Saturday, July 25, 2015

Grand Teton National Park

July 15 - 20, 2015:

We get an early start at 8:30 AM with heavy clouds and intermittent rain showers.  It is about 70 miles to our destination in Grand Teton National Park.  It is a beautiful ride along the Hoback River with lots of great mountain views.  We had left early to arrive at the Gros Vendre Campground early for a better chance at getting a campsite.  The National Park campgrounds can fill quickly during this time of year, is is risky to arrive in the afternoon without a reservation.  We had no problem at all and were set up in our site at 11 AM. The campground is on the Gros Ventre River, pronounced “Gro-Vaunt” after the Gros Ventre Indian tribe who inhabited this area.  They were so named by the French beaver trappers which translates into “Big Belly” in English.

The Gros Ventre River

The Grand Teton range is not that impressive in size, by the numbers alone, but their sharp craggy shape in relation to the vast wide valley makes them visually very impressive.  The French Trappers named the mountain peaks the “Grand Teton’s” with Teton meaning “Breasts” in French,  obviously they had been in the woods for a long time. These are young mountains in geologic time that are still rising, while the valley is lowering, but due to erosion from the mountains into the valley, things are staying about equal.  This area has also experienced much volcanic and glacier activity in ti's past.

A view of the mountains at dusk

Sunset reflecting on the mountain face

A hole in the clouds

An Osprey in flight

Blue skies

First stop was the Moose Visitors Center as it was sort of cool and cloudy, a good time to be inside.  It eventually cleared somewhat and we checked out the Menors Ferry which is a reproduction of a ferry boat that originally ran across the Snake River to get people and goods across before a bridge was built.
 Also from the visitors center is a 1/2 mile trail to the Murie Ranch which was a former dude ranch that was bought by this amazing couple, Olaus and Mardy Murie, who worked tirelessly to promote protection of wilderness lands and were instrumental in the creation and passage of the Wilderness Act in 1964.  We were walking to the Murie cabin to take a look inside, when the docent came out to invite us in for his talk.  The docent, Dan McLlhenry, gave a most thoroughly interesting and insightful talk on Olaus and Mardy Murie and their amazing life.  They are truly an amazing story !

Menors Ferry

Olas and Mardy's cabin

A postcard view that everyone wants to get is the Church of the Transfiguration with it’s mountain view in the background.  The church is very quaint inside with a couple of great stained glass windows and a view of the mountains from behind the pulpit.

A chapel with a view

I overheard at the visitors center that the Jenny Lake loop hike was a top rated easy to moderate hiking trail.  So, off we went on Tuesday with beautiful blue skies and the hike exceeded all expectations.  We did the entire 7 mile loop plus another mile for the hidden waterfall spur trail trail.  The views of the lake and the surrounding mountains are inspiring.  It is possible to shorten this hike by taking a shuttle boat across the lake, but Twinkles wouldn’t have that, it was all or nothing.  This Jenny Lake is super popular, the trail to the Hidden Waterfall which is near the shuttle boat dock was so crowded it was a bit crazy.  Bear warning signs are everywhere, but with these crowds not to worry, the bears are hiding !  After the hike, back at the visitors center, the parking lot was totally full, cars were parked along the sides of the road, people everywhere.

Mountain view from the trail

View from the trail along Jenny Lake

Another trail view

Deep blue water of Jenny Lake

Wildlife viewing is big here, we went to a popular spot for Moose sightings in the evening and sure enough a crowd of people were there watching a mother Moose and baby.  It was so crowded and the animals were partially obscured by trees and brush, but I managed to squeeze in one shot of the baby.  We then drove a shortcut back to the campground along anther wildlife viewing area and came upon a group of Bison.  They have it all here, Black and Grizzly Bears, Bison, Elk, pronghorns, mule deer, Moose, Mountain Lions, Eagles, wolves, the list goes on and on.

