Grand Teton National Park – 101 Ways to Enjoy The Tetons!

Horseback riders at Grand Teton National Park Wyoming

What a great way to see the Tetons — on horseback!

September, 2014 – The National Park Service has posted some surprising statistics over the years about just how many hours the average visitor spends in each park.

Crazy as it sounds, it is really common for folks to do a quick drive-by, hanging out the car window for some photos to take home, and then checking the park off their bucket list.

Grand Teton National Park often suffers that fate, largely because it is laid out on a north-south highway that runs from Yellowstone National Park to the town of Jackson, Wyoming.

 

Grand Teton's new paved bike path

A new paved bike path goes nearly 20 miles along the base of the mountains.

A USA Today article from July, 2012, stated that the average time spent in the Tetons is just 6.5 hours!!

While it’s easy to drive through the Tetons really fast, during our two week stay on this visit we discovered there are all kinds of wonderful ways to get to know this park in a much more intimate way.

A fantastic addition to the park that was built since our last visit in 2007 is a nearly 20 mile long paved bike path that runs from the southern entrance of the park to the far north end of Jenny Lake.

 

Riding a bicycle with a view of the Tetons

The only problem with riding by views like this is keeping your eyes on the road!

We rode portions of it several times, and it took us to quite a few off-the-beaten-path locations within the park that we never would have stopped at if we’d been touring in our truck.

Every mile of this path was filled with families and cyclists of all ages. They were all enjoying a day of riding in the fresh air, with a stunning view the whole way.

We met cyclists from Jackson doing their daily workout ride (lucky them!!), clubs from out of town that had arranged a group ride of the area, and the Backroads Adventure Tour company with paying customers.

 

A motorcycle rides into Grand Teton NP Wyoming

Seeing the Tetons by motorcycle would be awesome,
especially on the curvy roads.

 

The roads throughout the park are ideal for scenic driving in a car, but they are probably a whole lot more fun on a motorcycle.

There’s a series of sweeping turns in the northern portion of Teton Park Road that are just too stunning for words, and doing them on a motorcycle would be quite a thrill!

Boating is another great way to go.

One day as we walked along the pebble beach at Jenny Lake, we rounded a point and our jaws dropped when we saw a beautiful sailboat anchored on crystal clear water set against a spectacular mountain backdrop.

A sailboat anchored in Jenny Lake Wyoming

Ahhh… maybe the nicest way to experience the Tetons would be by sailboat.

Kayaks and ferry boats on Jenny Lake in Wyoming

Kayaks and canoes are available for rent.

At the south end of Jenny Lake a small boathouse is home to the ferry boats and rental kayaks and canoes.

Getting out on the water is always a pleasure, especially in a watercraft you can power yourself.

Kayaks on Jenny Lake Grand Teton National Park

These two gals said they were loving their kayak ride as they floated past me.

We saw lots of folks kayaking on the lake, some of whom had brought there own and some of whom were renting them from Jenny Lake Boating.

This company also rents canoes and offers ferry boat rides and scenic boat rides on Jenny lake.

Jenny Lake ferry boat in the Tetons

A quickie ferry boat ride gets you out on the water and across the lake.

Even though we missed the summertime bargain boat fare for this ferry, I ended up scoring a free ride later that morning with some rock climbers who were headed across the lake for a day of climbing.

A kayak at Jenny Lake Wyoming

Now that looks like fun!

Mark had already hiked halfway down the two mile trail that goes from the boathouse to the dock on the far side of the lake, so we chatted on our trusty two-way radios about my good luck and his scenic hike, and later caught up with each other!

If flying across the lake at breakneck speed while hanging onto your hat with both hands isn’t the way you dream of way of seeing the Tetons from the water, a canoe trip is a much more peaceful way to go, and you can share the ride too!

Rafting trip down the Snake River in Wyoming

There are loads of rafting trips, from little rafts like this one to huge ones with 10 people aboard.

Powerboats in Jenny Lake Marina Grand Teton National Park

We were astonished by the size of some of the powerboats. What a spot to keep a boat!

River rafting trips are also extremely popular, and we saw several huge rafts filled with ten or so people. A guide stood up in the middle and used an enormous oar to steer the boat.

There were also smaller rafts of all kinds, each flying down the Snake River at a very fast clip

Fishing on the beach at Jenny Lake

Fishing is a nice quiet way to take in the serenity of the Tetons.

There were powerboats of all shapes and sizes at the marina too.

Artist painting at Phelps Lake Grand Teton National Park WY

This is a place that will get your creative juices flowing!

Of course, nothing says you have to be on some kind of moving vehicle to enjoy the Tetons.

The more stationary pursuits of fishing and artwork are other great ways to soak in the beauty of this magical place.

When we hiked to Phelps Lake, we were delighted to come across an artist working at an easel by the water’s edge.

Riding a driftwood see-saw_

Aw heck, when you find a see-saw on the beach you’ve gotta try it out!

Sometimes it’s fun just to be a kid in the presence of these special mountains.

On the shores of Jenny Lake we found a huge driftwood log see-saw, and we promptly jumped on it to give each other a ride.

