The clouds look like they’ve been brushed down to wisps from the sky as they circle the mountains beneath them. The weather echoes a gloomy sky, yet the sun still shines from its cracks, hitting the rocky formations gently. Seeing such a sight makes you awe nature, and want to soak in its beauty.
I was able to experience this sight and so many more during the past 7 days on my summer trip. From Utah to Idaho, to Wyoming and Montana, and back to Utah before returning home in Texas. 7 days away from home, 6 on the road, and a few hours in the air. Here’s how it went.
Our trip consisted of staying 2 days at each place. 2 days to spend in Yellowstone, 2 days in the Grand Tetons, and 2 days in Salt Lake City. Originally, we were supposed to fly to Jackson Hole and visit the Grand Tetons first, but since our flight got canceled, we ended up flying to Salt Lake and driving to Idaho first. And to be honest, I’m glad.
Waking up early in the morning, we drove to Yellowstone National Park. Along the way, we saw multiple hot springs and we were blown. Even though this was the beginning of the sight we were to see, I couldn’t help but be amazed at it. I had always seen pictures of hot springs and geysers in pictures, but I couldn’t imagine the contrast between the heat radiating from the springs and the chilly temperatures early in the morning. You can always admire a picture, but seeing something in person is another level. That’s why we were so blown just by seeing them.
|Me and my dad in front of a hot spring
|A hot spring
After that, we visited the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone and saw the Upper and Lower falls from several viewpoints. I’ve been to the Grand Canyon, in Arizona, a couple of times, and it’s always wonderful to see the landscape. Even though it was the same in Yellowstone, the added touch was the waterfall that leads into a river and slowly created the steep canyons. Plus, there were hundreds and hundreds of trees and plants lined along with the formations, and that made it more beautiful. The Grand Canyon in Arizona has some if not very little vegetation and wildlife growing around it which makes it look really barren and dry. However, the one in Yellowstone has a lot of wildlife and nature growing along with it and adapting over the years, making it much more interesting. ( Sorry, Arizona.)
|Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone
Lesson: Yellowstone is actually named after the Yellowstone River, the major river, running through it. The Minnetaree Indians called the river Mi tse a-da-zi which translates to Yellow Rock River. This is most likely due to the yellowish formations of the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone. These formations are from the rocks rusting. The colors represent the absence or presence of water in the individual iron compounds. Most of the yellows are the result of iron present in the rock rather than sulfur, which people commonly mistake.
After that our journey begins. After going to the farthest point in our plans, we slowly made our way back, stopping at the other various locations we were to visit. This includes Hayden Valley, Norris Geyser Basin, and Mammoth Spring. Throughout Hayden Valley, all you can see are the mountains in the distance, trees, sometimes elk or bison, and rivers. It is absolutely beautiful. Despite that there were so many tourists and people around, the landscape is immaculate. It was all-natural and completely undisturbed. You could go up to a herd of bison while keeping a safe distance and enjoy watching how calm they and the scenery look. In fact, when we went to see the bison, there were so many of them you could see them from one end to another.
|The bison are a little hard to see, but they’re there
|A close-up photo
Norris Geyser Basin, on the other hand, was….well, a disappointment. Even though you don’t see mud pots, geysers, hot springs, and fumaroles every day and it was exciting to see them, they weren’t as great as they sounded, or even looked. Pictures often deceive us, and in this case, they deceived us well. There were a few hot springs and mud pots that were impressive, but overall, none of them really wowed us. None of them were incredible. There weren’t as many vivid colors and sights as described in the newspaper or descriptions, and in reality, it looked a bit dull. The disappointment hit harder when we walked for almost half a mile and not be impressed.
But, the most impressive geyser was the Steamboat geyser. This geyser was located in the Back Basin at Norris Geyser Basin. Even though the geyser would erupt from 4 days-50 years, we couldn’t help but wait for some time and hope we get lucky to see this geyser erupt. I don’t have a proper explanation as to why I think this geyser was the best, but I can say it is more promising than Porcelain Basin.
We ended up not going to Mammoth Spring and ended our day there.
Well, not exactly. When we were going home, we stopped near a river and spent some time sitting near it and dipping our feet in the water. Resting your feet in cool, flowing water while it’s at least 90 degrees outside is the most relaxing thing ever. You’ve just got to deal with the sudden coldness of it at first, and then it feels amazing. The experience was great, except when I was trying to get up from the rocks and my foot got scraped against a jagged one. So, yeah. I know that next time when walking on rocks, not be impulsive.
We also ended up taking the longer route by accident when going back home. So, we could have been home in an hour but it took us 3 hours to get home. Which, I really don’t mind because we got to go through two cities we weren’t supposed to go to and had dinner in one. Happy accidents.
Our second day in Yellowstone was also our last in Yellowstone. We packed up our stuff from our cabin that morning and drove to the park again. Our plans were to visit Old Faithful, Grand Prismatic, and some other geysers along the way. In the morning we saw a lone bison cross the road and took some pictures before driving to Old Faithful. We made it just in time for Old Faithful. A few minutes after we arrived, it erupted. It was amazing. It does live up to its name and was faithful in showing us its power, erupting for about 3 minutes. Despite that it was quite a performance, Old Faithful really isn’t that great. I think it’s popular because it’s the only geyser that has a predictable pattern. Which is fair, but I think it is a bit overrated.
