Hamilton Greenbelt – Lakeway, TX 6/23/19

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Hamilton Greenbelt – Lakeway, TX

Ian, Court, Biff, Finn

Humid, but nice

2.8 miles

Another trip out to Hamilton Greenbelt. Great little trail out in Lakeway that isn’t crowded and winds around through the woods and streams and eventually drains into Lake Travis.

Water was flowing well today and the dogs loved it. Saw one young deer with small velvet antlers.

Yellowstone NP – Mystic Falls Hike and Old Faithful 6/7/19

Friday, June 7, 2019

Yellowstone NP – Mystic Falls Hike and Old Faithful

Mystic Falls – 3.5 miles

We woke up early again to try and get to Grand Prismatic Spring, which I was super excited about, but it was too steamy to see it. This was my biggest disappointment of the trip, but that just means I have to come back!

Too steamy, but still pretty

We moved on to the Fountain Paint Pots and saw a few other geysers and such before dropping Doc and Suz off at the hotel.

Court and I then went on a hike at Biscuit Basin to Mystic Falls. The beginning of this hike is actually part of the official Continental Divide Trail, so I have now stepped foot on each of the Big 3 National Scenic Trails!

On the CDT!

The hike was beautiful. The beginning is a boardwalk with many more geothermal features.

Bacteria mats

Once into the woods, we climbed up to an overlook and saw Old Faithful erupting from a mile or more away.

Starting into the woods
Climbing up
Old Faithful from afar
Overlooking Biscuit Basin and the valley
Balance

Mystic Falls was at the far end of the loop and was very beautiful, as expected.

Mystic Falls
Court on the Wooden Throne

We closed the loop and headed back to meet back up with Doc and Suz for lunch at the historic Old Faithful Inn, built in 1904. The interior is just awesome.

After lunch we saw Old Faithful erupt, which is pretty impressive.

Old Faithful

We spent the rest of the day hanging around Old Faithful and the Visitor Center. It wasn’t nearly as touristy as I expected and was a lot of fun.

Old Faithful and the Inn

The next morning we woke up to a blizzard in June! We got 8 inches in two hours! We had planned to drive out the south entrance of the park past the Tetons again, but with the storm, all roads were closed except for the west entrance. Luckily we were staying at Old Faithful because otherwise we would have been trapped and missed our flight back from Salt Lake City. It was fun driving in the snow and the scenery was fantastic. Snow in June. Crazy.

Outside the hotel
Driving out of the park

Once again we had an amazing trip with Doc and Suz. This was my first time to Yellowstone/Grand Teton and it lived up to every expectation. We will be returning, especially to see Grand Prismatic Spring!

Yellowstone NP – Norris Geyser Basin and Lake Yellowstone 6/6/19

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Yellowstone NP – Norris Geyser Basin and Lake Yellowstone

We drove from Canyon Village over to the Norris Geyser Basin on our way to Old Faithful. This side of the park was really interesting and definitely had the most geothermal activity compared to what we had seen so far.

Steamboat Geyser, which is the largest currently active geyser in the world, was set to erupt at any moment (it’s averaging every 5-6 days right now) and we stopped for a while to see if we could get lucky. The Geyser Gazers (those who follow geysers, waiting for them to erupt) were all there, but sadly it didn’t go off. We found out it went off that night around 1am.

We also saw Beryl Spring, which was neato, Gibbon Falls, and a quick side trip to Firehole Falls.

We got to Old Faithful Snow Lodge and checked in, but headed over to the Lake Yellowstone Hotel where we had dinner reservations. This was not only beautiful and classic, but was one of the best meals of the entire trip. We will be staying here when we come back one day.

Elk with antlers

On the drive back to Old Faithful we got caught in a bizarre storm. It wasn’t raining that hard, but the sky was green like right before a tornado and the sunlight was still peeking through the trees. It was really eerie. The next day would be our last and we would make the most of it.

Yellowstone NP – Brink of the Lower Falls and Ribbon Lake 6/6/19

Thursday, June 6, 2019

Yellowstone NP – Brink of the Lower Falls and Ribbon Lake hike

Ian, Court, and Doc

About 4.5 miles total

Another early wake up call had us at the Brink of the Lower Falls trail head with only one other car in the lot. It was chilly, but beautiful. Also, 75th Anniversary of D-Day. Fitting that I was at Yellowstone, which those men fought to make sure we will always have.

The hike is short, but very steep, with many switchbacks. Being right at the brink of the falls is quite thrilling.

Cold
Brink o’ the Falls

We then headed back to Artist Point to get some better shots of the Lower Falls in the morning light before hiking out to Ribbon Lake.

Artist Point with morning light

The best part of the hike to Ribbon Lake is actually at the beginning as the trail follows the canyon and gives some more amazing views.

Once you turn into the forest it gets very marshy and there is even some volcanic activity on the trail, with springs bubbling up in the puddles and bacteria starting to grow.

Marshy
Bacteria mats forming in springs along the trail

Ribbon Lake was not that impressive, but the hike was nice. We headed back, got Suz from the lodge, and drove on to Norris Geyser Basin and then Old Faithful, where we would stay the next two nights.

Satellite map

Yellowstone NP – Lamar River Valley and Mammoth Hot Springs 6/5/19

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Yellowstone NP – Lamar River Valley and Mammoth Hot Springs

Sunrise over Yellowstone

We woke up at 4:30am to make the 1.5 hour drive to the Lamar River Valley and catch the animals at sunrise. I was super tired, but it was beautiful and we saw some great wildlife. No wolves, sadly, but several bears, countless bison, elk, and pronghorn antelope.

