2012.07.14 Waterfalls, Wildlife, and Washburn


Sausage, eggs and hash browns.  It was another cold and rainy morning in Yellowstone, but Stephanie whomped up a “Farmers Breakfast” in the dutch oven on top of our campstove.  We got the kids up at 8:00 to get the day started right.

Stephanie is one heck of a cook!


Miles and Steve enjoying breakfast.


Today’s main attraction is to visit the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.  This is one of the highlights of the park, and a spot made famous by the paintings of Thomas Moran.  We saved it for our last day intentionally to ensure we ended our stay on a high note.

There are numerous pullouts, trails and viewing areas along both the North Rim and South Rim where you can see both the Upper Falls and Lower Falls.  These two stunning waterfalls are just a few hundred feet apart from each other.

We started at Artist Point on the South Rim.  Artist Point provides probably the most striking view of either fall.  What sets this scene apart from any other is the combination of its large waterfall and the colorful canyon walls.  The Lower Falls measure 308 feet, which make it one of the highest waterfalls in North America.

View of the Lower Falls from Artist Point.


The rusted look of the canyon walls.


While we do not relish camping in the rain, the good news today is that the rain enhanced our view.  A photographer we met at Artist Point told us the rain makes the colors pop out on the canyon walls.

We asked this photographer to take our picture.  He did it, but he was the bossiest picture taker ever.  “Stand together.  Stand over here.  Everybody look at me.  No, you need to get closer together.”  And after all that, the flash wasn’t on so the pictures he took were not that great.

King family at the Lower Falls. (Photo Credit: some tourist passerby from Oklahoma City)


A random visit with a Park Ranger.


Following departure from Artist Point, we drove down the road a mile to get a closer view of the falls at Uncle Tom’s point.  It was Noon and we had to circle the parking lot several times to find a spot.  It was the first and only time during our visit to Yellowstone we had a problem with parking.

We got out for what we thought would be a short hike, but we somehow managed to take the wrong trail.  We ended up on the South Rim trail and wound up back at Artist Point.

Closer view of the Lower Falls. Note the large cloud of mist billowing from the base.


Part of our walk along the South Rim trail looked like a rain forest. I suspect it is from the consistent and abundant moisture in the air from the waterfall.


Across the canyon is a series of switchbacks that take you to the brink of the Lower Falls.


Miles and I walked back to the van along the South Rim and drove to Artist Point to pick up the girls.  Our next stop was the Brink of the Lower Falls on the North Rim.  We had a picnic in our car of prosciutto sandwiches and cheeze-its.  Also at this break in the action, Mallory took about 75 pictures of wildflowers next to the parking lot.

During our short drive from the South Rim to the North Rim, Miles said something funny and Mallory replied, “Guffaf, Guffaf.”  We had to ask her what she was saying.  “You know, when something is funny and you Guffaf?”  “Mallory, that is Guffaw.”

The walk to the Brink takes you down 600 vertical feet over the course of a 3/8 mile path.  Even with the strenuous nature of this hike, this was an extremely popular trail.  There were numerous benches to rest and they were always occupied.

This picture taken from a spot next to the waterfall looking downriver. Note the glacier on the canyon wall.


Taking a picture for Marissa with the waterfall in the background.


One of our activities planned for yesterday was a hike up to Mt. Washburn.  We wisely decided to scrap the hike and enjoy a more leisurely drive around the Grand Loop.  But today we had time for Miles and I to take the hike and we took advantage of it.

This is considered one of the best hikes in the park.  Once you reach the summit, it provides sweeping views in all directions.  We were not disappointed.

We started the six mile hike on the Mt. Washburn Trail at 3:30.  We had hoped to start earlier to avoid the rains that have typically been coming down in the evening, but this was the best we could do.

The trail climbs 1400 feet over the course of 3 miles.  It is a gradual and challenging hike the entire way.  We passed through areas with wildflowers, more rain forest-like trees, lava rocks, and pine trees.  It was a hike that provided lots of variety.