A motorhome drives in Grand Teton National Park Wyoming

RVs are almost as common as cars in this park.

Of course, the Tetons are RV heaven, with lots of camping options both inside and outside the park.

Every other vehicle on the road was an RV of some sort, and a good percentage of them were rental RVs.

Laurence Rockefeller's audio-visual meditation room at Grand Teton

The Rockefellers built audio-visual (and audio-only) meditation rooms where you can experience nature without the dirt and dust.

For those who don’t want to deal with the grit and effort of hiking and being outdoors, the Rockefeller family (who were responsible for the Park Service’s acquisition of most of the lands in the area), have created a unique “green” building that has several audio-visual meditation rooms.

This might seem goofy, but watching the baby bears climbing trees, the moose lapping water from the lakes and the birds flitting between the trees in larger-than-life scale was actually really cool, especially since we didn’t see those things at close range on any of our hikes.

Reading a book on the beach

What a place to relax and unwind for a while!

Perhaps the best way to enjoy the Tetons, though, is just to pull up a chair and kick back in the presence of these magnificent mountains. After taking in the incredible views, it is even permissible to look away from the dramatic landscapes for a while and settle in with a book!

__________________________

Well, that’s not exactly 101 ways to enjoy the Tetons, but it’s a whole bunch!

Grand Teton Lodge Company is the National Park’s concessionaire for the campgrounds, (Colter Bay and Gros Ventre are RV campground options at different ends of the park).  They also offer scenic lunch/dinner cruises on Jackson Lake and river rafting trips.  Jenny Lake Boating offers ferry rides, private boat rentals and kayak and canoe rentals on Jenny Lake. 

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Grand Teton National Park WY – Mirrored Waters

Sunrise at Shwabacher's Landing Grand Teton Wyoming-2

Sunrise at Shwabacher’s Landing.

September, 2014 – The wild skies in Wyoming’s Grand Teton National Park settled down after a while, and clear blue skies began to rein.

We continued our morning ritual of hopping out of bed before dawn to run down to the scenic viewpoints to catch the sunrise.

As the sun rose, pastel shades would silently creep across the sky and then spread across the water below in beautiful mirrored reflections.

The sunrise was different every day, and each one was lovely in its own way.

Teton Mountains at Shwabacher Landing Wyoming

Just before sunrise, mist floats along the base of the Tetons.

Perfect reflections of the Teton Mountains at Shwabacher Landing

At the same place on another day, the mountains blush and check their reflections in the water.

Still water and mountains Shwabacher's Landing Teton Mountains Wyoming

Mirrored reflections of sky and mountains at Shwabacher’s Landing

This business of running around before dawn turned out to be surprisingly popular in the Tetons.

Every morning, headlights pierced the cold black air heading in both directions on the highway, and brake lights lined up at the turn-offs to the viewpoints.

At first we thought the Tetons were full of crazy photographers.

Water reflections Shwabacher Landing in the Teton Mountains-3

Serenity.

But we soon figured out that lots of these people were fishermen, wildlife stalkers and folks getting an early start for their day’s hike.

So much for R&R when you take a vacation to Grand Teton National Park!

What we loved, though, was the stillness of the water and the way its glassy surface mirrored the sawtooth mountain peaks as they changed shades in the morning light.

Placid water at Shwabacher's Landing at the Tetons

Prefect stillness… for a split second!

We returned to Shawbacher’s Landing several times to capture these special moments, and every single time we were teased by the dam-building beavers.

A tree felled by a beaver

Beavers are great lumberjacks. How do they
know when it’s time to bite and run?

Each morning, it was guaranteed that until the sun crested the horizon to the east, the beavers would sit on the tops of their dams, silhouetted perfectly.

They looked so cute and stood so incredibly still as they posed for us, little hunched figures on top of their world.

However, in such hopelessly dim light there wasn’t a chance in heck of getting that dreamed of beaver-sitting-on-his-dam portrait.

Beaver Dam at Shwabacher Landing Grand Teton Wyoming

A dam built by a beaver, nature’s engineer.

Of course, just as the colorful magic in the sky would begin, the beavers would all jump in the water and swim around, totally messing up the reflections.

They’d drag branches to and fro between their dams, true to their reputation as nature’s industrious little engineers, but they’d leave the water completely rippled, shattering the pink mirrored mountains into a zig-zag pattern of fractured images.

Mirrored reflection across Jenny Lake in Wyoming

The mirrored reflection of the mountains stretched clear across Jenny Lake.

The photographers that were lined up on the shore would moan and grumble to each other about those damn beavers, throwing up their hands in total frustration.

They’d call out to the beavers, telling them to get out of the way, and pleading with them to hold off on construction until the work day actually started in another hour or two.

Sometimes the water would settle for a split second, and then a flurry of shutter clicks would fly.

 

Jenny Lake evergreen trees in morning mist Wyoming

Pines mirrored in the mist at Jenny Lake.

Triumphant grins would flash between us all, only to be followed by another series of loud groans when a fish would snag a bug on the water’s surface, sending out a ring of ripples.

