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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Back from a road trip to Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Park - Day 3 & 4

Grand Teton. In the crisp morning air, we did the trail around String lake after driving a few miles South of Colter Bay.

Passage between Spring Lake and Leigh lake.

Perfect habitat for bears.
We came across a small group of hikers who told us that they just saw a black bear and her two cubs on the trail. They made some noise to make them go away a little. We did not see the bears, not sure we wanted to. Everyone we've met while hiking had a bear spray at hand. I do not know if it is because of the deadly attack by a grizzly in Yellowstone last July, or if it is a common thing. We bought one too. The spray does not harm the bears but it helps in difficult situations.

On that trail we did not see a lot of people anyway. That's one interesting fact about the National Parks. They have lots of visitors each year and specially in the summer. But once one leaves the Visitor Center and the main overlook stops that are accessible by car, one already lost 95% of the crowd.
And so hiking is really amazing, the feeling of being almost alone in a pristine nature is fantastic - but there are the bears of course. And I was thinking about them!

Canoeing on quiet Jackson lake at the end of the afternoon (We rented the canoes at the marina). We saw a bald eagle perched on top of a tree, signaling all the other birds that it was a taken territory.

After a second night in our cabin, we drove a few miles south to get an early breakfast at Jackson Lake Lodge before going on a "Scenic Snake River float trip". The waitress was from Eastern Europe, I do not remember the country. Lots of young people come from all around the world to work in the National Parks for the summer.

Checking out the animal sighting notebook at the lodge.

The float trip on Snake river was great and tranquil. We saw several bald eagles. The raft was not full, only 10 people.
Although the park seems pretty busy in some places, our guide says that the average time a visitor spends in the park is an hour and half. That's because the majority of visitors go through Grand Teton on their way to Yellowstone and do not stop

A black bear on the side of the road. Photo taken from the car.

Arriving in Yellowstone. I like the signage. I took lots of photos of road signs and park signs during this trip.

Crossing the continental divide, a line I've heard about since I was a little girl. "Ligne de partage des eaux" (continental divide), "derive des continents" (continental drift), "tectonique des plaques" (tectonic plates) were terms I was hearing very often in my house, terms about gigantic geological events that I could not comprehend, even with the explanations my father was giving to me.

Arriving in West Thumb Geyser Basin site, a thermal area on the shore of Yellowstone Lake. First encounter with the volcanic activity present underneath the surface of the ground.

Smoking and breathing landscape.

The strong smell of rotten eggs. Wet and warm fumes charged with sulfur all around us.
We walked on a boardwalk which goes around the site. It would be dangerous to walk close to the pools of boiling water: the crust can be super thin and break.

I did not witness it but apparently some people throw things in the pool. I do not understand the need people have to do that. Everywhere in the world. Mostly coins.

Each hot spring has a name: Fishing Cone, Big Cone, Twin Geyser, Blue Funnel Spring, Ephedra Spring...

First turquoise pool, a boiling Caribbean dream!
Here's the boardwalk, which allows to enjoy the site with some people around, but nobody in front.

In Mud Volcano site, North of Lake Village. The holes and pools make all sorts of noises. Gargling, bubbling, whistling... The liquids take different appearances, clear, murky, thick and have different colors.

A yellow-bellied marmot enjoying the sulfur fumes... at Sulfur Caldron.

I could have stayed there for hours, watching the bison in the vast lush meadow.

On our way to Canyon Village, along the Yellowstone River, first traffic jam. We learned that it happens pretty often in Yellowstone. Animals cross the roads, cars stop both ways. The bison in this case seemed completely oblivious of the cars. They were taking their time to cross, the males making all sorts of guttural noises.

It was interesting to be so close to the herd, but I've taken this photo through the window. The park regulation is that people should not get closer than 75 feet from a large animal like a bison and 300 feet from bears and wolves, for safety and to leave the wild animals alone. Of course when the animals cross roads, close encounters happen, but being inside the car feels rather safe!

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