The 2019 Road Trip: Grand Teton National Park – Day 2

Once again, I made sure to be up early in the morning to see the sunrise.  I stepped outside from the bedroom into the cold morning in my night clothes to get the pictures.  Thankfully, it was not as cold as it had been during the first few nights of this trip.   The two pictures below were taken as time progressed as it got closer to sunrise.  Sunrise that day was not as colorful as it had been the previous morning.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPA140945.jpgI went to the other side of the house to take pictures of the moon. These came out better than the pictures I had taken before going to bed.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAHere is the moon setting behind a hill.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAs it became brighter outside, there was enough light to see the horses out in the field next to us.  We saw these three horses together regularly.  I imagined them as a family.  I jokingly said that one of them was named Jack.  I did not take the trouble to identify which one of them was actually Jack.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIn a little while, the sun itself finally made its grand appearance.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABreakfast was once again a leisurely affair before we set out to the park.

I was able to take  pictures since I was not driving.   The picture below was taken as we were nearing Teton Resort.  Once again, we went into the park through the south entrance, without passing through Jackson, hoping that the moose were still hanging out where they had been sighted the previous day.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis was a view of the mountains to the west as we drove into the park.  Our first stop was going to be Signal Mountain, towards the north side of the park.
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe drove slowly through the section of the earlier moose sighting without any luck.

We saw bikers once again after entering the more developed section of the park.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is a picture of Grand Teton mountain taken from the car.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis picture was taken from one of the parking lots along the park road.  I think it was Potholes Turnout.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe had to drive up a winding road to get to the viewpoints on Signal Hill.   The road ended at the top of the mountain at the location of a cellphone tower.

This was the view of Jackson Hole Valley with the Snake river flowing through it.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis bird stayed around us while we were at the lookout at the peak.  I have not been able to identify it.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThese are views in the direction of the Tetons.  Unfortunately, they were not as unobstructed as I was hoping for.  I jokingly noted that they should be cutting some of the trees that block the view – just for the tourists!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe sighted what I think were mule deer on our way down the mountain.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis picture was taken half way down Signal Mountain.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe stopped at the Chapel of the Sacred Heart on our way further north after leaving Signal Mountain. The chapel was closed for the season.  It belongs to the Catholic parish in Jackson.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is Jackson Lake and reservoir.  The Snake river flows south through the lake.  The river actually begins a short distance to the north of the lake and flows through it.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is where the Snake river reemerges from Jackson lake.  The main road runs over the dam that creates the lake behind it.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe drove off the main road to a river access point to have our lunch.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Snake river looked quite peaceful and the waters were low.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe water was crystal clear.PA140082.jpgI spotted a common merganser in the river.  It did not hang around too long.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter lunch, we headed out to the Willows Flats overlook. We were going hike the Willow Falls Trail starting at the parking lot.  Our goal for the afternoon was to see moose.  We had been told that this was one of the areas where they hung out!

The trail lay below the parking lot, behind the trees (towards the front of the picture below).OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe Tetons were visible in the distance, beyond Jackson Lake, as we began the hike.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe kept our eyes peeled, looking for moose (and bear).  There were a few occasions when our eyes were drawn to something or the other in the distance that drew our attention.  Even the growth seen in the picture below caused us to pause and look more carefully.  (I had to zoom in to the maximum extent allowed by the lens to get this picture.)OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe trail followed the twin tracks of a an old dirt road.  We forded a stream at this point.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe flats were covered with brush.  We could see occasional pathways where animals had forced their way through the growth to get to drinking holes by the waterside.  The occasional scat on the trail indicated that this was the abode of the animals and that they were around somewhere.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe continued to look for moose.  We were also keeping an eye out for bear.  I did not want to disturb a bear inadvertently and annoy it.  We tried to keep up a conversation to alert the bear ahead of our arrival.   I was especially alert when walking in the wooded areas between the open spaces.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe crossed Pilgrim Creek on a road bridge at one point.  The creek looked wide and impressive enough to be a river.  It runs from the nearby Bridger Teton National Forest into Jackson Lake.PA140129.jpgWe saw these two birds along the way.  I have not been able to identify them yet.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe trail ended up at a fork in the road where you could continue either leftOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA or right.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe made a different decision! We decided that this would be the extent of the hike.  We turned back.  We had already walked a few miles without seeing moose!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThese pictures were taken on the way back.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe did see a herd of elk in the distance as we were leaving the place.  I am sorry to say that the moose eluded us the entire duration of the hike.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt was time now to head back to Victor.  We would be driving south, all the way through the park, on our way back to Idaho.