Once the light show was over, of course, and the sun rose high enough to bathe the scene in stark, bright light, the beavers would vanish into thin air, nowhere to be found, and the water would resume its glassy state, a little late.

So it goes with nature photography.

 

Mirrored mountains Jenny Lake Grand Teton National Park Wyoming

We were captivated by the beauty around us.

Jenny Lake sits in the middle of Grand Teton National Park, and there is a 10 minute ferry ride that shuttles people to the far side where there are several wonderful hikes.

Wandering down to the boathouse one afternoon, we discovered that this ferry ride is $15 per person all day long, but the very first boat ride at 7:00 a.m. is just $5.

Misty morning on Jenny Lake Wyoming

Every way we turned the images were
awe-inspiring.

What a deal! We were there!

So, on yet another ice cold morning, we dashed off in the truck, only to arrive at Jenny Lake and discover that now that Labor Day was behind us, the ferries were on a Fall schedule.

There was no early morning discount deal.

Rising mist on Jenny Lake Teton Mountains

The water was like glass.

In fact, there were no ferries at all until 10:00 a.m.

Argh!!

But this turned out to be a blessing in disguise, as we were now on the shores of Jenny Lake at dawn, a time and place where the Tetons quietly radiate their greatest majesty.

Foggy shores of Jenny Lake Grand Teton Wyoming

Mist rises from Jenny Lake.

The mist was rising off the surface of the water, and we suddenly had nothing to do but wander along the edge of the lake and take in the beautiful scene.

Talk about mirrored reflections on the water!

The whole lake was crystal clear and utterly ripple free!

We picked our way between the rocks on the shoreline, totally captivated by the steaming water and glowing mountains across the lake

 

Morning mist on the water Jenny Lake Grand Teton National Park

Jenny Lake is a magical spot at dawn.

There was less than a handful of other people down at the lake, and we were all walking around with dreamy smiles on our faces.

Granted, we all needed coffee, and we all had red, runny noses, but we all knew this was life at its finest.

The world was asleep, snug in their sleeping bags or rustic cabins or plush hotels in Jackson Hole, but a breathtaking dawn was silently unfolding around us lucky ones right here.

 

Mountain reflections in Jenny Lake

The mountains glowed orange.

Time stood still as the mountains gradually glowed fiery orange.

The light intensified for a few moments, stealing over the scene and over us noiselessly, without any kind of announcement or tap on the shoulder saying, “Hey, look at me!”

All this bravado and show was just nature’s way of stretching and shaking off the cold stiffness of the night air before getting up.

 

 

Dinghies on the beach at Jenny Lake in Grand Teton National Park

Dinghies and trees on the beach made beautiful patterns.

It was a magic moment that swept us up in its glory, so singular and so special for us that it would stay in our memories forever.

But it happens every day, day after day.

How lucky we felt to have witnessed it. How fortunate we were to be in this spot on this morning to watch the vibrant light grow and fade, to see the mist rise and dissipate from the water.

At the same time, how reassuring it was to know that it is always there for everyone, every morning… Jenny Lake at dawn.

 

Visit these links for the Official Grand Teton National Park website and Wikipedia’s Grand Teton National Park entry.

Here is a little more about Jenny Lake  and the Jenny Lake ferry.

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Grand Teton National Park WY – Wild Skies

Rainbow over our fifth wheel in Alpine Wyoming

At the end of the flood…a rainbow!

 

August, 2014 – After our four days of Noah’s Flood in Alpine, Wyoming, finally ended, we were blessed with a beautiful rainbow right over our little buggy.

The mud around us dried just enough so we could make our way back to the highway and continue our journey north towards Grand Teton National Park.

The deluge wasn’t entirely over, however, and dark gloomy skies filled our views for a few days.

 

 

Mist rises at dawn in Grand Teton National Park Wyoming

The Tetons are wreathed in a mysterious mist.

 

We arrived at the Tetons to find them wrapped in a mysterious mist that rose and fell and enveloped their faces as a cold wind whipped ours.

The clouds moved quickly, coagulating into otherworldly shapes and then dispersing into nothing, as if a magician were shrouding them under a gossamer veil and then laughing with a twinkle in his eye as he pulled it away.

 

 

Mountain mist explosion at Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming

The mountains seemed at times to be exploding.

 

We drove along the highway that runs through this park, awe-struck by the majestic scenery surrounding us.

Wisps of fog reached out along the base of the Teton Mountains and stole up their craggy flanks, giving the regal peaks a mystical air.

Sunlight came and went, teasing us as it lit the jagged faces and then withdrew and left them dark.

 

RV fifth wheel in Grand Teton National Park Wyoming

Dawn’s light played amid the mountain peaks

 

 

We roamed all around, enchanted by this unusual light, until some huge black clouds gathered overhead and gave us a frightening glare.

When they finally burst wide open, we huddled inside the buggy.  Rain pelted our roof, thunder echoed off the jagged peaks and lightning flashed all around us.

At last the rain stopped, and we ran along the Blacktail Pond overlook with vague hope in our hearts that there might be a good sunset.

