Wyoming National Parks Round Two

After a few quick weeks of work, I was ready for another trip to the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone. Lucky for me, one of my best friends from childhood was coming to visit! Christina and her boyfriend stayed for a long weekend, and gave me the perfect reason to go back. I made the 2+ hour drive to Casper Friday night, and showed them around Lander Saturday. We woke up super early that Sunday morning and made our way into Grand Teton National Park by noon. Just before we got to the entrance, we noticed a large group of cars stopped on the side of the road. We pulled over at the last second, and were lucky enough to see a mother grizzly bear and her cub. Seeing these bears was a dream come true! The picture I got is still surreal. Apparently, the female grizzlies in the park have been learning to keep closer to the roads in order to protect their offspring. The male bears don’t like to go towards people, and so the females are more likely to protect their cubs. After taking several photos, we continued our journey, stopping at several scenic roadside attractions and lookouts along the way.

The female grizzly bear and cub that we saw just outside of Grand Teton National Park. Their scientific name is Ursus arctos.
A cute picture of Johnny and me, in front of the Grand Tetons.

We then made it down to Jenny Lake, one of my favorite spots of the park, and took a short walk around the water. This was where we started to realize that a lot of the buildings and stores inside the park were closing… that day. We struggled to find a place to get dinner at on our way into Yellowstone, so we ended up backtracking to Signal Mountain Lodge. We enjoyed a quick dinner with an awesome view before getting back on the road.

Jenny Lake. One of the must-sees in the park.

We started to get worried that we wouldn’t find an open campground, especially since we were relying on walk-up sites. We must have passed at least a half dozen closed campsites before we found one to stay at, conveniently right in between the two parks’ entrances. Just as the sun started to fall, we set up our tent and fire at Sheffield Creek. It got below 20 degrees that night — definitely the coldest temperatures I have ever slept in! Fortunately for us, Johnny’s boss let us borrow a portable space heater, and we all had insulated thermal sleeping bags. It was cold, but we survived and woke up to a beautiful new landscape.

Our perfect little spot, with a fire pit, bear box, and even some leftover wood from past campers.
The sun set quick that afternoon, as we hurried to set up camp before nightfall.

We woke up to a frosty wonderland. Every surface and object had a thin white coating, and everything was sparkling. I had plenty of time to take some photos while we waited for the tent and car to thaw out. Once we had breakfast, and a few visits from the surrounding wildlife, we were ready to start our adventure in Yellowstone.

Tree silhouettes in the morning fog.
The state of my car’s windows after a night below 20 degrees.
The coyote(?) we saw that morning, right as we started cooking breakfast. Thankfully, it wasn’t interested in our food, and was stalking something in the field instead.
I have no idea what kind of plant this is, but was captured by its sparkle.
An ice formation I found on the road at the campground. I love all the organic shapes!
Campsite #6, the best campsite. 😉
Sheffield Creek Campground, Grand Teton National Forest. Apparently this was one of the few sites that are open in early October!
A raven, or Corvus corax, perched right above our campsite. I wish I could attach a video so you could hear the noises it was making! I had never heard this kind of bird click and sing like this one did.

In Yellowstone we stopped at the West Thumb Geyser Basin, Kepler Cascades, Old Faithful, Grand Prismatic Spring, Firehole Falls, Beryl Spring, Artists Paintpots, Mammoth Springs, and the Roosevelt Arch. Our. day. was. packed. I was so happy that I got to see some new things in Yellowstone, but was definitely exhausted by the end of the day. After a quick stop in Gardiner, Montana, we made the 6.5 hour drive home to Lander.

Johnny, Chris, and Christina at West Thumb Geyser Basin.
The ravens in Yellowstone were like pigeons. This one let me get scary-close.
The view of Grand Prismatic I had been waiting for. We walked just over half a mile to see the spring from above. What a dream come true.
The huge heard of bison we saw on our way to Artists Paintpots.
A couple of the hot springs at Artists Paintpots. This was one of the few sites I hadn’t seen yet, and was thrilled to get to explore it!
One of the bubbling mud pits at Artists Paintpots.
Almost anywhere you look in Yellowstone could be on a postcard.
One of the male elk we saw near the North Entrance of Yellowstone National Park. I still think these are some of the prettiest mammals out here.
Another new site for me to see, the Roosevelt Arch. It reads: “FOR THE BENEFIT AND ENJOYMENT OF THE PEOPLE.” Yellowstone was the first national park in the United States, and this was the first major entrance to it. What a neat piece of history to visit.
Johnny and me in front of the Yellowstone sign in Gardiner, Montana. ♥

I would still go back to Yellowstone or the Grand Tetons any time, but lately, we have started branching out of Wyoming more. Over the next few weekends, Johnny and I visited Utah, Colorado, and more of Wyoming. I am behind on sharing so many of our adventures, but they’re still so fun to write about. I am so happy I will have these to go back to and read in the future. 🙂