Home is where we are parked

Home is where we are parked
Home is where we are parked

Sunday, July 13, 2014

WY -- Grand Teton National Park, 23 Jun-7 Jul 2014

Map picture
Map picture

Why we came…

To hike, kayak, and fish the incomparable Teton Range!

Grand Teton National Park near the Snake River Oxbow

The Teton Range and Jackson Lake from Signal Mountain

The campground…

We stayed in Colter Bay Village.  It’s the only campground in the park that has full hook-up RV sites.  The long gravel sites are a bit unlevel and tucked between numerous trees.  Satellite is only possible from a few sites and the cell phone signal is nearly non-existent.  The facilities are fairly well maintained.  It was great to be within walking distance of a visitor center, restaurant, convenience store, laundromat, and ranger talks.  We really enjoyed walking the banks of scenic Jackson Lake every evening.  The campground stayed full during our two week visit…the park was busy.  The popular areas were pleasant and uncrowded early in the morning, but got congested each afternoon.  Still, Grand Teton National Park is one of our favorites.  Someday we will return during the fall, when there are fewer people.

Watching the sunset over the Teton Mountains


Scenes from an evening walk along Jackson Lake

Fishing Jackson Lake during an evening walk with rain showers


A ranger talk about John Colter and the early American mountain men


A ranger talk about bears


Grand Teton NP-24 Jun 2014-kayak   

Snake River kayak route  /  A mountain whitefish

On 24 June we kayaked the Snake River…

We stashed Arleen’s bike at the Pacific Creek take-out and then headed up to the Jackson Lake Dam to launch the kayaks on the Snake River.  This five mile stretch is steadily moving, but placid “class 1” water…it’s a safe and peaceful float.  The jagged Teton mountains loomed large and we had a good chance to spot some of the park’s abundant wildlife.  Plus we hoped to catch the river’s namesake fish:  Snake River cutthroat trout.

The current pushed us fairly quickly.  To fish it was best for us to beach the kayaks and wade along the banks.  We noticed a few fish slurping mayflies off the top so we tied on size 14 parachute adams dry flies.  It worked…fish lips inhaled the fly in a splash!   We proceeded to catch about 15 cutthroat trout, 6-15 inches long.  We also caught about 10 mountain whitefish, 10-15 inches long.  The scenery was incredible and the fishing was very enjoyable.  Towards the end of the float, I got a little ahead of Arleen, rounded a point, and saw a momma elk with her brand new calf.  The baby tried to walk, but it was too shaky so it laid down in the brush and disappeared.  Though it was just 20 feet from the river bank, Arleen could not see it.  While I fished at the take out, Arleen rode her bike back to get the truck.  I nervously waited, knowing she had to negotiate the roads with tourists gawking at wildlife and the mountains.  A float on the Snake River was a great way to start our Grand Teton National Park adventure!


Fighting a fish on the Snake River  /  A Snake River Cutthroat Trout

Kayaking the Snake River in Grand Teton National Park


Impressive and pretty 19 inch cutthroat trout from Soda Lake

On 25 June we fished Soda Lake…

Soda Lake is one of the few lakes in the area with special regulations and is managed as a trophy cutthroat trout fishery so we wanted to check it out.

The drive was longer and rougher than we expected.  The bumpy, narrow, dusty road follows the Gros Ventre River for about 25 miles.  Then it’s a short, two mile spur route up to the lake that requires a high clearance, four-wheel drive vehicle.  But that final two miles is probably not navigable if the road is wet, even in an appropriate vehicle.

We arrived at the lake rattled, but in one piece.  There were just two other people fishing.  They were locals who knew the lake well and kindly shared some fishing tips.  As we launched the kayaks, we noticed a few good-sized trout cruising along the bank and got real excited.  Through the day we saw hundreds of fish, but they were difficult to catch.  In spawn mode, they were more focused on making babies than eating.  However, we fooled a few!  A big black rubber-legged woolly bugger fished deep and slow was the most successful.  We caught about 10 cutthroat trout, 16-19 inches long.  The fish were pretty and strong.  Though we had a good day, it would be amazing to fish Soda Lake when the trout were actively feeding.