 

 

Storm clouds over our fifth wheel RV

Storm clouds threatened and then burst with fury

 

We claimed our spots with our tripods and cameras on opposite promontontories, just in case.

I noticed another photographer setting up near me.

“Do you think there’s a chance of a sunset?” I asked him, making a face as I glanced at the grey skies.

“You never know.” He replied. “I’ve been coming here for years, and I’ve seen some incredible sunsets.”

 

Wild skies in Grand Teton National Park Wyoming

Wild skies at sunset

Just then, we both noticed a faint hint of pink in the sky.

As we stared at it, willing it to grow, the most stunning sunset I have ever seen unfolded.

In moments, the entire sky was on fire, flaming in waves of brilliant pink and orange.

The colors intensified, as if the flames were licking the mountaintops.

A pink glow began to radiate between the peaks.

 

Sunset in Grand Teton National Park Wyoming

Waves of color formed as the sunset drama played out

I could hear the shutter clicks of my companion and the “oohs” and “aahs” he was muttering.

I was doing the same thing, and hoping feverishly that Mark was as spellbound watching this magical drama over on his precipice as we were on ours.

I turned away from the valley for a moment and was shocked to see the sides of the storm clouds above us had suddenly begun glowing magenta.

 

 

Storm clouds and sunset in Wyoming

I turned around and saw the storm clouds glowing, as if from a fire within.

Two trees on the flat plain were silhouetted against this delicious, lugubrious sky.

And then, without a hint of warning, it was over.

Mark and I ran towards each other, bursting with excitement.

“Did you see that?”

“Yes. Did you get it?”

“I think so… Look at this one…”

Pink glow between the Teton Mountain Peaks Wyoming

Vibrant shafts of light radiate between the peaks.

Fire in the sky at Grand Teton National Monument in Wyoming

The gods play with fire in the sky over the Tetons.

Shwabacher Landing Grand Teton National Park before dawn

Before dawn, the misty peaks were reflected in the water.

We traded cameras to see each other’s pics, dashed into the rig and drove off in a flurry, totally flushed with excitement.

The next morning we set the alarm for oh-dark-thirty and snuck down to Shwabacher Landing to see if we might get lucky with a sunrise.

The mountains were shrouded in blue-gray mist.

Only the peaks were visible, but the reflections from the mirror-like water gave the scene an ethereal air.

 

Sunrise at Shawbacker Landing Grand Teton National Park

But all the sunrise drama was happening behind us!

We set up our tripods for our sunrise shot, totally focused on the mountains and reflecting water in front of us.

Then we turned around and our jaws dropped in astonishment as we watched the most vivid display of pink and orange developing behind us.

We were in total awe. But the cameras were facing in the complete opposite direction!

After a few minutes I finally regained my senses, yanked the camera off the tripod and fired off a few quick handheld shots of this glorious sunrise.

Sunrise lights the peaks in Grand Teton National Park Wyoming

Sunrise lights the tips of the mountains as fog rolls in

No sooner had the color faded in the eastern sky than the rising sun began to light the peaks of the Tetons to the west.

The mist was rising rapidly, leaving just the points of each jagged peak to poke its head above and glow pink for a few seconds.

We caught our images, but our hearts were pounding.

How crazy that a silent sunrise could steal over an entire valley and send us into paroxysms of frustration and thrills: “I’m missing it…No, wait, I’m getting it! I got it I got it!!”

Blushing mountain peaks at Grand Teton Naitonal Park Wyoming

The tips of the mountains catch the sunrise above the mist.

For the next few days we rose with the alarm clock to catch the sunrises over the water.

There were other photographers at every viewpoint, all jumping up and down to keep warm, and blowing into their hands to bring some life back to their fingertips.

We shared stories of missed shots, wrong camera settings, and the ecstasy of catching it just right.

Some photographers had caught The Big Fiery Sunset at Ox Bow and Shwabacher Landing where the theatrics in the sky were doubled by reflections in the water.

Stormy sunrise over an RV

Another stormy sunset fills the sky

Such good fortune!

The stormy skies continued to enchant us, and we were blessed with one stunning sunrise and sunset after another.

After nearly a week of this nonsense of getting out of our warm bed in the ice cold dark and not crawling back into that warm bed until many hours after sunset, we were bleary eyed and tripping over our own two feet.

But the Tetons had gifted us with their magic and we were grateful for every stunning moment.

 

Glowing with happiness at Grand Teton National Park Wyoming

Glowing with happiness in a truly spectacular place.

Prior to this visit, our RV travels in Wyoming had brought us to this magnificent valley twice. The first time, in our first year of traveling, we had naively rushed through way too fast, and the second, just two years ago, had been devoid of mountain views due to thick wildfire smoke in the air.

This visit, however, was taking us by storm, in the best and most literal sense.

We quickly decided to stick around a while to see what else these mysterious mountains would share with us.

For more information about Grand Teton National Park, click here.

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Flaming Gorge, WY – Absolutely spectacular, colorful views and friendly big-game animals

Overlooking Lucerne Valley in Flaming Gorge, Wyoming, while boondocking in our RV

View of Lucerne Valley in Flaming Gorge

Early September, 2012 – Putting our tire troubles out of our minds for the moment, we left Pinedale and Rock Springs, Wyoming and headed south to the incomparable Flaming Gorge.

