The title of this travel blog sounds more like some new style country music band maybe....and in true country music style, we just fell head over heels in love with this magical land...
We had left Yellowstone behind and headed south entering The Grand Tetons with a view to camping at Lizard Creek in the north of the park....but the campground was still closed after the Winter snows and for renovation work. So we headed further south to Colter Bay...a much larger campground and to be honest what we usually try to avoid. However, in this case we did need to stay in this area to do a hike we both liked the look of and there are very few boondocking opportunities in this area of the park.
Sunset from the lakeshore @ Colter Bay
The bay is named for John Colter, a key member of the Lewis and Clark expedition. Although evidence is inconclusive, Colter may have been the first Euro-American to visit the Grand Tetons. During the winter of 1807-08 Colter explored the greater Yellowstone area. His route, however, is uncertain. One theory holds that he traveled via Togowtee Pass. The other commonly held view traces Colter's route through Jackson Hole, over Teton Pass, and north along the west side of the Teton Range. No clear evidence exists to substantiate either route, only vague accounts and maps derived from interviews with Colter after his return. However, in 1933, an interesting stone was discovered near Tetonia, Idaho that may offer proof of the second theory. The stone has the name "John Colter" carved into it, and if authentic, would prove that Colter did travel the Teton Pass route. Unfortunately the Colter Stone has never been fully authenticated.
Little Henrietta @ Colter Bay Village Campground
The Teton Range - with peaks rising as much as 7,000 feet off the valley floor - is the centerpiece of the park. Views from either of the two main roads, which run north-south through the park, are nothing short of spectacular. The highest, most prominent peak is the Grand Teton, standing at 13,770 feet. South of the Grand are the Middle Teton, South Teton, and Cloudveil Dome, among others. To the north of the Grand are Mt. Owen, Teewinot, and flat-topped Mt. Moran.
Grand Teton National Park
Friday 8 June - Little Henrietta got a rest day today as we walked from the campground towards Jackson Lake and along it’s foreshore with amazing views of the Teton mountains still lightly peppered with snow. We are going to hike to Hermitage Point. The Colter Bay area provides habitat for a wide variety of wildlife, including bear, moose, elk, mule deer, beaver, muskrat, river otters, sandhill cranes, trumpeter swans, ospreys, great blue herons, as well as snowshoe hares and martens.
Colter Bay - several boats were just floating and a couple of kayakers passed by. We heard that in the peak season it’s not so quiet with many ski boats, jetskis and music. Thank you for the peace and quiet today!
The Blonde - almost immediately you enjoy some outstanding views of 12,605-foot Mt. Moran and 11,144-foot Rockchuck Peak towards the west. Very soon after we stumbled on Heron Lake filled to the brim with yellow lilies. Perfect for moose but not a furry beastie to be seen. Not surprisingly really as it’s already very warm. Warm enough for more plagues of pesky mosquitoes. Boy, they’ve been insane the last few days. At Hayden Valley in Yellowstone I thought I would be carried away by them. They were like a fringe underneath my Akubra and I’m wearing a LOT of bites. Ho hum. Somehow The Bear does not seem to notice or react to them as I do.
The Blonde Phtographer working on those reflections @ Heron Lake
Anyway, despite the mosquitoes, Heron Lake deserved a little stopover for some gazing at the stunning reflections and the opportunity to take photos. We were amused how the flotillas of Canada Geese pushed their way through the masses of lilies and took refuge there when disturbed. There was also evidence of beaver activity and we scanned the lake and also the banks where two "lodges" were either under construction or maybe had been abandoned...but no luck.
Spot the Canada Geese taking refuge in the lillies....
But this wasn’t getting us to our destination. That took another hour or more through a forest full of birdsong before emerging into flower filled pastures and views of the mountains, the lake and its island. The arrow leaf balsam that we’ve been seeing since Sinks Canyon has been spectacular and is only just giving way to single leaf Sunflowers and lupines.
Hiking along the shoreline to Hermitage Point
Sunflowers in abundance near Colter Bay
The Bear - we ate our picnic on the beach and dozed in the sun for a while. I was very happy to set up the camera and take some timer shots and just enjoy the serenity of this beautiful space...as usual this meant a need for some music...on with the Airpods and some Mozart...seemed very appropriate. We had only seen two other hikers all day...but after our "nap" three groups pulled in and would you believe it, sat down almost on top of us to have their picnics...time to leave! The track for the return looped around to the east and then headed back through forest and a couple of small lake/swamp areas (yes more mosquitoes!), before completing the loop and getting back to the marina 13.6 miles later! Strange...it was only supposed to be a 9 mile hike...The Blonde likes "diversions"!
Hermitage point - just a great spot for a post picnic lunch nanna nap!
