Getting to The Grand Tetons
The drive from Denver into Jackson, Wyoming—the gateway to the Tetons—was a long day of driving. I got a speeding ticket going 78 in a 70 zone. I was shocked to be pulled over sine the limit was 80 miles an hour for most of Wyoming. I must have missed the last sign post that states 70 miles. We had just changed our auto insurance and hadn’t gotten around to downloading our new policy. I was unable to show proof of insurance to the Ranger, but he didn’t seem to care much. He was nice enough and we got away with an $88 ticket. I did some research on whether or not to pay the ticket…I think I’ll pay it.
After that long day we had to drive an extra 45 minutes over the Teton Pass and into Idaho. We spent 3 nights’ couch surfing with a lovely family in Victor, ID—less than an hour drive from the Grand Teton National Park. The city of Victor was small with less than 2,000 residents but the town was very welcoming. There was a gas station, a liquor store, a convenient store, a local brewpub, and a spattering of places to eat. I think I may have even seen a sign for yoga.
The Grand Tetons National Park
We spent two full days inside the park, which we felt was enough. Had the weather been better we would have eagerly camped out inside the park but the weather was near freezing both days. During our first drive back into the park we rented a can of bear spray for $8/day. Although bear attacks are rare there are 750 grizzlies living in the park plus countless black bears. Bear spray is like a seat belt—it’s not really needed until it is! The last grizzly attack occurred just 3 weeks prior to our visit. The poor man did not survive the attack.
We woke up very early to drive to Schwabacher’s Landing to get some sunrise photos. There were between 1 and 2 dozen other people also taking photos. You can spot an amateur from their complete ignorance to the entirety of the field of photography. It would take two hands to count the people that got out of their car pointed the camera at the mountains, turned on their flash, and just clicked away. I wanted to ask them if they felt their point and shoot camera had a flash bright enough to light up a scene that was larger than most towns in the area. Sigh….
Driving through the Grand Tetons during early October has to be the most striking time of year. The varying hues of autumn colors never got old. On one occasion Sylvie spotted a great landscape and I spend no less than 30 minutes shooting away. What amazed me much is how the colors seemed to change right in front of me. It was a semi cloudy day and every time a portion of the sun poked through the sky the leaves would shimmer. I saw them transition from a dark yellow to a vibrant orange and hundreds of shades in between.
Hiking the Grand Tetons
The hike around Phelps Lake Loop was nearly 7 miles. It was easy enough but offered limited views since there was essentially no elevation gain. The next day we set out for a more difficult hike—an out and back called Garnet Canyon. This was closer to 9 miles and offered magnificent views thanks to the nearly 3000 feet gained in elevation along the trail. We saw half a dozen glacier lakes, mountains, and colorful foliage along the hike. The trail ended, though you could continue onwards to a small ice field if you set your own route across some boulders. We enjoyed a snack at a waterfall and then returned.
The City of Jackson, Wyoming
Being the gateway city to the Grand Teton National Park, Jackson, Wyoming has everything you would expect. Fast-food, casual dining, gas stations, grocers, sporting goods stores, and tour agencies scatter the streets. Do yourself a favor and stay clear of the tourist-focused shops. Our couch surfing host educated us about the fur store located in down down Jackson. He used to work there and while employed was told to remove labels and replace them with store labels. Furs that were purchased from China for $800 were sold at prices as high as $25,000.
Naughty Fruit Shout-Out
Our CS host, Juan, is in the start-up phase of Naughty Fruits. Naughty Fruits is a company that makes dehydrated fruit and seasons it with chili pepper, sea salt, and lemon juice. He gave us some samples and showed us around his operation. The fruit as delicious and I highly recommend his product to anyone who want a ‘healthy’ snack while hiking or traveling. Check out the website here: Naughty Fruit Website
The drive from the Grand Tetons to Yellowstone south entrance is not a long one. However, the size of Yellowstone is utterly mind-boggling—it’s actually bigger than Delaware and Road Island combined. We stayed in Cody, a city almost 2 hours outside the park with yet another couch surfing host. We had to drive in the dark since one night and I would strongly discourage this as you can’t see all the beauty plus animal crossing are harder to avoid. Our couch surfing hosts were just amazing. They had just finished building their new house and were eager to show it off to us. It was really beautiful. The family had numerous pets and 20 chickens. Their extensive garden made both Sylvie and me jealous. We were welcomed into their home and felt completely comfortable. Thanks guys!
2 Days in Yellowstone
Unlike many other National Parks, I’ve visited Yellowstone is mostly a drive, park, take photo rinse and repeat experience. There are trails but I’ve been told that they don’t really lend themselves to better scenery. Most attractions have boardwalks that allow visitors to comfortably walk around and enjoy the park’s geothermal features.
We arrived to see Old Faithful 2 minutes too late so we needed to wait until the next eruption. However, the we did see Old Faithful erupt, exactly on time, the next time around
We spent our first day driving the southern loop (West Thumb Loop). We saw geysers, mud pots, boiling springs, and the “Grand Canyon of Yellowstone”.
During our second day we took a longer road, the Chief Joseph Scenic Highway, into the park’s northeastern entrance via Cooke City, Montana. The main attraction our last day was Mammoth Springs, located near the northern entrance of the park.
I think 2 days was a bit rushed for Yellowstone—however that may be largely due to our 4 hour round-trip commute into and out of the part to our lodging. The Grand Tetons are great for hiking and getting away from it all while Yellowstone has a great amount of landscape diversity and has boardwalks for easy walking. I saw many more families and handicapped people in Yellowstone that I did at The Grand Tetons.