Tetons & Yellowstone 2020 Trip

This is a long post and a journal of my two weeks in the Tetons & Yellowstone. I plan on going back an adding links to pictures for certain parts of the post and maybe some additional text. I kept a paper journal of what I did each day while there and below is the results of that.

I spent two weeks in the Teton\Yellowstone National Parks from 8/22 until 9/5 and could have spent another week there trying to get to all the places that I was interested in. Both parks main activity is hiking with some many beautiful, amazing, and unique things to see by Mother Nature! In the Teton NP you have the Tetons mountain range shooting almost straight up out of the flat valley before it with Jenny Lake at it’s feet. Then there is the Snake river that cuts through this valley that I hope to raft down on a future to get that unique perspective. In Yellowstone the geothermal features and the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone are the outstanding parks of the park. Being in this area of the world is feels magical and exhilarating, it really makes you feel like you are on another planet and back in the time of the dinosaurs. Words, at least mine, can’t really get close to doing in justice so I took 100s of pictures and you can get an idea of the uniqueness of these national treasures by viewing them.

My trip started on a Friday, I left home with my toy-hauler RV (http://izzy.org/RV) about 4PM on the 21st. I had debated on going very basic, just my truck with its camper shell and a trailer for my street bike, 1997 Honda Nighthawk 750. Due to COVID this was a solo trip, since I had no one in my bubble that could make it. Once I decided to go for almost two weeks I decided to glamp it instead and bring the big beast out. I plotted out a drive, pretty much taking highway 287 from home all the way into the Tetons. On big factor was fuel, hauling the RV my truck (Toyota Tundra) only gets about 6 MPG and with a 27 gallon gas tank that meant about a max of 150 miles between gas stops. So I planned for stops in Laramie, Rawlings, Lander, and Moran, WY; to be safe I also got a 15 gallon fuel tank in my truck bed. The drive was smooth and about an 10 PM I stopped at Diversion Dam Junction Rest Area which was about an hour out from Moran, WY; my last stop before my planned camping spot just outside of Teton NP. I was back on the road about 8AM, stopped in Moran for fuel water before heading to the camp spot. I had done research before I left on open camping areas, that didn’t require a reservation since all the reserved spots were already booked by the time I decided to go. I found “Upper Teton View aka Toppings Lake” that has lots of great reviews, but a bumpy one-way forest road to get to it. So fingers crossed I left Moran and headed to it hoping I could find a spot and that I didn’t run into someone coming down with a rig at the same time.

Toppings Lake was a great spot! I got up there about 11Am and found a spot open right by the edge of the rise over looking Jackson valley towards the Tetons. Camping in this area, and most open camping spots in the Bridger-Teton National Forest are limited to five days due to high usage, but it’s not strictly enforced I found out. The first couple of days you couldn’t even see the Tetons due to the smoke\haze from the CO fires, by the 3rd day it started to clear up and on the fourth the view was exactly what I hoped for, outstanding! After I got the RV parked, setup, and Nighthawk unloaded, I took the bike out and did 100 miles. I went to Mormon Row and walked around the main sites, barns and houses from the 1890s, then decided to head into the town Jackson for a beer at the Snake River Brewery, which a friend of mine who used to live there highly recommended. While driving around Teton and Yellowstone Parks I had on GyPSy Guide which provides an audio history and details of the areas you are driving though at that time. (HIGHLY RECOMMEND IT!) I stopped many places to take pictures, get off the bike to look around, or take short (to long later in the trip) hikes. When I got into Jackson I realized that coming in on a Saturday was a mistake given how busy it was, I ended up parking my bike due to the stop\go traffic, and walked around. Most people in town were wearing mask, mandatory sighs were up everywhere in town about this, so was glad for that but I still avoided people when I could and didn’t go inside anywhere. I walked over to the brewery, which I knew had a lot of outdoor seating, but there was a line down the block to get in so forgot that. I ended up finding a small Mexican restaurant, Juan’s, that had four tables outside spread pretty far apart. So got dinner and a beer then headed back to camp. Almost every evening I read books or magazines, same in the AM while I was waiting for it to get warm enough to take the motorcycle out.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/izken/50324125166/in/album-72157715904907926/My first full day was Sunday 8/23 and I made the most of it by dirt biking and paddle boarding on the same day! Near where I was camped was forest\jeep roads and one section of single track. So I left on the Segway X260 (aka Luna Cycle – Sur Ron) from camp and went down the forest roads several miles to where the single track was. This was a mountain biking trail, that cut through the woods from one forest road to another. It was a very nice trail, that rare gets used based on where it’s at, a ways from any paved roads. Ran across one small group of hikers, stopped to say hi and they were cool and were curious about the X260. Then headed down the forest roads to ATV trails. These trails were really 90% old forest roads, but still fun to go around on and many great views. On the way back to camp I notices some other narrow trails and checked them out, turns out there is a large network of horseback riding trails since there is a large dude ranch nearby that uses them. So explored these a bit, keeping an eye on the map to keep heading towards camp since batter was down to about 15%. I got back to camp with 8% battery.

