This past fall Peyton and I were feeling a need for some kind of activity that would be refreshing and good for our souls. After bantering around a few ideas we decided to pack the truck with jackets, coffee, and our daughter Brynn and we headed off to Yellowstone Park. Our goal was to drive into the park and visit the southern geyser basin which is were the Old Faithful Geyser lives. This is a trip of just over 200 miles round-trip from our home. As we traveled out of Jackson heading north our first view that we ran into was the Grand Tetons which are about 3-5 miles just north of Jackson.
As you can tell from the photo the sky’s were clear and it was fairly warm for this time of year. The temperature was around 40 degrees when we left. For those of you who have never stood before the Grand Tetons you need to put this on your bucket list. The power and the sheer beauty is almost hard to describe. Photos alone do not capture that magnificence of this view.
About 35 miles north of town you come to a junction called Moran Junction and here you turn north into the Grand Teton National Park. Some of America’s most picturesque views are found just a few miles north of this entrance. One of my favorite views is Oxbow Bend. Oxbow Bend is actually part of the Snake River which runs south out of Yellowstone Park and into and then from Jackson Lake. The mountain in the background is Mount Moran. If you look closely you can see the mountains reflected in the waters of the Snake River. As a side note – last year my good friend Dan Megna (world-class photographer) and I were at this very spot in early May of 2009. As Dan took pictures we were blessed to witness the crossing of a small group of elk that swam across the Snake River just a few hundred yards north of this point. What a sight to see!
As you travel north you travel through thick forest and open pastures kriss crossed with streams, creeks and rivers. Then in about 28 miles you come to the south entrance of Yellowstone Park. At this point we have driven about 60 miles from our home. By the way if you do not carry a National Park pass you will have to pay to enter Yellowstone Park. Today was the last day that the park was open to the public as it was closing for the winter season.
From the south entrance to the southern geyser basin it is about 30 miles or so. On this part of our journey we passed many beautiful spots that you could easily stop and hang for a while. We chose to stop at a place on the river called Lewis Falls (named after Meriwether Lewis, Lewis & Clark) to take a few pics. Brynn and I got out of the truck and tromped through the snow to get this picture of the falls. Again, as a side note – Lewis and Clark spent much of their time passing through this area on their way to and from the Pacific Coast – but that is another story.
As we passed Yellowstone lake a few miles down the road we started up the Continental Divide and over it into the Southern Geyser basin. One more of many stops was this view of Kepler Cascades. Here the water in the Firehole river drops several times over falls that total more than 150 vertical feet. It is in a narrow canyon heading into the geyser basin to the north. If you do not like heights (like me) you have to brave the deep canyon walls to take a good pic. This is the best I could do!
Shortly after this stop we entered into the southern geyser basin. You know you are there because as you enter this area the first thing you see is all the steam coming from the thermal activity of the area. Here you are basically in the bottom of a
huge caldera. We entered into the Old Faithful area where there is a lot going on. There are shops, restaurants, Old Faithful lodge, the new Visitor Center and more. Not to mention Old Faithful geyser and the miles of trails that you can walk on to see all this magnificent area has to offer.
One of the must sees here is the new Visitor Center that was just completed. Most of the buildings here are new this year as this part of the park went through a huge upgrade to handle all the visitor it sees each year. The Visitor Center offers so much information in an interactive format along with an auditorium that plays several movies
about the history of the park all day long. Brynn just loved the interactive part of the Center and she had to do everything she could get her hands on. We saw a presentation about the parks thermal activity and other things to do with water – it was great!
We also spent about 30 minutes sitting on a bench in front of Old Faithful. Currently it goes off about every 90 minutes or so. And we waited with anticipation. We had enough time to share a snack with Brynn while she played around the area but remained focused on the goal of seeing Old Faithful do her thing. And sure enough at about the 89 minute mark from the last eruption she went off. The eruption lasts only a few minutes but it is pretty cool to see.
By now the day was starting to get late and so we made one more stop into the Visitor Center so Brynn could spend more time interacting with all the exhibits. She also spent time in the gift shop with her mother and I am sure that this comes as no surprise to those of you who know Peyton. She loves to shop. But all in all we had a great time seeing everything in this beautiful center. Then it was back in the truck and we headed home.
On the way Brynn wanted to stop and see if she could grab a small pine tree as she thought they were cute. I tried to explain to her that she would not be able to pull one of these trees out of the ground as they were too strong. But Brynn was determined to try so we stopped at the top of the Continental Divide and let her explore and see if she could find a tree that would fit her needs.
After spending about 20 minute’s or so looking for a small tree she could take home she finally gave up realizing that there was much more of the tree below the snow that she could not see. But she had a great time trying. Watching our youngest daughter at the end of a great day was the real moment of peace and solitude we were yearning for. I think at this very moment we had found what we had set out to do on this very day. To find and bring peace to our souls! Funny how spending the day with your wife and daughter in such a beautiful setting can do just this.