Camping, Hiking, Hot Springs, National Parks/Etc., United States, Waterfalls, Wyoming

Of Geysers & Waterfalls – Days 7 & 8: Midway Geyser Basin, Jenny Lake, Hidden Falls, Colter’s Bay, and Granite Creek Falls

Day 7 – August 28, 2020

Sad, the final morning in Yellowstone. Hindsight is always something that can come into play, and looking back I would’ve done this day much differently and spent the night off in the national forest near the Hoback Canyon, but alas… hindsight is 20/20. It still wasn’t a bad day, it was just… crowded and hot… Which kind of is a thing that plagues me on epic adventures. The last day/night being a let down after so much awesomeness. I suppose it was only meant to be, having a “meh” last night of this adventure, much like my last night of my 19-day trip the first time I went to Iceland.

I took my time getting ready and actually prepared a nice breakfast of hash browns and eggs, much the contrast to my typical “eat oatmeal in the car on the way to exploring” that most of the trip was like. It was moist and foggy. I packed up, shoving soggy tents and camp chair into the car, and saying goodbye to my campsite neighbor.

Making a breakfast feast

Craig Pass south of Old Faithful reopened, which meant I wouldn’t have to backtrack all the way around to leave the park to leave from the south entrance/exit. As I headed south, I stopped at Midway Geyser Basin since it was still early enough to get a parking spot without having to circle for thirty minutes and sit in traffic. The whole adventure at Midway was kind of comical due to the thick fog with added steam from some of the largest hot springs in the world.

Midway Geyser Basin boardwalk map
Steamy waterfall into the Firehole River
Excelsior Geyser is very hot – near boiling at this altitude. It hasn’t erupted since 1985.
Is that moss?!
Ooohhhh yes, that’s moss!
Excelsior Geyser has quite the large geyser
The magnificent Grand Prismatic Spring!
Beautiful view of Grand Prismatic Spring. Also, yes, chilly enough I broke out the down puff jacket! I actually yearn to take a cold weather trip to Yellowstone – might have to plan to come back in the autumn sometime!
Bacterial mats of Grand Prismatic
Oh, there you are, Grand Prismatic!
Opal Spring
Another view of Opal Spring
Turquoise Pool
Crossing the Firehole River, with run off from Excelsior Geyser

After Midway I made my way out of the park, stopping here and there for photos (okay, stopping A LOT), and again at Moose Falls near the south entrance for some more photos. My destination was Jenny Lake in Grand Teton National Park, where I would take the boat shuttle across the lake to Hidden Falls.

A buffalo was wandering through Fairy Falls parking lot. Here the Adventure Dinos demonstrating proper distancing from a buffalo by staying in the car.
Peek-a-boo
Breakfast time!
Do NOT pet the fluffy cows!
One of the several continental divide crossings of the day
Isa Lake is a very special place. It is in the only lake in the world that drains into two different oceans, and does it “backwards” – The western side of the lake drains into the Firehole River which goes east eventually to the Missouri and Mississippi Rivers to the Gulf of Mexico. The eastern end drains into Shoshone Lake, which eventually makes it way to the Pacific Ocean.
Lily pads on Isa Lake
Mossy rocks at Moose Falls
Into Grand Teton National Park and seeing some of the country’s iconic mountains
Mt Moran
Closeup of the Tetons
Closeup of Mt Moran’s glacier and basaltic intrusion called the Black Dike

Jenny Lake was a zoo. I had to park along the highway about a mile from the visitor’s center, and it was HOT HOT HOT (so hot my annual America the Beautiful pass melted in my windshield!). These were definitely the largest crowds of my trip. I stamped my passport (yep, they were actually allowing you to stamp your own book unlike Yellowstone), and made my way to the boat shuttle where I purchased a round trip ticket for about $18. You can hike the whole thing, but there’s a lot of bears and I figured the shuttle would be a unique experience.

I hate boats, but I survived, and joined the throngs of moron tourists heading to Hidden Falls, who fed the wildlife all the way and had no bear spray in sight. Oh yes, I forgot, we must’ve been in Disney World, not actual nature… I actually had someone comment and roll their eyes at my bear spray, which was just weird. I mean, it’s true, I could’ve outran like 99% of the people in the area in case a bear showed up, but still not worth taking chances? I don’t know, maybe it’s because I grew up in the wilderness and have a very healthy respect for nature and risks involved. I digress…

I’m on a boat, and I don’t like boats! I also look incredibly red from being in the sun so much this week!
Tootling across Jenny Lake
Approaching the dock on Jenny Lake
Glaciers! Baby ones, but still glaciers

The hike to Hidden Falls is heavily trafficked (unless you go very early or late) and pretty short. With Inspiration Point added, my hike was only 1.8 miles. There is definitely more to explore in the area, including long backpacking routes.

Looking back at Jenny Lake after departing the boat
I found that trails were fairly well marked.
Hiking up to Hidden Falls
I came across a patch of these berries that looked like raspberries, except they didn’t so I didn’t dare eat any.
Hidden Falls on Cascade Creek
Hidden Falls is still awesome, despite the crowds.
Hidden Falls closeup

After Hidden Falls, I jaunted up to Inspiration Point for views over Jenny Lake and views of more moron tourists feeding chipmunks. Oh, and someone flying a drone. Because the rules of national parks just apply to everyone else. Yeah, I wasn’t having a good time in Grand Teton.

