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A Perfect Day in Grand Teton and Yellowstone

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After spending some time in Grand Teton, yesterday we made our Yellowstone excursion. Traffic was light in the early morning along highway 26. And the view of the beautiful Teton Range was magnificent along the road. Then the traffic slowed down up ahead. In this part of the country, traffic jam usually means wildlife watch. It was a black bear and her cub in the woods!!! They were foraging close to the road. I only had a minute or two to take some photos. So the photos are not great. In the photo below, the black one is the mom black bear and the brown one is the cub. We have never seen black bear in the wild so close. What a great start of the day!


Mom Black Bear and Cub in Grand Teton


Bison and Grand Teton


A Bison on A Horse Ranch by Grand Teton


Standoff Between A Bison and Horses on A Ranch with Teton in the Background


Horses and Teton

We moved on and saw a herd of bison on the meadow from the distance. They were there in the late afternoon along with a herd of pronghorn. Elk Ranch Flats Turnout is across the meadow. The horses were on the ranch as usual but something was different. “Is that a bison?” Stephen asked. Yes, it was a bison on the ranch. We pulled over to the ranch. I ran over to the fence to be closer to the bison and the horses. The scene in front of me was picture perfect. In this lovely September morning, with the skyline of the splendid peaks of Grand Teton and the distant colored forest in the background, a single bull bison had a standoff with a herd of horses on the Jackson Hole Valley. The bison moved slowly towards north on the ranch while the horses were watching it. “How did the bison get in the ranch?” We wondered. The bison paused on his way and looked towards us occasionally. He passed the horses and moved away. The tension between the animals seemed to be released. The horses scattered around and grazed on the meadow wiggling their tails. I walked back to the turnout, and three beautiful horses walked towards the fence. Then the brown horse came to me along with the black horse. I petted them on the nose and cheek. Their fur are smooth and shining. I saw myself in their huge eyes. The black horse has nice long white hair on its neck. The third horse was a brown and white horse with a pink nose. It scratched its neck on the post. I helped it a little bit. My heart sang like a bird, and was filled with joy. When we left the ranch, we saw that bison making his way back to the herd of bison across the road.

After passing Lewis Falls, we were in the caldera. We passed several Continental Divide points and Yellowstone Lake. Finally, we arrived at the Old Faithful area in Yellowstone National Park at about 11 a.m. The coming eruption of Old Faithful was about 11:50 a.m. So we headed to the Upper Geyser Basin to see the thermal pools. Different shapes of pools were filled with blue or green colored water. The deep hole in each pool is its throat where it connects to the deep underground. Some hot spring has boiling water in the hole. Loud noise came out from a few little holes calling for attention. I was going to revisit the Morning Glory Pool and Grotto Geyser. But I saw Old Faithful erupted from the distance, so I hurried back trying to catch it. But I missed the show. After lunch at the Old Faithful Inn, we waited to see the next eruption of Old Faithful. We were here a dozen years ago. We spent a week tour around the park, saw herds of bison, elks, pronghorn up close. The memories of the milky way at the starry night, the bull fight, the gorgeous Yellowstone Falls, the eruptions of Old Faithful, and the amazing colors of the hydrothermal pools were still fresh.


Old Faithful Geyser

Crowds gathered around the Old Faithful geyser waiting for her show. An unknown geyser erupted in the distance, shooting up high columns of water and steam. At about 1:30 p.m., a small spout of water came out from the cone. In just a minute or so, a big column of water shot up high opening the grand show. Huge columns of hot water were fired from the underground, shooting towards the blue sky. Steam accompanied the wonderful geyser show. Everyone cheered and was busy taking photos and videos. If you have limited time touring the park, you can always count on Old Faithful for a magnificent geyser show. The Visitor Center by the geyser shows the estimated time for her next eruption.


