Tuesday, September 29, 2009

"Yellowstone and the Tetons", or "September Is My Favorite Month", or "Do you even use the National Forests?"

Mr. Buffalo is trying to make his great escape too!

Grant and I made the great escape from Seattle to the Rocky Mountains. We decided to drop down through Yellowstone on our way to Jackson, because we love the Parks. We love them sooo much that we get an annual parks pass every year. We also used to buy a Northwest Forest Pass, which is good for parking fees at the Washington and Oregon National Forest trailheads. A few years ago the National Parks, Recreation areas, and Forests decided to combine their passes into one big "Interagency Pass". The National Parks card comes with a handy dandy rear view mirror hang-tag that allows you to park in said National Forest areas, thus making it truly "interagency". Well, the Yellowstone Park employee only gave us the card, and not the hangtag, making it useless for National Forests. Luckily, as we have bought this pass in years past, we noticed in time to whip around and explain her mistake to her. The ever-helpful park employee sneered, "Do you even use the National Forests?" Umm, is it any of your business? We paid for an interagency pass, and you didn't give it to us! It turns out this lady, and the other Grand Teton and Yellowstone employees, do not give you the National Forest part unless you specifically ask for it. So in other words, they happily and knowingly take your $80 and don't give you what you paid for, nor do they tell you what the interagency pass is! So unless you are like us and were lucky enough to buy it previously at a different National Park (Rainier) with nicer employees, you would never know. She also explained that the foreigners just go home so don't use the forests, so they don't give foreign tourists the hangtag!!! So it's their policy to screw foreign tourists over. I have never been treated this poorly in any country I have visited, and I am embarrassed and angry that the Yellowstone Park employees have this awful attitude. Shame on you! And buyer beware, when you buy your new Annual Interagency Park Pass, make for damn sure they give you both parts!

Anyway, apart from the crappy employees, we love Jellystone. It was a short visit this time, so we focused on the thermal areas. We walked along a thermal site I hadn't been to before, and even made it to good ol' "Old Faithful" in time to see her go.

No soap suds here! (They use soap suds in Rotorua, NZ to make the geysers go off for the tourists. How lame is that?) I wanted to hike to Morning Glory Pool, but we ran out of time. These other pools are pretty, though.

Spasm Geyser

Silex Spring

We saw Buffalo and a few Elk, but no bears this time.

Dropping into Grand Teton National Park nearing sunset was impressive.

Every time I see these mountains after being gone for a while, I am blown away. I say, go to Yellowstone for the buffalo jams and the geysers, but if it's truly magnificent mountain scenery you are after, the Tetons are hands down the best.

But GTNP is also great for animal sightings. The day after arrival I went on a hike to Taggart Lake, and was stopped by a black bear jam (not for toast) just a few miles into the park. It was awesome! Mom and cubs were too far into the trees for a good picture, but it was still fun to see.

Here are some of the hikes and activities we have been doing the last week:

Taggart Lake was a beautiful 4-mile hike. I haven't done all the hikes in the Park yet, but I think if you only have a little time, and are of only a moderate fitness level, then Taggart Lake could be your best hike in the park. It gives you big views for minimal effort.

We also hiked the String Lake Loop, just north of Jenny Lake. It had pretty fall colors, and we saw a wild ferret and mule deer!

For our third day, we decided to head out to the Bridger-Teton National Forest to do a much loved-by-locals hike up to Goodwin Lake. Along the hike, we ran into some hunters on horseback who told us they had been charged by a black bear in this area just the day before. He had his rifle, but didn't want to shoot the bear. She came so close that he was going to give her two more feet before shooting, but she veered off just in time for the both of them! This story was a great testament to proper stewards of the land who respect the wildlife and the wilderness and are courageous enough to stay calm instead of wantonly killing a wild animal in its home. I was almost too scared to keep hiking, but we screwed up our courage (or stupidity) and kept going. It was a very rewarding hike. We saw a marmot, "Teton Chickens" (grouse), horses and dogs, but thankfully no bears.

The last weekend of summer called for some water skiing and beer drinking at Palisades Reservoir, in the Caribou-Targhee National Forest over by Alpine, WY. Grant was looking great on his slalom ski,

and I was beaten up on the tube.

At sundown we all made it over to the hotsprings to warm up before putting our fleece on as the temperature plummeted to fall temperatures. A few mule deer families joined us for a dip in the lake. Lucky for them, the hunters in our group didn't have their rifles, LOL.

It was a great day!

But wait, there's more. We had to cut firewood before it started snowing,

Mosquito Creek, Bridger-Teton National Forest

Notice we do not cut down live trees, they are already dead, and even down when we cut them!

and with one more day of sunshine in the forecast, we topped our hiking off on a 10 mile round-trip hike to Surprise and Amphitheater lakes. I have never come so close to those peaks in my life (though Grant has summited a few of them, a few times). I felt like I could reach out and touch the Grand, but alas, at our elevation of 10,000 ft I was not even halfway up, with about 4,000 more feet to go.  Not to mention the path we were on would take us to Disappointment Peak, not the Grand. It's a disappointment, because when you get to the top, it's a sheer drop off with no way to summit the Grand. I'll save that part of the hike for another time. Gorgeous.

This is what I love about Jackson Hole. We have direct access to National Parks and Forests, rivers and lakes to go hiking, fishing, hunting, water and snow skiing, raft the rivers and go soaking in free natural hot springs. Ok, I just hike and sit in hot springs, but Grant does all these activities! Plus, if you don't feel like getting outside, civilization is also here with great restaurants, movie theaters, and the arts. What a combination.
The pictures speak for themselves, but September is the best time to be here. The weather is warm and stable, the crowds have thinned out, and the fall colors are awesome.
And to the sneering Yellowstone employee, in just one week, we used the National Forest three ways: hiking, boating, and cutting firewood. I can say emphatically and with proof that YES, we do use and love the National Forests, Parks, and Recreation areas, so go sneer at yourself!

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