Oh here, look at the glaciers again and big pointy mountain!
Panoramic view of Jenny Lake from Inspiration Point
The chipmunks, kept fat by tourist-morons, are incredibly photogenic at Inspiration Point… and friendly. They’ll climb right into your packs looking for food.
Pose for me, baby!
Okay, so I took more chipmunk photos than scenery photos at Inspiration Point…
This little one was kind of choking on something a tourist-moron fed it, but luckily managed to get it swallowed before I had to do the Heimlich maneuver on it.
Jenny Lake boat shuttle
I took a slightly different trail back to the boat dock that had less traffic on it

Ideally using hindsight, I should’ve headed south of Jackson. But I had booked a night of camping near Colter’s Bay because I wanted something reserved as I wasn’t sure if the national forest surrounding Jackson would be overrun with people like the forests on the southern end of the state were. After visiting the bookstore and getting more passport stamps, I checked in to my little tent cabin, that was a simple wall tent with built in bunks. It was still early, so I decided to go pay $5 to shower properly for the first time since Dubois at the start of my trip, and then headed down to Jackson Lake to sit on the beach and watch the sunset.

My little tent camping cabin for the night at Colter’s Bay
The tent cabin can sleep four, though those upper bunks look sketchy as hell!
Hanging out on the beach at Jackson Lake
Canoe on Jackson Lake
Bald eagle?! ‘MERICA!!
The moment of sunset
Goodnight, sun.

I had a very early morning planned so I could catch sunrise at Mormon Row. About midnight someone set off their car alarm multiple times, which caused an ensuing brawl as someone confronted the person that had a physical altercation aspect to it. You can’t make this stuff up.

Trying some long exposure photography with the iPhone

Day 8 – August 29, 2020

So… I forgot this day was a Saturday, so my alarm didn’t go off as planned as I used the weekday setting. But I still awoke naturally at about 6:12am with a start, and quickly packed up my sleeping bag and changed clothes and hightailed it to the historic Mormon Row, where like every photo of the Tetons is taken.

I claimed my spot among the others with cameras (who always size each other up with side glances) and watched as the sunrise illuminated the Tetons. I chatted with a guy who was shooting on slide film, which was awesome because film is awesome, and then headed to Jackson as the rain moved in and I was satisfied with capturing the same photo a thousand others have.

John Moulton Barn and the Tetons awaiting sunrise
The sun attempting to rise in the east
Sunlight hitting the Tetons finally
We have sunrise!
Grand Teton

A quick Starbucks run (which wasn’t quick) and gas stop marked my experience in Jackson as I headed south in the rain with the final destination of the trip in mind – Granite Creek Falls.

Granite Hot Springs is located near the waterfall, and is a fairly developed hot springs run by the national forest about nine miles up a forest road off of US-189. But this hot springs was not my destination – a natural hot pot on the side of the river next to the waterfall was, that is called Hippie Hot Springs. The skies cleared and I rallied the gravel road, excited for a hot pot adventure in my own state.

Heading towards Granite Falls. The scenery on the drive is worth it alone.

I found the parking area and noted all the Sprinter vans also there, so I grabbed my gear and set out with a frantic pace to beat the “crowds” to my little hot pot. Accessing this hot pot requires crossing Granite Creek, which can be pretty rowdy in the spring and early summer months with high run off. Being the end of summer, the water was lower, but was still to about my knees, and sooooo cold! I shakily made it across (seriously, I hate water) and located the deepest of the natural hot pots that dot the river bank, which had it’s own geothermal waterfall. No one was else was around so got my swimsuit on and climbed in.

Absolutely pure heaven.

Literally, is this my life?!

I had the hot pot to myself for about twenty minutes until a several families of hot pot enthusiasts from Utah joined me. I didn’t mind sharing (I appreciated them giving me a bit of alone time), and I shared stories of my hot pot adventures in Iceland while they shared theirs about Idaho.

Little geothermal waterfall of heaven.
Soaking in perfect water next to a waterfall!
There’s several little soaking pools dammed up along Granite Creek near the waterfall, but this one was the best.
Granite Creek Falls in blurry style
Just standing in a river taking a selfie. Keeping my feet warm is overrated.

After about 45 minutes I called it good and headed back across the river to the car. There was dispersed camping and also a campground that was not full near this spot, so I kicked myself for not driving up here to camp the night before, as it would’ve been a lot more enjoyable than staying in the crowded Grand Teton National Park. Lesson learned! Definitely noted for the next trip! What a special spot in Wyoming!

All that was left was the five and a half hour drive left back to Laramie, smelling faintly of sulphur.

I had to make a stop in Farson for a giant two-scoops of huckleberry ice cream for lunch.

1300 miles done and done! What a trip! It blew my mind, and Yellowstone quickly became one of my favorite places. I felt like I left so much unexplored that I definitely have to go back and again and again. The thing that is the toughest is Yellowstone is quite the hike from where I live (I can fly to London in the same amount of hours the drive to Yellowstone takes from Cheyenne practically), but it is still worth it. What a special, special state I live in!

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