Day Twenty-Four: Half Day at Yellowstone National Park and a Private Dusk Tour

A fresh new day! Everyone slept very well and we had a lazy morning. We let the kids sleep in as Will was still trying to figure out is going on with the auto leveler. He went to the front office when it opened to see if they knew of someone who comes to the RV for mobile repairs. They have a maintenance person on staff who handles repairs and they gave Will his number. Within minutes of Will calling Wayne, he was here. Right before Wayne arrived, Will found the issue. Wayne confirmed by going up under the RV (like Will had just done) that yes a wire had come unhooked. And this wire was for the auto level system. Wayne fixed the wire and said many times when people are driving things get ripped off when they run over things or hit debris in the road. We were not aware of either happening; however, given we have traveled over 3000 miles anything is possible. Good news: we found the issue. Bad news: we now have to charge the battery that gives juice to the auto level. And clearly we were not going to waste a day to charge the battery since the RV is totally usable, it is just ‘tight’.

By 11:00 am we were on our way to a portion of Yellowstone National Park (South Entrance). The drive to the park’s entrance was about a forty-five minute drive, but overall the drive to the parts of the park we wanted to see was a little over two hours (one way). We knew the day was going to be tight as we had a private dusk tour planned at five o’clock; however, we also didn’t want to waste a day doing nothing.

Wyoming is simply gorgeous! Right now everything is so green and lush and the mountains are gorgeous. When you drive into the south entrance to Yellowstone, you actually drive through the entrance to the Grand Tetons. On one side you have the Tetons and gorgeous lakes and on the other you have the Gros Ventre Range and more lakes. We loved passing numbers of cars pulled over on the side of the road having picnics taking in all the beauty.

Here are some notes from the National Park Pamphlet on Yellowstone: At the heart of Yellowstone’s past, present and future lies a SUPERVOLCANO. Huge volcanic eruptions occurred, the latest 631,000 years ago. The supervolcano feeds the world’s largest group of hydrothermal features. The center of what is now the park collapsed, forming a 30 by 45 mile caldera, or basin. The heat powering those eruptions still fuels the park’s geysers, hot springs, fumaroles and mudpots. The park’s ECOSYSTEMS range from near desert vegetation at the North Entrance to subalpine meadow and forest on Mount Washburn. They support a variety of habitats that sustain diverse wildlife bison (buffalo), elk, grizzly and black bears, wolves, trumpeter swans and Yellowstone cutthroat trout.

There were bison everywhere!
Look at all of them!
More bison
Look at him!
Lush and green
These views are amazing
The Tetons
More incredible views
I could look out at this for days!

We drove the John D. Rockefeller, Jr Memorial Parkway to Canyon Village as we wanted to see the Upper and Lower Falls. The canyon area features the colorful Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone River and the Upper and Lower Falls from overlooks and walkways. This area was totally wheelchair accessible, with the exception of the last little climb to the top overlook. However, as you know where there is a Will, there is a way! Right when we got out of the car it started raining! But we didn’t let that stop us and it was a short rain shower. The Lower Falls were a short drive around the corner to Uncle Tom’s Point.

On the walk to the Upper Falls
Anna Cate didn’t like the rain!
The Upper Falls
Our Party of Five plus Pawley (this is taken at the end of the path)
Kids at the top overlook of the Upper Falls
Em and Will
The Lower Falls at Uncle Tom’s Point
Anna Cate taking it in
Eli and Pawley

Our drive back we hit a little traffic leaving the park for about twenty minutes for a GRIZZLY BEAR sighting!!!! Around here, people stop and pull off the road left and right when they see something causing backups, but the excitement is part of the fun. At this point we were going to be late meeting our tour so we called to let them know to push it back thirty minutes as we also had to pick up pizza for dinner. Since our tour was private we could control the schedule ourselves which was really nice. When I called, they did say by pushing it back there was a chance we could risk not seeing as much wildlife. Immediately this lead me to pray for our evening as after the day we had yesterday we needed something fun and rmemorable!

Grizzly Bear! I asked Faith our Wildlife Tour Guide if she knew this bear (they are all named) and she said it’s a cub from a bear named 399.

