Hot Springs and Jenny Lake

425-1Thursday, August 20 (continued)

At Mammoth Hot Springs on the north end of Yellowstone, I stop by the grill for a quick lunch and peel off layers down to my tee-shirt and jeans. It’s hard to believe it was 25 degrees when I woke up this morning, Bertha’s thermometer says it’s 72 now but Mammoth is at a lower elevation so that makes a certain amount of sense. Sadly the smoke has gotten no better.

Driving south from Mammoth one comes first to the Lower Terrace Springs, which I walked with Jayne last month, and then as the road climbs to the Upper Terrace Springs which I have not seen yet. Low and behold, there are parking spots open! You can also drive a short one-way loop through the Upper Terrace area, but parking along that is very hard to find so I opt just to walk the whole thing.

Right now, Lower is more active than Upper but that changes constantly. A new spring called Grassy Spring has opened up in a field of grass and is flowing strong, but it’ll be a while yet before it forms good terraces.


The newly minted Grassy Spring

Canary spring

The much older and more terraced Canary Spring

Farther south, I pull over to photograph another geological phenomenon that has interested me since my first time through the park. It looks like rubble has fallen from the mountain above in an old avalanche. They’re very jagged with distinct layers. If you’re driving south from Mammoth, there’s a small one-way pullout on the right you can turn into to get photographs yourself.


Next stop is Norris Geyser Basin, which I haven’t seen since my first week in the park before work started. Back in May I walked the Back Basin loop, this time I’m walking Porcelain Basin loop.

Crackling Lake

Crackling Lake

As I believe I explained before, Norris is the hottest basin in the park. About ten years ago they actually closed it down for a summer when scientists recorded ground temperatures over 200 degrees, the pine trees around the basin were turning brown because their roots were cooking. That fall it cooled back down to normal. Fluctuations like that are not uncommon in Norris.

Loved this green river

Loved this green river

I happen to run into an interpretive ranger that I met at the wolf class I took in Lamar last month. We have a good talk and exchange contact info. Maybe we’ll have a chance to take a hike together before the season ends.

Hurricane Vent

Hurricane Vent

Random bit of trivia learned from the ranger: the section of Norris pictured below was the first thermal area in the park to have a boardwalk, and there use to be a restaurant on top of that hill in the back. This area is very active however, if you look you can see at least a dozen small vents and geysers aside from the large pillars of steam (it’s very noisy too). It was deemed unsafe and everything was later dismantled.


Friday, August 21

Grand Tetons hike today! So excited.

All aboard the "Jenny Leigh"

All aboard the “Jenny Leigh”

The morning starts off cool and clear again. The smoke is still present, but isn’t quite as bad. After an hour of driving, four coworkers and I reach the shore of Jenny Lake where we board the “Jenny Leigh”, a shallow bottom boat that will ferry you across the lake to the mountains. It’s $15 round-trip for an adult, children and seniors are less.

Approaching the far shore of Jenny Lake by boat

Approaching the far shore of Jenny Lake by boat

Now if you want to save the money, you can hike 3 miles one way along the shore of the lake to the trailhead. That’s probably what I would have done had I been by myself, but paying for the short boat ride means you can hike farther into Cascade Canyon and see more of the Tetons up close and personal. Boats come about every ten minutes and the last one leaves the far shore at 7 pm this time of year, so if you don’t want to walk back make sure you’re on it!

Jenny Lake is gorgeous. The water is a clear blue-green and ringed by old Douglas fir. It gets over 240 feet deep and with the mountains as a backdrop, what’s not to love?


Our first hike is a short 1.3 trek up to Hidden Falls and back. There’s a lot of construction happening on the trails out here and the footing can be a bit rough right now, but it’s not a hard hike.


The trail crosses a little bridge over a fast-moving stream and then plunges into a massive fir tree forest. The only thing I’ve felt is lacking in Yellowstone is the forests. Lodgepole pine aren’t very impressive and the understory is almost non-existent in much of the park. Grand Tetons, well this part anyway, is more like what I think of when I think forest. It’s lush and has some truly massive trees. Anyone who’s watched my videos or been reading my posts for a while knows that I just love big trees.

I believe this was the biggest in circumference, tallest was a lot harder to judge.

I believe this was the biggest in circumference, tallest was a lot harder to judge.

Hidden Falls is a pretty neat cascade, threading it’s way over and around a rocky trough. Without zoom on my camera I can’t get a very good picture of it, but I try my best.


Normally, you’d only need to backtrack a little ways down the Hidden Falls trail to meet up with the next trail we’re taking: Inspiration Point, but with the construction that’s not possible and we need to go all the way back down to the dock to catch the other trail.

People talk about three different phases to the Inspiration Point hike: Perspiration, Desperation, and finally Inspiration. It’s not terribly long at just over 3 miles round-trip, but there’s a lot of up. At least it’s a pretty area.


When we finally get above the tree-line, glaciers in the peaks of the Tetons become visible in the distance. Here’s where the trail levels out and the Inspiration phase begins.


At the mostly-dry streambed, you can keep going straight and venture further into Cascade Canyon, but to get to the point you need to make a sharp left. The Point offers a truly magnificent panoramic view of Jenny Lake and the valley beyond.

Click for larger image

Click for larger image

Heck yeah I’d call this inspiring. A gentle breeze dries the sweat from the climb and multiple rock outcrops offer perfect perches for a picnic lunch Only three of the five of us made it up here, so we can’t linger too long. In a perfect world, there’d be no smoke and you could see the mountains way off to the east, but even as is it is, well worth the trip!


