Monday, July 27, 2015

Westward Adventures - Coming to a close

Monday night at the campground was interesting. I knew from checking the weather that there were potentially going to be some storms coming through, but the weather throughout the Tetons and Yellowstone was hit or miss, so I set up my tent and then went about cleaning up and reorganizing all of my gear. Living out of a car / tent / backpack for two weeks can create a bit of chaos when trying to figure out how to make it all fit back into a suitcase and checked bag. I started a fire, made some dinner and went about burning my extra cardboard and gathering all of my garbage from the car, but before too long, it started to rain big drops and as I heard the thunder getting closer, I put out my fire and climbed into my tent. The rain let up around 8:00pm, so I ran out to brush my teeth and then headed back into the tent for the night. It was a downpour for a lot of the night, complete with thunder and lightning. In hindsight, I should have just slept in the back of the SUV, but by the time I thought about that, I was already barricaded in my tent and everything was getting wet, so there was no point in trying to pack it all back up again. Instead, I listened to the sound of the rain and had another early night.


The great news about having the SUV was that I was able to lay out my tent (and anything else that got wet) over the passenger's seat, back seats and even into the back to let it dry out before I had to pack it back up for the airport. That definitely proved to be very helpful on this trip! Starting out early, along with all of the rain the night before meant another morning full of fog and extra steam as I made my way through the park one last time.

In addition to less traffic, it was another great morning for bison sighting, with herds lined up along the road.


One stop I made was at Fountain Paint Pots in the Lower Geyser Basin. There were huge signs everywhere about how dangerous the area was. 


The fog stuck around for this first stop and made for some great pictures.


Each of the thermal areas had their own names - first up, Celestine Pool. 


Next up, Red Spouter


followed by Leather Pool,


Fountain Paint Pots


and Silex Spring, which you can actually see a little of the blue color from the road,


and finally, there is Bacteria Mat.


My last stop in Yellowstone was the Fairy Falls trailhead. I didn't go too far, just far enough to check out the handiwork of a local spider,


and the beautiful bridge.


There are also a few thermal features that feed into Firehole River. 


I couldn't resist one last view of the mountains as I made my way back through Grand Teton National Park. I absolutely fell in love with the Tetons - you really can't beat the views in that park and I can't wait until I can go back again!


Since my flight wasn't until midnight Tuesday night, I took my time wandering through Wyoming (and a little bit of Idaho) before going back to Utah. Having travelled mostly through Idaho on my way to Jackson Hole, I decided to go the other route this time, but I would definitely recommend the Idaho route - you get much better initial views in the mountains, literally an up-and-over-type drive - whereas heading mostly through Wyoming takes you through very remote areas and small towns.

As I was crossing from Idaho back into Utah, I got to drive around Bear Lake and outside of Garden City, the road climbs to a great overview of the lake.


The rest of the trip back into Utah was uneventful and even though my flight was delayed by about 20 minutes, it was a much easier ride out of Salt Lake City than heading in and I quickly fell asleep. I did wake up in time to see the sunrise in the air as I made my way back to Charlotte.


It's been about 1.5 months since I started on this trip and I'm still trying to wrap my head around everything that I got to experience. When I first started planning this trip, after everyone got over the fact that I was going to be running two half marathons and hiking in between, their first question was always, 'who are you going with?' and I never had a good answer for that. I saw the half marathons and immediately signed up - 2 states in a week is too good to pass up! After that, I just started reading about what I could do while I was out there - I never put much thought into the fact that I would be hiking by myself. I read up on the dangers of wildlife (bison and moose and bears, oh my!) and put in several months of hiking as training. This was not my first time backpacking alone (though last time I did have my dogs with me) and I felt confident in my abilities, including how much hiking I would do, how heavy my pack was and the terrain I would be traveling in. I also did a lot of research on food to eat, what equipment I needed and even bought a gps phone to have in case of emergencies. I loved every minute of this trip and I can't wait to take another one!

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