Thursday, July 16
After two months of living in Yellowstone, I finally make it into Grand Teton National Park. I have no excuse for not coming earlier, since if you head out the south entrance of Yellowstone you hit the edge of it almost immediately after a small chunk of national forest land. It’s an easy day trip especially if you’re on the southern end like Old Faithful is.
Four of us ladies from work are having a girls’ day out. Two of us have never been in the park before (or haven’t been here in a long time, I can’t remember whether we hit Grand Teton on the family road trip or not), and two of us have, so the day is sort of a mini tour run by the two who have been here.
Not having a map, it’s hard for me to remember the names of the places we visit. I’ll give the location in the description as close as I can, and maybe you all can fill in some of the blanks.
At the northern end of the park, the mountains and Jackson lake come into view in tantalizing glimpses through the trees. The elevation is lower here than in most of Yellowstone and the peaks are taller, making for a greater contrast and possibly the most stunning mountain views I’ve seen.
I believe I read at one of the visitor centers that the Tetons are the youngest range in the Rockies. It makes sense. The older a mountain gets, the more worn down it gets. The Tetons are incredibly tall and jagged looking. The wind and rain haven’t been wearing them away for as long.
Grand Teton is a narrow park that runs north to south, with the mountain range on the western side. And the mountains are the star of the show at this park. If you’re a photographer, you’ll want to get here in the morning for the best lighting, when the sun is behind you. Bonus points if you happen to be here on a calm day, because then you can get the reflection of the mountains in the various bodies of water in the park.
The wildlife viewing here is similar to Yellowstone. There are bison, bighorn sheep, mountain goats, pronghorn, elk, bear, wolves, and moose. Moose are what you’ll really want to look for, they’re more common here than in Yellowstone. We do not see a moose today, but we do get an extreme closeup of a badger! It crosses the road right in front of us as we’re walking out to view the old barns, and starts digging a big hole in the ditch, hunting out ground squirrels.
These barns are old historic structures (the road they’re on is called “Mormon row”), and currently being worked on by the NPS. As exposed as they are, I bet the wind and snow do a number on them. A lot of postcards for the park are taken here.
At Moose, we stop for a late lunch. There are two, possibly three food joints in this tiny little town, the one we eat at is a pizza and pasta place at the end of the parking lot. It has an upper deck where you can enjoy the splendor of the mountains while you eat. My 7″ pizza costs $9 and it’s quite good, not a bad price for this view!
After that, we stop at a lot that has an old chapel, boat ferry (Menor’s ferry), and another historic building with a general store inside (Bill Menor’s cabin). The church still has regular services and you can ring the bell in the arch leading up to it. I couldn’t resist pulling the string, and the clang reverberates through my head, talk about loud.
Jenny Lake is next up on the tour. We stop in at the lodge, where you can get a cabin for $680 a night, or share a duplex cabin for $460. Yikes. The lobby is really nice though, and the view is pretty spectacular, this location is off the main highway and closer to the mountains. Farther down the road is a pullout where one can walk down to the lake shore, but sadly it’s been closed off. Still, it’s hard to get a bad picture here.
The final stop of the day is a mountain overlook that gives a rare view off to the east. The sun is lowering and the temperature dropping. Must be about time to go home. On the way back down the car in front of us slows and we peek out the windows in time to see a young black bear disappear into the brush. Believe it or not, this is my first black bear sighting since I arrived in Yellowstone.
It’s a little sad to see the mountains fade into the distance behind us on the way back to Yellowstone, but at least it’s not far away. I’m definitely going to hit the Tetons at least once more this summer. I’d like to try a hike or two, and poke around the town of Jackson. A lot of RVers have said that they like the Tetons better than Yellowstone. I can’t say that I’m in that camp, although the Tetons do have one big advantage – it’s less crowded. There are still campground spots and lodging available into the late afternoon, which is unheard of in Yellowstone. As a visitor, it would probably be easier to stay in the Tetons and take trips into Yellowstone than the other way around. However you decide to do it though, this park is definitely worth a visit.
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