Before heading all the way back down, we make a brief tour to a large open area full of scree. Scree is what you call loose rocks, normally they get there by falling off the side of a cliff. This is where you find pika, another animal I have yet to check off my list. Pika are rodents that remind me a lot of hamsters or maybe chinchillas, they have fluffy brown/gray fur with rounded ears and no visible tail. They won’t come out unless you hold still and make no noise. We stand in place and keep silent, and I finally spot my very first pika – they’re too quick to photograph so you’ll have to take my word for it, they’re adorable.

Ideal pika habitat

Ideal pika habitat

On the way out of the park, we stop at Signal Mountain Lodge for a late lunch. I get the fish which is delicious (although being very hungry also helped I’m sure) and enjoy a view of Jackson Lake from our table on the deck – the mountains are hardly visible at this distance due to the smoke. After that, it’s back to Yellowstone and the new work week.



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  1. Brooke on August 29, 2015 at 8:43 am

    Have you made it down to Jackson Hole yet? There are little critters living under the walkways in the town square and someone told me they are pikas. They looked like what you described. I had never seen them before so, don’t know.

    I did experience one good quake with a group of people on the shore of a Lake in GT (near Jenny) we were about to go canoeing on. Just standing there going thought the safety check and feeling the ground quake was cool. We all just looked at each other and said “did you feel that?” then laughed. It was reported later but, I don’t remember what the scale was.

    Seeing your pics is bringing back such good memories for me! Thanks for posting

    • Becky on August 30, 2015 at 11:02 am

      Hello Brooke.

      No I haven’t, but I will before the season is up and when I do I’ll keep an eye out for pika!

      I experienced a quake in California this past winter, but since I was in the RV at the time when I felt the slight shake I thought it was a wind gust, haha.

      You’re welcome, thanks for reading!

  2. RGupnorth on August 26, 2015 at 8:03 pm

    Nice summary of your hike. Jenny Lake is very scenic. Hiked around it many years ago. R

    • Becky on August 28, 2015 at 8:39 pm

      Hopefully there was no smoke when you did it RG. 🙂

  3. Jodee Gravel on August 26, 2015 at 12:00 pm

    Beautiful hikes, definitely inspirational views. Love the hurricane vent and the approach to the shore of Jenny Lake. It’s amazing how the geology and geography of the area changes rapidly enough to observe it happening in years rather than centuries. Must be fascinating for those who work there for a long time.
    Jodee Gravel recently posted..Getting Stuff Done in the City After a Disappointing Geyser VisitMy Profile

    • Becky on August 26, 2015 at 4:59 pm

      It really does Jodee! I’m pretty sure I felt a small earthquake today while at work. Yellowstone gets something like 2,000 earthquakes in a year, but most are so small you can’t feel them. They’re responsible for a lot of the changes in the geyser basins, causing shifts in the “plumbing” under ground so that the features on the surface change. It’s fascinating really.

      Sorry to hear your recent geyser experience was a letdown, hope you two get a chance to come out to Yellowstone yourselves someday.

  4. Jim Schmechel on August 26, 2015 at 11:49 am

    Thank you for taking us along on these adventures! The first one is like a trip to another planet. I do like the large trees also, and look forward to seeing them in person.

    Pikas are cute! 🙂

    I’m happy you had some nice adventures, and thank you again for sharing with us!
    Jim Schmechel recently posted..Farment MadisonMy Profile

    • Becky on August 26, 2015 at 4:55 pm

      When you get out here Jim you’ll have to watch for the big trees and the pika. 🙂

      You’re welcome, thanks for reading!

  5. marty chambers on August 26, 2015 at 9:09 am

    Becky, if you get to Lake Solitude say hello to Frances Chambers for us. Frances, my wife of 35 years, died suddenly of cancer in 2010. Her final request of me was to spread her ashes on Lake Solitude, thinking there was still a trail ride still going to the lake. Well, we discovered the trail rides stopped in the late ’80’s. On our 35 wedding aniversary my son and I hiked up to the lake and ended up stranded in the dark, 30+ degree weather, with not enough clothes, no ,shelter, or lights. A group of men and their sons from Alabama helped us out, gave us food and shelter, and the next day we walked back down to Jenny Lake.

    • Teri Live Oak, Fl on August 26, 2015 at 10:55 am

      Wow Marty, what an adventure. Glad you made it out of there to tell the story.
      Becky, even without zoom your pic are exceptional

      • Becky on August 26, 2015 at 4:59 pm

        Glad you liked them Teri. 🙂

    • Becky on August 26, 2015 at 4:54 pm

      Wow Marty, glad everything turned out okay in the end. I’ll say “hello” if I make it out to Solitude for sure. 🙂

  6. Angela on August 26, 2015 at 8:14 am

    Oh wow! Stunning views, Becky! And I share your love of big trees (and just trees in general), so much so that I have an album dedicated to some of my favorite photographs:

    My dream is to spend some time up in Humboldt County, see the Redwoods (actually live there a while) and the lovely Sequoias. Have you been in that area yet?

    I just googled Pikas and you’re right, eek! They are so cute. But I bet they are very quick to hide in those rocks, think about all their predators. Maybe a stupid question, but are there many large birds in Yellowstone? Or do the wildfires keep them away, or the heat from the thermal areas and those crazy geysers? I just watched the Nat Geo doc on Yellowstone and it was fascinating. Over 4,000 bison! So cool.

    • Becky on August 26, 2015 at 4:52 pm

      About 4,900 bison this year, second highest year for bison ever recorded I think. Yes there are large birds in Yellowstone – bald and golden eagles, hawks, falcons, osprey, vultures, ravens…

      I’ve seen both Redwoods and Sequoias since I started traveling, haven’t had more than a couple days with them though – some day I want to get out there for longer. 🙂 Nice photo album you have, I hope you get to spend more time in Humboldt soon!