We go on Vacation

September 24, 2018

by Steve

Over the past couple years on the road, we've found that this nomadic lifestyle of living in an RV is basically a combination of always being on vacation and always being at home at the same time. When we move every couple weeks, we still have all the normal comforts of home--we sleep in our own bed, we have all our clothes in the closet--but the scenery changes. But every once in a while, we actually do leave our rig and go away on vacation for a few days. We did this recently and spent three days in Grand Teton National Park.

Over the years, we have been in Grand Teton some eight or nine times. So we know the park and the sights pretty well. It's still one of our favorite places to visit. On this visit, we decided to see some of the things that we haven't seen before. We also camped in a tent, which we haven't done in at least four years.

As you can see in the first picture, we had a bit of haze from nearby forest fires. Nothing as bad as we had in Glacier NP, but it still made for hazy pictures, at least on the first day. Later that day, the wind shifted and everything cleared out nicely. The picture below (taken from Signal Mountain) shows the smoke from the forest fire burning in the Bridger-Teton National Forest to the south.

One of the hikes that I (Steve) have wanted to do for a long time is the Amphitheater Lake hike. This is one of the most popular hikes in the park, but it is also fairly strenuous, with 3,000 feet in elevation gain over 4.8 miles (one way). This is the same as hiking the Bright Angel trail in Grand Canyon down to Indian Garden from the rim and back again. We've done that stretch a few times now, so we knew that we weren't taking on too much here. Just needed to start early and take our time, which we did. Here's Jane on the trail part way up. 

As you can see, the trail goes right up the side of the mountain, switching back 18 times as it climbs. The reward at the end are two of the most picturesque sub-alpine lakes to be found anywhere. The first is Surprise Lake.

The second is just 0.2 miles farther along the trail and is called Amphitheater Lake.

That's the tip of the Grand Teton showing in the background, just peeking above Disappointment Peak. The only way to see these two lakes is by hiking to them, as we did, or climbing the Grand Teton and looking down at them, as I did in 1975. This hike was easier.

We got to see some wildlife on this trip too. Here's an 8-point buck dining on tender leaves in some bushes not far off the road.

And some pronghorns mooned us as we drove to our trailhead.

But no moose or bear, which we would have liked to have seen, at least from a distance.

We also visited "Mormon Row," an area of historical buildings in the park. While the Mormons tended to pick some pretty bleak places to live, at least here they had stunning views of the Tetons.

We also visited the 1100-acre Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve, which opened in 2008 on land donated by the Rockefeller family. The gift came with the stipulation that it remain as a place where visitors can experience a connection with the natural beauty of the lakes and the Teton range. Read more about it here. The only buildings now are a visitor center/reading room, and a couple of bathrooms. (No gift shop! Can you imagine?)

It seems to be very popular, as the parking lot was virtually full, even mid-week in the off-season. There are nice hikes to be done here, but we were a bit tired after our ascent to Surprise and Amphitheater Lakes, so we contented ourselves with exploring the visitor center and doing a bit of reading in the reading room.

We also visited Menor's ferry, which was the only way to cross the Snake River before the bridge was built. The old general store still stands and sells some of the things that would have been sold there 80 years ago, but now at modern prices.

Overall we had a nice vacation in Grand Teton. And it was only two hours away from home. We learned that we are still capable of camping and of cooking over a back-packing stove. And that our down sleeping bags will keep us (barely) warm even when the overnight temperature drops to 30 degrees. But it still was good to get home and sleep in our own bed again. We're here for just a few more days, then we start to head back south, targeting to arrive in Tucson in November.

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