To switch things up a bit, I thought I’d post about my recent summer travels. My family and I decided to trade the humid, hot days of summer on the East Coast for the cooler, cleaner air of the Wild Wild West. We spent a whole week out traversing Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park, which unfortunately was not nearly enough time if you ask me.
Here are a few highlights from our trip:
We visited West Thumb Geyser Basin, Upper Geyser Basin, and Norris Geyser Basin, all expansive areas of hydrothermal features. In winter, these hot springs create a nice “spa attraction” for bison and other wildlife. You can feel the immense heat just from the boardwalk. The temperatures of these hot springs can sometimes exceed 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Care to go for a swim, anyone?
Cool fact: there are only four other places in the world with a similar concentration of active geysers: Russia, New Zealand, Chile, and Iceland.
And funny how it never occurred to me while I was there that I was visiting an active volcano. That’s probably a good thing. To distract myself from that fact, I took lots and lots of pictures. Below are a few of my favorites.
The bands of colors in these hot springs are formed by organisms such as algae and bacteria that thrive in these extreme temperatures. The Grand Prismatic Spring, the largest hot spring in the United States, was by far my favorite.
Old Faithful erupting. It erupted every 1-1.5 hours while we were there.
We also purposely went out for a drive around sunset each day to see if we could catch a glimpse of wildlife in Hayden Valley and Lamar Valley. We were successful!
We hiked a few times around the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone and Upper and Lower Falls.And then there was Grand Teton National Park. One word: breathtaking. Here are a few tips if you’re planning a vacation there of your own:
- Bring sunscreen and lots of it. We were at an elevation of about 8,000 ft above sea level and man, was the sun bearing down on us. To make matters worse, the most popular hot springs can only be viewed from boardwalks where there is little to no sun cover. There were moments of the trip where we found ourselves desperate for every shadowy spot we could find. Bring a hat—it will be your lifesaver too.
- Wear a good pair of hiking or walking shoes, and I don’t mean the pair you just bought yesterday. Make sure they are comfortable. Maybe invest in a pair or two of hiking socks as well. We were averaging 18,000 steps per day.
- Hike and hike some more. Only off the beaten path and away from the touristy areas were we then able to truly enjoy the pristine outdoors. We saw elk, bison, and even black bears in their natural habitat. It was magical.
- Go when it’s less crowded. We made the mistake of going during July 4th week, probably the park’s busiest week of the whole year. We were able to get away from the crowds by driving around and hiking on less popular trails, but there were only so many places to get food. Lines were so long.
- Abide by all park signage and rules. Stay on boardwalks, keep objects out of the hot springs (we saw an umbrella in one), and don’t approach or feed wildlife. There were numerous times where we saw people who were on their phones and standing only a couple yards away from bison ten times their size. C’mon, people. Animal traffic jams were also a daily occurrence. These usually consisted of people walking alongside traffic to catch a tiny glimpse of a bear or parking their car on the main road to get a drive by picture with a wild animal.
Overall, it was a magnificent trip and one that I would want to take over again. We definitely left with a hunger for more and a greater appreciation for nature.
And now, I’ll leave you with something to look forward to next time.