By 5:36 pm (thirty six minutes late!) we had all made restroom stops, grabbed extra layers, put Pawley in his crate, picked up the pizza and were on our way with Faith (our guide) on the Brush Buck Wildlife Tour. Faith was great! She was personable, extremely knowledgeable and fun! We were in a private van equipped with a set of binoculars for each of us. Knowing we had explored portions of the Grand Teton today, she took us to another entrance, Moose Junction.

Here are some facts about the Grand Teton Pamphlet: With no foothills to obstruct your view, the jagged peaks and deep canyons of the Teton Range rise abruptly from the Jackson Hole valley. Striking, magnificent views provoke wonder. This landscape was born out of an ancient past and shaped by recent geologic forces. The 2.7 billion year old rocks found in the core of the range are some of the oldest in North America, but these mountains rank among the youngest in the world. Beginning 100 million years ago, long before today’s mountains formed, the collision of tectonic plates along North America’s west coast bowed up a vast block of sedimentary rock deposited by ancient seas. Beginning 10 million years ago, movement on the Teton fault generated massive earthquakes causing the mountains to rise while the valley floor dropped. The vertical displacement from the sedimentary rocks overlaying the mountaintops to the same layers beneath the valley floor approaches 30,000 feet.

While movement on the Teton fault lifted the range, erosion sculpted the landscape. Starting two million years ago, massive glaciers up to 3,500 feet thick periodically flowed south from Yellowstone and filled the valley- eroding mountains, transporting and depositing huge volumes of rocky glacial debris. As ice sheets filled the valley, alpine glaciers sculpted the jagged Teton skyline. These glaciers carved the peaks an canyons and deposited moraines along the glacier’s edge. Today these moraines dam beautiful lakes,, like Jenny Lake, along the base of the Teton Range. The general color scheme of vegetation in the 310,000 acre park hints at this geologice story.

Our tour company

Our first sighting was a female pronghorn. The pronghorn is related to the giraffe family. As long as it is safe, Faith pulls the car over and we are allowed to get out to look more closely through her scope lens. The pronghorn was beautiful. Betsie and Eli loved looking through the binoculars and her scope lens. And they asked many questions which I was really excited to see.

Will and Betsie looking closer

We hopped back into the car and we were off to search for more wildlife. Within minutes Will said “I think I saw something back there”, so Faith turned the car around so we could see what it was. And sure enough it was a HUGE elk (a bull, which means a male). His antlers weighed at least 15 pounds on each side! And as you can see from the pictures they were still very velvety, which means he hadn’t shed this layer yet. Oh, he was gorgeous! After watching him move around (and poop….some of us found this to be very funny!), we continued on our way to for Faith to say, “I don’t believe it, look a moose!” She whipped into a pull off area so we could get a good look, but we could not get out. Watching his patterns she turned the car around so we could be ready for the direction in which he was going so we could get a better look. It was like we were storm chasers but for wildlife, it was so fun! Right when we turned around and started to drive up a little, she looked back and said he is crossing the street and was headed to the field where we just saw the elk. We hopped out of the car, climbed up a little hill and both the elk and the moose (bull, a male) where in this open field together. It was amazing! Betsie and Eli were very into this whole experience and Anna Cate loved not only watching the wildlife, but pointing them out to us.

The bull elk
His rump doing his business!
Isn’t he a handsome!
The scope lens is amazing!
Did Faith take GREAT shots or what!
Look at them!
More of Mr. Moose
Moose through the scope
Eli looking through the scope lens
Anna Cate pointing to the elk and the moose

Within the first twenty minutes we saw three different wildlife and Faith said two things. One, we would have missed the Elk and Moose had we been on time (completely opposite from what they told me when I had to push back the time). And two, there hardly is every a moose sighting where we saw this moose. Thank you God (He was answering my prayers!!!). We hopped back in the car and Faith said, “What are we going to see next?” I said, “Let’s go find a bear.” I am not even kidding, within one minute of me saying this, we spotted a black bear right in front of us on the side of the road! God was giving us an abundance this evening! He was so close we definitely could not get out of the van and he was moving pretty fast as it seemed he had an agenda. Thinking maybe he was headed up Signal Mountain, Faith took us in this direction as she also wanted us to see the view from the top. On our way up she spotted a mule deer (they are given this name as their ears look like a mule’s). She was very pretty and kept looking at us. There is something incredibly peaceful about watching wildlife in their own personal space.

