Hiking and Bicycling Greeneville & Greene County Tennessee
On Thursday, August 15, 2002, eleven members of the Greeneville Hiking Club began a ten-day trip to hike and tour in the Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks. They drove to Atlanta, spent the night, then caught an early flight to Salt Lake City via Denver.
After renting a van at the airport in Salt Lake City, the group drove 260 miles through Utah, Idaho and Wyoming. Although there were several delays for road construction, the trip was very interesting and the scenery very nice especially the view above Bear Lake, Idaho. Bear Lake, straddles the Idaho-Utah border, and is a twenty mile long body of water that is a clear, bright turquoise color caused by limestone deposits.
The club then crossed the mountains and followed the Snake River into Jackson Hole Wyoming, the gateway to the Grand Tetons. They drove into the town of Jackson, where they spent the night in the Elk Country Inn.
On Saturday morning, a tram ride was taken from Teton Village to the top of Rendezvous Peak, which stood at 10,450 feet above sea level. After checking out the views into the valley of Jackson Hole, they hiked down the Granite Canyon and Valley Trails back to the village.
The Granite Canyon Trail, which covered a distance of about twelve miles began in a beautiful Alpine Meadow and descended through patches of snow, woodlands and fields of stunning wildflowers of all colors. At every turn of the trail the views of the Tetons and Jackson Hole were simply overwhelming and most everyone thought this was one of the most beautiful trails they had ever hiked.
After driving to Jackson Lake Lodge for the night, they arose at dawn on Sunday for a rafting trip on the Snake River at the base of the Tetons. This section of the Snake was very scenic and a lot of wildlife was spotted including mule deer and bald eagles.
After brunch at Moose Village, a motor boat shuttle was taken across Jenny Lake, followed by a climb to Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point as they hiked around the Lake. Jenny Lake is a very deep and cold body of water that is situated at the base of The Grand Teton, the highest peak in the range at almost 14,000 feet above sea level.
Grand Teton National Park, thought by many to be the most beautiful mountain range in the world, is also one of the most recently formed ranges, between 40 and 80 million years old. The Park was established in 1929 and is 45 miles in length from north to south and 26 miles maximum width. Park boundaries include approximately 310,000 acres and 485 square miles.
The drive continued north along the Teton Range and by the glacial lakes at their base. The scenery was breathtaking. During a short stop back at Jackson Lake Lodge, a mother moose and her calf were spotted feeding in a swampy area close to the lake.
The journey then continued northward as the group entered Yellowstone National Park. Established in 1872, Yellowstone is the oldest national park in the world. Preserved within Yellowstone are Old Faithful Geyser and some 10,000 hot springs and geysers, the majority of the planet’s total. These geothermal wonders are evidence of one of the world’s largest active volcanoes; its last eruption created a crater or caldera that spans almost half of the park.
An outstanding mountain wildland with clean water and air, Yellowstone now encompasses 2.2 million acres and is home of the grizzly bear and wolf, and free-ranging herds of bison and elk. It is the core of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, one of the largest intact temperate zone ecosystems remaining on the planet.
The first stop was at Old Faithful Inn for a three-night stay. The Inn is a massive building within a short viewing distance of Old Faithful Geyser, the most famous geyser in the United States. The building is an exposed log and wood-frame structure of rustic design and gigantic proportions: nearly 700 feet in length and a central core seven stories high. Construction on the building began in 1903 by architect Robert Reamer.
On Monday morning the club hiked to Observation Point, a hill high above Old Faithful then continued on a boardwalk trail through the Upper Geyser Basin. They then attended a talk about geysers by park ranger, Orville Bach, who is also an economics professor at Walter’s State Community College in Morristown.
Old Faithful erupts more frequently than any of the other big geysers. Its average interval between eruptions is about 76 minutes and it reaches heights up to 184 feet. It was named for its consistent performance in 1870 and is still as spectacular and predictable as it was a century ago. The group also experienced the eruptions of “Beehive” and “Grand Geyser”, two of the other major geysers in the Upper Basin.
In the afternoon, a hike was taken on the Mystic Falls Loop in the nearby Biscuit Basin.
This loop trail climbed 400 feet to a high bluff offering a panoramic view of the Upper and Lower Geyser Basins and the Old Faithful Complex along with the surrounding area thermals with their columns of steam rising into the sky. The trail then continued to Mystic Falls, a 75 foot waterfall with a hot springs at the bottom.
On Tuesday, a seven mile trail was hiked on Delacey Creek, which led to Shoshone Lake, a huge, highland glacier-formed lake. This was a very pretty trail that combined woodlands with wide, open meadows. A long break for lunch was taken on the lakeshore and several of the hikers waded in the icy waters, then hiked along the sandy beach.
