Sunday, July 3, 2011

Wild Wild West Part I: Yellowstone and Grand Teton

Grand Teton
A grubby, stinky, and two-shades-darker version of me is back in town! Mr. Lovey and I went on a Wild West type adventure in a few U.S. national parks. We slept  in freezing temperatures. Hiked in 100F weather. Got bitten by more mosquitoes than I'd care to think about. Saw all sorts of creatures, including lions, tigers, and bears, and were surrounded by big sky, clean air, and stunning landscapes. I logged over 1,000 photos on my camera during the trip, and I'll share a few highlights in two parts. Today is Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks.

Yellowstone and Grand Teton are two national parks that are located side by side, however they offer vastly different features. We first went to Grand Teton (above) and saw the Teton mountain range, which was really stunning. The highway drives along these purple-mauve snow capped mountains. My picture does not do it justice. The fields are populated with small shrubs and wildflowers. Some of the flowers were delicate purple (like below), and others were yellow.
Purple flowers in Grand Teton
We then proceeded to Yellowstone national park, which is the nation's oldest national park. There's so much to see in Yellowstone, that it's divided into different villages or stopping points. Each point has almost as much to see as some entire national parks! Some of the coolest features are the geothermal pools (a.k.a. hot springs) that hold scalding water heated by the magma that lies beneath the surface. For those who don't know, Yellowstone is actually the site of a very ancient and enormous volcano; this is why you find geysers and hot springs throughout the park. In fact, in geological time, this volcano is actually due for an explosion. Below you can see one of the first hot springs I saw. I love the contrasting black, yellow, kakhi and aqua. Each color is due to different micro-organisms that favor growing at different temperatures. For example, the blue is due to cyanobacteria that enjoy the deeper hotter water.
Black Pool at West Thumb, Yellowstone
We of course saw Old Faithful erupt. Old Faithful is so-named because it erupts with some regularity (on average every 93 minutes). Near old faithful there are another series of smaller geysers and hot springs. Below is a closeup shot of one of these pools that had such an interesting contrasting color pattern.
Old faithful site, Yellowstone
When you enter Yellowstone, the ranger hands you brochures, one of which emphasizes 1) Do not walk near the hot springs, as they will scald you and 2) Do not approach bison, as many visitors have been gored! In fact, there are signs all over Yellowstone warning about the bison. Bison are the most commonly seen animals in the park; and often are in herds. They're usually grazing quite peacefully; I can see why the warnings are so emphasized; it's easy to forget how fast and powerful they are! I was lucky enough to come relatively close to a herd with calves! You can see the calf has characteristic reddish fur that will turn dark brown over time. You can also see that the mom is in the process of losing her winter coat.
Bison and Calf
The next couple pictures are from Mammoth Hot Springs.  These springs differ from the other hot springs because the type of rock found here is limestone (calcium carbonate I believe) which can form features when dissolved over time, unlike other rocks. For reference, limestone is the type of stone that forms stalactites and stalagmites in caves. You can see the shelved pattern of the pool, due to limestone, in my pictures below.
Mammoth Hot Springs, Yellowstone
Another pictures of Mammoth hot springs. The white is not snow, it's limestone, like I mentioned above.
Mammoth Hot Springs, Yellowstone
This is real snow at our campsite. Apparently it's normal to still have snow at the end of June. Keep that in mind if you're planning on camping at Yellowstone! The nights were around 30 degrees; I wore three layers of pants and five or so tops to stay warm. It's quite shocking if you're not prepared! The only plus side of the snow is that your drinks stay nice and frosty...
Canada dry in snow at campsite

The next two pictures depict the grand canyon of Yellowstone. There are two waterfalls (Upper and Lower) that you can see from multiple viewpoints. Here you can see the water as it just begins to cascade downward. Something I really did not appreciate until seeing these in person was how powerful the water was. It was really awe and fear inspiring.
Top of the lower falls, Yellowstone

This is another view of the canyon, with the same waterfall in the distance. The view is so perfect, that it almost seems cheesy and postcard-like. I had to remind myself that this was real!
Grand Canyon of yellowstone

