Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Grand Teton National Park

After leaving Yellowstone National Park yesterday, we returned to the town of West Yellowstone to drop off the rental car and then back-tracked through Yellowstone to head south to Grand Teton. 

After a very pretty drive through Yellowstone and the northern part of Grand Teton National Park, we arrived at the Colter Bay Campground around 2 PM. Compared to the crowded, unpleasant conditions at Fishing Bridge RV Park, Colter Bay was a slice of heaven!  This campground has spacious sites with a picnic table, a fire ring, and lots of trees. Although there are no hookups, we don't mind because we have plenty of fresh water, empty holding tanks, and a generator for electricity.  

When we arrived yesterday afternoon, we decided just to relax for the rest of the day, rather than try to get in any sightseeing. After a busy time at Yellowstone, we really liked the idea of kicking back, cooking dinner, and watching a movie.  Imagine our surprise when Sydney alerted us to some visitors: a Mule deer mother and two fawns! This little family came within just a few yards of the Trek and, although they were cautious, the deer did not scatter when I slowly stepped outside to get some photos.  What a nice introduction to Grand Teton National Park!

Because we only had one full day at Grand Teton, we decided to drive the Trek to Jenny Lake today and go on a short guided hike out to Inspiration Point. The dogs would stay in the motor home for the 2-3 hours we would be gone and then we would take them for a nice long walk before returning to the campground.

So we set off bright and early this morning for the drive to the Jenny Lake Visitors Center. Along with some other Park visitors, we met up with the ranger around 8:20 AM and he told us we would take a boat ride across Jenny Lake and be dropped off on the other side to begin the 1.5-mile hike up to Inspiration Point. Before getting the ticket for the boat ride, he explained, we needed to decide whether we would return to the Visitor's Center via the boat or hike from Inspiration Point, around the lake, and back to the Visitor's Center. The ranger said the return hike would be about 3 miles long, if that is what we chose to do.  Lynda and I agreed we could use some extra exercise and so we just bought a one-way ticket for the boat ride. The ranger also warned us that bears are sighted quite frequently around the lake and so we needed to take common-sense precautions and stay alert.

By 8:45 AM, our little group was crossing Jenny Lake in the boat. It was a beautiful day, the scenery was gorgeous, and the lake was like a mirror.  It was also a little chilly but we had our jackets, along with a couple boxes of frozen apple juice in case we got thirsty later on.

The first mile of the hike was very easy, including a stop at Hidden Falls. The ranger stopped frequently to point out plants and flowers and tell us about area wildlife, such as picas (AKA pikas) that live in the rocks and boulders of the area. The last 1/2 mile up to Inspiration Point was pretty steep but everyone in the group was fine with the ascent, except for the youngest children who got to ride on their parents' backs.

At 7200 feet, the view from Inspiration Point was lovely, and we took a 10 minute break to take photos and rest a bit. At this point, the ranger gathered up all those that would return via the boat and reminded the rest of us to watch out for bears.  By now, Lynda and I had decided we would go on to the entrance of Cascade Canyon; the ranger said the flowers there were gorgeous and well worth the half-mile walk. And so off we went.

Well, after walking along for about 30 minutes and covering at least 3/4 of a mile, we decided the ranger was somehow mistaken. We saw no fields of flowers or any discernible entrance or transition to Cascade Canyon. So we turned around and headed back to Inspiration Point and then, from there, found the trail that would take us around Jenny Lake and back to the Visitor's Center. To make a long story fairly short, we walked and walked and walked, and then walked some more! We actually did not mind this unplanned excursion, except we were worried about the dogs being left for so long in the Trek. And we were very glad to have that apple juice.

The situation got more interesting when we started running into different people coming from the other direction who told us a bear was on on the trail. Lovely. So, as we went along, I loudly sang silly, nonsensical things like, "Here Bear, Scare Bear, There Bear" - all in an effort not to surprise Yogi or any other bears. I'm glad to say we got around the entire lake without seeing one bear, and that was fine by me!  We finally got back to the Visitor's Center around 1 PM and those dogs were very glad to see us. We had been so worried about them but Sydney and Barley were just fine, other than being lonely!

We looked at a trail map afterward and calculated that we hiked at least 7 miles. Well, this unplanned excursion was actually kind of fun, and we'll probably laugh about it for a long time!

The four of us left the Jenny Lake Visitor's Center and went back to Colter Campground to relax for the rest of the day. I have to admit Lynda and I are worn out by all the unplanned exercise!

Click here to see our photos of Grand Teton.

Tomorrow we're heading to Buffalo, Wyoming which will be just a one-night stop on our way to visit the Devil's Tower National Monument.

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