August 6 -7
After dawdling at breakfast at the Grant Village Dining Room, we gassed up at the station there, grabbed one more Huckleberry and Chocolate candy and then began the drive down to Grand Teton National Park, which would take us about an hour. Our original plan for this portion of the trip was to spend five nights in Yellowstone and four in Grand Teton.
As the trip progressed plans changed for our stay in Cedaredge with Sharon and Doug and in Denver, where Rendy’s daughter Jenna lives with husband Tyson (we last visited them when they lived in Tallahassee) and their lovely little girl, Stella. We decided to spend some extra time there in order to take in a L.A. Dodger’s baseball game with the Colorado Rockies. This would require taking two nights out of Yellowstone or Grand Teton and as we had a reservation at the former and none could be made at the later, we opted to shorten our stay in the Teton’s.
We would later come to regret this decision, which I will elaborate on as I close out this portion of the blog. The park itself is good sized at approximately 310,000 acres (480 square miles) and includes the major peaks of the 40-mile-long Teton Range as well as most of the northern sections of the valley known as Jackson Hole. Just 10 miles south of Yellowstone National Park, they along with surrounding national forests, constitute the almost 18,000,000-acre Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, one of the world’s largest intact mid-latitude temperate ecosystems.
Efforts to preserve the region as a national park began in the late 19th century, and in 1929 Grand Teton National Park was established, protecting the Teton Range’s major peaks. Named for Grand Teton, the tallest mountain in the Teton Range, the naming of the mountains is attributed to early 19th-century French-speaking trappers—les trois tétons (the three teats) was later anglicized and shortened to Tetons. At 13,775 feet Grand Teton abruptly rises more than 7,000 feet above Jackson Hole, almost 850 feet higher than Mount Owen, the second-highest summit in the range.
For now, we arrived at Colter Bay Campground around 11am and waited in line to secure a site in this first come first served location. Outside of a minor snafu (our first assignment, although listed as open had actually been assigned to someone else) we set up camp in a nice site, close to the bathroom and conveniently, with our own individual bear locker, making camp logistics that much simpler.
As Rendy needed to take care of some business that required on-line access, we drove the short distance to Colter Village to check out the facilities and resources there and were pleasantly surprised at how much better they were than those we’d experienced at Yellowstone. To start, the store was a real market, with fresh produce, meat, beer, wine, liquor, and a good selection of other supplies.
We walked across the parking lot and entered the bar of John Colter’s Ranch House, the sit-down restaurant next to a casual dining pizzeria. Seated at a high-top table, we ordered a round of beers and were delighted to find that not only was the wi-fi free, but it was relatively fast, our first extended run at the internet for almost a week.
Finished with our beers and computer work, we hit the market for dinner supplies, a simple meal in camp that escapes my memory, but one ultimately satisfying. We planned to do as much as we could with our one full day in the park and so were out of camp fairly early in order to accomplish our agenda.
We drove south to the Jackson Lake Lodge to take in the views, our first real exposure to the majesty of the Teton range. Fires burning throughout the western part of the country brought smoky skies, eliminating the pristine views one would normally encounter here; thus all the pictures included here are obscured by a haze.
We walked out and back on a short loop trail, staggered by the beauty of the range before us and returned to the lodge for a cup of coffee and very good scone at the Starbuck’s kiosk.
We continued on our drive, stopping at the Chapel of the Sacred Heart, the summer Chapel of Our Lady of the Mountains Catholic Church. Built in the 1930s, the Chapel was remodeled in 2003 and regular weekend Masses are celebrated June through September.
We then turned off on the road that led us to the top of Signal Mountain an isolated summit standing 7,720 feet above sea level.
The next closest higher summit is more than 10 miles distant, and this isolation provides sweeping views of the Teton Range, much of the northern Jackson Hole area as well as the Snake River.
Though located adjacent to the Tetons, Signal Mountain was not formed in the same manner or period but was originally formed by volcanic ash fall from one of the eruptions of the Yellowstone hotspot. The peak is also partially a glacial moraine formed by a receding glacier that came south out of the Yellowstone icecap. This same glacier also created neighboring Jackson Lake.
Back in the car, our next stop would be Jenny Lake. We’ll cover the rest of our day in Grand Teton in the next post.
Grand Teton National Park: https://www.nps.gov/grte/index.htm
Colter Bay Campground: https://www.gtlc.com/camping/colter-bay-campground