Excelsior Geyser


Colorful Runoff Channels of Grand Prismatic Spring

My goal of this Yellowstone trip was to see the panoramic view of the Grand Prismatic Spring. We drove to Midway Geyser Basin and had to park by the road far away from the parking lot. Steaming water from the hot springs ran down the slope to the Madison River. As soon as we walked across the bridge, we were greeted with the steam rising from the giant Excelsior Geyser. The deep blue pool looked beautiful and dangerous. The wind was high, and we were enveloped in the steam and the sulfuric smell. Like last time, we could only see the edge of the Grand Prismatic Spring, the largest hot spring in the park. We saw people on the hill across the basin in the distance. But we didn’t see a boardwalk going there. Luckily, there was a ranger by the pool. He told us to go back to Fairy Falls and take the one mile hike to the overlook on the hill. That explained why there were so many vehicles parking there.


Grand Prismatic Spring


Colors and Shapes of Grand Prismatic Spring


Patterns of the Runoff Channels of Grand Prismatic Spring. Photo Credit: Stephen Jones

The trail to the Grand Prismatic Spring started with an iron bridge. The start of the trail was wide and level with crushed pebbles. Then I followed the sign of “Trail” that pointed to the hillside trail and started to climb up. It was a continuous ascent. Half way up, I could see part of the pool from above. Some twenty minutes later, I was at the overlook seeing the magnificent Grand Prismatic Spring with my own eyes. The center of the pool is a brilliant blue, and the color gradually changes to blue green close to the yellow colored edge. Arrays of orange, brown, cream, and grey colors paint the run-off channels. The pool looked like a giant opal on the floor of the valley. And the colorful lines and shapes of the runoff channels seemed like an abstract painting. Grand Prismatic Spring is truly a gem of the park. After a while, Stephen also made it to the overlook at an elevation of about 7,600 feet and appreciated the mesmerizing beauty.


Oxbow Bend


Mount Moran

We watched another eruption of Old Faithful and headed back to Grand Teton. It was a two hours’ drive. We stopped at Oxbow Bend Turnout again hoping to see a moose. The other night we saw a herd of elk came out from the woods and two deer by the river. This is a good place to view Mount Moran in the morning. The setting sun painted the trees in golden hues. Snake River meanders through the land with Canadian geese on the water. There were three bald eagles in the distant riverside. One was on the bank. Another two were on top of a tree by the river.

A lady ranger gave the tourists some tips on moose watching. The best time to watch moose are before 10 a.m. and after 6 p.m. Here are some of the places she recommended:

Moose Pond near Moose Junction, Schwabacher Landing, Blacktail Pond Overlook, Gros Ventre Road, Willow Flats Overlook.


A Running Black Bear at Grand Teton


Two Moose in Grand Teton

We were in Schwabacher Landing the night before but didn’t see any moose other than some ducks. So we passed it and headed down to Blacktail Pond Overlook to try our luck. It was close to 7 in the late afternoon. The setting sun cast strong arrays of light from behind the silhouetted Teton Range. Rafts cruised down the bright Snake River in the distance. In front of the woods is a big open meadow with creeks. A young man who just came up from the meadow said that they came across a bull moose by the river an hour ago. We waited for a while but no wild life showed up. Just as we walked back, a ranger carried a spotting scope together with a group of people came. We stayed because we believed that the ranger will help us to see the moose. Light was getting dim. I glanced towards the river and caught a moving black thing. It was a black bear! It came out from the woods having dinner. Everyone was oohs and aahs at the sight of the bear. It might be a male bear and he needed to eat a lot to prepare for the hibernation. It is hard to go through eight months of winter here in Grand Teton. Wildlife are living on the edge. Just as we were watching the bear, Stephen pointed out a moving thing in the north part of the meadow. It was a female moose!!! Oh my God! The moose strolled down to the creek and stayed there. In a minute, another female moose walked out from the woods. She seemed to be on the lookout standing on the bank grazing and looking around. What a Nat-Geo moment! We had a bear and two moose in the sight! The items on our wish list are checked off. What a way to end a perfect day!


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