We got up this morning, not really knowing where we were going today. We knew we were leaving Yellowstone Park, but the big question was how? You see, for weeks, the South Entrance of Yellowstone Park, the entrance that leads to Grand Tetons National Park, has been closed due to a forest fire that was started by lightning on July 25th. The fire is in the northern end of the Grand Tetons, but is very near the road that connects the two parks. Our plan, since the beginning, had been to leave via this exit and see the Tetons, but Mother Nature seemed to have other plans for us. Without the South Entrance, we would be forced to do what everyone else has done for weeks, and that is use the West Entrance and exit through Idaho. That means either a 6 1/2 hour trek around Idaho and then Jackson, Wyoming to get to the Tetons, or forget about the Tetons.The latest word we had last night was that the South Entrance was still closed, but might open sometime today. We got a little excited until we were told that if it did open today, it probably wouldn’t be till this afternoon.
We checked out of the Lake Yellowstone Hotel around 9 AM, and when we got into the car, we realized we hadn’t asked about the South Entrance. Before we drove off, Susie got out of the car, and went back to to the front desk to enquire about it’s status. She had a very nondescript look on her face as she came out of the building, but as she got in the car she said, “Well, our 6 1/2 hour trip just became 2 hours. The South Entrance opened at 7:30 this morning!!!”
Just like our entrance into Yellowstone, our departure was delayed by bison. This time not just one, but a whole family of them, including baby bison. There was a big guy, who was obviously the boss, and he stood in the middle of the road, while the rest crossed. They are huge animals and obviously in charge of the situation, as they probably weigh close to what many cars do. We also saw an elk on the side of the road! A fitting way to end our 3 days at Yellowstone!
The closer we got to the South Entrance, the more smoke we saw, and the heavier traffic was heading to Yellowstone. By the time we went through the South Entrance, the smoke was heavy and there was lots of evidence of fire fighting, including a field full of helicopters. Our first view of the Tetons was smoke shrouded, and we traveled through an area where it was very obvious that the fire had burned on both sides of the road. We even passed an area where there was still smoke from smoldering brush. It was very obvious that the fire had affected this northern area of the park, but the strange part was, that as soon as we were past the immediate fire area, the smoke became much less an issue. The smoke from this fire, that we had smelled in Yellowstone for 3 days, was obviously blowing north and not affecting Teton as much as Yellowstone.
The sights in Teton are incredible. The mountains are truly majestic, and I would imagine that without any fire smoke, they would be even more majestic. The problem for us though, was that we thought this park would be more like Yellowstone, with lots to see. Even though we took the scenic Teton Park Road, we passed through the park so quickly. Perhaps there is much to do if you are a hiker or biker, but beyond the beautiful vistas, we are honestly a little disappointed.
At the bottom of the park we drove through Jackson, Wyoming, and it was a really cute small western town. I would imagine that in snow season, it is hopping, as there were many ski runs on the mountains. Obviously it is aimed at a high brow crowd, as the stores and restaurants we saw were definitely of a higher quality than what we’d seen in the surrounding country.
Then it was on to Idaho. We are staying tonight in Idaho Falls, and we ended up getting here a little after 3. Because we’ve been on the road for 10 days, Susie was very desirous to do some laundry. Lucky for us, the Comfort Inn we are staying at tonight has laundry facilities. The hours between 3:30 and 5:00 were given over to laundry, and now we have some more clean clothes and that makes Susie happy!!
Tonight we had a wonderful dinner at a place called The Sandpiper. I picked it because at Yellowstone, we were staying in the Sandpiper wing of the Lake Hotel, but boy did we make a good choice! We so like eating dinner in the towns we stay in at a local restaurant. Yes, Chlli’s, Applebees, or an Olive Garden may be fine, but we really like the idea of getting a taste of where we are and not chain food. We both had pork..Susie had pork medallions in a bourbon mushroom gravy, and I had a pork ribeye! Excellent dinner, in a lovely setting. After dinner, we took a little ride, and actually found the falls that Idaho Falls are named after! Success!!
On the way back to the motel, we decided that after 10 days on the road, clothes were not the only thing that needed cleaning! The poor Sonata needed a bath! We drove till we found a self service car wash, and $3 later, we had a Sonata that was recognizably red again, and a front bug screen minus a lot of bugs!
It’s now after 11 PM (Mountain Time), and as I had to post days 8 and 9 earlier, I think I’m done for the night!