A Beautiful Day in the Park

Trip Start Jun 18, 2010
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Flag of United States  , Wyoming
Thursday, August 26, 2010

Short Version:

            Jackson Hole and The
            Grand Tetons National Park.

            A Tour of the Park.

            Trolling for Pictures.           

Wordy Version:

Yesterday evening and last night got fairly cool compared to the previous several days; this valley that the town of Jackson is in certainly funnels the cool air off the Teton Mountains that are just to our west. One point of park business if you are coming this way, don't bother with the Moose River RV Park. First you won’t find it just like we didn’t find it; we called and got better directions and learned the park had changed its name to the Jackson Hole RV Park.

I guess our copy of Woodall’s is out of date but having said all this, I still would not recommend staying at this park. The people were not particularly friendly; when Karen asked about type of hookups and if they gave any RV club discounts (Good Sam’s, AARP, etc.) their curt, obtuse reply was that all the sites were the same price with or without complete hookups and they were already the lowest priced park in Jackson so they didn’t have to give discounts. Ok, as if that wasn’t enough, the lady then added "if you don’t believe me, just go and check then you’ll be back".

I guess if it hadn’t been so late and we hadn’t been so tired, we would have taken her up on that challenge. In retrospect, we would recommend pushing on to the park campgrounds if at all possible; we certainly wished that we had. If this Jackson Hole RV Park was the cheapest (at $62/night, this was the highest priced site for the entire trip including Alaska and Canada) and with old rundown bathroom facilities, I would hate to see what the other Jackson area RV campgrounds charged. Ok, enough of a non-recommendation for the Jackson Hole RV Park!

On a much more enjoyable note, the day was bright and sunny and after a quick drive through Jackson, we were soon inside another one of America’s premier National Parks; once again our Senior’s National Park Pass got us through the gate without any further entry fee. If you are eligible, don’t pass up this pass; it pays for itself on your first park entry.

When you enter The Grand Tetons National Park, you will notice that it is different than most other National Parks in the sense that you will immediately see the primary feature of the park, the Tetons. The road you enter the park on is Hwy 191 out of Jackson; this is pretty much a north-south highway that passes through a lowland plateau called Antelope Flats with the Teton Range to the west.

Now you’ve got to picture this morning’s drive; it is sunny with clear blue skies and the sun is rising in the east casting brilliant center stage sunlight on the Tetons; it just doesn’t get any better. As with any of the parks we’ve visited, your first impressions and views are almost overwhelming; you think you can’t top the view you are seeing until you drive around the next curve and that view now trumps the previous scene and bumps it out of first place.

The logistics of this park is such that we need to drive pretty much to the north end to get to Colter Bay where they have campgrounds that will accept our RV; darn, just think of the injustice of having to endure all of this park beauty on such a day just to get to our campground. About half way through the park, we come to the Moran Junction Entrance Station; this is where most people pay to actually enter this National Park (Senior’s N.P. Pass holders skip the line and drive on in).

We drive not more than a couple of miles and round a curve to see one of the most impressive views of the Tetons yet. This is Oxbow Bend Turnout and we certainly did the tourist turnout thing (along with about 100 other people). Even though the view is beautiful, the majority of the camera and binocular holders standing on the side of the road were tracking a pair of moose wading on the opposite creek bed; what a dilemma, do I take the moose or mountain picture?

You guessed it, I do both; the moose pair soon depart so I turn toward the mountains. From this vantage point (I’m standing on top of the RV), you can see three of the big four Teton peaks and their reflection in the pond in the foreground. If I were at the park office putting in my order for this picture setup, the only thing I would add is a little more snow on the mountain tops; one can always wish can’t they?

Leaving Oxbow Bend Turnout we continue our drive up to Colter Bay, but my gut tells me to see more of the park while the sun is out; we make another Crazy Ivan at a turnout and head back a short distance to the Lake Jackson Junction. This crosses over Jackson Lake Dam and goes south past Signal Mountain road and River Road turnout (both routes require 4WD) and on toward Jenny Lake Lodge. The road into Jenny Lake Lodge is a two way road, but beyond the lodge, it becomes a one way road that loops back to the main Teton Park Road. This route proves to be well worth expending some of our valuable sunny daylight hours driving; each turnout and viewpoint provides us with a slightly different perspective.