I got back to camp around 2PM, changed clothes and loaded up the paddleboard and headed to Jenny Lake. First I had to go by a ranger water inspection, paddleboard was new so that wasn’t an issue but they informed me I needed a boating sticker. So then had to goto the visitor center, across the street, and get a sticker for $12. It wasn’t that busy at all, two people in line in front of me and everyone was wearing a mask and distanced. After getting that I parked in the lot by the put the board on my head and walked the maybe ½ mile (longer than I thought it would be) to the lake. I spent about three hours on the lake, staying near the short for the most part due to the waves from the winds and shuttle boat going across the lake taking hikers. I went from one end to the other on the East shore, then to the SE area where the waters were better since it was a little cove and mediated for about 15 minutes in the middle. I took the paddleboard back to the shore and also took a short swim, I was surprise that the water wasn’t much colder than it was. Got back to camp about 7PM and made dinner, which most nights was A) hamburger, B) brats, or C) spaghetti, I did try two of the dehydrated meals I had in the RV, one was chili and the other a Mexican dish over the two weeks.

My primary mode of transportation around the parks was my Nighthawk, which I put about 1,100 miles on it during this trip. Monday AM, once it got above 50 degrees out (about 10AM), I took it out like I did about every morning. This morning my plan was to hike to Taggart Lake, about 6 miles, but I ended up going an extra couple of miles (now 8 total) to Bradley Lake also. On the map it had “waterfalls” labeled, but besides one near the start I didn’t see any others but did get great views of the lakes from way up on the trail. (See pictures of course 😊). About 3 miles back from the parking lot my knee was really hurting, right calf started to cramp, and my right hip was hurting, I ended limping back the last couple of miles when going down hill was the worse on my knee and starting to keep that leg straight. Got back to camp just in time for a strong rain storm, which got rid of most of the smoke & hazy I was happy to find the next morning!

The next day, Tuesday, I was pretty sore so read the graphic novel The Legend of Drizzt: Exile. I also brought two of the later books in the Drizzt series, which spans about 30 books all by R.A. Salvatore about a group of heroes, mostly lead by Drizzt the dark elf or Drow, in the fantasy world of the Forgotten Realms where most of the D&D based books I’ve read and is the setting for many of the D&D games I’ve played over the last 30 years. I started this book series around 1989, the 1st book came out in 1988 when I started playing D&D, and is by far my most read and cherished characters. Around 11  took the Nighthawk to Jackson Lake and explored the various open\1st come, 1st serve, campgrounds in Teton National Park. Due to the storm the night before the skies were much clearer and I got the 1st good view of the Tetons. These mountains are pretty unique in the way they just jut up from the flat land around them 1,000s of feet. Very impressive range and major contrast to the land leading up to it. Got back about sunset and by then it was hazy again, but much better than the previous few days.

Wednesday I left about 10:30 in the truck with the X260 loaded in the back. I had done research and found that there was much more single track in the area, mainly a 12 mile loop called Horsetail Creek\West Fork Loop. So headed out to it, it was only 22 miles away but with a well-worn asphalt and dirt road that was also getting repaired it took about two hours to get there. It was worth it! This was a beautiful single track trail with only a few technical\rocky sections, but it did have several large downed trees (which I had the lift the bike, only ~120 lbs, over). The dirt was also “magic”, due to the rain the night before it was soft and “sticky” so made for good speeds with perfect traction. This trail seems pretty new, maybe 3-4 years old and is a must do if in the area on a dirt or mountain bike! After getting back I loaded the bike up and head five miles further down the road to some ATV trails that were on the map, maybe 15 mile loop with some off shoots to forest roads. The 1st challenge was getting across Slate “Creek”, really it was a river that was well over 50’ across and unknow how deep. Luckily there was a trail maintenance crew there with an ATV and small bulldozer getting ready to go across. After watching them I saw it was maybe knee deep at max, but also could see it was mostly softball to bowling ball sided smooth and round rocks. So crossing my fingers and basically duck walking across the river I went in. Yes, the rocks were very slick and the bike slid around to the left and right on them and the back tire spun a lot, throwing water well into the air and back down on me. I got across, with two pretty wet boots and a back. After getting across I took my boots off, dumped the water out and rung my socks out and went to check out the “trails.” They turned out be old forest roads but was still fun and I wished I had a full battery to check them out. As it was I only had about 40% left and decided to ride until I hit 25% and at that I turned around, doing an additional 6 miles for a total of 18. I could have gone several more miles, but didn’t want to take the chance of having to cross the river pushing the eBike. After I got back to camp I had about an one hour call with JC (my girlfriend), which was the 1st time we’ve talked since I left and 1st conversation with anyone since then too.