There was a good number of hikers on the trail of all ages.  There were kids under 10 as well as hikers in their 50s and 60s.

Miles on one of the many switchbacks on the trail.


This Marmot was checking us out as we neared the summit.


Miles and Steve at the top of Mt. Washburn.


It took us 90 minutes to ascend the trail.  The trail map says it is 3 miles from the trailhead to the top, but my garmin watch read 3.5 miles.  (I assume my watch is not acclimated to the higher elevation.)  At the summit is a Ranger Station that is permanently staffed to look for forest fires.  Yellowstone has two active ranger stations and a third that is used during high fire danger season.

We hung out for a half hour at the top and caught our breath.  There is a sheltered area with a telescope and information about the area and even bathrooms.

View from Mt. Washburn. Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone (foreground) and Yellowstone Lake (background).


Miles checking out the complimentary telescope.


The Lookout Tower at the top. Staffed 24/7.


Our walk back down was understandably faster than the trip up.  It took us only 75 minutes to arrive at the trailhead.  Just a few hundred feet from the trailhead, the rain started.  Just a drizzle until we made it to a shelter in the parking lot, and a few minutes later, a downpour.

Wildflowers along the trail.


We had arranged a 7:00 meeting time with Stephanie and she arrived right on time.  There was not a single vehicle in the parking lot, and during the few minutes we were waiting, a Winnebago pulled up and asked us if we needed any help.  Those were nice folks!  And their bumper sticker that said “Happy Campers” confirmed it.

The girls very politely asked us about our hike and then they laid the big news on us – they saw SIX BEARS while they were out & about.  We have seen lots of wildlife on this trip, but seeing a bear was something that had eluded us until now.

They saw a momma black bear and two cubs along the side of the road, a black bear at Roosevelt, and two grizzly bears at Tower.  At Roosevelt, the Park Ranger was shooting blanks at the bear to get him to leave the area.

Stephanie and the girls saw these two bear cubs.


Momma Black Bear.


All the girls thought the best part of seeing the bears was the momma bear and the two cubs.  I guess it is the fact they saw a real life teddy bear.

When we got back to Canyon, instead of heading to our campsite, we went to the Visitors Center so Marissa could receive her Junior Ranger.  We picked up the packet on our first day in the park and she has been working on it since then as time permits.

Marissa shaking hands with the Park Ranger.


Marissa is Yellowstone’s newest Junior Ranger!


As we left the Visitors Center, the rain was still coming down and the temperature had dropped to around 50 degrees.  Our plan to cook out at the campground was in serious jeopardy.  Thankfully the kids were begging to eat out at the grill at Canyon, and we were all too happy to indulge them.

The Canyon area was developed in the 1950s due to the growing demand of the increased visitation to the park.  It definitely has that 50s flavor and it seems to fit in well with Yellowstone.  The Visitors Center at Canyon looked very new and there were other buildings under construction in this area.  In fact, it was by far the most construction we saw anywhere in the park.

We made it back to our campsite by 9:30 and we all went straight to bed with intentions of getting up early for a quick departure from Yellowstone.  Goodbye Yellowstone!  We have enjoyed our visit!


3 thoughts on “2012.07.14 Waterfalls, Wildlife, and Washburn

  1. Lilli O

    Lovin’ all the updates! We “live” thru you guys until our kids are old enough to do these awesome adventures too!

    PS Those pesky, annoying photographers…

  2. KK

    I am not sure Miles showed much enjoyment in the breakfast pic. The Artist Point area pic of the lower falls does look like a painting. Congrats to Marissa for getting her Juinor Ranger!!!!!

  3. Matthew D

    I’m glad you guys are having fun! The most beautiful parts of US are in Wyoming!
    I can’t believe how much older the three kids look in only 6 months since I’ve seen them. Especially Miles, in the second picture, eating with Steve!

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