Flaming Gorge Wyoming Sunset

Sunset in Lucerne Valley, Flaming Gorge

The north half of Flaming Gorge sits in Wyoming and the southern half sits in Utah.  Five years earlier, at the beginning of our full-time travels, we had driven down the eastern flank of this large body of water and gotten a glimpse of some of its magic.

Rainbow at Flaming Gorge, Wyoming

We saw glorious rainbows every day.

This time we drove down the western side with plans to stay a while and really soak up its essence.

Pronghorn Antelope at Lucerne Valley Campground

Pronghorn roamed between the campers at Lucerne Valley Campground

 

Lucerne Valley has some wonderful views, and we drove and rode our bikes and walked along the roads taking it all in.  Late summer in this area produces some fabulous, looming clouds, afternoon downpours and rainbows.  Every day we were treated to nature’s best.

Pronghorn antelope at Lucerne Valley Campground in Flaming Gorge, Wyoming

Pronghorn at rest.

Down in the Lucerne Valley campground a herd of pronghorn antelope had taken up residence.

On a ledge at Flaming Gorge Red Canyon Visitors Center

Checking out the views near the Visitors Center.

We rode our bikes around the campground loops and we watched the herd wandering between the trucks and trailers, motorhomes and satellite dishes. They acted as if they owned the place!

Rainbow at Flaming Gorge Wyoing

Colors light up the heavens.

They weren’t too concerned when we approached, but if we got too close they would bound away, as light on their feet and as nimble as dancers.

Wildflowers at Flaming Gorge, Wyoming

While the views in the heart of Flaming Gorge are all about brilliant red rocks plunging down to the serene Green River a thousand feet below, up in the Lucerne Valley area the green farmland makes a beautiful contrast to the hills in the distance.

Boondocking views of Lucerne Valley Flaming Gorge Wyoming

Spectacular views everywhere.

As the clouds fingerpainted the sky with stormy hues, we kept a sharp eye out for unexpected rainbows and were never disappointed.

Sheep Creek Geological Loop Drive in Flaming Gorge Wyoming

Sheep Creek Geological Loop

We took the Sheep Creek Geological Loop backcountry drive which is a 14 mile loop off the western side of the gorge.  Here we saw soaring cliffs and beautiful views as we crested the top of the loop.

Bighorn sheep in Flaming Gorge Wyoming

Bighorn sheep

The drive is noted for offering close-up encounters with big horn sheep, but we didn’t see any until we returned to the main road.

Then we saw three of them grazing right alongside the highway.

One glanced at our truck briefly.  He didn’t seem to mind my paparazzi-like camera clicks in his direction as I hung out the window of the truck and took his picture.

Sunset at Flaming Gorge Sheep Creek Canyon Wyoming

Sunset view from Sheep Creek Canyon

 

There are some switchbacks along this steep road, and as seems to have been a common occurrence for us this summer, it started to pour as soon as we started to climb.  But the views from the overlooks at the top of the hill were worth every moment of white knuckles on the way up.

Flaming Gorge Sheep Creek Canyon Overlook from our RV

Flaming Gorge is truly breathtaking

We enjoyed the beauty of this place and we stayed quite a while, first taking a few day trips down to the Utah part of Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area and then eventually heading down there to stay with the rig.

 

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Pinedale, WY – A beautiful modern-day Boomtown

Wyoming's Centennial Highway

Sweeping turns on the Centennial Highway

Late August, 2012 – Heading south out of Jackson, Wyoming, we followed the Centennial Scenic Byway (Route 191).  This is a lovely curvy road that weaves between mountains and eventually emerges into wide open spaces where there is virtually nothing but undulating land as far as you can see in any direction.

Wyoming's Centennial Highway

Pretty views along the highway

What a surprise it was, then, when we suddenly came upon a huge construction project that appeared to be the erection of a large bridge over the highway — one that could easily support several lanes of traffic — but with no roads leading to it on either side.

Pinedale, Wyoming bridge for wildlife

Wildlife bridge under construction

We drove further and discovered a second similar bridge being built.  Huh?  Then more construction followed with workers busily paving a bike path along the edge of the highway.  Cool!  But what really knocked our socks off was the sudden appearance of two brand new 3-story hotels on either side of the road: upscale Hampton Suites and Baymont Inn and Suites.  What in the world?  Minutes ago we had been driving through vast empty plains.

Pinedale, Wyoming, Carriage Rides

Horse and buggy ride in Pinedale

This was Pinedale, Wyoming, we learned, something of a modern version of Montana’s Virginia City and Nevada City gold mining towns, where drilling for natural gas was driving a boom like we’d never seen.  Beautiful schools, lovely city parks, a chic brewpub, a horse-drawn carriage taking people through town — these were the fallout from massive multi-national corporations coming to town to set up shop and drill.