Valley Views
Black bear cub on the side of the road
Bison in the morning mist
Close Up
Bison calves
Pronghorns

We even saw a herd of bison crossing the river and one of the babies got caught in the current and started floating downstream. Its mother separated from the herd and went after it, finally guiding it to the side of the river where it was shallow and the calf could get back on its feet and rejoin the herd. It was like our own little nature documentary, complete with high drama.

Around 8am we turned back and headed to the Roosevelt Lodge to grab a coffee before we turned toward Mammoth Hot Springs on the north side of the park.

Another bear near Tower Junction and Roosevelt Lodge

We made a quick stop at Undine Falls. Yellowstone has more waterfalls than any other National Park.

Undine Falls

Mammoth Hot Springs was a lot cooler than I anticipated. The travertine features are so unique and they are always changing, as earthquakes and other forces change the underground plumbing, causing water to flow in different places over the years. The terraces are all accessible only by boardwalks and they are fairly steep in parts.

We then got to one of my favorite parts of the park (ok, there are a lot of favorites): The Roosevelt Arch. This Arch was built at the north entrance of the park at Gardiner, Montana and was dedicated in 1903 by Teddy. The iconic words at the top are a symbol of what the National Parks represent and how lucky we are to have them preserved:

For The Benefit And Enjoyment Of The People

Sorry, I geek out over Teddy.

After having lunch in Gardiner we headed back to Canyon Village and caught some views of the Upper Falls and also the Lower Falls from Artist Point. The light wasn’t the best, so we decided to come back again early the next morning.

Mmmm…lunch
More canyon colors
Artist Point
Upper Falls

Yellowstone NP – West Thumb Geyser Basin and Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone 6/4/19

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Yellowstone NP – West Thumb Geyser Basin and Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone

Last views of the Teton Range

We drove from Teton Village to the south entrance of Yellowstone National Park via the John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Parkway and had to wait in line about 45 minutes to get into the park, but after that it was smooth sailing. There was still a lot of snow on the ground in many places, which was unexpected. We also drove through a large burn zone from the 1988 Yellowstone fires.

Still snowy

We headed on to West Thumb Geyser Basin and saw our first of many geothermal features that Yellowstone is known for.

Kayakers on Lake Yellowstone
Elk just hanging out
Actually saw some moron almost fall in leaning over the rail trying to touch the water

Afterward we headed up through Hayden Valley, some more geothermal activity, and then to the lodge at Canyon Village.

Hayden Valley
Steamy mud

The views of the canyon were spectacular. When we stopped at the first viewpoint on the way to Canyon Village I rounded the corner and the view of the falls and the multi-colored canyon walls took my breath away. It felt like someone had hit me in the chest and now I know how Rudyard Kipling felt when he wrote these words:

“All that I can say is that without warning or preparation I looked into a gulf seventeen hundred feet deep, with eagles and fish-hawks circling far below. And the sides of that gulf were one wild welter of color — crimson, emerald, cobalt, ochre, amber, honey splashed with port wine, snow white, vermilion, lemon, and silver gray in wide washes. The sides did not fall sheer, but were graven by time, and water, and air into monstrous heads of kings, dead chiefs — men and women of the old time. So far below that no sound of its strife could reach us, the Yellowstone River ran a finger-wide strip of jade green.”

So many colors

We drove on to the lodge and prepared for an early morning drive to the Lamar River Valley in hopes of seeing a lot of wildlife. It would not disappoint.

Grand Teton National Park 6/2-6/3/19

June 2-3, 2019

Grand Teton National Park

After hiking to Hidden Falls and Lower Inspiration Point we packed in the car, turned on the Gypsy App, and continued on to the various amazing points of interest around the park. The Gypsy app is the same thing we used in Canada a couple of years ago. It is amazing and I highly recommend it to anyone visiting the various National Parks it covers. We have affectionately named the guide on the app Albert, after Alberta, where we first used it.

Panoramic shot

We took a side road up to Signal Mountain and got some amazing views of Jackson Hole. The entire valley was laid out before us and we saw a few elk grazing below. This may have been one of the best views in the park.

Video

We went to grab a small lunch and drinks at the Jackson Lake Lodge. After enjoying the views and more elk from the patio, we went up Lunch Tree Hill where Horace Albright brought the Rockefellers back in the 20s to share his “Dream” of protecting the entire Jackson Hole Valley. This was one of my favorite spots of the entire trip. The views of the Tetons never get old.

We made a quick stop at Colter Bay and then continued the loop south back toward Teton Village and Jackson, seeing our first Bison of the trip.

We stopped at the spot where Ansel Adams took his famous picture of the Tetons. The trees have really grown since then.

Also got the ubiquitous shot with the Mormon barns and a couple of beautiful creek shots. Again, these views never get old.

My birthday was the next day and Doc and I got up early and took the tram up to the top of Rendezvous Mountain in Teton Village to go paragliding. It was an amazing experience. I went skydiving when I was 18 and this was kind of similar, though not as intense of course. It was a beautiful morning with clear skies and the views from up in the air were fantastic.

Suz and Court met us at the landing zone and we went and grabbed a quick breakfast before heading to the Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve, which had another great visitor center.

Photo mural

We were going to do a quick hike, but decided to save it for another time. That afternoon we headed back to the top of Rendezvous Mountain to try the famous waffles at the hut at the top and maybe get a short hike in, but the weather was coming in and it was COLD up there, so we made do with some hot chocolate and came back down. We spent the rest of the evening in the hot tub with some wine. Not a bad view for my birthday.

Top of Rendezvous Mountain
Ski hut
Tram
Hot tub view

We would get up the next morning and head to Yellowstone!