YELLOWSTONE / GRAND TETONS

// Day 8: Yellowstone + Grand Tetons

By 8:00am we are meandering across the Old Faithful grounds to the bakery in the lodge for fresh bagels and hot beverages. Tea and coffee in hand, we set out on the trails that wind around the Upper Geyser Basin – dozens of smaller geysers and features that share grounds with Old Faithful. It is grey and chilly but not rainy, and we are glad to have warm drinks in our hands. It takes us a few hours to complete the loop and we get back to our room just a few minutes before checkout time.

We plan to head east from Old Faithful and find the southern exit down to Tetons, but part of the road is closed, so we are required to drive the long loop back in the direction we came. The drive takes significantly less time without all the stops, and soon we are back at the tip of Yellowstone Lake and can drive south down the western bank, the Absaroka mountain range across the water to the east. We slow down here, now thankful for the detour and this view. We think that it will be nice to stop along the lake for lunch, but it is nicer in theory than in reality, as the wind coming off the lake is biting and makes our hands numb. We get through sandwiches before deciding to finish our meal inside the car, which is windless and warm.

Now it is straight south to the Tetons, and they are a dream! The clouds lift as we drive, and the sun is really, truly shining for the first time since we set off 8 days ago. The road runs down along Jackson Lake, and just across the water giant mountains start rising out of the earth, thousands of feet into the air. How are they so high and so close? They are magical! Our plan is to stay the afternoon and one night here before heading down to Colorado to Dinosaur National Monument in the morning. We stop and chat with Ranger Brad at the first visitor center, and he pulls out a map of the park and starts marking with his pen all the places we need to see. He shows us where the good pizza is, where the family of otters live, where the best views are, where we are most likely to see moose. He tells us about the grizzly bears they’ve seen in Willow Flats – so many that the field is closed off to visitors but you can sit in the giant-windowed lounge at Jackson Lodge and watch from there. He tells us which outdoor store in Jackson Hole, just south of the park, is having its end of season sale. He points out trails around Jenny Lake, across from which the Grand Teton peak soars.

Ranger Brad suggests a central campsite that has new laundry and showers, so we head that way. Kyle and I are having the same thought and can tell just by looking at each other. We have to spend more time here than we planned. “So,” I say to him, “Dinosaur Monument…” “Oh, we’re skipping it.” We book a tent site for two nights and feel extra justified for not having made a reservation at the campsite we had been planning on staying in tomorrow night at Dinosaur. Justified, and even a little bit guided by providence. Having gained an extra day, we now feel less hurried, and decide to spend a lazy evening grabbing pizza and beer, watching wildlife from the lounge and doing a load of laundry. It has been colder than we expected all week and we have worn many of our clothes.

We are back at camp around nightfall, realizing that we have been happily unaffected by the low nighttime temperature for the past two nights, having slept indoors and in beds. The low tonight is in the 40s. We have 30 and 40 degree sleeping bags, so we bundle up in everything we’ve brought, throw our bag of food and shower caddy into the bear box and try to sleep. It is a cold, hard night, and sleep comes in spurts. We don’t mind terribly. We have another day in the Tetons tomorrow, and we are determined that it will be glorious.

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