The Grand Tetons and Yellowstone National Parks

The Grand Tetons

Bears outnumbering me in Colter Bay Campground was a possibility that occurred to me as I drove from Jackson to Colter Bay Village. I arrived on opening day of the campground. I drove by this campground several days earlier and saw a bear. I stayed in this campground when I was eight years old when my parents brought my family out to the Tetons in 1965. Now I’ve returned over fifty years later. I remember going down to Jackson Lake from the campground, but not much more. The campground is right next to Jackson Lake with the majestic Tetons rising dramatically behind the lake. Within a week, this campground will sell out for the rest of the summer.

I also remember from 50 years ago taking a boat across Jenny Lake to Inspiration Point. I remember seeing a man and woman together at Inspiration Point and decided right then I would come back to the Tetons someday with a kind woman. Well now I am back, but I am alone.

The day after arriving in the campground, I drove to Yellowstone. The road just opened that day, and I saw why. Snow piled high from varying from two feet to 15 feet lined both sides of the road for 30 miles. Arriving at Old Faithful, even the small off-season crowds were too much for me. In a few weeks, tens of thousands of people will mob Yellowstone each day. About three million people visit Yellowstone every year. While waiting for Old Faithful to erupt, I walked around Geyser Hill. The two square mile area has one-quarter of all the geysers in the world.

Then I drove to Grand Prismatic Hot Spring. Grand Prismatic Hot Spring is the largest Hot Spring in the United States and third largest in the world. The spring is 300 feet in diameter and 150 feet deep, with a temperature of 160 degrees. Grand Prismatic Hot Spring is stunning for all the colors from the inner turquoise pool to the rings of green, red, orange, and as the name implies, all the colors visible when a prism refracts white light into all the colors of the light spectrum.

Grand Prismatic Hot Spring

Once again at Grand Prismatic Hot Spring there were too many people there for me. I was lucky to find a place to park. I had to use a spot reserved for a bus. In famous places in the United States like the Grand Canyons and Yellowstone, I noticed there are more foreigners than Americans. I don’t know if that says something about foreigners or Americans, probably both. I can tell you the tourists that come on bus tours overwhelm the places when they pile out of the buses. Mostly shamed out of existence years ago, some selfie sticks are still around. Selfie sticks and tour buses seem to go together. That is all I have to say about that.

I’m now back at the campground through the weekend. The coldest temperatures of the trip will be this weekend with the temperature plunging down into mid twenties.

While hiking alone around the lakeside trail next to the campground, I became concerned about bears. Then I saw a family hiking together and was glad to see other people. There has never been a bear attack where there are six or more people. The family was trying to take a photo, so I offered to take it for them. I asked them where they were from. They said Columbus Ohio. I told them I grew up in Pittsburgh PA. For some reason, the mother asked me if I ever heard of Grove City College. Her question astonished me. I told I was a graduate of Grove City College in 1979. She graduated in 1984, so we never met there. GCC is a very small college with only 2000 students. I thought wow, synchronicity again. We talked for a while and they headed off. I decided to head the way they went and take the long way home. While I did see beautiful lake shore views of the Tetons, much of the trail was still covered with snow and other parts of the trail were under a few inches of water. I figured this would be a good test to see if my new hiking shoes really were water-proof which they were. Near the end of the hike, I turned around and saw a bear warning sign. The sign said; Don’t hike alone, bring bear spray, make lots of noise, don’t run from bears, and there is no guarantee of safety from bears. I started to panic. Then I realized the sign was to warn people walking in the opposite direction to the dangers from where I had just come. I was just a few hundred yards from the trail head. I picked up my slow pace and scampered back up into the parking lot.

Now each morning I wake up wishing I was home. Each successive morning I linger longer in bed. Usually the thought of coffee, toast, muffins, and croissants entices me to finally get out of bed. Then I get going and excited about the day and feel like I don’t want to ever to go home.

I keep feeling there is something I missed on the trip. Of course, this is not a rational thought. America is so vast. One could spend a life time traveling around America and still not see the entire country.

