GRAND TETON NATIONAL PARK
DAMN. DAMN. DAMN!
Holy moly Grand Tetons National Park is beautiful. This is the first park this year that fully took my breath away and brought tears to my eyes. Looking at this famous mountain silhouette lit up by the morning light is a moment I will never forget. But before we got to that point, we drove through some of the prettiest countryside we had seen to date.
The eastern side of Idaho and the western areas in Wyoming were exactly as I imagined, but better. Rolling green hills were bright in front of dark, forested mountain peeks. There were large plots of farm land, some filled with bright yellow blooms of rapeseed, carpeting miles along the highway, which popped from the background of clear blue skies. We barely crossed the border into Wyoming and I was ready to jump on a horse, follow an old cowboy named Curly, and herd cattle across a river. Once again we realized, its good to be rich, and its good to have land.
We dropped down from the pass after Victor, ID into the town of Jackson, and were treated to a view of Jackson Hole. The term “hole” was used by early trappers who entered the valley from the north and had to descend along steep slopes, giving the sensation of entering a hole. It basically just means low valley surrounded by mountains. I got really excited to finally be here. So close to some of the biggest outdoor hot-spots in the world. We have seen so many wonderful places so far that it started to hit me how much we have done, and how much we still have to explore. Traveling is awesome in every since of the word.
After passing through the town of Jackson, we headed to the Gros Venture (pronounced Grow Vaunt because French) Campground with doubts of even getting a site since we had now entered high summer in the popular parks. However, this first try of first come first serve camping worked out splendidly, and we pulled into our site for the next few days. Since that took little to no time, we drove the scenic road to Kelly and to the visitor center for our traditional movie and information orientation. The visitor center was grand, and a site to see within itself. The whole back of it was a large glass window showcasing the magnificent mountain range. After reading it all and asking about permits for the adventures we had planned, we still had time to explore.
(Eric takes over from here.)
High on life, we headed out to the truck to see more. And then the reality of summer hit us. Actually hit us. Like, someone hit our car as we were backing out. We were very fortunate for two reasons. Firstly, absolutely no damage was done to us or our car. Our car was hit on a flat metal protrusion from our tow ball which nicely sliced into the other vehicles bumper and dampening the impact while they finally braked. Secondly, our Tacoma, Fiona, is graced with a fantastic backup camera that allowed us to watch the other driver, affectionately nicknamed 'Chucklefuck', back into us with all of the grace and skill afforded the captain of the Exxon Valdez. Upon exiting our vehicle to greet Chucklefuck we quickly discovered the root cause of his apparent inability to see a stationary Toyota Tacoma with a large gear topper in the middle of the parking lot lane, was actually an inability to see directly behind his vehicle at all. The windows were filled with shit stacked floor to ceiling in every available nook of his car. Most of us would realize backing up in an insanely busy parking lot with no capability of seeing where your vehicle was going and any potential obstacles in its way (Men, Women, Children, Other Cars, Pets, Grandma, etc.) is something to be undertaken with a great degree of caution and possibly a spotter. Not ole Chucklefuck. Our good friend took his crippling disadvantaged and turned it into a personal challenge, flooring it in reverse with no regard for life, limb, or property with fortunately minor consequences. After a brief and surprisingly calm discussion with Chucklefuck regarding his newly perforated bumper and our watching him back into our stationary vehicle it was agreed to that we will all just go about our day and forget the whole thing. Thank you back up camera and Natalie keeping her cool.
After that debacle, it took a bit to calm down and realize nothing was actually wrong or broken, on us or the car. So we continued along the loop drive and focused on the important stuff, like mountains, pronghorn, and moose.
We decided to drive the main loop just to get a lay of the land. On the way back to camp, we saw a bunch of people crowded around looking into bushes. As we have already learned, if there is a bunch of people seemingly looking at nothing, there is most likely some cool animal in the area. Once again, this method paid off. I finally saw my first moose! They are huge! I am pretty sure their heads are as big as my whole body. The male had a very stereotypical rack of giant antlers, so I immediately laughed because my first thought was “wow, it does look like the moose head from Bugs Bunny's Halloween.” Most people will have no idea what that means, but I'll know, and my family will get a chuckle.
Over the next few days we spent our time engaged in the outdoors always with a view of the magnificent Tetons. Though I couldn't help but laugh here and there, because I am a five year old boy, and because they were named by french trappers “Le Trois Tetons” meaning the three nipples, so every once in a while I would remember (hehe boobies.)
One of our favorite activities we did, and will probably be the hardest to top, was kayaking the Snake River. This stretch from Deadmans Bar to Moose had the Tetons front and center along some of the most pristine riverside I have ever seen. Happy to use our kayaks once again, we unloaded everything at the start, and then Eric drove to the take out point and hitched a ride back. This area wasn't as conducive to hitch hikers as some of the other national parks have been, but eventually, after an hour and a half, a resident from Kelly picked Eric up and did not murder him.
The rest of the day was smooth sailing, or rather, bumpy floating as we let the swift waters of the Snake guide us to some of the best views in the park. We pulled off on some scenic sandbars to throw in a line from time to time. Neither of us caught anything, but I can't complain. That was the prettiest place either of us had fished, and will probably ever fish, in our lifetime.
When we stopped for lunch, we tipped our glasses to our family, wishing they were all here to experience this splendid day. While honoring my mom's tradition of lunch beer, I saw another first. A beaver! He was much bigger than I thought, and we loved watching him swim back and forth. Sometimes with tree limbs, sometimes with full trees.
At the end of the day, we got all the gear out of the boats and it started to rain. Can't beat that luck. One of the most perfect days of the whole trip.
There were a lot of hikes we did not do. Our focus was mostly on the views of the Tetons rather than getting up in them. I knew, day one, that I will return here again, so the pressure was lifted to see EVERYTHING. We did take the kayaks out again on Leigh Lake and spent a day toodling around, fishing, swimming, reading, hammocking, and figuring out, once again, that flat water is not really our favorite. Plus, Eric got a leach on his ankle and I found out that freaks me out to the max. Turns out if you hold a flame to it, it releases no problem. Still, ew. We spent a whole other day pulling off a various river spots trying to chase down trout with our rods. Although wading in the river and watching the wildlife with the sound of rushing waters and views like none other was perfection, we did not catch a single thing. Lots of cast practice though, which I needed with the fly rod. It was incredibly relaxing and both of us were happy we spent our time with leisure recreation rather than our typical hike all the hikes approach.
The morning we headed on to Yellowstone we caught the sunrise from Signal Mountain. It was a beautiful view to experience, and I will never forget the pink light striking the peaks of the Tetons, but unfortunately the pictures we meh. We both agreed that Jackson Hole and the Tetons will be a focal point for travel at some point in the future in any season. Perhaps even this winter.
10 / 10 Would float down a river and stare at mountains again.
Song: Ne me quit de pas – wycleff jean