The next day, the group reluctantly left Old Faithful Inn and headed to their next destination at Canyon Lodge. On their way, they drove by Yellowstone Lake, the largest high-country lake in the lower 48 states. A tour was taken of the West Thumb Geyser Basin located on the shore of the lake and also a visit the Lake Hotel, the first lodging establishment built in Yellowstone. A stop was made at the Mud Volcanos, a collection of very interesting thermal features, highlighted by “The Dragon’s Mouth” one of the larger and more active volcanos.
The trip continued through the Hayden Valley, a green, rolling open plain and herds of Bison were spotted grazing along the way. The weather which had been nice so far, turned into a cold, drizzling rain so they decided to check in the lodge and ride the storm out.
In a couple of hours, the weather cleared somewhat, so the group decided to do a short hike on the Mary Mountain Trail in the Hayden Valley. Mary Mountain is an open, rolling trail of 25 miles and was formerly a stagecoach road that traversed the park. They hiked for several miles when the weather turned foul again with thunderstorms moving in. Half headed back to the trailhead while the other, more optimistic, hikers continued. When a funnel cloud formed and hail started to fall, they also headed back.
When they were about half way back to the van, the weather cleared again, and what at first was thought to be a Bison was spotted. After a closer look with binoculars, the animal was positively identified as a huge, Grizzly Bear. The bear was about 400 yards away and moved slowly away, crossing a wide, rolling meadow, climbed up a hill and eventually disappeared into a wooded area. The Park Service estimates that there are 300-500 grizzlies in Yellowstone. The Grizzly sighting on a backcountry trail was one of the highlights of the trip.
On Thursday, The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone was hiked. This trail, which was named the Clear Lake/Lily Pad Lake Loop, first crossed an open meadow then continued through a patch of woods. The trail then took a turn and crossed a big thermal area reminiscent of the landscape on another planet. The ground was completely white, was void of vegetation, and contained many small volcano-like features, most with steam rising from the craters. The trail then continued by the two small, namesake lakes then climbed to the rim of the Canyon.
The Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone is a deep gorge formed by the Yellowstone River and is very similar to the larger Grand Canyon in Arizona, for which it was named. The trail here contained one breathtaking view after another as it snaked it way along the canyon rim. As they neared Artist’s Point they could hear the roaring of Yellowstone Falls, one of the most famous and photographed features in the park. Yellowstone Falls is a divided cascade and the lower falls alone is 308 feet high. The Rim Trail which paralleled the Yellowstone River affording many views of the falls. Also “Uncle Tom’s Trail” a series of over 300 metal steps descending 500 feet from the rim to the river was hiked.
They then headed to Tower/Roosevelt on the way to their next lodging in Mammoth Hot Springs. Crossing Mt. Washburn, a bull moose was spotted feeding on foliage above the road. A break was taken at Tower Falls and a hike to the bottom of this beautiful waterfall near the Yellowstone River.
Two nights were spent at Mammoth Hot Springs, a small village that serves as the park headquarters. A large thermal feature known as Mammoth Hot Springs Terrace is quite magnificent, appearing as a large, multitiered “wedding cake.” The green lawns of Mammoth Village is home to a large herd of elk that continually graze next to the sidewalks and buildings.
The next day, a hike was taken to the summit of Mt. Washburn, on one of the most popular trails in Yellowstone. Mt. Washburn, at over 10,000 feet, is one of the highest peaks in the park. The trail was only seven miles but was very rocky and steep. Several of the hikers spotted a small herd of bighorn sheep on a sheer point near the summit.
Upon returning to Mammoth, the group drove to Gardiner, Montana to view the Stone Arch at the northern entrance of the park. Several sore and weary hikers took a relaxing soak in the boiling river that gave Mammoth Hot Springs its name.
On Saturday, the group left Yellowstone after a short stop at the Norris Geyser Basin, which contains Steamboat Geyser, the largest in the world. Steamboat was really sputtering and seemed ready to erupt at any moment.
The road was taken into West Yellowstone, Montana and then on to Idaho with a stopover at Upper and Lower Mesa Falls. Upon completing the 350 mile return trip to Salt Lake City, the Mormon Tabernacle and the State Capitol were toured.
On Sunday, a flight was taken back to Atlanta.
This was one of the most rewarding and interesting trips that club has taken. They saw a wide variety of wildlife including mule deer, elk, moose, bison, coyotes, pronghorn antelope, bighorn sheep, bald eagles, pelicans and many other kinds of waterfowl. The terrain in the Tetons and Yellowstone ranged from flat prairies to lush meadows to jagged mountain tops. They saw many lakes and waterfalls and found all the thermal features unique to this area very fascinating. It seemed that around every bend in the road was a scene more beautiful than the one preceded it.