some frontier-related tourist attractions. It is also much more Wild West feeling than Jackson, which feels more like Colorado.

cody Buffalo Bill Cody's hotel, named for his daughter

We stopped in for dinner but kept moving as it turned out to be too expensive to stay the night there.

Instead, we made it a bit further east to the tiny town of Greybull (named for a white bison that used to live in the area), where we stayed at the rather cool Historic Hotel Greybull. It is exactly as the name says - historic building that used to be a hotel and is now being renovated and reopened. It was a bit shabby and creaky, but a great value, and after a long day, we slept soundly.