black bear
Eli checking things out the mule deer
mule deer

We never saw the bear again, but oh the views from Signal Mountain were amazing! You had the land of green on one side and Jackson Lake on the other. All over this area in Jackson you also have sagebrush which smells amazing and looks beautiful. The sagebrush and grasslands are critical habitats of Jackson Hole, providing habitat for ungulates, carnivores, small mammals and birds. This plant covering most of the valley floor looks barren and sparse but is quite lush. I could have taken handfuls of this home with us!

The green overlook from Signal Mountain
And the other side is Jackson Lake
Will carrying AC over the rocky terrain for our picture
Our party of five

As we headed back down Signal Mountain, the sun was starting to set making for an incredible picture with the Grand Tetons in the background. Faith not only had a great eye for spotty wildlife, but also finding the best places for pictures. And the moon was huge!!! On our way out of the park, Faith spotted a bull (male) mule deer.

Us at the Tetons during sunset
Another shot!
The bull mule deer
The moon!

I love learning all about wild flowers and trees that I find beautiful in nature. And Faith was a wealth of information! Lupine is Latin for wolf and Faith took apart the flower to show us the inside is the shape of a wolf’s claw. The Indian Paintbrush is Wyoming’s State Flower. And the Shimmering Aspen Trees were beautiful to watch blowing in the breeze as they truly shimmer. An interesting fact about the Aspen Tree is when the bark shed’s it creates a powder which you can rub with your hand and it has an SPF of 5. It’s incredible to think of how God is truly in everything created in nature for us. We also learned you actually want a forest fire every 50-60 years. The Lodgepole Pine Trees are well adapted to this since their serotinous cones open during a fire to release their seeds, which take root on the freshly cleared ground, where they don’t need to compete with other vegetation.

Indian Paintbrush
Shimmering Aspen
Shimmering Aspen

Overall, it was an incredible day. I think this Wildlife Tour is going to be one of the kids highlights from our trip. A huge plug for going private is you have the tour guide all to yourself and this allowed everyone, especially the kids to be comfortable and open in talking with her. I loved their interaction in asking many questions, but also how into the whole process of watching the wildlife they were. And you get the most incredible pictures!

One negative to driving and seeing so much of the country at once, is you try to cram so much in, that you don’t have time to stay in one place and actually do many things, besides the main highlights. The Wildlife Tour was not planned until the day we were driving into Jackson and it was one of the best decisions we made. Everyone was able to relax and take in the sights while someone else was not only driving, but giving us so much information about the area. Will had wanted to take Betsie and Eli whitewater rafting while we were here, but everything was booked. A positive to seeing so much of the country at once, is you learn what areas you love and which you do not need to go back to. We know we want to come back to Utah and Wyoming to spend more time in these areas (especially Utah!!!).

It was a late night by the time we got back, took showers and got into bed. We started the RV as soon as we returned to give the auto level some juice, but clearly could not sleep with it running all night. We will see what happens tomorrow!!!

3 thoughts on “Day Twenty-Four: Half Day at Yellowstone National Park and a Private Dusk Tour

  1. You did it! Amazing! I’m so glad that you had a good day and that all will be well with the slides. I hope you’ll be able to enjoy some of the closer areas of Grand Teton National Park. Don’t forget about visiting the Chapel of the Transfiguration (your Aunt Pam’s favorite!), if you have the time. It’s a relatively quick take. If it’s open, there’s a cute old-fashioned general store on the property (just keep walking towards the river.) Have fun!
    Also, my other post got lost somewhere – for those who will follow in your footsteps, the Virginian is an okay place to stay, but if you don’t need full hook-ups, Gros Ventre campground (part of the National Park) is great. However, they don’t take reservations.






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