We enjoyed breakfast and packed up camp to drive to Uncle Tom’s Trailhead. This site reopened last year after extensive work, or so our tour guide Jeff told us. The parking spots include large pull-throughs painted for busses and RVs. We didn’t have any problem parking the camper here. We started down the trail near the Upper Falls look-out.
This trail meanders near the edge of the canyon, through forested areas, providing ample photography spots. It ends at the parking lot for the Lower Falls, which was packed with cars, busses and people by 10 a.m. We walked across the parking lot to continue the trail which goes up hill to beautiful views of Inspiration Point. This is so breathtaking that I doubt anyone could pass this spot without stopping to admire the river and canyon which looks like a painting.
The trail then goes downhill through dense forests of pine with moss hanging off the trees. You could scarcely see anything but trees and the sky directly above until the path snaked next to Lilly Pond. This clear pond, set in the woods, is also fed by thermals which created small bubbles in the water.
As we left this pond to continue, the same family we saw yesterday on Slough Creek Trail was going the opposite direction on this trail. We had to stop and discuss yesterday’s hike before continuing. We couldn’t believe we ran into each other half way across the park on another trail.
The path soon gave way to more gurgling water in the distance and opened to several thermal pools and mud pots. It was difficult to see the trail, but we weaved through more of these thermal features and marveled at how accessible they were.
The next amazing spot was Clear Lake. This was a beautiful, green, clear body of water fed again by warm thermal water underground. It was bigger and more beautiful that Lilly Pond.
The remaining portion of this trail went through large meadows that were soggy after the snow earlier in the week. Deer were enjoying the green weeds. We got back to the camper in time for lunch and just as the clouds in the distance seemed to build faster than we expected.
We headed to Bridge Bay Campground after lunch, just behind a torrential rain storm that was so close we could smell the rain and see the water standing on the side of the road. We got to the campground which sits across from the lake, though only a handful of sites have lake views due to the forest. We quickly checked in and the attendant gave us a spot in Loop H which they had just opened the night before. Near the entrance to this campground there are several spots, most of which are completely open. In one quick glance you can see all the campsites due to the lack of trees. When we got to our site 378, I was grateful for the trees that surrounded the spots in the back loops. These spots vary in size and are not all level. While not too difficult to back into our site, we had the maximum vehicle length for this location when parking our car next to it.
The rain had made puddles and mud around the site, though the actual site had a paved pad for the camper. After setting up, we relaxed while it started raining. The sites are all no hook-ups, and since we hadn’t used our generator in three days, we needed to charge the battery. We used our generator for a couple hours during the rain and poor weather.
This part of the campground was only half full, probably because it had just opened. We were fairly well spread out. The campsite next to us was a tent-only spot and someone was camping there, but we only saw them once. Due to the few people in the loop, we got to talk with a family a few sites away with boys our son’s age.
The rain ended after dinner. We decided to explore another of “Jeff’s Gems” which was a section of the old Grand Loop road before the new road was built. It was abandoned when they completed updates to the road system around the lake. Now it sits for the few who have time to meander. There is a great spot to picnic at the beginning, near the marina where boats travel in and out of the lake. The road then turns only feet from the lake. We were there for one hour and saw two cars.
Follow this road all the way through and you will get to a large picnic area in the forest with views and walking access to the lake. This large picnic area was once the campground. It is now transformed, though it still includes the fire rings and picnic tables evenly spaced for close tent camping. A large sandbar extends from here for fishing or animals to enjoy.
After watching the sunset, we couldn’t continue to the amphitheater for the 9:30 p.m. star program. It was too late after such a fun day. We did, however, enjoy seeing this elk enjoying dinner right outside the amphitheater as we drove by.
We returned to our campsite to find a grouse pecking in the grass in front of our camper.