States visited: 49!

visited 49 states (98%)
Create your own visited map of The United States
Miles driven so far -
LOOP 1 (Aug 2009 - Aug 2010): 29,000
LOOP 2 (May - August 2012): 10,800

Highest altitude with camper: 11,158ft (I-70, CO)

Friday, July 2, 2010

Grand Teton National Park: Monday, June 21st

Determined to make the most of the day and get an early start, we were on the road about 7:30am.  Our intention was to make it to Colter Bay for an 8am ranger program, unfortunately a couple of things got in the way of that plan.  Firstly, road works were well underway on the Parkway, this meant waiting for a green light and following an escort truck.  When we finally made it into the park, it was very close to 8 already and then, we saw a bear!  Photos of a bear definitely have higher priority than a ranger program so we stopped to watch it meander past the truck.  It was another black bear, a brown one this time.  Needless to say, there was much excitement in the back (well, ok and front!) of the truck.

We bypassed Colter Bay and drove directly to the Jenny Lake area.  There is a shuttle boat to take you across the river, which shortens your hikes across the lake by about 5 miles.  It was worth the extra few dollars to enjoy a 2 mile hike with limited complaining than to struggle through an extra 10 miles round-trip!  It seems to be the route most people take.

We hiked out to Hidden Falls as our first destination.  They are so pretty and actually, very well hidden; it is easy to see how some people miss the off-path sign for the spectacular viewing spot.  The hike to Inspiration Point was a little tougher, along narrower paths, over rocks and quite a bit steeper, however the reward once we got to the top was more than worth it.  The view out over the Lake was gorgeous.  It would have been easy to spend a lot more time up there, admiring the scenery but we knew we were on a schedule so sat for a little while before making the descent – far easier going down than climbing up! 

Unfortunately, Nathan must have been bitten by a horse/deer fly while we were on the hike at some point.  He developed an enormous bump on the back of his head that he complained of being ‘itchy’; it was quite alarming as it seemed to be growing almost in front of my eyes.  We iced it later in the day and gave him Benadryl before bed, it had gone down quite a bit the next day and didn’t seem to be bothering him nearly as much – always something new with these kids of ours, I never think I’ve seen it all!

The shuttle boat took us back to the Visitor Center area and we were able to eat lunch while driving down to Moose Junction.  Here, at the Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center, we attended a ranger program (at least one program was a requirement for their Junior Ranger badges) about the pocket gopher.  It was fascinating, the gopher is quite isolated, builds its own tunnels, rarely ventures more than a body-length from the tunnel opening, blocks up the ends of the tunnel when it’s inside, uses whiskers on its face and tail to navigate forwards and backwards, pulls down roots/whole plants to eat, stores food and tries to avoid detection! 

In the winter, they build their tunnels through the snow, using the soil as their base.  When they are done with the tunnels, they fill them up again with soil, so as the snow melts, little ‘tunnel houses’ show up on the ground around the Park.  The Ranger took the kids to an area by the Visitor Center where they could clearly see one such ‘home’; it was very cool.  He asked if anyone had any questions, of course, Jake, who’d been giving a lot of answers to the Ranger’s questions, had one: “If they’re so isolated and only come out of their tunnels the length of their body, how do a male and female ever get together to mate?”  What can I say?  Good question for sure and it both stumped and made the Ranger laugh, guess we’ll be using the power of ‘google’ again!

We sat outside for a while longer and completed the Junior Ranger books before going inside to be sworn in as Rangers for the 42nd time!  These books teach us so much and really force them to research, ask questions and learn about the area.  When we were at Inspiration Point, they asked Ranger Hilton, as he came down the mountain, what his job was (must ask a ranger a question….), he was an Interpretive Ranger and had been at the park three seasons, having given up his corporate job to go back to university at age 50 and do a degree in geology.  I think it’s so neat that the kids are being exposed to people of all ages and from all walks of life, it’s really showing them that there are a multitude of options out there and they should never get ‘stuck’: love the life you live!

Having spoken to one of the Rangers, Dave had learned that a small stretch of road, along with a section of rough off-roading, was a good place to spot moose.  As the patches the kids had just received pictured a moose, they were quite eager to try and see one.  It happened to coincide with the most direct route to Teton village where the aerial tramway was located in Jackson Hole Ski Area, so off we went, bumping along! 

As luck would have it, we rounded the corner and cars were dotted everywhere, sure enough, there was a large water covered field with a moose at the edge, quietly drinking.  We parked some way up and Dave managed to get a great shot of it, away from the massing crowds.  It only had one antler – when he took the first picture, as we drove by (we’re getting quite good at taking pictures out of the window!), it seemed like it had a great pair of antlers, however, turned out, it was an optical illusion as it was directly in front of a downed tree branch!

We drove on, along the much quieter stretch of ‘off-road’ and came across another moose, this time drinking from the stream by a one lane bridge.  We were able to pull over and get some good photos; this one didn’t have any antlers but was happy to look up at Dave when he made some noise.  I tend to be a lot more wary about wildlife than my hubby and don’t get nearly as close!

In Teton Village, we caught the tram up to the top of Jackson Hole, taking us to a new height: 10,450ft.  The tram runs on a system that requires both ‘sides’ to go at the exact same time, crossing each other at the half way point.  It appears that the other one is going much faster and was a little alarming to realize that in fact, we were also going that fast!  Apparently, in the winter, the tram accommodates 100 skiers/boarders packed in body-to-body holding their skis/boards – our ride was far more civilized, there were even benches so we could sit. 

At the top, there was still plenty of snow, thrilled kids once again, we could never move to the south!  Only Caitlin and I had been sensible enough to put on sweaters so everyone else was trying to pretend they weren’t cold, we weren’t buying it and were happy to be cozy!  We went in the little hut for made-to-order waffles with nutella, they were delicious, shame they took so long to prepare, must be frustrating in the winter when you’re hungry after skiing.

We drove back into the National Park, via the same route, this time, no sign of any moose.  As we got to the more open meadow area, we pulled in to see why there were so many cars and in the distance were able to see a bear before it disappeared behind the trees.  Jake remains convinced that it was a grizzly but Dave thinks it was a large black bear, guess we’ll never know.  We were happy to have timed our trips just right though, good wildlife today.

We were supposed to be meeting the Greene’s at the Colter Bay picnic area on Jackson Lake at 4:30; thankfully they were running as late as we were.  Driving past The Potholes area, we had to stop and get more photos of the bison, the backdrop was beautiful – I know Dave was not the obligatory 25 yards from the nearest animal and I’m quite sure it could’ve run faster than him if it had set its mind on it!

The spot that was chosen by the Greene Family for our civilized grilling-out picnic was perfect.  It was a beautiful setting, close to the water’s edge with the Teton Range directly in our view.  The kids played fairly happily, we were able to sit and chat and enjoyed our simple, but yummy, meal.  As the evening wore on, we had a fire and roasted marshmallows, enjoying the sun setting behind the mountains.  As Greg and Judi are currently living in a small town in Vermont (they’re transplanted Canadians), they have a neighbor that makes their own maple syrup, they kind gave us a container, we are forever indebted, it is SO good!


It was a very long day, we didn’t get back until close to 10pm (Dave had to stop for a shot of the moon against the backdrop of the mountains, it was too hard to resist and he is loving playing with all the settings on his new camera) but a great one; this area is gorgeous.

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