Along the way, we stopped at one of the turnoffs and noted this curious sight.  The woman was facing the direction of the Tetons.  It took us a few minutes to gather that she was actually taking a picture of a car that was in the parking lot in front of her.  She was taking the picture against the background of the mountains.  A person who looked like the driver was also hanging out in the parking lot.  Our guess was that this was for some kind of advertisement.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe sun was going down behind the mountains by that time.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe did have enough time to stop at the Chapel of the Transfiguration – in the park and near Moose Junction.  It is a functional Episcopalian church that was built in 1925. The setting of the chapel is very dramatic.  (A morning view of the chapel against the mountains would have been even more impressive!)OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe interior of the chapel is very simple. The opening behind the altar revealed the Grand Tetons.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe benches that formed the pews reflected simplicity, and the nature of their surroundings.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe continued our way south through the park even though it might have been faster to drive on the main road through Jackson.  We stopped at the parking lot of the earlier moose sighting once again.  We had no luck once again.  I did get a picture of what I suspect is a Goldeneye duck in the water.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe mountains looked majestic in the fading light as we left the park.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe stopped at a place called West Side Yard in Victor for dinner.  It was more of a bar, with a lot of open space, space for games, and random sitting arrangements. The separate, very small, formal dining area was full when we arrived.   So we sat at a high table on high chairs near the bar and ordered our beer and hot sandwiches.  It was great food and drink, and a nice atmosphere.  The place looked new.  The draft beer came from some of the local microbreweries.  (There is even one in Victor.) I sensed that this place represented a kind of change coming to these old country towns, with a goal of serving people who were visiting the area in addition to the local population.  Victor was not a tourist destination in itself, but there was enough overflow traffic from the nearby more touristy areas to bring in additional foot traffic to keep a business going.

We headed back to the cabin after dinner.  The rest of the evening was spent chilling out.   This was the last evening of the holiday for the folks from Massachusetts.  Their were taking a red-eye flight in the evening the next day.

Next blog in this series here.

The 2019 Road Trip: Grand Teton National Park – Day 1

I have a habit of waking up early in the morning when traveling.  It might be a certain restlessness that comes with being in a new place, and a need for me to explore and find out more about the new surroundings.

Thus it was this first morning at our log cabin in Victor, Idaho.  This was the view outside the window of the bedroom we were occupying when I woke up.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALater in the morning, from the front of the house, we could see the neighborhood where our cabin was located.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe morning light streamed into the dining room area of our house through the giant windows as we had our morning coffee,OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAwhile a little, stout, bird warmed itself in the sunlight on top of an evergreen tree in front of us.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe rising sun revealed open fields behind the house.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter a leisurely breakfast, we headed towards Grand Teton National Park, crossing the Teton Pass once again, this time on the way east.  After descending into the valley on the Wyoming side of the mountain range, we turned onto the road to take us into the park.  This turnoff was well before the town of Jackson.

We passed the resort area of Teton Village before we reached the entrance to the park.  The ski slopes behind the resort were bare.  The traffic around the area was light.  I am sure the place is busier during the winter season when the ski slopes are covered with snow.  The entrance to the park itself was a small, unmanned, affair, and the road beyond it narrow and winding, with a section that was still unpaved.  It was apparent that this was a less developed section of the park.