Stalking the trout at Soda Lake


A geocache on Shadow Mountain  /  My nephew Jordan’s, geocoin

Geocaching on 26 June…

The weather was supposed to be cool and damp so we decided to do short adventures that wouldn’t lead us too far from the truck.  As we drove by “Mormon Row”, we spotted 20-30 bison grazing in the sage brush flats.  The impressive critters were back-dropped by the Tetons…what a sight!  Then we headed up the narrow forest road to Shadow Mountain.  We parked within a quarter mile of the geocache placed for the incredible view of the Tetons.  We waited in the truck for 30 minutes to avoid a heavy rain shower.  Though the rain stopped, we got soaked below the waist as we walked through the damp brush to find the geocache.  As we crested the hill, a startled deer staring at us just 30 feet away, startled us!   As promised, the view near the geocache was incredible.


Menor’s Ferry…

After the successful geocaching adventure, we drove to the Moose Junction area to check out Menor’s Ferry and the nearby visitor center. 

Bill Menor homesteaded along the Snake River and provided a ferry crossing in 1892.  He chose that location because the Snake River narrowed to a single channel making it easy to transport people and their stuff across the river.  It is interesting history for the area.

Then we walked to the “Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center”.   The exhibits were informative and very well done.  We also liked the short movie. 

Grand Teton NP-28 Jun 2014-hike   

Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point hike route  /  Bear claw marks in a tree

On 28 June we hiked to Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point…

Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point are two of the most popular places in the park.  They are very scenic and relatively easy to get to.  There are multiple routes.  Most people save themselves four miles of hiking by taking the Jenny Lake ferry.  We chose to start at String Lake because we expected it to be the least crowded…we were right!

Initially, annoying light rain showers dampened us a few times, but we enjoyed the pleasant walk along Jenny Lake’s west shore.  I scrambled down the steep bank a couple of times to fish.  I caught one small cutthroat trout and had a few other fish hooked, but didn’t land them.  We spotted a big bull elk bedded down just 40 feet from the trail…he was impressive.  As we neared the ferry, there were hoards of people.  We quickly scrambled up the fairly steep trail, weaving around the struggling walkers.  Hidden Falls was beautiful.  We posed for some quick pictures and then headed up to Inspiration Point.  We continued to weave around more people on the steep, rocky trail.  The view from Inspiration Point was excellent.  Most folks were looking down to Jenny Lake and the Snake River Valley.  We found a quiet spot and looked up to the rocky spires of the Tetons and abundant white snow fields.  We continued about a half mile up the Cascade Canyon trail and looped back down to Jenny Lake on a horse trail.  We were surprised to have the horse trail all to ourselves…ah, that’s better!  As we walked back along Jenny Lake, I scrambled down to fish two more times.  That was one time too many!  Before we knew it, a thunderstorm was on top of us.  We did the final mile and a half in record time as thunder boomed and big rain drops soaked us. 

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Crossing the bridge near String Lake


Catching a cutthroat trout  /  Hidden Falls

At Inspiration Point

Grand Teton NP-29 Jun 2014-hike   

Hike route around Phelps Lake  /  Winds snapped this thick aspen like a toothpick

On 29 June we hiked around Phelps Lake… 

Phelps Lake is on the southern end of the park and known for great scenery and good fishing.  The trail was well maintained and nice to walk.  There were wild flowers everywhere…very scenic and  wonderfully fragrant.  The water was clear and though the fishing was enjoyable, we didn’t catch any.  We saw a moose splash across the west side of the lake.  We also checked out the three remote tent campsites on the north side of Jenny Lake and filed them in our memories for a future stay.

Lots of wild flowers near Phelps Lake

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Fishing beautiful Phelps Lake