We then went to Grand Prismatic, and it was absolutely stunning. We didn’t hike up to the overlook, but we saw it from the boardwalk and it was incredible. I never knew that a place like Grand Prismatic existed. It didn’t give off the regular, white color but it gave blue and red. It was really beautiful and would have been even more beautiful from the overlook.
|In front of Grand Prismatic
( We only captured blue here)
For me, the main attraction of that day was the Great Fountain Geyser. In my opinion, it’s the best geyser. Even better than Old Faithful. Old Faithful erupted for about 3 minutes while this geyser erupted for a whole 10 minutes. Even more water and steam and height than Old Faithful. My mom and I were sitting at the benches near the geyser, and we had to move back to avoid being splashed on. We thought the water would be hot but the water was cool and the steam really masked the water. It made up for the sulfur smell though. Oh yes, to be surrounded by heavy steam and the stench of rotting eggs while only getting to see a glimpse of the geyser. Mmmmm, how nice.
Lesson: Eggs are very high in two proteins- globulin and keratin- and when globulin starts to decay it gives off a toxic chemical that is called hydrogen sulfide. This has a very potent sulfur smell, hence we think of rotting eggs when we smell it.
Later that day we stopped at a nearby campsite to stretch our legs and do a bit of hiking. Near the site was a natural bridge so we hiked up. It was a very long and tiring route, so we couldn’t help but ask every hiker on their way back whether there was a bridge or not. There actually was, and it was really high up. More hiking. Except up a mountain. Great… A little more than halfway up I was panting hard and on the verge to give up. No wait, I did give up. I even told my dad to go back down. Luckily he was stubborn and made me go up, which I am thankful for. If he hadn’t pushed me to go further, I wouldn’t have been able to get such an amazing view, and also wouldn’t have been proud of myself. After that, we hiked back and drove to Jackson Hole.
|View from below
|We made it
What I loved most about Yellowstone was the quietness. Being cut off from the social world. I thought I didn’t use my phone that much but after being in an area with no signal for hours I realized how dependant I was on my phone. Being in that area makes you look outside since you have no option, and I loved it. I know, that if I had a signal there, I would probably spend my time on my phone in the car instead of seeing the wildlife and rivers on EVERY SIDE.
Extra: Okay so I did a little mistake that day. See, we were driving around Firehole Lake and we would stop and take pictures of hot springs and such. After we got in the car after taking pictures of one, there was another. My parents, not wanting to get out of the car, told me to go see if that hot spring was interesting or not. So I got out of the car and I didn’t realize where I was walking until all of a sudden I hear,
“HEY!” I look up and see my parents looking at me seriously and that’s when I noticed. I was walking on the actual ground and not the boardwalk. The ground. I almost could have burned myself by stepping into the hot, boiling water around the spring or even from the ground. The ground is extremely hot, and I could have possibly faced intense, life-long scars if my parents hadn’t called me. It was pretty scary once I realized what I almost did. I’m glad I was caught just in time before anything bad happened. So, here’s a lesson. Pay attention to your surroundings at all times. No matter where you are.
On the third day, we followed the Earth Trekkers route through the Tetons and drove to Schwabacher’s landing to start. We were able to take photos close to Snake Siver, but could not at the Overlook. Due to the growth of trees near the area, the view was blocked, so we took a picture of how it’s supposed to look like on the reading panel thing, and saved that. ( My dad is such a genius. lol) After that, we went to Oxbow Bend. Oxbow Bend is one of my favorite spots that day simply because of the view. You get such a gorgeous view of the river, wildlife, and the Teton range in the background that it’s irresistible to take a picture. Some of my favorite pictures of us were taken there. After that, we went up to Signal Mountain.
|Close-up of the Tetons at Oxbow Bend
|Family Picture at Oxbow Bend
The view from Signal Mountain was pretty okay, but I think I was most focused on the signal from Signal Mountain. As soon as I got reception there, even the tiniest amount, I went into rush mode and immediately started downloading everything I wanted to watch. I did pretty much waste my time in downloading those Netflix episodes when I barely watched anything during the trip. ( I mostly read.) But also, I was more focused on my phone. This is what I meant. In Yellowstone, if this happened, I am sure I would have also been on my phone and trying to download something. It’s funny how strong your addiction or how attached you can be to your phone without realizing it. Now, as I look back, I struggled with being off the grid when I had a signal. It’s easy to ignore the priceless view in front of you for something fake.
After that, we had lunch outside with the Teton Range in front of us. After that, we took a boat cruise across Jenny Lake up to the mountains where we hiked up to Hidden Falls. I was particularly excited about Hidden Falls after seeing the pictures online. It really was hidden in the mountains and was just beautiful to watch. The only sounds there was the sound of the water crashing onto the rocks, the gentle breeze, and a few murmurs from the tourists that were also there. We stayed there for some time before hiking back down to the dock and putting our feet in the lake while observing the landscape.
