We came. We saw (a lot). We conquered.
This past week, I traveled to the Wild West for the first time. Upon our arrival in Salt Lake City, mountains surrounded us, some snow-capped, others covered with green ground cover. Coming from an initial elevation of just about 800 feet to nearly 8,000 feet, there was a chance that we may feel some of the symptoms of elevation sickness but luckily we adjusted quickly.
We drove, we hiked and we rode horses.
We saw it all… from bison, to elk, to moose (whose plural is still… moose) and the national parks did not disappoint, aside from not seeing a bear on our entire trip.
Beginning in Park City, Utah… We hiked and went horseback riding through some of the many mountainous trails. Pepper, my horse, was a trusty sidekick, but horseback riding on the edge of a cliff is not for the acrophobic’s (those afraid of heights). While the winter is the most popular time for people to travel to Utah, the trails were filled with hikers and mountain bikers alike. The ski lifts run year round, carrying bikers and their equipment to the top of the mountains. While my family wanted to ride a lift up to the top and hike down, I was not too enthusiastic about the idea (ahem, acrophobia.)
After a few days in Utah, we drove (a very long, boring, but scenic drive) to Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Much like Utah, Wyoming is very popular during the winter months for skiing and snowboarding but the summer time is actually their peak tourist season.
Along the way, we saw it all.
This curious cow seemed to prefer to travel in the middle of the road, rather than his usual pasture.
We traveled alongside the Snake River for quite a while on our drive and even made a quick stop to snap some pictures. The river is over 1,000 miles long and is very popular for white water rafting and other water sports.
While staying in Jackson Hole, we spent an entire day in Yellowstone National Park. Unfortunately, a day is not nearly enough time to see it all, but we were able to visit a fair amount of the “must see’s” along the lower loop.
Beginning with Old Faithful, we visited a number of the geysers. We were lucky enough to see one of the biggest geysers (even bigger than Old Faithful!) erupt, Bee Hive.
We also caught a glimpse of Old Faithful erupting but it wasn’t quite as impressive. It fascinates me to think that the water is naturally boiling hot and unbelievably clear. At certain geysers, you could even see the layers of the earth below.
We later saw the Grand Prismatic Geyser, which was my favorite of all. Unlike the others, from a distance you could see colored steam coming off of the boiling water. In this particular geyser, microorganisms that can withstand the high temperatures, give these unique colors to both the water and the steam. As the water temperature differs throughout the body of water, microorganisms of different colors are attracted to the areas in which they can survive.
We then saw the Fountain Paint Pot, which is actually a boiling mud pot. Some of the mud took on a red or brown color while other parts were white. This was due to the different oxidation states of the iron in the mud. With rising gas from below the earth, the mud was constantly bubbling. We were fortunate enough to see the mud bubbling because as it approaches fall, the mud becomes much thicker and eventually dries out.
We took a short hike to a hidden lake, which was a very nice addition to our trip through the park. We were the only hikers on the trail and once we reached the lake it was very serene. Covered in lily pads and flowers, it seemed to be rarely disturbed by humans.
While these are only the highlights of our trip through Yellowstone, we also saw a lot of wildlife. We were able to get very close to a number of sleeping bison and buffalo, as well as elk and moose snacking on some nearby bushes and trees.
On our ride from Yellowstone back to Jackson Hole, we drove through Grand Teton National Park. After a long day at the park and what seemed to be traffic stopped ahead, we were all ready to get back to the hotel until we one moose eating on the side of the road.
Then, to our surprise, there was another moose in the middle of the road licking the asphalt. Traffic coming from the other direction could not get around the moose in the middle of the road but we were able to squeeze in-between the two moose. Literally only about a foot away from the moose, it was a great way to end the long day.
The following day, we explored the downtown area of Jackson Hole, which is home to a number of restaurants and shops… along with the four elk horn arches that greet visitors.
In addition, we went back to Grand Teton National park to visit Jenny Lake, one of the clearest bodies of water in the world! We chose to hike around the lake, which is a fairly short hike up to some hidden falls then down to a ferry that will take you back to your car. Many people were swimming along the shores, kayaking and canoeing. Surrounded by snow-capped mountains, it was especially beautiful as it approached the evening hours.
Towards the end of our trip, we made our way back to Park City, to enjoy a few last s’mores at our hotel, made with flavored marshmallows (caramel is the best!) and hot chocolate.
All in all, we came to the Wild West, we saw a wide arrangement of wild life and scenery and we conquered, safely. If you have never been, I would definitely recommend!