Instead of driving directly to Challis, Idaho, we headed north to Yellowstone National Park. Stella, as a kid, had spent many a day inside the park. But this would be my first foray into the nations largest national park. Knowing one could spend eons in Yellowstone, we had to make a decision based our available time.
As you exit Grand Teton National Park, you drive a short distance through the John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway before officially entering Yellowstone National Park. It was a contribution from the late conservationist and philanthropist which, was aptly named in his honor for the contributions made to several National Parks including the adjoining Grand Teton National Park. From the southern entrance, you quickly notice a large canyon cut into the bedrock from the Lewis River before joining the Snake River just below Moose Falls. There are several pullouts along the way allowing you to view natures work over thousands of years as you look east into the Red Mountains.
Further north, located on the west side of the road, is Lewis Lake. If we could spend an unlimited time inside Yellowstone this would have been our first paddle because you can traverse from Lewis Lake to Shoshone Lake via the Lewis River. Another significant geological event happens at this point as well, we are now inside the caldera encompassing a large portion of western Yellowstone National Park. One cannot imagine the life event changes to the planet if the caldera were to erupt.
North of Lewis Lake is Grant Village and our first views of Yellowstone Lake. We had yet to see any wildlife, until today, as there was a lone female elk foraging on the grasses between the Grant Village Visitor Center and the West Thumb Information Station. Grant Village sits on the western thumb of Yellowstone Lake and provides access to the lake and access to a multitude of other amenities.
Our next stop along our journey is Kepler Cascades, tumbling 150 feet with the largest drop being 50 feet into a canyon cut by the Firehole River. The river meanders through the geyser basin before its confluence with the Madison River to the North. Upon entering into the geyser basin, you quickly notice the Old Faithful Inn, the first of the great park lodges in the American west. Discovering that I just missed Old Faithful’s most recent display, I now stood patiently for the next hour or so waiting. While there are many other geysers within walking distance, I did not want to leave my perch in fear of missing the spectacular display of of steam and water being forced towards the heavens.
After about 45 minutes, the crowd around Old Faithful began to grow. Even a Yellow-bellied Marmot joined us momentarily for a peek before scampering off. Then Old Faithful began to awake, first with a few bellows of steam followed by a burst of water trying to make it to the heavens. This repeated itself two or three more times before a giant burst of water jetted out from deep below the surface reaching 100 feet into the air.
Just before leaving the park, we stopped at a little used pull out that provides a significant and tragic piece our nations history. The Nez Perce tribe, located in eastern Oregon, attempted to escape to Canada in an effort to prevent their people from being forced onto a reservation. Nearly 2,900 people traveled through Idaho and Montana before making one last push through Yellowstone National Park. Their quest ended 40 miles short of the Canadian border in the Bear’s Paw Mountains. Those that had survived were relocated to an Indian Territory in Oklahoma.