Travel Thoughts by Kim
Let’s go on an adventure together… to Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons!
In early October, 2018, a friend and I took a Caravan bus tour that covered five states (South Dakota, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, and Utah) over 8 days. We had a BLAST! It was a wonderful trip and we saw so many amazing things. This article will focus on Yellowstone National Park and the Grand Tetons.
Yellowstone National Park is the first national park in the United States and widely held to be the first national park in the world. Established by the U.S. Congress and signed into law by President Ulysses S. Grant on March 1, 1872, Yellowstone National Park is located mostly in Wyoming, but also extends into portions of Montana and Idaho. Yellowstone’s most famous attraction is Old Faithful – a cone geyser that erupts faithfully every 45 minutes or so.
We stayed in the Yellowstone area for three days, traveling along the Yellowstone River and the Louis and Clark Trail – locations for movies, such as, “A River Runs Through It” and “The Horse Whisperer”. Our hotel for two nights in Yellowstone was the Old Faithful Inn, just steps from – you guessed – Old Faithful! So, we were able to watch the predictable eruption a few times while we were there – even from the balcony off the upper lobby of the inn. The inn was beautiful and very rustic and is the oldest inn in the park. When I say “rustic”, I don’t just mean the décor! There is NO internet and very limited cell reception, no air conditioning (luckily, we were there in October and not mid-summer), and no TV in the rooms. They really want you to get out and enjoy the park. Also, the rooms in the original part of the lodge don’t have private bathrooms in the rooms. We were fortunate to have a room in the newer wings, so we did have the luxury of a private bath. It was actually a great experience staying at the lodge, even though we missed access to the outside world.
We covered a lot of Yellowstone Park while we were there. We spent time at Mammoth Hot Springs – that was totally amazing – and made stops at a few other hot springs and geysers. We also visited a gorge they call Yellowstone’s Grand Canyon with stunning views and an incredible waterfall, Fishing Bridge at Norris Geyser Basin, and Yellowstone Lake.
While in the park, we saw lots of wild life – bison, elk, bear, and pronghorn – even had sightings of bison right near the entrance to the lodge we were staying at and elk lounging by the Visitor’s Center when we visited Mammoth Hot Springs. All the wildlife sightings – especially the semi up close and personal ones – made this animal lover just a little over-the-top excited, for sure.
Then, we left Yellowstone and entered Grand Teton National Park and on to Jackson Hole, WY, where we spent our third night in the area. I actually thought Grand Teton National Park was more beautiful and awe inspiring than Yellowstone was. We saw the amazing jagged Teton mountain range and scenes where the movie “Shane” was filmed. We stopped for a photo op at the Continental Divide and a little chapel that was used in the movie “Spencer’s Mountain” (which the TV series the “Waltons” was based on). The chapel is still in use, today and behind the altar, instead of a stained glass window, there is a clear pane glass window framing an amazing view of the Grand Tetons – a truly religious experience.
One of my favorite stops was at Jenny Lake. The views there were so breathtaking I was brought to tears and felt overwhelmed by the peace, quiet, and beauty. I remember giving my friend a little hug and saying, “I’m so glad we came here”.
A highlight of our time in the Grand Tetons was a float trip down the Snake River. What an awesome experience that was! Getting in and out of the oval inner-tube-like raft was a challenge, but the ride and the scenery was incredible. Our guide was a young man with super human strength – he operated the raft while standing with two big oars and a smile that would melt an iceberg. The river has a few spots that are somewhat rough, but is mostly fairly calm – not like riding the rapids of some rivers. So, it was exciting, yet relaxing, and the views were stunning. And, we got to see a mama bear and three cubs off the parking area on our way to the raft. Of course, wherever we saw wild life, we were kept at a safe distance by park rangers. It is never wise to try to get too close to wild life.
We ended this three day segment of the trip at Jackson Hole, WY, where we were able to wander around a bit before checking into our hotel. Jackson is a sweet little cowboy town with large antler arches marking the entrances to the center square, the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar with saddles on the stools at the bar, and lots of statues and cute shops. While enjoying a beautiful morning waiting for our bus after breakfast, I saw these really cool birds I’d never seen before. They were white and black with bright blue tail feathers – they looked like they were wearing a tuxedo. I asked our guide about them and was told they were Rocky Mountain Magpies. So cool!
We left Jackson and headed toward Idaho and Utah. I was hesitant in taking a bus tour, like that, for so long. The tour itself was one I really wanted to do, but the thought of doing it on a bus didn’t appeal to me. But, I am so very glad I did it. Caravan is a great company – their bus was comfortable, the accommodations and attractions that were included along the way were top notch, and the guides were amazing. I would do another Caravan tour in a heartbeat! In fact, I’m seriously considering doing their Canadian Rockies tour and their Panama Canal tour – which includes both a bus portion through the country surrounding the canal and a ship portion for the ride down the canal. Both are on my list of places to go and things to see once we get past all this Covid stuff and can travel, again.
Check out all the stories and photos from our visit to Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons: https://thoughtsbykim.com/2018/10/06/2018-caravan-tour-yellowstone-and-the-tetons/