After a short while of driving in the park, we arrived at a section of the road where temporary road signs indicated that vehicles were not allowed to stop by the roadside.  Beside the road were either woods or an open low-lying area.  A stream meandered through the flatland.  Reeds and shrubs, and the occasional tree, dotted this space.  All of a sudden we began to see vehicles stopped on the roadway, blocking it partially (because of the lack of space beside the road), and people getting out of their vehicles.  We were curious, but we were also inclined to follow the park rules.  We made our way (with some difficulty and a feeling of annoyance) past the stopped vehicles.  As we were leaving the area of the cars, there was a shout from the back seat that a couple of moose had been sighted!  We were really excited because one of the objectives of this trip was to see a moose.  Unfortunately, I was still driving and did not see the animal, and there was also no place to stop.  A short while after that we arrived in an opening with a big parking lot.  I was able to pull in.

We got out and started looking for moose.  Below the parking lot was a creek, with woods on the other side. There were ducks in the water, but there was no moose to be seen.  We had to leave the place without a moose sighting (for some of us), but we were resolved to come back to look for moose once again later in the trip.

The road now entered a more open area of the park.  You could see the Tetons off in the distance to the left.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOur next stop was the park headquarters at Moose Junction.  At this point we ended our drive on the narrow road that we had been on, and entered a more developed section of the park.

We watched a video about the park at the visitor center.  At the end of the movie the curtains opened up behind the screen to reveal the Tetons.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe then drove further north into the park.  We were now on a stretch of road that was wider and more suitable for the more significant tourist traffic.  We had come to the park at a time of year when the traffic was dying out due to the colder weather, as is obvious by the looks of the empty parking lot in the picture below.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA bike trail ran beside the road, leading me to imagine some future adventure on a different set of wheels.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOur lunch stop was in a parking area near the Lupine Meadows trailhead.  We were constantly on the lookout for moose, but none obliged!IMG_20191013_133816804_HDRWe drove further north through the park.  It was past noon by now, and the position of the sun had shift further west.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe arrived at the parking lot for the String Lake trail.  Our plan was to hike to Inspiration Point, overlooking Jenny Lake.

This picture was taken as we were starting the hike.  The first part of our hike would take us from the parking lot for String Lake towards Jenny Lake.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe crossed String Lake early on.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is where an inlet from String Lake feeds into Jenny Lake.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe colors of Fall were in full display beside the trail along Jenny Lake.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere is a boat that takes tourists across Jenny lake. We had to leave the trail beside the lake and start a climb up a different trail towards Inspiration Point just beyond the place where this boat docks.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe passed Hidden Falls on our way up the hill.  There were short stretches of snow and ice on this section of the trail, at places where the sun does not reach that easily this time of year.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe reached Inspiration Point after a short climb in an open section of the trail higher up the mountain.  This was the view of Jenny Lake for Inspiration Point.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOnce we left Inspiration Point, we continued to climb towards Cascade Canyon Trail. We turned right at the intersection with Cascade Canyon Trail in order to head back to Jenny Lake, and to the parking lot where we had left our car.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACascade Canyon Trail in the other direction actually goes between mountain peaks to a point where you can catch the Teton Crest Trail and get closer to Grand Teton mountain, the highest peak in the range.  A hike in that direction had to be left as a possible adventure for another day.

We headed back towards Jenny Lake.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe sun was setting behind the mountains as we arrived back at Jenny Lake.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAs we were leaving the area of the lake, I noticed these markings on the side of a tree. From what I had read that morning at the visitor center, these were most likely the markings of the paw of a bear.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThroughout our stay in the park, we were warned about how to handle encounters with bears.  We were on the lookout for them constantly, but did not see any in the end.  They do recommend carrying bear spray to deter the animals.  The spray contains an extract from cayenne pepper.  Apparently, it is quite potent, and something you do not want to get in your eyes.

This picture was taken as we were crossing String Lake to get back to the car.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe sun was setting as we started our drive out of the park.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOn the way out, we came upon a herd of pronghorn deer in the fields a short distance away from the road.  This is the first time I was seeing pronghorn.  We stopped by the roadside for a few minutes so that I could take pictures.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPA130921.jpgAs we were leaving the park, we could see the mountains of the Gros Ventre range on the eastern side of Jackson Hole valley lit up in the fading light of the setting sun.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADinner was at a place called Liberty Burger in Jackson.  Some of us tried out bison burgers.  Then it was back over the Teton Pass, and onward to Victor, Idaho, for the night.