Pinedale, Wyoming, Deer

Deer visit our trailer in Pinedale

We learned that the two big bridges outside of town were for wildlife, not people or cars.  Large animal migrations cross the highway each spring and fall, and the new bridges would give the deer, elk and other migrating creatures a way to cross the road safely — and spare many cars from being totaled.

Pinedale, Wyoming, Footbridge

Footbridge in the pretty city park

 

 

 

 

 

A tunnel was being dug for these guys as well, since some animals like to take the high road while others prefer the low road… Wow!  I hope the animals can read the road signs leading to their bridges and tunnel!

Wind River Mountains behind Fremot Lake

Wind River Mountains beyond Fremot Lake

After a few days in town enjoying the fabulous library and strolling the pretty paved paths in the woods and along the streams in the city park, we ventured out of town towards Fremont Lake and the Wind River Mountain Range.

Unfortunately the smoke from fires further west was still quite thick and the views were hazy at best.  So we drove down to the lake’s marina where we found sailboats and motorboats and elegant outdoor dining on a deck overlooking the water.

Pinedale Wyoming Sailboat Marina

Sailboat at the marina

A sailboat left the dock and sailed towards the middle of the lake on a beam reach under a light breeze.  Watching the wind fill the sails caught us between two worlds for a moment, as we hadn’t thought about our boat or sailing or the water for a very long time.

Pinedale Wyoming Sailboat Marina

A sailboat reminds us of our other life!

Returning to Pinedale, I indulged in another passion I hadn’t thought about for a long time, and rented a pair of skates for an hour.  I buzzed around the town’s skating rink, very wobbly at first but gaining enough confidence to show off for Mark a bit, since he had never seen me skate before, something I had done intensively as a child.

Pinedale Wyoming Skating RinkThe wonderful town ice skating rink, the new skateboarding park, the excellent high school track, the well appointed city park and all the other public amenities were all top notch in every way, easily suitable for a city of 20,000.  But Pinedale is said to have just 1,200 to 2,000 residents (depending on which brochure you read), and the number undoubtedly changes monthly as the profits in the gas fields wax and wane.

Pinedale Wyoming Laundromat

The laundromat is decorated with trophy heads.

A fellow who was removing some heavy clothes from a laundromat washing machine labeled “Oil Field Clothes Only” told us the town had been in a slump in recent years as gas prices had fallen, but that gas prices were on the way up again and the companies would likely resume full-scale operations.

Stopping in the BLM office to ask about camping options, our conversation wandered away from camping and the clerks opened our eyes to another side of living in a boom town: prices were higher here for everything from real estate to food to gas at the pump, and one woman just shook her head as she said worriedly, “Who’s going to foot the bill for maintaining all this when the gas companies leave town?”  Gold mining and gas drilling, boom towns and ghost towns — as we looked around it seemed to us that life in the 1860’s and 2010’s had quite a bit in common.

Pinedale Wyoming Lake

A lake on the back side of town

Exploring the back side of Pinedale, we discovered a pretty, peaceful lake.  Watching the ducks leaving their triangular wake in the otherwise glassy water, as they have done for millennia, we found it hard to believe that both of the 3-story hotels we had seen on the way into town had been booked for two years before they were even completed.  Such intense activity in such a placid place.

Pinedale WyomingWe loved every minute we spent in Pinedale, but our time there drew to a close.  We left in high spirits, singing away as we drove at 55 mph on the brand new asphalt of one of the smoothest, flattest roads we had been on all summer.  Suddenly, a loud flapping noise right behind the truck jerked us to our senses.  Instantly, Mark pulled over.  We jumped out of the truck and saw that the tire tread had spontaneously peeled right off of one of the trailer tires.

Fender damage to our trailer

Fender damage from our tire disintegrating

Parts of the tread were wrapped around the axle, bits were strewn in the road, and a long strip of it was still partially attached to the tire along one edge.  The tire was still at full pressure and the tread was plenty deep, but the trailer fender had been damaged badly when the tire failed.  Good grief!!  Mark whipped out his tire changing gear and got the spare installed in minutes.  But we spent a long five days in Rock Springs, Wyoming, first getting all the trailer tires replaced and then trying to sort out the warranty situation with Michelin/Uniroyal.

Quick tire change on an RV

Mark pulls the shredded tread off the axle.

Michelin/Uniroyal had just recalled 849,000 similar tires a few weeks earlier, because they had a tendency to have their tread peel off unexpectedly (hmmm!!).  But ours was a slightly different model number.  So, rather than an easy recall process we had a very difficult warranty process that started with us paying to ship the failed tire to Uniroyal via UPS (not cheap!).

Tire without any tread

The denuded tire – all the tread had peeled off!

Their process is entirely based on the US mail service, rather than fax and email (which they don’t consider legally viable), and it involves getting documents notarized and mailing off written quotes from RV repair facilities.  None of this is easy to do while traveling in remote places.

But we did what we could while in Rock Springs, Wyoming, and carried on.  After many hours on the phone, Michelin/Uniroyal promised to reimburse the cost of shipping the tire to them and they agreed to allow us more than the usual 45 days to complete the warranty claim process.  Phew!!  Wyoming and Utah’s Flaming Gorge was looking really good by now, and we hustled down the road to get there as quickly as we could!!!