Grand Teton NP-30 Jun 2014-hike   

Garnet Canyon hiking route  /  Filtering fresh Rocky Mountain water

On 30 June we hiked up Garnet Canyon…

The Garnet Canyon trail leads climbers to Middle Teton Peak (elevation 12,804 feet) and is known for incredible views.  The route starts at 6,700 feet at Lupine Meadows and the maintained section ends at 9,000 feet near the base of Middle Teton Peak.  It switchbacks up the steep slope alternating through stands of pine trees and open meadows.  The pine trees provided a shady place to rest and the meadows provided great views.  On the way up we spotted an impressive buck in full velvet bedded just 20 feet from the trail.  We also chatted with a bold marmot who made its home under a big rock right by the trail…it was entertaining.  Now at over 8,000 feet, we made the westerly turn to head up Garnet Canyon.  Our view changed from looking down across the expansive Snake River valley, to looking up 2,000 to 3,000 feet at the dramatic peaks.  We felt like we were really in the Tetons.  The fairly wide trail was mostly dry, loose rock, but we had to negotiate a few snow fields.  Finally, about a tenth of a mile from our goal, we decided not to traverse the final, steep snowfield.  That’s alright…our view was incredible.  We snacked and scanned the surrounding peaks with binoculars.  We saw a few people on the higher snowfields and we saw some crazy people on top of Middle Teton!  Then a marmot came bounding down the trail right towards us.  The little guy got within a couple feet of us before it realized we weren’t going to share our snacks and it continued down the trail.  The whole scene was memorable with perfectly clear blue skies and the jagged Teton peaks.

The Snake River valley, and Bradley and Taggart Lakes

Getting higher…this snow field was a little tricky to navigate

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Higher yet…note the “U” shape of the glacier carved valley

Grand Teton NP70-30 Jun  2014

Looking up Garnet Canyon.   Nez Perce Peak, 11,901ft, on the left & Middle Teton Peak, 12,804ft, on the right

Garnet Canyon and Middle Teton peak…too much snow for us to continue

Grand Teton NP-1 Jul 2014-hike   

Hike route to Beula Lake  /  Our first morel mushrooms!

On 1 July we hiked to Beula Lake in Yellowstone National Park…

The southwest corner of Yellowstone sees few visitors however, it has some great fishing, specifically in the Bechler River, Falls River, and Beula Lake.  We wanted to check out Beula Lake. 

The fairly easy two and a half mile trail starts near Grassy Lake Reservoir.  The area is known to have healthy bear and moose populations, though we didn’t see any. 

We arrived at the tiny parking area at the same time as another vehicle.  We introduced ourselves and learned that Ken and Mike, college professors from Idaho, were very familiar with the trail and the fishing.  They said that we were in for a treat!  They graciously led us to the lake and insisted that we fish the sweet spot.  We were hesitant because we weren’t prepared to get wet, but we walked through the shallow marshes, got to “the spot”, took off our shoes, and waded barefoot into the shin-deep water.  Surprisingly, the spring fed water wasn’t too cold and the footing was firm, level, sand and gravel…it was nice! 

Mike escorted Arleen into prime position and recommended where to cast…SPLASH…fish lips inhaled her floating caddis fly!  That pretty cutthroat trout would be the first of many.  For the next two hours, we got an aggressive hit on our floating caddis flies on nearly every cast!  Most of the trout were 8-13 inches long, with a couple of notable exceptions of 17 and 19 inches.  The perfect fishing spot was enhanced by loons that serenaded us with their eerie calls.  The weather was ideal with temps in the low 70s and light winds.   Unfortunately, we weren’t prepared for the hoards of mosquitos.   We called it quits much sooner than we wanted and started hiking back, recounting the special day.  As we walked, we found something we have sought for three years…our first morel mushrooms!  Arleen added them to chicken marsala…it was freakin’ yummy! 

To summarize the very special day:  Met Ken and Mike; perfect weather; extremely enjoyable fishing spot; outstanding fishing; serenaded by loons; unexpectedly found our fist morel mushrooms…it doesn’t get much better than that!


Arleen with two nice Yellowstone cutthroat trout

We REALLY enjoyed fishing here!


17 inch and 19 inch cutthroat trout…very nice surprises! Note the mosquitos in the second picture.