The feet in lake experience was similar to feet in river experience, but the view. Just, the view. The view was the biggest difference between the two and I love it. Especially after hiking down a mountain in close-to-but-not-exactly-scorching-scorching heat, it is the most calming thing ever. I didn’t even want to leave. I wanted to stand on the rocks with my legs on the cool water while watching the mountains look so majestic and calm in the distance. It was the only thing I wanted to do at that moment. I didn’t care if we had to leave to get home early or whether I had a reception for some time in that area. Just wanted to stay at that spot forever. ( Sadly I had to.)
|Just chilling and enjoying the view
We took a boat shuttle across Jenny Lake to get to the mountains, and, on the way back, there was a small butterfly that landed on my dad’s watch. How brave was it to land on a human? I was fascinated, to say. Even though the wind was rapidly blowing, from the speed of the boat, the butterfly was calm and didn’t even flinch. It just stayed there for some time.
Waking up early in the morning at 4, we drove to Mormon Row to watch the sunrise. When we arrived it was pin-drop silent. No birds, cars, humans, anything. The air was still and it really felt like the world was holding its breath until the sun appeared. It was chilly, and it felt like the sun was taking forever to rise, but the view was worth it. The way the colors were blended with each other against the horizon and darkened the mountains was stunning. I’ve seen sunrises and sunsets in the past but never over the mountains. We later drove to Park City, had lunch, and continued driving to Salt Lake City. We crossed the Wyoming, Idaho, and Utah borders multiple times while we drove, and you could see mountains sloping down from every side.
|Mountains during sunrise
Lesson: Mormons sent parties from the Salt Lake Valley to establish new communities and expand their population. Some Mormons arrived here in the 1890s from Idaho establishing a community called Mormon Row. They established 27 homesteads here, up to which only 4 remain, and grew crops by irrigation. You can still find some of the old ditches the were dug today. ( We did.)
Our 5th day was actually a spur-of-the-moment planned trip. We went to Arches National Park after planning on it while we drove to Park City. At first, when we arrived at Arches there was a sign that said the park was full and to come back in 2-3 hours. Did we drive here for nothing? That was our first thought. But, a few minutes later the park was no longer full, and we could come in. Honestly, for a second when we thought the park was closed, I couldn’t help but be thankful. Sometime along the way, when we were driving, I suddenly got really anxious about hiking. I started thinking about the heat and the hiking and the heat and the HIKING and the HEAT, and I low-key panicked. But I got over it when we started our way on Devil’s Garden Trail. But then we started hiking and my worries got to me again. After the three of us hiked an easy trail to Pine Tree Arch, my mom went back to the car and I and my dad hiked the 1.6-mile round trek to Landscape Arch. 1.6 miles in 105-degree heat. Sheesh.
The way up wasn’t that bad. I mainly took my mind off of the hike by observing the trail and thinking to myself, Okay, you may have to hike uphill right now, but at least when you’re coming back and are exhausted, it’ll feel better going downhill. Yet still, no matter how much you try to take your mind off of it, the heat will still get to you. Along the way, there were small areas of shade under trees or from the shadows and it felt like heaven whenever we stopped in one. Even the smallest amount of shade in such weather is enough for a quick break and feels cool. Immediately after we reached Landscape Arch, instead of photographing it, we sat in the shade, and on a tree. After regaining some breath, we took a few pictures and started our path back.
Trekking back was even harder. It felt like the sun had just reached its peak and this was the hottest it could get. I was covered in sweat, walking like a crazy drunk person, and on the verge to collapse on the ground. We stopped at almost every small bit of shade there was, and tried to cool ourselves down by pouring water in our hats and putting them over our heads. There even was a time where I was so worn out and exhausted I said to my dad, “I’m dying.” Huge exaggeration, but I was out here hiking 0.8 miles in the scorching heat in a desert area.
|Solo shoot in front of the ever-so distant
( Too tired to hike up there so we took it from the overlook)
|Family picture in front of Pine Tree Arch
|Me and dad in front of Landscape Arch
( How tired do I look?)
One thing I want to highlight from that day was the roads. The roads were so long you could see them from miles away. They were straight and curved and sloping and everywhere. You could get such a perfect view of the road ahead with the horizon and landscape in one picture. It was just amazing.
Day 6, our very last day of vacation. On our 6th day, we drove out to see the Salt Flats. The Salt Flats were more of a curious wonder for me. Whe I first walked on the Salt Flats I was really surprised at how solid it was. Usually, when we feel salt it easily falls apart in our hands and is grainy, but here, it was sturdy and easy to walk on. It felt like sand, except it was more solid. Plus, it was completely white. It was just this huge area of pure- not exactly pure- white salt that was leftover from the ancient lake Lake Bonneville. It was incredible. But, what is also amazing, is that the salt is edible. I was doing some research and it turns out, the same salt that is a wonder and is solid to walk on, was once mined and was eaten. ( A bit disgusting, but also fascinating.)
|On a car on Salt Flats