2020 - Trip Report - The Tetons and Yellowstone
by Axel Heller
After leaving Moon Craters NP, we headed eastward towards Jackson, Wyoming. Going up and up toward Teton Pass (8431’) with a grade up to 10% we crossed the top, and just like a rollercoaster headed down on a 10% grade. I had added an aftermarket Tire Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) to my rig for all tires. The TPMS went into alarm and the display was reading “slow leak front tires, Temp 245° & 252°!” Fortunately, there was road work for single lane traffic, so we stopped and everything cooled down a little without having to pull over in the turnouts.
Jackson was billed as the “Last Wild West Town” in the country. The store fronts looked authentic from the old west, and all of the patrons (banditos) being masked, wandering from store to store. It was a challenge traveling through town with a 24’ van and towed car on the narrow road.
The Tetons are the “youngest” mountain range in the Rockies, only six to nine million years old. The Teton Fault shifted the valley floor and mountains to over 7,000’ difference in elevation between them. Glaciers carved the valley floor creating numerous lakes. Jackson Lake was dammed before it became a National Park, and this dam added 40 feet of additional depth to the lake.
In the early 1800s fur trappers were exploring the west for beaver. Lewis and Clark passed well north of the Tetons/Yellowstone. How did the “Tetons” get their name? It may have come from the French Trappers passing by naming them “les trois tetons” or “the three breasts.” They must’ve been missing companionship. Of course it was renamed to the TETON, with the middle peak called “Grand Teton” due its greater size, mmm.
Moran Peak and the town of Moran are named after Thomas “Yellowstone” Moran. Thomas Moran was talented illustrator and exquisite colorist for the publication Scribner’s Monthly, when he was invited to join Hayden Geological Survey of 1871, exploring the Northwest section of the Wyoming Territory. President Grant was so impressed with the survey that Yellowstone National Park was created in 1872 as the nation’s first National Park.
Despite being our first National Park, Congress never gave funding for operation of it. The first Superintendent, Nathanial Langford, worked for five years without pay, staff or funding. Wasn’t until 1886 that the army built a fort, now named Fort Yellowstone, and started to protect the park.
The fort is now park headquarters. We weren’t allowed to visit the fort because of closure due to COVID.
The Yellowstone Caldera is still very active underground, and the magma chamber is moving northeast deep underground. The Park is still releasing geothermal heat into our atmosphere in the form of hot springs & geysers. (There was an advertisement for the early park on the great fishing opportunities: catch your fish in the river, and land it, then place it in the pond behind you and it will be cooked!)
Earthquakes are frequent, but low in intensity. Yellowstone lake is one of the highest elevation & largest fresh water lake in the world. Just recently they sent a ROV into the depths (400’) and found “black smokers” and microbial life within them.
The headwaters of the Yellowstone & Snake Rivers are very close in origin, but they are opposite sides of the Continental Divide. The Snake River eventually enters the Columbia River in Washington. The Yellowstone River enters the Missouri River, then into the Mississippi River. Inside the Park, boating is allowed but limited to self-propelled vessels in the rivers/streams, and on the Lake, minimal powered vessels.
Off course there are the Bison or Buffaloes. They hang out around a nice grassy meadow with gentle hills near the Yellowstone River. Easy to find them as traffic comes to a stop, as people “shoot” them with cameras. The herd is the “largest public” in the USA. They own the park and the tourists. The deer we came across, was watching over his family. I believe this was a Mule Deer. He decided to get up when too many people closed in with cameras. No other large animals could be found; last year when I passed through a herd of elk crossed the road in front.
Remnants of the 1988 fire were observed. The spring was wet, but a drought settled into the summer. The fire started middle of July and went out of control. It wasn’t until September when an early snow fall came to the firefighters’ rescue. The study that followed, came to the conclusion that fire is a natural phenomenon in the forest to clear dead growth and that proper clearing/management is beneficial. Now I wish they were doing that here in California because in September the state was in flames. The El Dorado fire was a concern to me as that was close to home here in Big Bear. ~ Axel