Christian Kemp's USA travelogs

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Sunrise in Grand Teton

Early morning fog at Oxbow Bend Once again, I was up before sunrise. I packed up, and left the campground. The drive to Oxbow Bend was just a short one. The light, unfortunately, wasn't perfect - there was quite a lot of humidity in the air, and as a consequence anything further than a few hundred metres seemed dull and grey.

I had planned to get to Yellowstone - just north of Teton National Park - as fast as possible, so I'd be certain to get a free spot at one of the campgrounds... all the opinions I'd read on different forums and in guidebooks said that it was most prudent to arrive before lunch, or one would risk finding the campgrounds full.

Still, that didn't stop me from pulling over when I saw a buffalo - the first one I'd seen, ever - quietly grauing along the road. It didn't seem too concerned about me watching it from a safe distance - it kept grazing, and only very occasionally even lifted its head.

Around that time, the first rays of sunlight fell on the Tetons. The sky was still mostly covered with clouds, and the mist in the distance hadn't lifted much. I deviated from my planned route, and did a detour South so I could take sunrise pictures at Snake River Overlook. And while the foreground started to be bathed in the warm rays of sun, the background started to get filled by more and more grey clouds coming in over the Tetobs. I took a few pictures, and decided to head on.

Lone buffalo On the way out of the park, I came across some more buffalos - some grazing in the distance, one of them walking on the highway, and a few just grazing next to it - of those, I took pictures out of the passenger window, but still found that they would have their head hidden in the tall grass and shrubs most of the time.

A short time later, I saw several cars pulled off the road, and peeking into the dense undergrowth along the Snake River near Moran Junction. I got out, and got a glimpse of my first moose - or at least parts of it, for it mostly remained hidden behind trees and shrubs. Just a little distance down the road, another moose could be seen lying down behind similar shrubs, and a third one was similarly hidden. Neither one showed any sign of getting closer to my (small reach) lens - and why would they? - so I headed on.

Entering Yellowstone

There was some construction going on inbetween Grand Teton and Yellowstone, with half-hour delays; so I had breakfast in my car while waiting for the road to open back up.

I decided to not tempt my fate, and stopped at the first campground; the one at Lewis Lake. With the need to find a place for the night off my mind - and I probably wouldn't have needed to worry, for there were still plenty of spots left when I arrived - I headed on.

My plan was to first head towards the Old Faithful area. I crossed the Continental Divide twice, went over the 8262ft Craig Pass, saw and photographed some deer, and stopped at Keppler Cascaded on the way; and wasn't too impressed by any of it because it all happened under a dull grey sky with the occasional rain drop falling.

Old Faithful

Old Faithful eruption Near Old Faithful, the narrow road suddenly transformed into a four-lane highway, and the parking lot was huge. There was a panel predicting the approximate time of the next Old Faithful eruption, and I figured that it was wisest to just wait for it, and then visit the other places.

I sat down on one of the benches on the boardwalk that surrounds the geyser, and setup my tripod. I was one of the first people to arrive, which at least meant I was at liberty to find a decent spot (sun behind me, no people visible in front of me).

I waited for around half an hour, maybe more, before the it started spouting water. The hot water got forced out by underground pressure, along with some steam, and I was just about to zoom out some more when the entire spectacle died down, and people started leaving. "This can't be it", I thought. But it turns out it was. Maybe I was still spoiled by the memory of seeing the Strokkur Geysir in Iceland earlier in the year - while its eruption isn't as high, it erupts every few minutes, and you can get much closer. Or maybe this was just another lesson of too much anticipation lessening the experience...

Overall, the eruption probably only lasted around a minute [Googling around tells me it can erupt from inbetween 1.5 to 5.0 minutes duration, and rise to inbetween 90 and 184 feet.]

I had some time to kill before lunch, so I walked around Geyser Hill for a while. It is home to an antire range of smaller geysers and springs. Some of the former would bubble constantly, others in short intervals, while the latter were smooth and quiet. Colours range from all shades of grey, to black, rusty red, brow.

I had a quick lunch at Old Faithful, and then headed on to the nearby Black Sand Basin. This is home to Cliff Geyser.

My next stop was Biscuit Basin. Both basins were lying against a backdrop of a volcanic bench; and were in stark contrast to the threatening rain clouds hanging overhead, ripe with rain.

While it started raining, I stumbled upon some more deer; and then headed further up the road to my next stop, Midway Geyser Basin. I did some hiking there, but quickly found out that my knees still were not cooperating.

Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone

Lower Falls Instead, I got in the car, and headed towards the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. While it's not as big as Arizona's Grand Canyon, it's still impressive. Its depth varies from 800 to 1200 feet, and is between 1500 and 4000 feet wide. Its length is about 24 miles.

I stopped at Inspiration Point, Grand View, Lookout Point, and then made the very short 1/8 mile hike to the Brink of Upper Falls, which is all my knees would allow. My last stop was Artist Point.

On the way back to my campsite in the southwestern part of the park, I passed Hayden Valley. I saw some cars that had pulled over, and when I did the same I saw some buffalo in the distance. A short walk away from the road revealed there were some more further away. Unfortunately, my 24-70mm lens didn't have much reach, so I didn't get any close-up pictures - and I certainly didn't want to be steamrolled by one of them by getting to close.

Further along the road, I still briefly stopped at Sulphur Caldron and Mud Volcano, the former being one of the more evil-smelling places I've been to. Mud Volcano is also home to Dragon's Mouth Spring, a cave out of which steam and a rumbling sound come out not unlike a dragon's mouth.

Miles driven: 201mi (323km)

Campground Accommodation: Lewis Lake campground (Yellowstone National Park, WY): $12