Ken and Mike fishing Beula Lake in Yellowstone National Park

Grand Teton NP-3 Jul 2014-hike   

Hike route to Holly Lake  /  Looking up at The Jaw, elevation 11,400 feet

On 3 July we hiked up Paintbrush Canyon hoping to make it to Holly Lake…

We expected this to be a 13 mile hike with nearly 3,000 feet of climbing.  We also expected afternoon thunderstorms so we got an early start.  It was a little cool and flat calm when we began.  The reflection of the Tetons on String Lake was incredible!  The trail steadily climbed in thick woods the next four miles up Paintbrush Canyon…there wasn’t much to see.  And then, about 1,500 feet higher than where we started, we broke into the open and were treated to a great view.  It was hazy down the narrow valley, but we could see Jackson and Leigh Lakes shimmering below.  The surrounding jagged peaks and cascading falls surrounded us like an amphitheater.  As we climbed, we traversed more snow on the trail.  Finally, just a mile from our goal, the steep switch backs were covered with deep snow that would be very tricky to negotiate.  We  regretfully turned around.  It was about 1pm.  We saw ominous clouds growing rapidly far to the east, but the nearly vertical walls of the Tetons prevented us from seeing what was happening nearby.  At 2pm we heard the first distant thunder and increased our pace.  Thunder boomed nearly continuously the rest of the way back.  As we hurriedly walked the trail along String Lake, just a half mile from the truck, big ole rain drops fell on our heads.  Thankfully, we didn’t get too wet and the thunder kept its distance.  Paintbrush Canyon, where we were just two hours prior, had disappeared under a big dark cloud.  We were happy to be in the truck!

Grand Teton NP96-3 Jul  2014

Morning reflection on String Lake


Looking down Paintbrush Canyon to Leigh & Jackson Lakes  /  Cascades from Mount Woodring, elevation 11,590ft

Grand Teton NP97-3 Jul  2014

Looking up Paintbrush Canyon

Grand Teton NP-5 Jul 2014-hike   

Hike route through Cascade Canyon  /  Purple Fringe flowers, waterfall, & craggy Teton peaks…incredible!

On 5 July we hiked deep into spectacular Cascade Canyon…

We saved the longest, toughest, and best hike for last.  Our goal was Solitude Lake, a 15 mile round trip hike from the Jenny Lake ferry, or 19 miles from the Jenny Lake visitor center.  15 miles with over 2,500 feet of climbing is at our day hike limit, so we chose to take the ferry.  There were just a few folks riding the ferry when we hopped on around 8:30am and it was a quick and pleasant ride across beautiful Jenny Lake.

Instead of taking the normally busy Hidden Falls/Inspiration Point route, we took the quieter, shorter, yet steeper horse trail.  That popped us out on the Cascade Canyon Trail which meanders along the rushing Cascade Creek and had eye popping views around every bend.  It opens up allowing a great view of the tallest peaks in the Teton Range.  Waterfalls and wild flowers were everywhere.  We even saw a momma moose and its youngster feeding on willows along the creek. 

Like all of our recent alpine hikes, as we climbed, we traversed more and more snow.  The avalanche fields were impressive.  Some of the uprooted and broken trees were fairly mature indicating the area doesn’t avalanche too often.  We traversed a quarter mile wide debris area, assessed the route ahead, and decided to stop a mile short of our goal…AGAIN!  We still had about 700 feet of climbing and most of it was going to be in snow…no thanks!  We hung out on boulders eating our lunch and enjoying one of our favorite views.  Grand Teton peak was framed perfectly between the glacier cut valley and blue skies.  We also had fun posing for a bunch of silly pictures.

The hike back went smoothly, but we were getting tired.  As we neared Inspiration Point, there were more and more people.  We got to the ferry at 5pm and there was a LONG line.  We estimated the wait to be about three ferries, or 45 minutes.  I asked Arleen if she felt like walking the extra two miles (after the 13 we had already hiked), and she said weakly, “sure”.  That two miles seemed to take FOREVER and it included about 150 feet more climbing.  We got back to the truck wiped out and HUNGRY.  Thankfully, Arleen’s super tasty slow-cooked chicken curry was waiting for us at home!

Cascade Canyon was our favorite hike in Grand Teton National Park.


Bridge across the North Fork of Cascade Creek  /  Avalanche debris in upper Cascade Canyon

Grand Teton peak from the upper North Fork of Cascade Canyon…one of our favorite views!

Grand Teton NP112-5 Jul  2014c



A family of Canadian geese near Jackson Lake  /  A bull elk near Jenny Lake


A wobbly kneed baby elk and its momma


Bison near Mormon Row


A moose in Phelps Lake  /  A mule buck in full velvet


Momma moose on the left with its youngster on the right in Cascade Canyon


Arleen talking to a marmot  /  This marmot got just a couple of feet from us in Garnet Canyon

A grizzly bear near the Snake River oxbow. We also saw a sow grizzly with 2 cubs in the same area a week later.

Where we got our mail…


Moose, Wyoming


Now we are in Dubois, Wyoming playing in the spectacular Wind River Range.

Parting shots…


Posing under the antler arch in Jackson, WY  /  Tasty morel mushrooms!