I’ve learned once again to truly enjoy seeing these beautiful places you have to share them with another person. I’ve seen incredible vistas on this trip, but without a person to share them with, the experiences are somewhat hollow. I’m ready to start heading home now. I still have 2500 miles to get home, and have already driven 5000 miles. I’ll head east across America’s heartland. Although the scenery is not as splendid as what I’ve seen the last few weeks, the Great Plains is still a beautiful part of America.

“The world’s big and I want to have a good look at it before it gets dark” – John Muir

The Sounds of Silence


The Grand Tetons and Yellowstone National Parks — 10 Comments

  1. You did miss something. I can’t imagine going all the way across the country and ending in Idaho and not coming across the Cascades to Seattle. I live in Bellingham WA 2 hours north of Seattle and it is the most beautiful part of the country.

    • I thought about going over there, especially to see Bellingham. I have been to Seattle twice before. In 2009, I was on a bicycle tour that started in Anacortes. We spent one day riding on the Lopez Island. From Andcortes, we cycled to Marblemount, then up over the Cascades on 20 to Winthrop, then to Chelan, Leavenworth, and down to Yakima. From Yakima, we bicycled to Mt Rainer, then to Mt St Helens, then Troutdale, and up to Mt Hood. Then I flew home from Portland. So I saw much of the area from a bicycle, the best way to experience an area. I agree the northwest is one of the most beautiful parts of the country.

  2. Should have known with all the traveling and biking you have done you would have seen the Pacific North West. It is beautiful country. I agree that biking is a good way to see the country. I have hiked a lot but have not done much biking.

  3. The Tetons look stunningly beautiful as always. Enjoy your time there, and you will feel refreshed before the long drive home. So interesting that you met the woman who had gone to your college!

    • Debbie, I spent a week in the Tetons, never grew tired of looking at them. Yellowstone was nice, but I had seen it several times before and even the off season crowds were too much for me. Even as I left the Tetons today, I kept looking in the mirror to catch glimpses of Mt Moran as I drove out the east entrance. An hour after leaving, I was still able to Mt Moran in the Mirrors. Drove through the Wind River Reservations to I-80, the winds are as fierce as I remember them.

  4. Suzanne has an excellent point: the Pacific NW is top-tier in so many ways, and I can’t imagine anyone taking a trip across country and not spending lots of time in the PNW. Loved Lopez and Orcas Islands. But you HAVE been there, so you know what it’s like.

    As a solo male traveler, I too understand that something is missed by traveling alone. But I’ve found that there are many, many, many really terrific solo women – and men! – out there. When I extend myself, I’m usually rewarded. I’ve found that among travelers, I’m as lonely as I want to be and I have as much companionship as I put myself out to receive.

    I’ve also learned a HUGE and important Life Lesson…often, traveling alone but periodically meeting up with fellow RVers has significantly greater pluses than minuses. And I first learned that from RVing couples!!!

    Life isn’t always greener on the other side. Most often we have what we have for a reason, and gratitude is the key. Nevertheless, periodic companionship is terrific too. At times. With the right person. Sometimes. LMAO. I’m super glad you’re enjoying your trip, young man.

    • Joe, you are a very wise person! I actually wanted to go to Bellingham WA where is Susanne is from, that is one of the towns I wanted to visit to see if I wanted to live there. I just ran out of energy doing all the driving and chores with the RV by myself. I am hoping to return to British Columbia and PNW next summer or the following summer. Traveling alone can be great, I have done it a lot. It forces you to meet and talk with other people instead of retreating into your own comfort zone. However, it would be nice to have a second opinion, set of eyes etc, on navigating and picking out campgrounds while you are in route etc, as well as a second driver. Yes, the grass is always greener I suppose. I can think of only a few people I could travel with in a RV with for several months.

    • Yea, I love that version of “The Sounds of Silence”, one of the rare times a remake is better than the original.
      I never did see another bear, I guess that is a good thing. I did see some buffalo, they are huge!

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