Grande Teton before the early snow

Time for a change of scenery, so we hitched up, and finally waved goodbye to Henrys Lake State Park. It was a lovely place to stay.. We’ll be back to Yellowstone National Park, and we won’t wait 30 years this time.  On to Grande Teton National Park.

 

These two are twin sisters and a lot of people visit on the same trip. How could you not? They are right next to each other, and fabled in their own ways. But they are also different. First, Teton’s road are wider. Ok, maybe not the lanes, but Teton has one thing Yellowstone mostly does not. Shoulders…wide ones.

One thought that struck me as a bicyclist driving through Yellowstone was that I didn’t want to be on a bicycle in Yellowstone. There were a few, but every time I saw one I thought, “Man, that’s a tough ride.” Sure, there’s a lot of elevation gain in the roads, but the tough part is that you have to do those climbs on the park roadway with cars, campers, trailers, and trucks all backing up behind you. They want by. There’s no shoulder. They have to wait for clear traffic to go around. Most do. Some get a little close. We were there in September when the traffic was a little lighter. In summer I don’t want to imagine how nasty it could get for a bicycle rider. Plus, there are bears, buffalo and moose to think about.

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Teton was night and day different from a bicycle POV. From the North Entrance on, there was a wide, smooth, shoulder. Bicycles could ride 2 up and still be off the road. I could feel my bicycle self relaxing. When you get down to pretty little Jenny Lake you even pick up a paved trail that will take you the last 20 miles into the city of Jackson outside the South Entrance to the Park. Nice.

My second thought on differences in Teton vs. Yellowstone is on the view while driving. Yellowstone has amazing vistas that open up as you drive its narrow loop highways, but the best views can take some hiking down a trail. In Teton, there’s one main North/South highway (with a split in the South end) and running most of it’s way is Jackson Lake. And the parts that aren’t on the lake are along big meadows of sage. The point is the view of the Teton mountains to the West are always with you…and stunning as they rise from the lake or meadow straight up to their 13 thousand foot jagged peaks.

It’s stunning. As you drive along, you stop at a lot of pullouts to take photos. You stop because each new vantage point offers a new view…of the same mountains…and somehow you convince yourself that the view keeps getting better. I suppose it’s the same view really…but your brain is on mountain overload at this point and you get that “I wish we could all live in the high country. That’s where I see myself in 5 years” vibe going.

Speaking of living here. After a while, you will invariably start looking at those little booklets Berkshire Hathaway Realtors put everywhere. Side note on that. If Berkshire and Sotheby’s are the dominant realtors in an area then it’s highly likely you and I can’t afford to live there. Just sayin’.

We parked the trailer this time at the Gros Ventre Campground at the south end of the park for three days. It’s big, flat, and there are lots of loops. Some loops are for tents only, some no-generators, some with only electric and water. We weren’t sure we liked it at first, but after a few days using it as basecamp to explore the park, it grew on us…as long as we’re in Loop A, to the north. That loop has fewer trees, but better view of the mountains. We were in loop B this trip.

We were able to get the bikes our for the first time since we got the trailer for a ride near Jenny Lake. There is a very nice blacktop bike path from Jackson 20 miles up to Jenny Lake. The view of the mountains was exceptional and the much needed exercise was great. We considered riding to Jackson from our campground the next day but decided that getting our laundry done was more important.

There is an interesting museum just before you enter Jackson call the National Museum of Wildlife Art. the entire place is very well done. There are sculptures all over outside grounds and throughout the museum.

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The building itself is beautiful and blends into the surroundings. The art was very good all through the museum.

Karin’s fav painting from the museum.

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Dan’s fav painting from the museum.

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Next time…

  • We will stay longer than 3 days.
  • We’ll try to stay some of the time on Jackson Lake or nearby by RV park or just further north.
  • We will stay in Loop A at Gro Ventre Campground
  • We will ride more days and more places
  • We will play at a lake (in whichever lake or form that takes).
  • We will look for critters, maybe a tour? We saw one deer buck, and one moose (young, no antlers) walk through the campground…not enough.

Jackson, Wyoming. What can I say about Jackson. Well, it has nice stores for resupply. It has a decent brewery; Snake River Brewing. There’s a laundromat that has a little hole in the wall Mexican restaurant next door. Despite the many fancy Mexican places downtown in Jackson, I suspect that El Metate is actually the best, and most authentic, Mexican food in town. When we popped in for lunch, more than half the customers were dusty construction crews with large bowls of Pasole in front of them. I took the hint and ordered the same thing. It was some of the best Posole I’ve ever had.

We walked the streets in downtown a little. It hasn’t changed in the 30 years we’ve been gone. The town square park still has Deer/Elk antler arches at each corner and you are required by city ordinance to post a selfie of yourself standing under one.

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The shops are one of two types (three if you count going out of business or grand opening as a type). They are either tourist traps selling cheap assed “I (heart) Jackon” stuff or they are high end jewelry or art gallery places that cater to the rich folks who flock here for the skiing in winter. They’re the folks who own those big houses you see on the hills and ridge tops approaching town. They don’t live here really, but buy summer homes so they can come in the season.

That playground for the rich vibe is what bugs me about the place. It’s the same feeling I get in Hailey/Sun Valley, Park City, Utah, and mountain resort towns in general. They are stunningly beautiful and everyone who visits has the “I wish I lived here” thought at some point. They are also places where our nation’s wealth and income disparity is on full display. When the amazingly rich have that “I wish I lived here” thought, they just buy a second or third house…or have one built with custom whatever. When the rest of us get that “I wish I lived here” thought we look at the real estate listings, see the prices, and that thought goes away, or we think…maybe prices will be lower one valley over.

Sit at a bar in Jackson drinking a local beer long enough and you’ll also wonder what you’d do for a job here? Everyone is hiring, but no one is paying much over minimum wage. You see young people working retail or service jobs in summer season. OK, that’s fine for college aged folk for a few years. You also see many seniors working those same retail/service jobs. That’s concerning. And in every one of these mountain towns, there’s no housing for workers. They often live a long way away and commute…adding to those nasty traffic jams in season.

To be fair, I have the same feeling when we sail into cute marina towns on our boat. They have the same vibe, and all the exact same problems.

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