The center of attention

We take a break from the natural beauty to ride into the town of  Jackson and check out the world class shops and restaurants.  It is in a great setting against the ski slopes.  Lots and lots of top end outdoors clothing and equipment stores, outdoor chic is the style, my cargo shorts and tees do not impress here.  Somehow, I just can’t spend $100-$200 for a shirt ?  The town square with it’s entrance gates made of Elk antlers is a huge hit, you sort of have to get in line for a photo.  We wander around the central shopping area, browsing mostly and then look inside the world famous Million Dollar Cowboy Bar.  I returned to the Cowboy Bar at night for the country band, nothing special, mostly tourists with cowboy hats.

Downtown Jackson

Twinkles poses in front of Jackson Square gate

Interior mural in the Cowboy Bar

Stage Coach tour ride

On the way back to the campground we again take an alternate road from the town of Kelly to an old Mormon settlement.  This was a vibrant ranching settlement started in 1889, abandoned now with a few buildings still standing, very historic and scenic.  We then continue on Mormon Road where we meet a large herd of Bison, there must have been 150-200 of them, blocking the road, eventually moving on within about ten feet of us.  There were many youngsters in the group, very cute and a few huge bulls, very mean looking.

Mormon village

Another old homestead

He is huge and about 6 feet from the Jeep, note the birds
getting a free ride on his back

The winter coat is peeling off

It’s a cloudy rainy day on Saturday so we take a ride north on Teton Park Road up along Jackson Lake.  We make stops at Signal Mountain Lodge, Grand Teton Lodge and Colter Bay visitors center.  We have  lunch at the Grand Teton Lodge with it’s very impressive mural room.  The Murals are covering all walls and were done by a Carl Rotors.

The Jackson Lake Dam

The Mural Room

The Lobby windows

The Grand Teton National Park came about in large part through the efforts  of John D. Roosevelt. Horace Albright, Yellowstone Park Superintendent, realized that a mistake had been made, the Grand Teton area should have been included in the Yellowstone National Park.  Since it was not included or protected there had been considerable development and homesteading in the valley area.  He showed Roosevelt the Teton area hoping for his interest, Roosevelt fell in love with it and agreed to help protect it.  He set up a company to buy up real estate, offering fair market prices during the depression years when times were tough.  Roosevelt intended to donate all the land to create a new National Park, but there was strong local opposition to it.  After many years without action, Roosevelt threatened to sell the land which prompted president FDR to declare a portion of it a National Monument in 1943.  Eventually a compromise was reached and the park was enlarged and became a National Park in 1950.  I’m not really sure how ethically the Roosevelt’s achieved their wealth, but they certainly have given much back, a quite remarkable family dynasty.

We took two other popular classic hikes on Sunday which started off cool and cloudy and then became nicer as the day went on.  The first was the Taggart Lake Trail, a 4 mile loop to a pristine mountain lake with great wildflowers and mountain views.  The second trail was the Death Canyon Trail to the Phelps Lake Overlook.  You had to drive a rocky rough dirt road for two miles to get to the trailhead and then it was 2 miles roundtrip hike to the Overlook.  The trail was all uphill but only moderately difficult with more great wildflowers along the way.  The lake view from the overlook was also pretty special.

The clouds were hanging low in the mountains on the trail to Taggart lake

Taggart Lake is pretty special

It deserves a second look

Phelps Lake overlook is not too shabby either

A view from the trail

On the return on Moose-Wilson Road we came upon a traffic jam of tourist taking photos of a Moose and baby.  It’s somewhat amazing to me how people just go crazy to see a wild animal.  Twinkles says I’m not normal ?  The road was completely blocked for a long time by this woman who stopped her car to watch.  Finally the park rangers arrived to clear up the situation.  On taking the shortcut back to the campground, we ran into another traffic jam with people watching a Bison herd. 

Back at the campground checking in was a beautifully restored 36 Cadillac sedan pulling about a 28 foot restored classic stainless steel trailer. It was an incredible rig, but probably not so practical ?

That's a cool RV rig !

Next stop is the northern end of Grand Teton National park, hope we can find a campsite ?

Twinkles and Slick

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