 

 

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Jackson, WY – The Wild West Tamed & Gentrified

Yellowstone National Park Wildlife on Road sign

Drive carefully!

Mid-August, 2012 – After leaving Ennis, Montana, and Earthquake Lake, we continued into Yellowstone National Park and then on into Grand Teton National Park.  These are enormous parks that take hours just to drive through at nearly highway speeds without stopping to see anything.

Grand Tetons Not Visible due to Wildfire Smoke

On top of Old Smokey…

On a mission to spend time at the Tetons, we didn’t stay long enough at Yellowstone to see any of the big game animals.  But we did see a cool big game animal road sign!

A rash of wildfires burning in Northern California, Nevada, Idaho and Montana had filled the air with smoke, and it hung over everything in a thick brown cloud.  Standing at the enormous plate glass windows of the Jackson Lake Lodge, which usually frames the mountains, we could barely see the outline of the peaks.

Jackson Wyoming Boondocking

A great spot for a few days!

So we dropped south a little bit to Jackson, Wyoming, thinking we might wait out in this hip tourist town until the smoke cleared out.  We found an ideal spot to camp for a while on a tiny bit of BLM land along the Snake River and watched river rafters float by.  They would skid along sideways and then twirl backwards and then regain their footing and slip forwards down the river right by our rig.

Snake River Rafting

River rafters floated past us every afternoon

One afternoon Mark was deep in a photography book and I was buried in my computer when two gals in bikinis knocked on our door.  Mark was delighted!

Jackson Wyoming Snake River Rafters

It’s a busy river.

They wanted to borrow our phone to call for their ride to pick them up, as one of them had decided she’d had enough rafting for one day.  Mark instantly ditched his book to help them.  It turned out they were recent law school grads from Harvard and BU who were celebrating graduation with a big trip out west.

Jackson Wyoming Horse Saddle Barstools

Giddyup!

Jackson is a fun trendy town where — we were told — the billionaires moved in and forced the millionaires out.  Very Wealthy People have homes here, and everything in town is quite expensive.  But enjoying the sights is still free, and we got a kick out of poking our heads in one bar and seeing a line of barstools made from horse saddles.  A little kid grinned at us from his carriage as he rode around the town square.

Jackson Wyoming Carriage Ride

Even kids love Jackson

Jackson Wyoming Pistol Doorknob

Where retired pistols end up…

Jackson Wyoming Pistol Doorknob

Shoot first, ask questions later.

The wild west has been tamed here, and pistols now serve as door handles and each corner of the town square has an arch made of densely packed elk antlers.

Bronze sculptures of some of America’s historic dignitaries sit on park benches around the square, and we took turns photographing each other with our arms around Ben Franklin, Abe Lincoln, Einstein and others.

Jackson Wyoming Elk Antler Arch

There are four of these antler arches…

Jackson Wyoming Abraham Lincoln Statue

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A fantastic paved bike path rolls up and down over the hills from town out towards our camping spot, and the map showed that other paved trails went in other directions as well.

Jackson Wyoming Paved Bike Path

There are paved bike paths all around town.

Jackson Wyoming Sunset over Snake River

Sunset over the Snake River

We were eager to ride them all, but the smoke lingered, burning our eyes and lungs, so we decided to save those adventures and the Tetons for another visit.  Little did we know when we left Jackson that the cool town of Pinedale, Wyoming, was going to catch our fancy down the road.

 

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Afton, Wyoming – Cowgirl Town!

Early July, 2012 – After spending the 4th of July beachside at Bear Lake, Utah, amid jet skis and sailboats, we rolled north.  The scenery changed gradually and no longer had that aura of waterplay and vacation.  Old barns and big hay fields began to dominate the landscape.

We pulled into Afton, Wyoming, and had to stop.  It’s not always easy to find a place to park a big long rig, but this town made it very clear exactly where the public parking was: a wooden cowgirl stood high up on a lamppost with a gun pointing the way.  Of course, we found it easier just to park along the side of the road than to try to squeeze into a lot!

This is cowboy country, ranching country, and hunting country for sure.  Elk shed their antlers every year, and there is such an overabundance of antlers lying around these parts that the locals get very creative finding ways to use them.


An arch made entirely of elk antlers crosses the main street with a sign on it saying, “Afton, Wyoming.”  Above it two elk are butting heads.


We ventured a little further north to find an overnight spot in tiny Alpine, Wyoming, where a wonderful sunset turned the mountains brilliant colors before fading.

We woke in the morning to find a truck full of cattle had pulled in next to us overnight.

The constant stomping and peeing of those cows made quite a racket, but it was the driver’s awesome handlebar mustache and hook where his hand had once been that got us grinning.

The small towns along this route were all very cute.  Alpine sits at the base of Palisades Lake, and as we drove along its eastern shore the next morning we discovered there is tons of wonderful boondocking along that shore.

We stopped in one pullout to get some photos but kept on rolling, vowing to come back some day to check out the lakeside camping options.

We were now flirting with the Wyoming and Idaho borders and decided to check out two more officially scenic drives: Idaho’s Teton Scenic Byway and Mesa Falls Scenic Byway.

