This family got its act together this morning. We got dressed, took down the tent, and pulled out of our campsite at 7:07am. There is hope for us yet!
Our early departure was motivated by our desire to make it to the Grand Teton National Park (GTNP) by 8:30. Every day at that time, there is a free Park Ranger-led hike at Jenny Lake up to Inspiration Point. It is only open to 25 hikers, and it is first come, first served.
We took Highway 22 from Idaho back to Wyoming over a very high pass in the mountains with 10% grades. The road provides some breathtaking views of Wyoming as you come over the ridge.
It was at this time, as we’re heading toward the Park, that we realized we forgot to pack the charger for our camera. I guess the good news is that it the camera’s battery works great, because we have not had any problems with it, but it also means we get to go buy a charger before this trip is over.
We pulled into the Jenny Lake Visitor Center at 8:20. Mallory and I hustled over to the building to try to check in for the Ranger Hike. Great News – we’re in!
The hike to Inspiration Point is only 2 miles round-trip, but it did surprise me that Stephanie & I dropped the average age of the hiking group considerably. There were only 2 kids in the group aside from ours. The rest of the group was mostly seniors. Jay requested somebody to be the caboose of our group, and I volunteered. Somebody had to keep an eye out for these geezers, and I have plenty of practice with my own parents. Ha Ha. (That’s a joke, Mom & Dad.)
One thing that excited us about this particular hike was that you start it by taking a ferry across Jenny Lake. Jenny Lake was formed by a glacier at the foothills of the Grand Tetons. It is not very big, and the ride only took 10 minutes. You cannot imagine more clear water in a lake.
The hike with the Ranger was a lot of fun. Sure, we could have made better time if we did it ourselves, but Jay would stop a number of times along the trail and he would tell us a history lesson about how the Grand Tetons were formed, or stories of the early settlers in the region.
The Grand Tetons were formed by plate tectonics and glaciers later moved south right at their base, leveling out the ground, leaving no foothills at all. You see majestic mountains butt right up next to the grassy meadow. Ranger Jay said that this makes the Grand Tetons a unique mountain range in the world. There are still 30 active glaciers in the Grand Teton range.
Our hike took us past the roaring stream, a 100 foot waterfall, and then we went vertical, visiting Exclamation Point, Perspiration Point, and finally Inspiration Point.
The Ranger-led hike ended at Inspiration Point. This is a popular hiking destination, and I had read that most people will turn around here, but the real payoff is what’s next – Cascade Canyon. So that’s where we went.
Hiking on to Cascade Canyon, the trail was mostly flat, so it was not strenuous at all. And the trail was absolutely gorgeous, covered in pine needles and in the shade from the tall pines. You could take a big whiff and all you would smell is pine trees. Ahhhhh, Nature.
We hiked in two groups. One group included Miles, who would be about a quarter mile ahead of us. Our second group was the rest of us, which sometimes included zapping Marissa with a cattle prod. There were questions from her such as “Are we almost there?”, “Can we go back?”. The answers were always “Yes” and “No”, respectively.
This part of the hike allowed us to get much closer to the stream, as it was not moving quite so fast. Marissa’s attentiveness picked up and she wanted to go down to the edge and touch it.
About a mile past Inspiration point, which is about a 30 minute walk, we saw what we hoped to see – a Moose! This big fella was standing near a stream eating some grass. There was a crowd of hikers on the trail nearest to where he was standing, and we joined them.
After we saw our Moose, we began our trek back. This instantly energized Marissa and now she was the one leading our trail hike. We spent 4 hours hiking the first two miles (to the Moose) and it took us 1 hour to hike it back. Good job, Marissa!
We boarded the ferry back to the Visitor Center. Marissa humored us by telling us she wanted to sit by the window. Because of course, you can’t see anything out of the boat if you’re not sitting next to the side.
Before we took off from the dock, one of our ferry boat drivers jumped in Jenny Lake. The temperature was around 60 degrees, but he told us it felt good.
We had a picnic lunch in the main Visitors Center parking lot with a view of the Grand Teton range. That is the way to eat.
Our next stop was to ride the Jackson Hole tram. This tram is on the south end of town in Teton Village. The most direct route to get there was on Moose-Wilson Road. When my parents visited Yellowstone and this area several years ago, the only Moose they saw the entire trip was on this road. We were not disappointed.
It is a winding road with a speed limit of 25mph that was 10 to 15 miles. Part of the road is unpaved. As we turned one corner, we saw a traffic jam appear out of nowhere. We were pleased to see two female Moose lying down under a tree. We slowed down to take a picture but kept right on going. There were plenty of people out of their cars, most likely getting way too close to the Moose.
The tram was a great experience. I had misgivings about doing it because it is probably going to be one of the more expensive things we do on this trip, but everybody loved it. The tram opened in 2008 and rises 4,139 vertical feet at 6.5 meters per second. The tram guide told us that in the winter, when the tram is used as a ski lift, it travels at 10 meters per second. The main reason is that the skiers are on the tram to get to the top and go skiing. We’re obviously just riding it for the views.
There was a small building at the top, where they sold waffles and overpriced souvenirs. We chose the waffles.
We saw several more Moose on the hillside during our descent from the top. Once we got to the bottom, we hightailed it for a local grocery store – Smith’s – that the tram operator had recommended to us. We stocked up on food for the next 5 days. We thought we might have looked a little redneck stocking our coolers in the empty parking space next to us, but just one aisle over, there was a lady playing the guitar. Anything goes in Jackson.
One final thought about the Jackson and GTNP area. They had bike & running trails everywhere. We were rarely on a road that did not have a well maintained trail next to it. And these trails were being fully utilized. If you’re into biking, then this would be an ideal place in the summertime.
The drive is only about an hour from the GTNP to Yellowstone. We saw a herd of bison along the road on the north end of GTNP. There was no fence between them and the road. That is a traffic jam waiting to happen.
Our final stop in GTNP was to pull over and check out Jackson Lake. This is the deepest lake in the park, about 400 feet, and also the largest. The water here was just as crystal clear as Jenny Lake.
When we arrived at the south entrance of Yellowstone around 7:30pm, there was nobody manning the gates. I was surprised there were only two lanes provided for incoming traffic. I would assume that this is the busiest entry point into the park since it is the one closest to Old Faithful.
We made it to our destination – the Grant Campground – after 8:00. We were all extremely tired, but Miles was very enthusiastic about us cooking a hot dinner. We had not cooked anything hot the entire trip besides oatmeal.
So we not only put up the tent and got everything set up like a typical arrival, but we got out the box oven and dutch oven, for making calzone and green beans. The green beans were great, but we had charcoal issues with the calzone so it was not as fully cooked as we wanted. But it was 10:30 by this point and everybody thought it was the most delicious thing they had ever eaten.
We had planned to take showers tonight, but the showers closed at 9:00pm. In addition, our original plan for the next day included getting up early for a visit to Old Faithful and the nearby features. But the traveling has caught up with us and we decided it would be in our best interest to sleep in and just see what we can, when we can.
Our day in Grand Teton National Park was one that we all enjoyed. I have heard from others that they enjoy GTNP more than Yellowstone. Every park is different, but I can understand why somebody would say that now that I’ve visited. We would definitely come back here.