“The mountains are calling and I must go.” John Muir had a love for Mother Nature. And his commentaries, pictures, and his life itself are all over the natural beauty out here. In the spirit of Mr. Muir, this blog will concentrate on 7 hikes in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem (GYE).
My first hike was shortly after we arrived here. On May 28, I hiked with a group of 8 up Elephant Back Trail. A relatively short loop of about 3.5 miles, but it went up almost 900 feet in elevation! First, it had great views of Yellowstone Lake and the Red Mountains to the south. Secondly, it was absolutely beautiful!
Elephant Back – the view and the snow
So what was the negative? Thank you for asking. The relatively steep climb in a short distance was bad enough, but it was accentuated by the fact we were starting at almost 7800 feet. And I have been living at this altitude for a whopping 6 days! It gets better. Half way up we ran into snow… lots of it in places. Trudging over snow, gasping for air, wondering if my legs will hold out, we finally get to the beautiful vistas. I will do this hike again when I am in better shape, both acclimatized and in condition. I am sure it will be more enjoyable (LOL).
My second hike was with Deb. Visiting the iconic waterfall of the Grand Canyon, Canyon offers unparalleled beauty with numerous hiking opportunities. Doing both the North Rim and South Rim over 2 days gave both of us a great workout …in arguably, the most beautiful place on earth!
Canyon waterfall and river through the canyon
My third hike was to Cascade Lake. This trail is not far from Canyon but is mostly flat. It travels through woods and fields as it meanders to our destination. I led three employees on this aesthetic walk in the woods. Here there are bison, elk, and mule deer and lots of wild flowers. And yes, grizzlies too. Just a note, the bear population has grown in recent years and is a concern. I do not travel without bear spray.
Mike at Cascade Lake
It is important to note in traveling to all these hikes, we pass numerous sightings of animals. Bears are still exciting to see even though we have seen a few (thankfully, all from the vehicle). Bison and elk are everywhere and seeing them is getting a little old. A particular thrill the other day, we came across a Trumpeter Swan at the Fire Hole River. They are endangered and very rare outside of Yellowstone.
The full moon in June presented a very interesting hike. Starting at sunset, my fourth hike involved a group of 23; going up a mountain! The weather Gods were with us and presented us with nice and clear skies. Normally we limit the group to 8 (anymore and it gets tough to manage). But many wanted to go, so they carpooled and followed us to the trailhead.
Full moon hike up Mt. Washburn
At Dunraven Pass, we disembarked our vehicles and proceeded to hike (climb is a better word). The trail is 3.2 miles to the top and has a vertical gain of almost 1400 feet! Starting at 8,900 us flatlanders are still dealing with some elevation issues J. Going up, we traversed in pine forest and snow-covered trails. Above tree line snow was still an issue but not a problem. The hike was awesome and the views spectacular! At the top, Yellowstone Lake was visible to the south, Lamar Valley to the North, and the mountain ranges that border Yellowstone to the east and west. The sun set in the west as the full moon rose in the east (see pics). Gorgeous!
The group at the top and sunset on the way up
And the trip back down was dark …but we did have the advantage of the moon. And many of us had lights (headlamps and/or flashlights). Keeping track of 22 people is not easy but I managed to come back with the same amount I went up with. Despite not getting back until 1am, it was a successful, satisfying, and exhausting hike!
Full moon on the way up and a couple big horn sheep resting on the ledges
The very next morning, I was meeting with a crew of five at 8:30 am to travel to the Grand Tetons. It was a short night indeed, but another exciting hike. This one was 6 miles as well but fortunately, pretty flat. Grand Teton National Park borders the southern part of Yellowstone and is considered part of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem. Many tourists see the 2 parks as one. Nevertheless, it was still a 1.5 hour drive to Phelps Lake.
Phelps lake in Grand Tetons National Park
The hiking crew that circumvented Phelps Lake
I will let the pictures speak for themselves. The beauty and amazement just takes my breath away. If you have never been here, put Wyoming on your “Bucket List”! Pictures give you a taste (“whet your whistle”, so to speak), but to get the “full course meal”, you need to personally experience this place!
Being here now for over 5 weeks, I am getting acclimatized (thank goodness!). Deb and I took one of my days off and hiked up to Natural Bridge. It was a short drive from Grant (my temporary home) up the north shore of Yellowstone Lake. The hike was just over 3 miles on a discontinued park road and was in an old growth of lodgepole pines. And again, the weather was spectacular. And so were the hike and the natural bridge. Unusual in these parts (more common in Utah), the bridge was pretty awesome.
On my seventh hike Deb and I went into Fairy Falls. A rather long hike but relatively flat past several thermals near Old Faithful. The second largest hot spring in the world is along this path and is very colorful. Again, we had great weather! The trail is wide and easy to follow right to the falls but it is over 3 miles one-way, and very popular (glad we went early). Near the falls, there is a geyser and hot spring. It is worth the extra half mile walk.
2nd largest hot spring in the world!
The creek (brook) is not very big but drops almost 200 feet into a spectacular pool! It is one of those little gems I highly recommend if you come out here (see my “bucket list” recommendation).
“In every walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks.” John Muir
Fairy Falls is 3 miles in but worth the walk!
These hikes are in addition to our regular exploring; Old Faithful, Canyon, Mud Volcano, Mammoth Hot Springs, and nearby towns. So much to see and do here!
And the weather; we have been fortunate that we seem to have great weather …but it is not always that way. We have had cold, snow, thunderstorms and the wind …the wind blows constantly (especially in the afternoons)! The weather just adds a different perspective to the same beauty.
* Editor’s note: comparisons to Maine – Fairy Falls is like Angel Falls but on steroids. And Yellowstone is like Baxter on steroids. Some may not like my comparison; hence, this should be on YOUR “bucket list”.
STAY TUNED! More “tales from the campah”!
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Coming Soon!!! YouTube channel with movies of the adventures!