Day Five : August 4th
On the agenda today was a hike with a park naturalist along part of the Jenny Lake Trail and then up to Inspiration Point.
From what we had read on TripAdvisor we knew that Laura would be able to do the majority of the trail, but the final climb up to Inspiration Point itself would be too steep and strenuous. But, it would still be a great hike because there would be a waterfall along the way and probably lots of interesting info from the ranger.
We were officially 2-for-2 on guides this trip. Justin was very cool and made this hike well worth the effort for Laura. He taught us how to identify thimbleberries and we were allowed to try some out for ourselves.
So after making it to Hidden Falls, Laura was supposed to go ahead and check out while I went the rest of the way up…but amazingly she pushed up and on through a very difficult climb to make it all the way to the Point! I was extremely impressed.
After lunch at camp, Laura took a nap and I walked further north along the Jenny Lake Trail until I found a piece of shore that was almost completely isolated. I had walked far enough and there was enough sun that I had begun to work up a sweat, so I left my shoes and shirt on a rock underneath a pair of Black Cottonwoods and crept in to the lake. When I was far enough out to be in up to my neck, I turned around and saw those two trees in a different way. Their trunks were so close to one another that their root systems must be completely intertwined beneath the soil. Truly, these trees appeared to be married to one another and I thought with fondness of my wife, resting tenderly at camp, exhausted from growing and carrying our child, and from insisting on staying with me to the end of a trail. This thought endeared these two trees to me, and I have returned to them in my mind several times since leaving them.
The rest of the day was spent learning a thing or two about beavers at the Blacktail Ponds Overlook (honestly, a bit of a let down if you ever go…probably skip it), driving to the Snake River Overlook (the site of an extremely famous Ansel Adams photograph, credited with giving momentum to the Natural Park movement and one of 116 photographs on the Voyager golden record), and visiting Cunningham Cabin.
Then it was back to camp for I think more veggie dogs for dinner and for me, some very tasty wheat beer brewed just on the other side of the Tetons in Idaho. This would be our last day in Grand Teton National Park and it could not have been better to us. In the morning, we would pack up our things and head north in to Yellowstone, beginning our tour of a geographically unique place on this earth.
Day Six : August 5th
Because the shore of Jenny Lake had become one of my favorite places and we would not be there again for years (and years?) I decided to set my alarm early and be there for sunrise.
I found a comfortable rock to sit on, and listened to the Sigur Ros album Takk from beginning to end while the scene changed from complete darkness, to navy, to icy blues, and then in to warm reds and oranges. Catching the sunrise was a habit that my father-in-law, Paul, and I got in to on a vacation two Christmases ago in Sedona and the two here in the Tetons were well worth the effort and lost sleep.
As I walked up to our campsite preparing to wake Laura up so we could get going, I saw something very confusing. All of our gear was stacked up next to the car ready to go.
"Have we been evicted? Is someone robbing us? What’s going on?"
Then, Laura hopped out of the tent with a proud look on her face. She had been packing up for the last hour putting us well ahead of schedule and blessing me immensely by doing so much of the work. A great surprise and a great start to the day! But sadly, it was goodbye to GTNP.
On to Yellowstone! We were able to reserve our campsite at the Madison area in advance so there was no rush at all to claim a spot or anything. This was a great advantage logistically because we would be entering the park from the south and we could start hitting the points of interest as we made our way to camp.
The first stop was Isa Lake. It’s a very unassuming thing, more like a pond actually and they don’t make a big deal out of it from the road. But, having read about it in the guidebook beforehand, it was something I didn’t want to miss.
What’s so great about this relatively small body of water? Well, it sits right on the continental divide and so waters that begin here end up in both the Pacific Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico! To make it even more interesting, the stream that leaves the lake to the west actually makes a u-turn and it ends up feeding the Gulf to the southeast, and the stream that exits on the east also makes a u-turn and it ends up in the Pacific! What a quirky little place…I wonder if there is another one like it?
From there, it was on to what could be described as the main event of the park, Old Faithful herself.
Luckily, we only had to wait a pretty short amount of time for the geyser to perform and then we began a lengthy walk in the direction of Morning Glory Pool. The trail wound its way through a number of other geysers, hot springs, mud pots and fumaroles.
At last, we reached Morning Glory and despite being treated to some wonderful colors deep within the pool, it was also very sad to see the orange and brown growth along the edge of the water; the result of people throwing garbage and other objects in to the pool which clogs the spring, cools the water, and allows otherwise absent bacteria to grow. Seriously, who walks up to something as wonderful as this hot spring and decides to throw in their plastic coke bottle?
You can see in the picture above that a storm had begun to creep in and we were about a mile-and-a-half to two miles away from the car. Also, there is a thing called sciatica that the Preggie has been battling for the last couple of weeks. Apparently, as her internals are rearranging themselves and ligaments are stretching this way and that, a common ailment is for the ol’ sciatic nerve to get caught on the ol’ hip bone from time to time. And then it just stays there. I am only able to observe this phenomenon, I’ve never experienced it myself, but I’m going to have to take a pass. It does not look like a barrel of monkeys. Unless, of course, those monkeys are jumping up and down on one of the largest nerves in your body, and then yes, it most certainly appears to be the aforementioned barrel of monkeys.
So, with a mile-and-a-half to go, a clearly angry burst of rainfall moving in, and a group of primates going bananas on Laura’s hip, we began the journey. This sounds like a recipe for disaster, but Laura calls it one of her favorite parts of the trip. The reason being is that to a small degree, it was like practicing for labor. She’s been reading a book called "Christ-centered Childbirth" and she was able to actually practice some of the things she had just read about. It was a very painful walk for her, especially the final stretch when the rain began to fall and the pain was at it’s worst, but she had to walk faster then than at any other time. My role was comparatively
minimal non-existent, all I really did was hold her hand and encourage her as best as I knew how. But, when we finally got in to some shelter, she just collapsed and it felt like we had accomplished something together. I’ve known this all along but I know it now even more, she is going to be incredible when our delivery date finally arrives.
After the rain died down, we went to our campground at the Madison area and set up the tent and picnic table tent in case it rained again. I had heard about a popular swimming hole nearby in the Firehole River so made the short drive and I had a brief swim in the canyon.
Aaaaaaand then it looked like rain again. So, we hustled back to camp confident in the fact that we’d recently purchased and set up a cover for the picnic area for this very occasion.
It was a primo piece of absolute junk.
And the rain was still coming in, so we jumped back in the car and headed for West Yellowstone, Montana which was only 14 miles west. We figured we could score some pizza or a veggie burger if we were lucky.
Of course, once we were five miles down the road the rain completely stopped. A little frustrating, sure, but if we hadn’t left camp then we wouldn’t have stumbled upon the most serene setting ever. It is actually a little too perfect. We rounded a corner, saw a rainbow, saw some deer and at the same time we both said something to the effect of, "Ok, that’s pretty cool…"
When it was all said and done, we did in fact find a pizza place in West Yellowstone (as well as a great little bookstore with a large Nature Writing and Nature Guides section). We returned to camp a little exhausted from a full day and slept well anticipating the day to come of touring the upper section of Yellowstone’s Grand Loop Road.