Grand Tetons and Yellowstone 081119 – 081419
Leaving Glacier we set our sights on the Grand Tetons. What you might not know is that the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone are butted up against each other. That meant we needed to drive through Yellowstone to get to our destination.
Yellowstone is a full day’s drive through Montana. We spent the entire drive trying to outrun storms and getting caught in them anyway. I learned that Kate has some significant anxiety around driving through these storms, which is completely fair. That said we still had to do it. We hit a couple of very small hail pockets but all in all faires quite well. In fact, we had the opportunity to stop for some food old Montana BBQ I. A little place called Sparky’s Garage in Butte Montana. I think I got the brisket sandwich and Kate and my behest got the ribs.
We arrived outside Yellowstone that evening and stayed at the most expensive KOA ever. Managing enough time and energy to wash some clothes and get some rest. In the morning we got up early and made our way into the park. Our plan was to drive through only seeing the essentials getting to the Tetons by early afternoon. Against our better intentions, we couldn’t help but stop at Old Faithful. It’s just an America National Park icon and to come all this way and skip it seemed, well, wrong. Of course, we ending up missing it’s guessing my only moments so we spent the next 90 minutes walking around and checking out the gift shop. When the time came to see the blast the unwashed masses fill a stadium of benches only the be underwhelmed by something that can’t possibly live up to the hype. We saw it and promptly took off.
We drove the rest of the way to the Grand Tetons listening to Willie Nelson songs and feeling quite Western. Arriving at the Tetons is like nothing I’ve ever experienced. As described by an early western author. “They seem to rise up straight out of the ground. No foothills no warning at all”. It couldn’t be more true. They are a steep and jagged mountain range. Still massive in size just surrounded by prairie. We set off to find a campsite. With no reservations, we had to hope there were walkup sites available. Lucky for us there was. We were able to secure 2 nights a the Colter Bay.
After scoping out the campsite we went to get some lunch. There was a little cafeteria type place near the campgrounds. We went in and they tried to seat us in that saddest darkest corner of the restaurant. When we asked to sit closer to one of the giant windows the “hostess” said “no! There are sections and I must seat as such!” In what only can be described as a blind rage, Kate and I marched out of the establishment and out onto the street. We soon realize we may have made a mistake. In a defeated panic we started driving and came across the Jackson Lodge just a few miles down the road. It was effing incredible! We walked into the lodge to find the most spectacular views. We quickly made our way to the outdoor restaurant and found a table pointed right at the Tetons! It was the most amazing lunch save ever recorded. So to you the hostess bound by the stringent rules of the restaurant industry, Thank You!
Our campsite was relativity close to the water. In our excitement and a successful lunch under our belts, we busted out the kayak and got on the water. It such a great way to see the mountains. So crisp and clean. The water was truly beautiful although a bit rough as we paddled back to camp.
The next day we got our hike on. Our feet had just about had enough by now. After the 2 massive hikes in Glacier, our dogs were bark’n. In what can only be categorized as pure will Kate and I embarked on yet another epic hike. This time we hiked a valley between two of the giant Teton peaks. On this one there was a lovely waterfall about 2 miles in. (Then a climb up to the valley. I know that sounds weird) . We got up close and personal with a Moose. We also had an incredible view of the mountains from a uniquely close vantage point.
After the hike, we went to look for a place to shower. This is always a truck on the road. We consulted the map and we found a shower spot not too far down the road. Turns out the place was the American Alpine Club Climber’s Ranch. This was a cool little place. It was a good way down a dirt road and it was a set of 4-5 rough looking cabins that had a little shower building. It cost us 4 bucks apiece but it was cool. All over the walls of the place, both inside and out were those wall climber handholds. You know those ones you see if you go to an indoor climbing wall. Very cool place.
We got dinner that night at the place we walked out of the day before. It wasn’t good anyway. After a long day of hiking, you don’t really care anyway. Like most nights on the road, we headed back to the campsite early enough to hang out by a fire. Watch the bats fly in and out of the trees, and take a drive around to look for other Vanagons. The Grand Tetons seemed to be the high watermark for Vanagon sightings. We always love it.
The next morning we decided to head out of the park to go explore Jackson Hole. I think this was Kate’s favorite part of the trip. I don’t know if this is at all true, but I feel like Jackson Hole is like an Aspen of sorts. It looked to me like a place where rich Californians go skiing and hang out. It was a welcome relief. We definitely should have spent the night there but we only spent the day. As we went around town checking things out we can across a store with photo prints for sale by Harper Smith from her series called Paloma. Harper Smith is a well-known fashion photographer and one of the photos really struck me and I thought it would be a great way to remember our trip. The series is northwestern in nature and the photos are truly stunning. After a day of walking the streets of Jackson Hole, we finally turned out sights east. With a view of making 1 more National Parks visit.