Later in the evening, back at the cabin, I tried to take more pictures of the moon.  It was the day after a full moon.  For some reason, just as it happened the previous night, I was still not getting a clear picture with the camera. It was a strange image, as if some diffused light from around the moon was falling on the lens of the camera through the night sky. Weird!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe did not stay up too late that evening.  We were tired after the day’s activities.

Next blog in this series here.

The 2019 Road Trip: Beginnings

The first day was a very long travel day.  The family was going to gather in Wyoming, and get ready for the visits to the National Parks that were starting the next day.

We departed from BWI in the early afternoon. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Arrival at Salt Lake City, UT, was in the early evening after a flight that lasted more than four hours.  Angela landed up separately at about the same time.  We picked up the rental car and began our drive towards Jackson, WY, as soon as we could.   Very soon we were off the highway and driving north over smaller roads along the border of Idaho and Wyoming, with instructions being given to me every so often to turn either left or right from one road to another.  This being the boondocks in the western states, the speed limits on these roads were quite high.   Nevertheless, it took us about 5 hours to cover the distance and get to our destination.

Throughout our drive to Jackson, we were in touch with Christina and Jesse who were landing at Jackson Hole later in the evening.    We all ended up meeting up at the restaurant for the Roadhouse Brewing Company in Jackson rather late in the evening just before the kitchen was about to close.  We were hungry and thirsty.  It had been a while since we had our lunch at BWI airport.  The craft beer was welcome after the long drive.  The food was good.

It was well past my normal bedtime by the time we started our drive from Jackson to Driggs, ID, to our place for the night.  Very soon after we left town the road began to climb up the mountainside to the Teton Pass.  We were warned about 10% grades!  And then the snow also started falling.  I had to slow down further on the winding mountain road.  It was a little challenging.  We crossed into Idaho after descending from the Teton Pass.  We had a few more miles to drive after that to get to Driggs.

It was close to midnight (Mountain time!) by the time we located the place we were staying that night.  I crashed out very soon.  I was dead tired.

It was quite cold when we woke up the next morning, well below freezing.  There was also a thin layer of snow on the car.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERACoffee was being made in the house, but, this being the first morning of the trip, we were not prepared for breakfast.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAJesse and I drove into the main section of town to pick up something to eat.  While we were there, we went to the local tire store to have the tires on the vehicle checked out since the low pressure indicator had come on.  We were told that there was most likely nothing wrong with the tires.  The change in the air temperature made events like the low pressure indicator coming on fairly common.  It turned out to be the correct diagnosis.  The indicator light went off after a few hours of driving.  This phenomenon repeated itself the next day.

The objective for the first day was to drive towards Yellowstone National Park.  We would have to drive north through Grand Teton National Park in order to get there.   The goal was to get to our place for the night by evening time.  This was going to be primarily a driving day. We would be driving into Yellowstone from the South entrance and leaving for our place for the evening through the West entrance (or exit, in this case).

After getting ready for the day and repacking our stuff back into our vehicle, we drove back towards Wyoming and Jackson. We had prepared ourselves for a very cold day.  We had to drive through the Teton Pass once again, this time in the opposite direction.  This being our first day in the mountains, we had to stop every once in a while to enjoy our surroundings and the recently fallen snow.  We had not been able to see anything the previous night.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt was snowing once again by the time we got to the top of Teton pass.  Jackson lay in the valley in front of us, but the view was not very clear because of the precipitation.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA It was also very windy and brutally cold at the top of the pass, something that we were not that well prepared for.  We had to take to obligatory pictures quickly.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA We stopped at the supermarket in Jackson to pick up some supplies for the next few days, and then we were on our way.

