Yellowstone & Grand Teton Trip Report - LONG

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    Posted by Paula ( on August 24, 2005 at 21:44:09:

    An account of a quickly planned, whirlwind trip taken in August 2005 after we had to cancel a planned backpacking trip in Rocky Mountain National Park due to back problems Rick was having. We ended up having a wonderful trip - mostly due to the fact that I had been collecting information from the Yellowstone and Grand Teton Chat Pages run by John Uhler for several years for an eventual trip. I printed off pages of it and read through them planning the trip in the eight days previous to our leaving, and while driving to the park.

    SUNDAY, AUGUST 7, 2005
    We left our home in Independence, Missouri at 5:18 pm (ALL times are given in CST even when we were in MST zone) and drove north on Hwy 291 to Liberty, Missouri where we drove through McDonald’s for dinner. We continued to Smithville, Missouri to pick up Preston, a friend of our sons who was going on the trip with us.
    We left his house at 6:10 and started northwest on I-29. At 8:05 we turned on to Highway 2 West in Iowa to cut over to Lincoln, NE without going out of our way through Omaha. It was a good 4 lane highway with a few stoplights only at both ends. There was a handy Wal-Mart on the way that was easy and fast to get in and out of. We picked up some Dramamine and the young men bought a second game controller and a new game. This proved to be a good investment even though the game was advertised as a 2 player game but wasn’t.
    We hit I-80 in Lincoln, NE at 9:18. We had made reservations at the Motel 6 in Sidney, NE at exit 59 and arrived at 2 am. (We were only intending to drive until 1 am, but I added up the mileage wrong when deciding where to stay and making the reservation.) This was a very nice, clean, newly remodeled motel right off of the freeway with internal halls and stairways and coffee in the lobby. It was a little pricier than most Motel 6’s at $73.00 a night including tax.
    MONDAY, AUGUST 8, 2005
    We left Sidney at 10:30, driving through an Arby’s for breakfast. They didn’t really have a great selection of breakfast items. We were driving through the Sand Hills now and saw lots of antelope, many of them right by the road. At 12:40 we stopped in Laramie for gas and to fill up the thermos with coffee. We reached Rawlins, WY at 1:56 and turned off the freeway to travel north on Highway 287.
    We hadn’t gone far on 287 before we were stopped for road construction at 2:18. We were the second car stopped. At 2:30 the line of cars coming the opposite way passed us and we started on the one lane gravel road, slowly following a pilot vehicle. At 2:40 we reached the end of the construction and resumed normal speed, reaching Muddy Gap at 2:56 after driving on the shoulder to let a group of Harleys go by. It’s fun on August trips out west to see all the Harleys going to or coming from Sturgis.
    We stopped in Lander at 4:30 at a (slow) Taco Bell for lunch. We should have used the drive-through. We saw a sign that it was 153 miles to Yellowstone. At 5:19 we were stopped for road construction again, this time we were way back in the line. We started again slowly driving through the construction at 5:25. We reached the pavement again at 5:36, but it was slow going with many slower vehicles ahead of us. After we crossed Togwotee Pass the Tetons came into view occasionally, growing larger and larger. I was driving coming down from the pass on a steep grade and the brakes overheated. When we stopped at a pull-off to take pictures of the Tetons, the brakes were smoking! So Rick took over driving and used a lower gear.
    We arrived at the Moran Junction Entrance, paid our fee and entered Grand Teton National Park. We drove to Colter Bay and parked at the Visitor’s Center to check about fishing licenses. We were too late to get them, so took a short hike around the lake shore to stretch our legs and ease Rick’s back. On the way back to the highway we stopped for gas, then continued on to Yellowstone.
    It was really pretty driving through Lewis Canyon; we stopped at Keppler Cascades to take pictures. Isa Lake was neat, too. We arrived at Madison campground and registered. We were assigned Site #230 in Loop G for tents only. This was a good site with some trees and underbrush. The Madison River is across the road even though you couldn’t see it from our site. It was pretty close to the restroom which was good for washing dishes and use of restrooms, but meant there was lots of light at night. The restrooms there are “flushies” and have paper towels, trash cans and electric outlets. There is also a sink for dishwashing – cold water only - and metal boxes for bear-free food storage. It was starting to thunder and lightning so we hurried to set up the tents. We decided not to chance having a storm start in the middle of cooking dinner and drove into West Yellowstone for dinner. Of course, we ended up in a long line behind a slow vehicle that wouldn’t pull over and let everyone by. So we arrived in town right after 10 pm when most of the restaurants had closed. Luckily, we were directed to Bullwinkles, a restaurant that was still open. When we entered, the manager warned us that they had been really busy all day and were out of French fries and all of the specials. They still had quite a few choices and we all were able to find things we liked to order. Their salad and house balsamic vinaigrette were especially good. When we returned to the campground we were really tired and went straight to bed without having a campfire. There was someone in a tent up the hill snoring really loud and it was hard to fall asleep. I got up to take some benedryl and found Preston had gotten into the van to sleep where it was quieter.

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