Wednesday, July 16, 2014

The Coussoules' Great Western Adventure: Days 5 and 6 - Grand Teton National Park

I don't think there is a moonset and sunrise that is anything less than spectacular in the Grand Teton National Park:
The only thing better than that view on Monday morning was what came immediately after this:
John woke up fever free, feeling totally normal, and acting like his old self. Thank you to everyone for all of your concern, advice and prayers - the only aftermath of the three days of fever and headaches was a few hours spent burning off all of the pent-up silliness!!

Back to normal, time to get the adventure going!
As part of the adventure, my dear friend Melissa who works for the National Park Service sent the kids their own National Park Passports to begin their collection of Park stamps. What fun to find the stamp station inside the Visitor Center at Colter Bay! Caroline and John got two stamps that day: Grand Teton National Park and the John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway.

With the stamps secured, it was time to head to the marina for a scenic boat cruise on Jackson Lake. The mountains are beautiful any way you look at them, but in the reflection of the glassy water, you get the feeling that you're in the middle of a snapshot of America at its finest. Though all of the mountains in the 40 mile Teton Range are picturesque, the Skillet Glacier on Mount Moran was striking. After over 500" of snow this past winter, the mountains still had both the perennial ice of the glaciers and some snow pack left, as well.
We had the good fortune to see the emblem of American freedom, perched high in a tree looking down at the water in search of the next meal:
We grabbed a quick lunch at Colter Bay following the cruise and then headed back south to Jenny Lake, crossing Jackson Lake dam and taking the scenic route at the foot of the mountains. It was a beautiful day for an easy walk on a short loop close to the water's edge:
Not long after we arrived at Jenny Lake, though, the weather took a precipitous turn for the worse, and the skies indicated it was time to head back to the cottage for a while:
As bad as it looked, what we've realized about the weather up here is that you can see storms that are miles and miles away. A threatening sky that seems to be moving your way may never make it, because you can see for 50+ miles over a mountain range that can change the weather as it moves through. We barely got a drop of rain by the time we returned to our room, so we took advantage of the gift of sun by taking a short hike to Christian Pond.
Despite it being midsummer, the wildflowers are in full bloom as if it's spring down south. Pictures are inadequate to truly capture the intensity of the colors of the flowers:
The hike was just long enough for us to enjoy without getting too tired for - what else - swimming in the pool! Justin had to load up the van to be ready to go first thing in the morning, so I took the kids over to the pool to swim while I worked on updating my blog - my travel journal, if you will! Instead of going back to the restaurant, we got sandwiches to go and had a picnic inside of our room, enjoying the quiet after several meals in the company of a crowd. As it turns out, you couldn't beat the view of the sunset:
On Tuesday morning, once again, the Teton morning dawned in its infinite glory:
Day 6: adventure awaits! Next up, what I had looked forward to for months: a float on the Snake River, courtesy of Triangle X Ranch.
After a slight hiccup where they didn't have our reservation (yep, that happened, but it was quickly remedied), we entered our raft with our phenomenal river guide Jack, and started our way down the river.
We got lucky to have another family in the raft with us whose kids were about the same age as ours. Caroline and John had a blast hanging out with them while Justin and I enjoyed the company of their parents on our end of the boat. Having seen the vistas of the park from the level of the flats, it was a totally new perspective to see them from much lower down on the Snake River. Over and over I am awestruck at the landscape and the forces that shaped this part of the U.S. Glaciers from the last ice age had left moraine that created bluffs leading up to the flats, visible from the erosion caused by the river over the centuries.
If you ever find yourself planning a vacation to Grand Teton National Park, I highly recommend booking a float trip, and even more strongly encourage you to book with Triangle X. There are four different companies that do the floats, and we chose Triangle X simply by Googling options. Our experience was absolutely top notch, from their swift handling of the issue with the missing reservation to our wonderful guide, Jack. If we ever are able to make a return trip, we would even look into staying at the Triangle X, which is a dude ranch that offers multiple excursions in the area. We felt so fortunate to have had the perfect morning for the float, and a guide who made it a definite highlight of the trip.

As we had taken the 8:15 float, it was just now time for lunch after an hour and a half on the water. We took the scenic route through the Grand Tetons for the last time, stopping at the Signal Mountain Lodge for lunch where I split their Mile High Nachos with Justin and then indulged in a piece of blackberry pie (which was definitely as delicious as it looks!!).
On on, Coussoule clan! Our two days in Grand Teton were amazing, and we'd enjoyed every minute of our visit.
We once again buckled our seat belts, checked the map, and pointed the van toward our next destination: Yellowstone National Park, the epitome of American travel and tourism. I'm not sure what awaits us in the world's first national park, but I know it will be difficult to top the stunning vistas, serene lake waters, and glorious sunrises we enjoyed for the last two days. I hope to come back to Grand Teton someday, staying for many more days and exploring more of the trails in the park.

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