One area of the park has springs that spew sulfur, which you can imagine smells pretty bad. These regions are not just regular hot springs. They are bubbling and releasing volcanic gas. They have different colors (sometimes putrid) and may have pH as low as 1, due to conversion of hydrogen sulfide to sulfuric acid. Really cool. Below is a closeup shot of one such sulfur spring, which is called Mud Volcano, for the reasons, you can see.
Mud Volcano, Yellowstone
Finally, the pièce de résistance, my grizzly silhouette. Bears sightings are much rarer than bison and we were lucky enough to see this guy/gal our last evening at yellowstone. It's a peaceful shot, however in reality cars were clamoring for a better look and the poor bear was attempting to run away.

Grizzly bear

Thanks for taking a peek at my photos! There will be more soon, from two other parks with drastically different character. If anything, National Parks (and other natural sights) remind me how small we are, and how awe-inspiring nature is. Living in the city, it's easy to lose sight of this.

I'm getting back into the swing of things after living with few amenities. (After sleeping on cold earth for a few nights, even lumpy old motel beds feel like five-star quality). I had a couple peeks at blog posts during those rare moments when cell phone reception existed in the parks, but didn't have the chance to comment extensively. Hopefully I'll catch up over the weekend!

Love, grubby-Dovey.


  1. I love all those places! You took GREAT pictures! Thanks for sharing!

    P.S. I'm also doing a blog post about Yellowstone, the Tetons and Park City next week, but your pics are much nicer than mine!

  2. What a great trip! I love camping, and I know how much work it is. I love your photographs, especially of the cute little critters. Your memories will last a lifetime.

  3. Oh my gosh, your pictures are absolutely amazing! My husband and I would love to go to Yellowstone one day. Camping there must have been great fun!

  4. I have been to Teton long time ago but, somehow that place looks new to me.....due to your wonderful pictures!!

  5. Oh wow! Wonderful pics! Makes me want to check out yellowstone too! But you are not allowed to go intothe pools? It looks so clear

    Anyways, welcome back! :)

  6. Beautiful- just stunning photographs! I loved reading about your trip. Thanks for sharing your adventures with us. xx

  7. WOW yellow stone looks INCREDIBLE through your lens! =D

  8. I would love to take this trip someday, perhaps when my daughter is older (she'll be two in August) to show her what a beautiful country we live in! I felt like I went on this adventure with you with all your amazing photos - thanks! p.s. The photo of the grizzly is my favorite!

  9. Jamilla- How cool! I can't wait to see your post

    Zuzu- thanks for the nice words--- I agree the critter pics are fun--- perhaps because in reality they're hard to come by

    Penelope- I hope you can get there too one day, it's really worth it!

    Mallard duck - thanks =) perhaps it's time to visit again?

    ZZ- thanks- the pools are scalding hot, so I figure you'd probably want to stay away despite their lovely looks =P

    Makeup Merriment - you're welcome =) I'm glad you took the time to read!

    Lilladylife - thanks for the compliment!

    Jenn- Awww, two is such a cute age. I bet you two will go on lots of great adventures in the future!

  10. Love your beautiful vacation photos! I hope to have an opportunity to visit one day - it looks so beautiful! Thanks for posting :)

  11. oh wow, amazing pictures, amazing landscapes.

  12. Wow! Brings back memories of when I went to yellowstone and grand teton with my family! We didn't sleep outdoors though; can't believe how crazy cold it is! Last time I went camping for one night and slept in a tent outdoors, I woke up with my back hurting so badly that I could hardly walk or move. It was pretty pathetic. Thank goodness it faded in an hour or so when I forced myself to get up. Its such a different life!

    I love the pictures :) I remember the smelly geysers lol. And the wildlife is great although we just saw a ton of bison and one or two bears that ran away super fast. Totally was part of the line of cars and ppl with binoculars And cameras on the side of the road.

  13. Beautiful photos, the geothermal pools look stunning! Yellowstone looks like such an amazing place, would love to visit someday. Thank you for sharing the lovely pictures! :).


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