In Which We Got WiFi, and Found Hawaii
[Yellowstone National Park, WY / Grand Teton National Park , WY/ Jackson Hole, WY]
As we went South towards Grand Teton today, we made one last stop in Yellowstone. The West Thumb area is a smaller caldera within the larger Yellowstone caldera, and it’s named that because it’s an offshoot of Yellowstone Lake that looks like a thumb. As we walked along the boardwalk, I noticed a couple of trees just a few feet apart. One was alive and well, while the other had succumbed to the hydrothermal activity. What a difference a few feet make!
The unique thing about the geysers and hot springs in this area was the fact that some of them were under water. Pictured here are Fishing Cone, Lakeshore Geyser and Big Cone (from left to right). I read in our guidebook that early park visitors used to cook fish in Fishing Cone. We overheard a park ranger giving a tour say that some of these hot springs and geysers would be above the water level by August, when the lake recedes after the snowmelt and the rain storms of spring have passed.
Further up the boardwalk, a spring called Black Pool seeped water directly into Lake Yellowstone. The orange and brown colors of the water are due the thermophiles.
And finally, one of the deepest springs and the park, the striking emerald green and turquoise Abyss Pool.
We continued on Hwy 89 south towards Grand Teton. We’ve been on Hwy 89 ever since we left Glacier National Park! What an amazing road! As we drove towards the Teton mountain range, one of the first peaks appeared in front of us, Mt. Moran, at 12,605 ft (3842 m).
We stopped at Colter Bay visitor center to get some maps and ask the park rangers some questions, then continued south to our hotel, the Jackson Lake Lodge. The hotel sits right on Jackson Lake, the biggest lake in the park, with amazing views of the Tetons right across from us. The lack of foothills makes for a striking effect as these giant mountains scratch the sky, and we couldn’t peel our eyes off of them.
We sat down for lunch at one of the hotel’s three restaurants, and enjoyed the 180 view from the outside patio. We googled a bit to confirm that you cannot hike to Grand Teton, the highest one in the range (13770 ft / 4197 m ). Even the easiest route to the top is a technical climbing route that requires specialized skills and equipment. We also read that seismic activity made these mountains, each shakeout jutting the mountains upward 10 feet and sinking Jackson Hole 30-40 feet. The current difference in elevation between the valley and the mountains is 7000 feet.
We could hardly believe we were here, and a week ago we were in tipis! One thing we thoroughly enjoyed was the free wifi! After a week without wifi in our rooms (we had to go to a different lodge and pay for super slow wifi), it was a godsend. 🙂
After lunch, we headed further south out of the park towards the mountain resort town of Jackson Hole. We checked out the Aerial tram in Teton village upon the recommendations of our server at breakfast back at Lake Yellowstone hotel. The tram climbs over 4000 feet (1200 m) from the valley to the top of Rendezvous Mountain. In the parking lot nearby, we found what we thought would be the hardest license plate to spot – Hawaii!!!! Now we are only missing Rhode Island and Delaware. 🙂
At the top, we enjoyed 360 views of the valley and the Teton mountain range.
We also saw the ledge of the craziest ski run in the US, Corbet’s Couloir, which begins with a death-defying jump into powder. You can get an even better idea of how perilous this jump is by watching this video.
After the tram, we went into downtown Jackson. The town square was flanked by arches made from elk antlers on each of the four corner. Each arch is made of 2000 antlers. In the summer, the arches are a striking white in the sun, while in winter they sparkle with Christmas lights. These arches have been in existence since the 1960s. They come from elk that winter in the nearby elk refuge. Male elk shed their antlers each spring, and local boy scouts collect them and sell them at an auction here at the square each May. All four arches were built by the local Rotary Club.
On one of the streets facing the square sits the landmark Million Dollar Cowboy Bar. The most interesting feature here are the saddles that serve as bar stools. The bartender heard us talk about the total solar eclipse coming up on August 21 this year. Grand Teton National park is in the path of totality, and Laura and I were talking about how hard it must be to find a place to sleep here on that day. The bartender said that lodging goes for $5,000 a night, and that the very first reservation was made 5 years ago. He said that locals are camping out in friends’ backyards that day so that they can offer up their houses to tourists.
Our final stop in Jackson was the town square, where we witnessed a gunfight reenactment. The event is put on by the Jackson Hole Playhouse and has been a summer tradition since 1956.
We had a great first day in the Tetons. We are happy to be connected again and look forward to enjoying marvelous views of these mountains in the next few days.