 

 

 

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Devil’s Tower, WY – Remember “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” ??

The Lakota called it "Bear's

Lodge"

Rock climbers scale the facets of Devils Tower.

Devils Tower, Wyoming

September 13, 2007 - Every since I saw the movie "Close Encounters

of the Third Kind" I was intrigued by Devils Tower, so when I saw it on

the map in Wyoming as we left the Tetons behind, I told Mark we had

to make the turn.  It is a beautiful drive to get there.  When the rock

showed up in the distance it was quite dramatic.

We learned that the Lakota Indians had a legend about the rock

involving a bear climbing the sides of the rock and Indians defending

the rock from its flat summit.  The bear's claws scraped the rock as he

climbed, making the striped indentations that are there today.  They

called it "Bear's Lodge."

An early American fellow named

Dodge had visited the area and seen

the rock from 20 miles off.  He

apparently mistranslated the Lakota

name for the rock and thought it was

called "Bad Spirit," which is how it

came to be named "Devils Tower."

I was intrigued that Devils Tower in Wyoming looks a lot like Devils

Postpile in California.  But I learned that Devils Postpile heaved

upwards, while Devils Tower got its shape from erosion, and

Devils Postpile consists of basalt while Devils Tower is granite.

One of the greatest charms of this national

monument is the community of prairie dogs

that lives in the fields at the base of the rock.

They bark and play and scamper around to

the total enjoyment of all the tourists.  There

are little entrance holes to their lairs

everywhere.  They were constantly popping

up out of their holes to look around and then

diving back down again.

We had a glorious day

visiting Devils Tower.

We didn't see any

extra-terrestrials but

were enchanted by

the adorable prairie

dogs and the unique

and real stories behind Devils Tower.  Leaving this unique

granite formation behind, we wandered east and south into the

Black Hills of South Dakota.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming – Stunning!

Grand Tetons

Grand Tetons

The Tetons stand watch over Lake Jackson

The mountains seem to rise up out of the lake.

Pronghorn antelope.

Lake Jackson.

Jenny Lake reflects the mountains in her depths.

Grand Teton National Park, WY

September 10-12, 2007 - We drove from Yellowstone south to

Grand Teton National Park.  We were there on magically beautiful

days.  The sky was bright and clear and everywhere we turned

was like a picture postcard.  Apparently the mountains are often

obscured by clouds, so we felt fortunate to see them on days that

were crystal clear.

We drove the Scenic Loop

through the park, and on

our way back we saw a

pronghorn antelope peering

at us through the grass.

Just after we got his picture

he bounded away.

We were starting to feel the press of the coming cold weather, and

we still had a lot we wanted to see before we headed south, so we

made our way eastwards in Wyoming to Devils Tower National

Monument.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Other blog posts from our RV travels to Grand Teton National park:

Yellowstone National Park, WY – Bubbling Geysers

Algae-filled crystal clear stream.

Professional photographers

come here too!

Old Faithful teases us.

The crowds gather.

There she goes...!

Oh.. oh.. look...

Yellowstone National Park - Mammoth Hot Springs

September 6-10, 2007 -- We drove into the main north entrance to

Yellowstone National Park and arrived at Mammoth Hot Springs.  I

had never thought about how Yellowstone got its name, but when I

saw the colorful mineral deposits surrounding me it was obvious.

Steam billowed into the air from the hot springs and the smell of

sulphur wafted over us in waves.  The minerals solidify into

stairstep formations and drippy solid lumps.

There is a mystical quality to this area.  The water looks passive

and serene, but the mist and steam drifting above the surface

belie something more sinister brewing below.

I saw a fast flowing stream

filled with bright green plant

life.  it was crystal clear and

looked like it must be ice

cold.  Without even

thinking I put my hand in

the water - and yanked it

right out!  The water was

hot hot hot!

There are mazes of

boardwalks throughout

Mammoth Hot Springs,

some passing old defunct

springs and others skirting

pools of steaming mineral

water.  The minerals harden

into all kinds of shapes, from

elaborate staircases to very

tall pinnacles.  Some of the

springs bubble under vast

lakes punctuated by dead

trees.  Up close the

minerals are a kaleidescope

of colors.

In some areas the minerals harden in waves, like a frozen orange

ocean.  In other areas mini-waterfalls dribble minerals over an edge.

At one lookout we found a professional photographer

using a huge format camera under a draped hood.  Our

quickie snapshots of anything and everything around us

seemed amateurish next to his deliberate methodology.

Other areas of the park feature

geysers as well as hot springs.

And no visit to Yellowstone is

complete without a spin past Old

Faithful.

It erupts every 90 minutes or so,

and with less promptness and

splendor than 50 years ago when

an earthquake shifted things below the surface.  The

crowds gather, however, and there were several

hundred people for our showing.  We were lucky and

got a big burst after the geyser teased us with a series

of smaller sprays.

After enjoying much of what Yellowstone has to offer -- but realizing we'll have to return several times to see it all --

we made our way south into Grand Tetons National Park, Wyoming.