The tallest of these mountains and the ones typically shown in pictures of the area are: Teewinot Mountain (12,325’), Grand Teton (13,770’), Middle Teton (12,804’) and South Teton (12,514’). Mixed in are ten other peaks that cluster together hugging the big four and these top out in the 11,200’ to 12,500’ elevations. All-in-all, this is a most impressive mountain range that is made even to appear taller due to the flat valley and the lack of foothills at the base of the Teton Range.

It is now getting late in the afternoon and we don’t have a campsite yet so we backtrack a few miles on the Teton Park Road taking in as much as possible. Somehow, we suffer through this and other magnificent views and make it to the campground to get checked in. Colter Bay actually has two areas that accept RV’s; one is Colter Bay RV Park which has 112 full hookup sites ($55/night) and Colter Bay Campground which accepts everything from tents to RV’s. There are 350 sites here at $20/night ($10/night for us Senior’s N.P. Pass holders) with no hookups; there are, however, the usual locations for taking on fresh water and dump stations for that aspect of RVing.

After registering and checking out our assigned site, we head back for the campground exit to continue exploring this park on such a pretty day. We execute the well practiced bathroom break, Visitor’s Center info grab, a check of the latest weather forecast and then we were off to plan the next couple of days. Our literature stack consisted of the national park newspaper (the Teewinot), the park map, the Teton Park Ranger’s evening program schedule and the park shuttle schedule; all of these were free and invaluable towards making the most of our time in the park.

While at the Visitor’s Center, we did take the time to view a 45 minute park service film about the reintroduction of wolves to Yellowstone National Park (which is only 25 miles north of here). This documentary film covered all aspects of this decision which was a remarkable story in-of-itself but it also followed the adventures of one pack for several years explaining their individual characteristics, pack hierarchy, and hunting habits. It’s impossible for me to adequately explain the story told here, but it is even more impossible for me to understand how this film footage was captured. This is a must see if you travel to Grand Teton or Yellowstone National Parks.

Unfortunately, the weather forecast calls for rain on both Friday and Saturday; what is it about us pulling into a park and the rain starts? We decided we should hire out as rainmakers and just try to make some money on the way back home. Oh well, with rain in the forecast, at least we know we need to plan accordingly so we decide on some ranger presentations for Friday and Saturday evenings; more driving the scenic park roads today; hiking short trails for overlooks whenever and picture taking at every opportunity.

Thoroughly exhausted, hungry and full of trail dust, we returned to the Colter Bay Village for a $3.75 shower, some gift shop shopping and then return to our campsite to fix supper. Tonight’s menu is spaghetti with meat sauce, green salad and a York Peppermint Patty for desert; what a camping trip.

One final excursion was planned for this evening; while at the gift shop I saw some photographs of the park that were truly outstanding. I read where one particular photographic vantage point was located and decided I wanted to drive to this site this evening to scout out the possibility of a sunrise picture tomorrow morning.

Since this is about a 45 minute drive from our campsite, we left right after supper to check it out. This drive took us back out the Moran Junction entrance but we got sidetracked at Oxbow Bend and the reflecting lake again. This was a mistake because it was really dark when we finally reached the area I wanted to scout. Interestingly enough, as we were driving down this park side road, we could just make out something large in the road ahead; as we got closer, there were several of these large objects together and only when Karen got out the binoculars was she able to determine it was a Bison herd.

Not wanting to get into a head butting match with this group, I turned around. In this motorhome, this is not an easy task on a wide road in the daylight so it took many short up/back iterations to complete this 180 turn. Luckily, the only other traffic to come from behind us was a person on a motorcycle. Now he had to wait till we removed our very large roadblock and then went roaring around us; naturally he couldn’t see why in the world this huge motorhome was making this stupid turnaround in the middle of the road but he quickly learned what was ahead and came roaring back past us. It was so dark that we couldn’t see how close he came to this buffalo herd, but it is just funny picturing this huge four legged horned house staring down the high beam of some unsuspecting two wheeler. It was easy to see who won!

Ok, we had a humorous moment, got to see where to come back to in the morning so we started the 45 minute drive back to camp; naturally, we were careful not to have a motorhome vs. moose, bison or elk up-close inspection. We set our alarm for 5:30 AM and called it a day.
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