Saturday, December 22, 2012

A Scenic Drive Past the Grand Tetons

by James Walker

Day 9 - Wednesday, June 27th, 2012

Before Yellowstone, our trip had been nothing but hot. Whether we were walking around the dry, red rocks of Utah, checking out the shops of Boulder and Denver, or camping in the shadow of Devil's Tower, we had been constantly hot. Everything changed the moment we entered Yellowstone. The first night was chilly, but nice. Bundling up in sleeping bags had been comfortable. But each morning brought the kind of cold we were not used to in late June. I love the cold, but our bodies had been conditioned to endure the hot and the humid, and this sudden coldness made our joints freeze up and our fingers so numb it became nearly impossible to force them together hard enough to pull up the zipper on a jacket.

And this last morning in Yellowstone we had to break down the tent. We had to push through the cold and ignore the pain of numb fingers just long enough to pop out the poles and shove the tent into a bag, nevermind all the dirt and mud.

It was worth it, though, to get an early start on the day and enjoy a morning driving through Wyoming. We set off south from our camp in Grant Village heading toward Grand Teton National Park. It's a quick step from the borders of one National Park to the next. One moment you're in Yellowstone and the next you're being greeted by another big wooden sign announcing your entrance to the Grand Tetons. Not much changes initially, but soon after the entrance, you leave the covering of trees and came upon a beautiful view of Jackson Lake and the Grand Tetons themselves. There is a turnout here where I'm sure countless people have taken their own Grand pictures and we joined all the other travelers, capturing our own memories.

The road continues on along the eastern side of the lake with more beautiful views of these great peaks. We stopped at a visitor's center around the middle of the lake, picked up a map, stopped at a store to pick up some gluten-free cupcakes, and continued on. Soon after, we reached a point in the road where we could continue on the main highway or take a right on the smaller Teton Park Rd. Here, the highway veers away from the lake while Teton Park Rd gets nice and close. This trip wasn't about speed, but about enjoying the journey, so we took the smaller road and soaked in the views of Tetons.

It's a good thing, too. We had been writing down all the animals we had seen so far on our trip. Bunnies, squirrels, snakes, goats, bison, elk, foxes, and even bears. We had seen so much out in the wild, but we had not yet seen a moose. On this detour, though, we stopped at another viewpoint and talked to a couple who asked us to take their picture. Somehow our lack of moose sightings came up and they said they knew just where to go. Just after passing the exit to the park, there should be a tiny little road, they said, called Moose Wilson Rd. All we had to do was keep a watchful eye as we passed a few of the ponds and we should see a moose. We took their advice and headed down a skinny road we weren't completely sure about and stopped at every pond we saw hoping to come across this evasive mammal. We soon learned that we didn't need to try so hard to look. Just as it was in Yellowstone, when there's a big animal to be seen on the side of the road, there'll be fifty cars piled up with people falling out of their windows to get a picture of it on their iPhones. We were happy for the traffic jam, though. It gave us reason to leave our car in the middle of the road with all the rest and snap a few pictures of our own. Eventually we made our way out of the mess and found the main road again.

Jackson, Wyoming is beautiful. There are mountains all around it and the city itself is charming. We stopped at an Albertsons to get some food and see if we could find some gluten-free beer and even the Albertsons was adorable, all covered in wood like a giant cabin filled with veggies and toilet paper. But as charming as it was, we continued south, our destination still many hours ahead.

We followed Highway 89 down toward Utah, saw a lot of farmland and barns, took a quick drive through a bit of Idaho, and drove up into Park City, Utah. It's another nice city, full of beautiful hotels, surrounded by mountains groomed for skiing. We stayed at a weird condo/hotel where each room is owned (and decorated) by someone else. It was a very nice hotel, but the room we started with had doors that didn't lock, so we switched rooms, the concierge upgrading us to a room that had a door to the pool we weren't going to use. At this point, we were pretty tired, so we found a local pizza place and got some gluten-free pizza with fake cheese on top and took it back to the room to watch TV and kick back. It was a delicious end to a beautiful day in Wyoming.

Our Route:

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