Thursday I moved from my Teton\Toppings Lake spot into Yellowstone. I had loaded most things up and gotten ready to roll out the night before. So was rolling out around 10AM to Bridge Bay Campground in Yellowstone, which I had booked over a month ago for a week. This campground is right by Yellowstone Lake and Fishing Bridget area.Took about two hours to get there, about 70 miles away, and everything was smoothing, including not coming across someone heading up the forest road while I was heading down. After getting the RV parked, unhooked, solar setup, I took it easy and mostly read the Drizzt book Gauntlgrym and Scientific America magazines all day and evening.

Friday I rolled out on the Nighthawk around 9AM when it was in in the high 40s. I did have a good dual sport motorcycle jacket with a windproof liner, thermal top, gloves, and windproof pants. So I thought I was good on temperature, but was wrong. I was heading to Mud Volcano area which was about an hour ride away and about 20 minutes into the cold damp morning air was getting painful. So I took my time and stopped at a couple of interesting pull offs to warm up and take some pictures. I spent about and hour and half at Mud Volcano area and then headed to my goal for the day: Mount Washburn hike. This was the #1 rated hike in “Day Hikes of Yellowstone” by Hike734, which was my goto list of hikes I was planning on doing in Yellowstone. It has 65 hikes, of which I did 10 of for around 45 miles of hiking the 10 days I was in Yellowstone. Unfortunately, due to a fire in the are of Mount Washburn the road to get there was closed. So I ended up stopping at the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone and spent the day there hiking the North & South Rim trails on both sides of it and continued up to Ribbon Lake on the South side. This is a MUST DO, seeing Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, the views of the canyon, waterfalls, different colors and erosion of rocks is amazing here. On the way back to camp I made one stop at Cascade Falls to capture another waterfall, which is right but pull-out from the main road.

Saturday, 8/29, I headed out about 10AM once it got just over 50 degrees out and with an extra upper layer on too, to West Thumb Geyser Basin, which was very close to where I was camping and next to Yellowstone Like. It was pretty busy here so I kept my mask on the entire time and decided to wait till a week day to goto Old Faithful area. I then road to the East side of Yellowstone Lake to hike Storm Point Trail and Sedge Bay area. Got back to camp about 5PM and hooked up a 2nd 12 volt battery and played videos games for about two hours, until it was low on juice. I then made plans for which days I was planning on doing the other main sites, Old Faithful (Mon), Biscuit Bay (Mon), Fountain Paint Pots (Tue), Mammoth Hot Springs (Wed), and Norris Hot Springs (Wed), and move to new area (Wed).

I planned to move to the NW corner of the park now, since Bay Bridge was on the South side of the park and the whole East side was closed due to fires and now a tanker truck wreck that messed the road up. This meant to get to the NE side I had to go around the entire Grand Loop, taking about 3 hours vs 1 hour. So Sunday was spent mainly checking out campsites in this area that were 1st come, 1st serve. Started with Norris, but they were closed I assume due to COVID, then Indian Creek which is seven miles south of Mammoth Hot Springs in the far NE corner and it turned out to be mostly empty; it the low was 26 the night before and that meant many people left, and lastly Mammoth campgrounds. Indian creek had a lot of trees and was very nice, so I was pretty sure I was going to go here but still checked out Mammoth. Mammoth had many large spots (40+) and good views, but very few trees so decided to move to Indian Creek on Tuesday. This evening I finished the book Blowout: Corrupted Democracy, Rogue State Russia, and the Richest, Most Destructive Industry on Earth, by Rachel Madow.

Monday it was 37 when I woke up and raining and snowing a bit, so great day to head to Old Faithful when I figured the crowds would be the lightest. I took the truck this day, due to weather and brought a little big bigger lunch than the Cliff Bar and tuna fish sandwich I had been eating pretty much every day since I was leaving camp before 11 and getting back after 5 most days. I hiked the ~2 miles of trail, all boardwalks, in the Upper Geyser Basin where there are around 20 different geysers. Around lunch I checked the schedule for Old Faithful which goes off about every 90 minutes +\- 20 minutes and headed to the truck for a quick lunch. Head back out in time to get a front row spot, it wasn’t that busy as I hoped, and took pictures and video of it going off. After that I went back to the truck and headed to Biscuit Basin area and then Fountain Painted Pots area. When got back to camp I loaded things up and prepared to move in the AM.