Soon we were beginning to get our first views of the Tetons – covered with a layer of fresh snow!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOur first stop was to be the car rental place at Jackson Hole airport.  The reason for the stop was to add one more driver to the list of people allowed to drive the rental vehicle.  Unfortunately, our rental company did not have a booth in the airport.  We had made the mistake of not stopping at their office in the town of Jackson on the way.  I was going to have to drive the rest of the day since we did not have a registered second driver.  The next opportunity for us to add such would be at the town of West Yellowstone in Montana, on the way to the place we were staying at for a couple of nights.

The airport lies in the vast valley to the east of the Tetons.  I thought the background for the airport was stunning.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe drive took us on the highway to the east of the Snake river.

Over millions of years, the river has carved out a meandering path over the plain.  The layering of the erosion that happened at different times in the history of the river clearly shows, and can be studied more carefully from a few viewpoints.  You can also drive down to today’s river side.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOn the way towards Yellowstone, we took a detour to the east towards a location that was supposed to have good views. We ended up driving through a snow storm.  On the other side of the storm we arrived at a section of the Continental Divide and decided that this was a far as we would head in this direction.  The views were not as great as we expected.  We turned back after getting some nourishment into us.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis was a view of the Teton Mountains on our drive back to the park.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe passed an entrance to the Grand Teton National Park and stopped to take the obligatory picture.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis was another view of the Grand Tetons as we were driving beside the Snake river.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe had to actually drive through an entrance gate for Grand Teton NP, and then for a little while along a highway, before we got to the entrance for Yellowstone.  At that point we discovered that one of the roads that was closed because of the weather was the one that went past the famous geyser, Old Faithful. This was the road that provided the most direct route to our destination for the night. Fortunately, the roads in Yellowstone form a loop, and we could come around to where we needed to be by driving around in the other, longer, direction.  Instead of going clockwise in the loop, we went anti-clockwise.IMG_20191010_155208450_HDRIt was only now that we also began to realize that we had come to the park when things were beginning to shut down in general.  In fact, the first Visitor Center that we went to at Grant Village, on the shore of the West Thumb of Lake Yellowstone, was about to close for the rest of the year.  There were also no ranger-led tours for the rest of the year.

We drove by Lewis Lake and Lewis Falls during the early section of the drive within Yellowstone.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe got onto the road that ran along the west shore of Lake Yellowstone.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADuring the rest of the drive towards the west entrance of Yellowstone we drove past a our first herd of bison, backlit in the sun that was beginning to set.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOn our way out of the park, we stopped at the town of West Yellowstone to get some dinner before proceeding towards Island Park and our place for the night.  We ate at what was rated to be the best restaurant in town.  It was called the Wild West Pizzeria and Saloon.  The place was busy and the pizza was good.  The massive saloon area next to the restaurant seating had a native feel.  I might have felt a little uncomfortable hanging out in that section of the establishment.

The town of West Yellowstone itself had its own unique feel.  It is a small place and does not have the more modern and very touristy feel of a place like Jackson.  From the nature of the buildings and the signs, I imagined being in a western town in a different place and time, perhaps in the movies.  Things shut down for the winter.  There are no supermarkets.  I did not see any chain motels.  Even the grocery store had character.  The population definitely appeared to to be more homogeneous than I am used to experiencing.  We did see a Chinese restaurant, and the some of the service staff at the restaurant that we ate at appeared to be Hispanic.

We had to drive a further distance from West Yellowstone to get to Island Park.  We drove from Montana into Idaho during this drive.  The road conditions were still a little dicey from snowfall.  The local road that we drove onto in Island Park was covered with snow.   (I found out later that the Toyota Highlander Sports Utility Vehicle (SUV) that I was driving was an All Wheel Drive vehicle.  It was a free upgrade from the intermediate size SUV that I had originally booked with the rental company.  That was a good thing!)  We had good traction and clearance, which was especially important when we got on to the snow-covered and uneven gravel road that led to the log cabin we were staying at.

The cabin was real nice, except that it got very, very, cold that night, and we had issues with the gas fireplace and the heating in the house.  The adults slept in the bedroom downstairs, that had its own heating.  The kids slept upstairs in the attic.

The next blog in this series here.