Well, boys and girls, our next trip is on the horizon (we’re going to the Florida Keys next month), so it’s about time I wrap this whole Yellowstone/Grand Tetons thing up. I mean, here were are in late January, and I’m still stuck back in early October. That’s no way to treat you guys, and I apologize.
Meanwhile, my pile of new photographs is growing almost every day, since I’ve decided to trade my sweatpants for snowpants and my remote control for my remote cable release, and I’m excited to show off my new stuff.
Without further ado, let’s crawl back into the time machine and set the dial to around 8:00 AM on October 6, 2010.
October 6, 2010
Our first time through Grand Teton National Park, three days before, had been intentionally hurried, since we had already set aside one of our last days of the trip (today) to explore it further. I can't speak for Teri here, but I had started to become rather travel weary by this point in the trip. I had been positively spellbound by the Tetons during our brief introduction on our way north toward Yellowstone, when I had fresher eyes, but, now, I already felt myself missing the magic of the geyser basins.
However, with that said, what Grand Teton National Park lacks in geothermal novelty, it makes up for in grace, serenity, and vastness. The stately Teton mountains loom over the valley below, including the Snake River and the area’s many glacial lakes, providing a breathtaking backdrop from any vantage point.
While we were there, the foothills of the Tetons were constantly obscured by mist of varying density, making Grand Teton and her brethren appear, from longer distances, rooted in low-lying clouds. However, we spent most of our time that day exploring the western side of the Teton Park Road loop, which runs along the foothills of the mountains themselves.
Our first stop that morning was at aptly named Moose Junction, where Teri and I struggled with a group of wildlife spotters to catch a glimpse of a baby moose and her mother along the banks of Snake River, through the dense underbrush. After about a half hour or so in the brisk morning air, we began to feel more like moose stalkers than mere wildlife observers, and we decided to continue our journey north toward Jenny Lake.
The temperature was only about 40 degrees when we parked near the Jenny Lake Visitor Center, grabbed the camera gear and some snacks, and embarked on a 5-mile-roundtrip hike along the west end of Jenny Lake, toward some intriguing points on the map called Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point.
I’ve heard the nine tallest peaks of Grand Teton National Park described as the Cathedral Group, and I’ll take that characterization one step further by describing Jenny Lake Trail that morning as church-like. It was eerily quiet, with almost no wind and very few other hikers, and the hushed walk through the dense forest trail forced introspection.
We passed several perfectly-still partridges, interrupted two pine martins having a noisy, lively chase, and were even accosted by a pika, who jumped up on a large boulder near the trail and screamed at us, scaring the bejesus out of me. I began to feel like a trespasser.
Just before Hidden Falls, the trail begins to steepen as it moves away from the lake up into the foothills, and its course follows that of Cascade Creek, winding its way upstream to Hidden Falls and breaking off toward Inspiration Point. Cascade Creek is spectacular, and we spent a lot of time off the trail admiring its numerous waterfalls. Hidden Falls, which is an 80-foot drop, is deafening, and, unfortunately, I didn’t get any really good photographs of it because of the harsh lighting.
Inspiration Point was well worth the seemingly endless climb, and it afforded a panoramic view of Jenny Lake and most of the entire valley to the east.
It was nearly 3:00 when we finally got back to our car back at the visitor center. From there, we continued north on Teton Park Road, stopping again on the eastern shore of Jenny Lake to view it from the opposite side.
We were still pretty exhausted from the hike, and, except for the short drive up Signal Mountain to get a bird’s-eye-view of Jackson Lake and the surrounding area, the rest of the day was a relatively uneventful review of the eastern side of the Teton Park Road loop.
Including the drive south the prior evening, this was the third time in four days we’d taken this route, and Teri was understandably eager to get back to Jackson and out of the car. However, along the way back south, I made a few brief stops at Snake River and Cunningham Cabin to take a few photographs. One of my favorite moments came near the end of that day, when we stopped to view wild horses out in a field near the road.