Wyoming - Grand Tetons National Park

7th - 13th July 2008


Approaching the Tetons.


Since we'd started planning our road trip, Phil had insisted he wanted to go to "that place where the really big mountains rise up out of the plain", which he'd seen in a TV documentary.     "That place" was the Grand Tetons National Park and as we neared, although we approached from a mountain route rather than the plains, the Teton mountains definitely made an stunning impression.

We quickly settled into our campsite at the Colter Bay Campground.  Then we asked to be relocated to a more shady spot.    Again we weren't happy with our new assigned spot but third time lucky and by now we were on first name terms with the campground staff!


It was high time we checked out our sea legs and we decided to take the breakfast cruise to Elk island early next morning.     The views on the cruise were spectacular at that early hour when the mountains were reflected in the calm, glass-like lake.    Of course, this was the moment the camera battery chose to go flat but we managed to get a few photos beforehand.  Later our new friends at the Campground office kindly recharged our battery for us, saving us from running our generator!


Early Morning at the Boat Dock

We arrived at Elk Island in Jackson Lake after about an hour on board the tour boat.     Waiting there on the shore was a chef, in full chef regalia and a delicious breakfast of trout, eggs, sausage, potatoes, pancakes, danish pastries, juice, tea and coffee.    It was quite surreal sitting at our breakfast table in wilderness, with curious elk looking on.   We weren't unhappy that the island's resident bear didn't swing by to see what we were eating!    

The abundance of hungry mosquitoes on the island was not, however, mentioned in the brochure.   As we spent a half hour after breakfast exploring the island, we covered ourselves head to foot, even wearing raincoats with hoods up to keep the bugs out of our ears, before happily retreating back to the cruise boat! 

We spent the rest of the day driving south through the park, to orientate ourselves and then headed to the town of Jackson, a town which seemed to live on tourism, either visitors to the Grand Teton Park or in winter, skiers.    There were no problems finding outdoor outfitters, mountain bike equipment, souvenirs, stage-coach rides or fly-fishing supplies.  Groceries, however, proved a little more tricky but were finally located.  We entertained ourselves looking around some of the tourist retail traps.    Despite trying on a selection of genuine Stetson Hats, Phil decided to stick with his trusty old straw model.

When in Rome.......

Elk horn arches in Jackson's Main Square

Phil takes advice about Fly Fishing



Christine takes advice about fly-fishing

After the excitement of the big city lights, we decided to spend the next day closer to our campground.    First we visited the excellent museum of Native American Indian Artifacts at the visitor centre.    Not only was their collection impressive, but also the stylish and imaginative presentation of the items.    Rather than being drably arranged in rows, as in many museums, these artifacts were often suspended in interesting arrangements.   One display case was even designed to resemble a teepee.

Each week a craftsperson from a different tribe was in residence, demonstrating their art.    We visited with a woodcarver from Washington State, who was pleased to demonstrate his traditional carving tools, many made with animal horn handles.

During the afternoon we set off, bear spray close at hand just in case, to walk the trail to Swan Lake and Heron Pond.   In the National Parks, rangers were very aware of the problem of bears, in fact of all types of wildlife, becoming too familiar with people and learning to associate people with food.    Rules about correct storage of food, utensils and any odour producing items were strictly enforced in the campsites.  One evening we watched as rangers confiscated such items from our neighbours whilst they were out walking.   The motto in the parks was "A Fed Bear is a Dead Bear", as once the bears began to associate people with food, they often became aggressive.   The final solution to this, if relocation of an aggressive bear failed, was that the animal had to be destroyed to prevent further attacks.  Luckily the biggest problems of this kind we encountered were the occasional cheeky chipmunk or ground squirrel and a very bold robin in the campsite.   Well, American robins are pretty scary compared the the cute, tiny British variety!

Next day it was time for a new adventure.   We rented a Canadian Canoe and, with some trepidation bearing in mind how cold the water was, set out on the lake.    We slowly learned to steer but this process was somewhat hindered when Phil gave up rowing for a while, when his sister Rae called on the cellphone for computer advice!   Finally we cracked it though and even managed to travel in a pretty straight line and steer to avoid passing wakes from powerboats, which could have given us an unpleasant dunking if we hadn't managed to steady the canoe.   We even managed to land on an uninhabited island for elevenses before returning safely to shore.

Any danger of you rowing too?

Picturesque spot for a snack.


We took to the water again the next day.   We'd booked a lake fishing trip with a guide.   Unfortunately this proved disappointing, firstly because the day was particularly windy, making the lake uncomfortable and our guide reluctant.    The fishing was pretty tedious too, with the guide setting trolling lines on downriggers whilst we mostly sat and watched until we had our one and only bite, when the rod was handed over for Phil to land the world's dearest trout.    This was not our type of fishing.  We'd had to buy fishing licenses for the day, so set off to the Snake River, just below the dam on the lake, to try our luck on our own.


It took some patience and every fishing technique we knew, fly rod, fly and float, worm on a hook and spinners but mostly we began to get hits only when the bugs came out in the early evening.    Phil reeled in a couple of good sized trout, Christine lost a few lures on the rocks but found more than she lost, so was still in favour.    The apprentice became really frustrated when Phil took the rod and lure she'd been using for over and hour and immediately hooked a nice fish.     

Our kind of fishing.


Finally enough of our worms were lost that Phil went downstream to a friendly fellow angler to cadge some more.    Of course, as soon as he walked out of earshot, Christine hooked the big one, really it was thiiissss big!     Not having any experience of landing a big fish on the side of a river, hysteria and bad language set in.   The poor trout was unceremoniously dumped on the side of the river, while she tried to work out what to do next.    A neighbour spotted the ridiculous goings-on and rushed over with a large net, making several failed attempts to stop the tasty looking fish getting off the hook and wiggling down the rocks and back into the water.    Aargh!

The whole scene was very entertaining for the onlookers.   Although Phil missed all the action at least Christine had a witness to the big one that got away!   Luckily no video-cameras were close at hand!    We headed back to the campground tired but happy, with fresh fish for dinner.
We wanted to see the mountains from a closer vantage point, so set off next morning south to Jenny Lake, where a ferry boat would drop us at the foot of the mountains across the lake.    As we drove south we came across traffic congestion, which turned out to be a bear jam.    Two bears were having a friendly wrestling match in the field near the road, which was terrific to watch and confirmed that we definitely did not want to ever end up in a wrestling match with a bear, friendly or not.

We took the ferry across to Inspiration Point and hiked up a few hundred feet.    The huge mountains behind us were even more awe-inspiring close up.    

Inspiration Point

Cheeky Golden Mantle after a snack.


We stopped at the Point for a while to admire the view and ended up defending our snacks from a cheeky golden mantle, obviously accustomed to being fed by tourists.     We decided to walk back around the lake instead of taking the boat.    On our way, Phil spotted a woodpecker nest in a tree from which lots of noise was being emitted by hungry baby woodpeckers.   The weary parent was obviously hiding out and enjoying a rest on a nearby tree!


Weary parent woodpecker.

Our time in the Grand Tetons really helped us get into the swing of the great outdoor lifestyle.    We made our first campfires.  In no time at all, were successfully cooking dinner over the fire and dining in style in our gazebo.   Of course, at the end of the evening everything had to be tidied away out of the reach of the bears, ground squirrels and fierce robins!

The Grand Teton Park was beautiful and we could happily have stayed longer but we were keen to see what the neighbouring Yellowstone Park had to offer.

Return to homepage     Return to 2008 index