Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Vacation Day 5: Grand Teton National Park

Our day at Grand Tetons was my favorite out of all of our vacation days. The Tetons were amazingly stunning, we got to see a glacier (far away, but still unexpected because none of the books mentioned that there was a glacier on one of the mountains), hike, dip our feet in lakes, and take in the fresh mountain air. Plus we were blessed with a perfect 60 degree day. 

We woke up early the next morning, greeted with a much clearer view of Lone Mountain than our snowy morning before (see more here). We mapped out our route from Big Sky to Tetons and found the easiest way for us to get to the Tetons is driving through Yellowstone. We got to see some sites in Yellowstone we hadn't yet seen. Plus, the drive through to Tetons (coming from the north) was spectacular!

As I said in previous posts, the drive from Big Sky into West Yellowstone had THE BEST views! It was absolutely picturesque.

A painter painting in Yellowstone.

We stopped at the Continental Divide to snap some pictures. The minis played in the snow, which actually felt warm due to the warm temps of the day. I love how simple things ignited discussions and learning, such as: what is the continental divide? Why is it colder in higher elevations? My favorite was a discussion about how the snow reflects the sun (I'm not quite sure they understand this one yet).

Yellowstone Lake. We got out to dip our hands in the water since it was too cold to swim--that water was freezing! The water in the Tetons seemed warmer to us. The kids were rather bummed that there was no stream/river/lake swimming and exploring this trip (something we immensely enjoyed last summer in the Smokies).

A picture with the official Park sign.

This sign in the bathrooms caught my kids attention and instantly made them question if there were "different ways we can pee!" This was not asked as a question, but rather an expression, which led to a panicked "no! Pee normally!" from me.

An enthusiastic tourist offered to take our family picture because they know how hard it is getting a picture with everyone in it. Loved them!

This is how she insisted on getting into the car. It should go without saying that it took her the longest to get into the car and buckled each time we got out. She didn't make things easy....


We spent some time at the Colter Bay visitors center getting info on the park (there's quite a bit of construction going on now) and played at Colter Bay beach. The minis had fun playing with the animal horns.

The water at Colter Bay beach was chilly, but not unbearable. I even dipped my feet in (Hubs and Max weren't quite as brave). I had to stop the middle mini from completely jumping into the water (no surprise there)!

That initial "this water is cold!" look.

Our big surprise of the day was seeing glaciers on Mount Moran. We had to explain to the minis what glaciers were, but they were an unexpected learning opportunity.

The pictures do not do this place justice! I could not (and still can't) get over the beauty of this Park.

"Let's try to catch the mountains!" they said, running. I snapped my selfie then quickly ran after them, yelling "stttoooopppp!!!" To anyone who witnessed the craziness among the serene setting: sorry for ruining the ambience.

Our main destination in Tetons was Jenny Lake (side note: my sister's name is Jenny, so two of the minis kept calling it "Jenny's Lake"). There's a 7 mile trail around the lake that I had hoped to do. We found out at Colter Bay that there was construction going on in the Jenny Lake area and parts of the trail were closed (there was also Hidden Falls Trail that I would have liked to do, but that trail was also closed). We wound up doing about 3 miles of the Jenny Lake Trail on one side of the lake.

The trail is well traveled and moderately easy (it gets very narrow in certain parts, which gets tricky when people are coming from the other direction). We didn't have to worry about bears on this particular trail, although the Tetons had a lot of bears with cubs that were just making their first appearances around the park (which meant that there was extra bear caution all around the Park).

There were rocks, boulders, and fallen trees to climb over on this trail.

"Look mom, take a picture of me! I'm a bear!"

We paused at the scenic overlook for pictures (and the view, of course).

They were eager to pose!

After Jenny Lake Trail, we made our way back towards Big Sky. We took a few of the smaller loop roads in South Yellowstone, where we saw more geysers. The minis were exhausted and slept a good deal of the drive.

Found at a Yellowstone campground (we were using the bathrooms). Seeing a payphone is a rarity--the minis wondered what it was!

The view of Lone Mountain as we pulled into our condo parking lot. 

We ordered pizza from Milkie's Pizza and Pub (if the minis weren't with us, this place would have been our go to place for drinks. It had an easy going atmosphere that we loved) and went back to the condo to pack up.

The one thing that bothered me about the Tetons was the lack of respect visitors showed the wildlife. As we were leaving the Park, there was a bear jam. Apparently this valley is a very popular bear spotting area. Bear watchers (they had major binoculars, think something like this) spotted a grizzly with cubs and everyone flocked to that spot. The sad part was that park rangers had to come to keep an eye on the crowd (who had all gotten out of their vehicles), for both the safety of the crowd and the bears because people have been known to run at the bears in an attempt to get a good picture/look at the bear. They even had to have park rangers in trucks along the side making sure the bear (with cubs!) stayed at a safe distance. I've never been particularly involved with animal conversation, but what I viewed others doing in Yellowstone and the Tetons, made me mad and broke my heart at the same time. To say this was any eye opening trip for me is putting it mildly. I now have a new outlook on animal conservation and the National Parks. 

Otherwise, the Tetons were absolutely perfect. If there's anywhere I'd visit again on this trip, it was Big Sky and Tetons. We never made it into the town of Jackson, WY (just south of the Tetons) because of time restraints, but I would love to go back. I envision taking this trip again when the minis are older, leaving out Yellowstone and spending more time in the Tetons hiking. Grand Teton National Park a completely different vibe than Yellowstone and it's more our pace.