Yellowstone & Grand Tetons National Parks - September 13-24, 2021
The year 2021 is continuing the pandemic of 2020, except beginning in February, we personally were operating under the benefit of COVID-19 vaccines. We were fully vaccinated in March. After three waves of the virus in the USA and an indication that things were winding down, we decided in July to make reservations for September at Yellowstone & Grand Tetons. Well, a month later the delta variant came along and wave four started. We toyed with the idea of canceling our trip and staying home, but we decided that since we were fully vaccinated, and had a supply of N95 masks, and that we were going to be outdoors mostly, that we would take the risk. Fortunately the risk paid off, and we were able to take a nice trip to two states that we had never visited (Montana & Wyoming). We were able to social distance inside with our masks on and we almost never at inside, except when conditions were favorable.
September is a good time to visit this area. The weather was outstanding. We thought that the summer rush would be over and there wouldn't be so many people in the parks, but that was not true. It seems that there were lots of other retired folks that had the same idea as us. So, even though the traffic was heavy and the popular sites crowded, since they were all outside, the wind was blowing strongly and there was lots of room, it was not a problem. We were able to get parking spots at all the sites we wanted to visit. We were very fortunate that the first snow of the season came during our visit and made the spectacular mountains even more spectacular. We hope you enjoy our photos.
[Monday] This morning we left home at 5:30am and arrived at the Preflight parking lot at about 7:15am. With our TSA pre-check, we breezed through bag check-in and TSA security in Terminal B. We picked up a breakfast at the only place in the terminal area and while eating, we got a text that our flight United UA6251 was leaving from gate A8, instead of B83. So that meant that we had to ride the Skyway rail train from Terminal B to A. Our flight to Bozeman left on time at 10:50am. We flew first class on the Embraer 175, which is a nice smaller airplane with only 70 seats. We arrived in Bozeman, Montana, at about 12:15pm MDST. We left Houston with a tropical storm bearing down on the upper Texas coast (Nicholas). The main effect of the storm turned out to be in Louisiana. The weather was about 70 degrees and partly cloudy in Bozeman as we picked up our Enterprise rental car and drove to the Yellowstone Park Hotel in West Yellowstone, MT. It was about a 2 1/2 hour drive. After we checked into the hotel, we went to a local grocery store and picked up a few items. We watched the 10:00pm Houston channel 2 news at 9:00pm MDST before we turned in for the night.
[Tuesday] Today after breakfast in the hotel, we joined a few thousand close friends in the traffic jam at the west entrance to YNP. We then drove to Old Faithful Inn, where we watched Old Faithful Geyser erupt pretty much on time. Afterwards, we went to the Inn and looked around inside. It is quite impressive, both outside and inside. We bought our lunch at the cafe (takeout only) and ate it in the car.
We then drove south to Craig Pass (8,262 ft), which is on the Continental Divide. On the way, we saw one of the many waterfalls along the rivers, in this case, the Firehole River. At Craig Pass was Isa Lake, straddling the continental divide. As spring runoff empties into the lake, the water swells and overflows its tiny borders. When this happens, the lake does something extraordinary. Not only does it empty into two oceans, but it does so backwards. The east drainage flows into the Pacific, while the west drainage makes the long trek to the Gulf of Mexico.
We drove back to Old Faithful Inn and watched the geyser erupt again. Afterwards we walked about a mile on the boardwalk in the Upper Geyser Basin. There are many hot pools and geysers along the boardwalk.
On the way home we stopped at several other geysers. Back in West Yellowstone, we got a take-out Chinese meal and ate it in our hotel room.
[Wednesday] We got up at 6:00am this morning and after breakfast in the room, we drove into YNP at about 8:00am. We drove to the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River area and spent the day there, stopping at the North Rim and viewing the river and falls. The Upper Falls is 109 feet and the Lower Falls is 308 feet. They are both quite impressive, and the colorful canyon adds to their beauty. The canyon varies in width from 1500 to 4000 feet, and the depth varies from 750 to 1200 feet. We ate a take out lunch at the Canyon Village area.
[Thursday] Today we drove to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River and stopped at the Uncle Ton Trail area. Then we went to the Artist Point to see the lower falls.
We then drove south around the loop past Yellowstone Lake and Old Faithful to catch another eruption. We stopped at several other scenic sights.
[Friday] Today we drove to the Mammouth Hot Springs area and spent the day. We saw lots of elk up close in the Mammouth Village area. The colorful hot springs were impressive. We were stranded at the hot springs for a while when a bull elk decided to lay down and take an afternoon rest at the entrance to the boardwalk. The park rangers blocked the entrance/exit so we had to bypass it by walking up the hill to the next parking lot, and crossing the road to get back to our car.
[Saturday] Today we left West Yellowstone and drove through YNP and Grand Tetons NP to Jackson Hole. As we exited YNP, we started to pick up rain. We stopped at the Jenny Lake Visitor Center and picked up information on Grand Teton National Park. It rained off and on all the way to Jackson. The mountains were not visible because of the clouds covering them. It rained very hard as we reached the 49'ers Hotel where we were staying. After we checked in and unloaded, we walked down the street to a grocery store and picked up a few items. On the way back we stopped at The Big Pig BBQ and got a take-out meal.
[Sunday] The weather in the mountains to the west were still covered in clouds and rain, but we decided to drive up to Moose, and then drive back to Jackson on the Moose-Wilson Road. We thought that we would be able to see the mountains better up closer to them, but that was not the case. After lunch in our room back at the hotel, we drove to the National Museum of Wildlife Art and spent the afternoon.
[Monday] This morning, the rain was gone and we decided to visit the area called Morman Row Historic District. This was a vibrant community at the turn of the 19th century, where settlers clustered their farms in the valley to share labor and community. As we left the valley and got back where we could see the mountains, we were greeted with the spectacular snow covered mountains. This was the first snow of the 2021 Fall season. On the way back to Jackson, we drove along Gros Ventre Road.
In the afternoon, we decided to drive west from Jackson into Idaho. We drove across Teton Pass (8,431 feet) and turned around at Victor, Idaho, and returned to Jackson. At Teton Pass, there was lots of snow on the trees and ground.
[Tuesday] Today we drove to Jenny Lake and rode a boat across the lake. Then we hiked a half mile to Hidden Falls. We then went north on the Teton Park Road to Signal Mountain and drove to the top. We went past Jackson Lake, which makes a good foreground, with the Tetons in the background. We continued north to US-191 highway back to Jackson.
[Wednesday] Today we left Jackson and drove through GTNP and YNP to Gardiner, Montana. We checked into the Ridgeline Hotel for 2 nights.
[Thursday] Today we drove to the Lamar Valley, all the way to the northeast entrance to YNP. Along the valley we saw many heards of Bison, carabou, and elk. We also saw one wolf.
[Friday] We left Gardiner this morning and drove north to the Bozeman International Airport, where we turned in our rental car. We boarded our United Express flight 6057 to Houston. We arrived at 5:00pm.
This draws to a close our brief trip to Yellowstone National Park and the Grand Tetons National Park. We hope you enjoyed the photos and brief descriptions of our activities. God willing, join us again soon for another travel adventure.
Goodbye for now,
Lawson & Kay
How beautiful upon the mountains Are the feet of him who brings good news, Who proclaims peace, Who brings glad tidings of good things, Who proclaims salvation, Who says to Zion, "Your God reigns!" (Isa. 52:7 NKJV)