Tuesday I moved to Indian Creek campground, left about 9:30 but didn’t get there till about noon, it would have taken an hour if the road on the SE side was open but due to the closure, animals, and slow traffic it to about 2.5 vs 1.75 it should have taken going the longer route. I learned that it takes a lot longer to get around Yellowstone than you expect. I got delayed by two accidents, one part of the Grand Loop was closed due to a 3rd, another part closed due to a fire, animals (most bison watching but one time a mother bear and her three cubs, which I got to see), and people just going slow to take in the views. On the Nighthawk I would pass about every pass zone it was safe too, since most people did 45 MPH (speed limit normally) or less and crawled\stopped if there was an animal (99% of the time bison) near the road. At Indian Creek I got a spot in the sun, for the solar panels since generators weren’t allowed, but I didn’t need to use mine at all this whole trip except to charge the X260 ones. After getting things setup I headed to Norris Geyser Basin, then to Porcelain Basin Hot Springs, and finally “Roaring” (it doesn’t anymore) Mountain. That evening I finished the book Gauntlgrym.

Wednesday I headed out to Mammoth Hot Springs and spent about two hours there walking all the trails\boardwalks around it and nearby geothermal features. Since I was only seven miles from camp I went back for a full lunch, then headed back out to the NE side of the park’s Tower area. Here I did the Yellowstone River Picnic area hike and got some great shots of the river. This is a must do hike for the views, pretty mellow and worth it to see the river and the canyon it has cut. Got back to camp about 6 and started book 2 in the Neverwinter Drizzt saga: Neverwinter.

Thursday I road over 120 miles on the Nighthawk and did Grand Prismatic Hot Springs (video) in the Midway Geyser Basin. This is my favorite feature in Yellowstone, it’s the 2nd largest hot spring pool in the world, is 120’ deep and is just amazing to look at with all the colors and otherworldly appearance of it and the surrounding area! After doing a hike that took you to a ridge looking down on this amazing site I continued on to Fairy Falls, and then to Imperial Geyser. This hike is also a must do for this great geyser that you can get right up to and even put your toes\hand in the spring water that comes out of it (just do it a way downstream when it’s well below the ~180 degrees at the source. This geyser erupts for about a minute every few minutes and you can get right in the steam path of it, right on the edge, and chances are you will be by yourself too! After getting back to the bike I decided to head out the West exit of Yellowstone, though the small old west, sort of, tourist town of West Yellowstone, and continue on about another 10 miles to cross into Idaho.

Friday was my last day in Yellowstone and still had several things I wanted to see, I decided to check out Pebble Creek & Slough Creek campsite in the NE corner of the park. Made it to Slough Creek but the campground was closed, not sure if this was due to the late season since most campgrounds closed the week after Labor Day or COVID. After leaving the Slough Creek campgrounds, which is 2 miles down a dirt road, I went past Pebble Creek and drive into Cooke City, MN (small western style tourist town) out the NE exit of the park. I had looked for interesting forest roads in the area to check out also and tried one that went to a Daisy Pass, but after about one mile it was getting way too rugged for the Nighthawk so I turned around. I had noticed a side road that ran parallel to the main road through Cooke so deiced to check it out. This road went from a nice gravel road with nice houses on it to a bit of a challenge with big mud holes and much more of a 4×4 road. There were a few mud crossing I did where I felt the tires sliding around some, which are 60/40% off/on road tires luckily on the Nighthawk. I thought about turning around, but I was half way through already and continued, with the ruts, roots, and mud holes I got more of a work out than expected on this road and the one to Daisey Pass for sure! Headed back to Pebble Creek trail and did this four mile hike which was 90% pretty steep uphill, went from 7,296’ to 8,345’ and took about two hours. In the end the views were worth it! Got back to camp and made dinner and backed things up.

The best part of this trip was my 1997 Nighthawk. It made getting around so much quicker, fun, and exhilarating! Other highlights were paddleboarding on Jenny Lake, that amazing 12 mile single track loop, cross the river to get to the ATV loop, Fairy Falls trail and Imperial Geyser, North\South Rim trails of the Grand Canyon, seeing a momma bear and her three cubs, one of which attacked a small traffic cone and rolled around with it for a bit.

The drive back on Saturday took about 12 hours, having to stop about every two hours for gas adds up and I also took highways vs interstate since hauling a 27’ ~6,000 pound trailer is better going slower. Getting back in CO I noticed, what I thought was, a huge thunderhead about an hour north of Fort Collins. Turned out this was the smoke from the Cameron Peak fire that is still burning weeks later West of Fort Collins and has even burned into Rocky Mountain National Park and caused ash fall to built up enough to coat cars with ash.

About Jason Sherry

I am a ~30 year Exchange consultant and expert. I currently work for Commvault as a Solutions Specialist for Microsoft Infrastructure For more info see my resume at: http://resume.jasonsherry.org
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