The Blonde - as we returned from our "extended hike" The Visitor Centre beckoned and offered a cool refuge while we watched a National Park movie on the Yellowstone fires of 1988. The Bear needed a treat after the longer than expected hike and the fight with mosquitoes and found Milk Stout available in the General Store. Blimey, he’ll be sitting down with Ena Sharples and Minnie Cauldwell at the Rovers Return next (that's for all our old buddies back in the UK!)! Plum tuckered we were...time for an early night...early start tomorrow, just getting the timing right to tell the Bear after a couple of milk stouts!
Saturday 9 June - The Blonde - now then, is it to be Moose spotting or sunrise on the Tetons this morning? Make up your mind! Whichever option it involved a 4.30am start and even then we were not the first out on the road from Coulter Bay Village! The booklets we have, promise moose at Oxbow Bend early morning on the Snake River but actually its an amazing sunrise spot with great reflections of Mt Moran. We hope for a pink glow this morning and we get a faint one - let’s see what Lightroom can do to make it better. We hung around for an hour with other photographers until the daylight had defintiely brightened and the breeze was disturbing the reflections.
Sunrise @ Oxbow Bend....but alas no moose!
Along the road to Moran Junction and on to Elks Flats is full of purple lupines but we’re still on our mission for moose! Cunningham Cabin catches our eye followed by Snake River Overlook where Ansel Adams took a famous photo of Grand Teton in1942. The trees have grown up a bit since his photo but the mountains still looks majestic.
Looking across the plain from Cunningham Cabin to The Teton Range.
By now any self respecting moose would have retreated into the bush with a full belly of pond weed. So it’s turning out to be a photography day. Next is the lovely Schwabacher Landing which until recently had three big beaver dams that created big pools for reflections. A lovely old man told us this. he was out bird spotting and beaver spotting and had been at this spot since daybreak.
The Blonde Photographer @ Schwabacher Landing
The beavers have apparently now departed but we still had some still water and it was lovely to just take some time to enjoy the peacefulness here. No Yellowstone tourists added to the serenity! A trumpeter swan came by and joined a female Barrow’s Goldeneye and further up the creek I found Mallards preening themselves and a couple of male Barrow’s Goldeneye which look very different especially in their breeding feathers.
Trumpeter Swan posing......
The Mormon Row Historic District was next off Antelope Flats road. A collection of houses, farm buildings, cattle yards and dunnies with the picturesque backdrop of the Tetons. Not a bad place to settle despite the hardship of actually farming this area. We spent some time here looking for the best shots to take and noting that there were at least two independent photographic tour groups who had also rolled up early in the morning to get those special shots before the sun was too high and before the N.A.T's arrived.
Probably one of the most photographed scenes in The Tetons...you can see why!
Pretty nice spot for a dunny!
The Blonde - next on our orientation of the Tetons tour was the Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Centre at Moose in a fabulous building - I want to change our house design now! There was a lot of really good information including a diorama of the Grande Tetons here. I love these things. Have I mentioned this before?! It gives such a great perspective of where we are and how everything fits together. I always spend AGES looking at them.
The Blonde & the moose...@ Craig Thomas Discovery Center
The Ranger gave us some ideas of where to walk and bike here and where to see wildlife. He also mentioned the Murie Ranch which is just around the corner and as it’s almost lunchtime we head there hoping for picnic tables. No, nada. But we found so much more.
Mardy and Olaus Murie - "adventurous and charismatic leaders of the American conservation movement" - stumbling today on the Murie Ranch when really only looking for a picnic spot we found the old home of Mardy and Olaus Murie and Daniel sitting on the doorstep of their house. Not finding a place to have our lunch I approached Daniel to ask just what this place was. The big house, several small cottages, a parking area and wonderful peaceful serenity. This is the Murie Ranch; formerly a dude ranch and home for many years to the couple who spent time travelling in Alaska on scientific research projects and in later life campaigning for the enduring protection of vast tracts of Alaska as wild lands preserves.
Murie Ranch...the original cabin now restored.
Mardy was a naturalist, author, adventurer, and conservationist. When she was 15, Mardy traveled 400 miles with mail carriers by horse-drawn sleigh, cart and dogsled from Fairbanks south to the Alaskan coast to visit her father. The journey was the last of its kind before the railroad reached Fairbanks. Mardy made friends along the trail and was not afraid, even as the drivers probed river ice for thin spots and the horses swam through open water while she perched on the floating mail wagon.
The Murie's kitted out for Alaska travelling....
She became known as the, "Grandmother of the Conservation Movement", by both the Sierra Club and the Wilderness Society, she helped in the passage of the Wilderness Act, and was instrumental in creating the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. She was the recipient of the Audubon Medal, the John Muir Award, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom—the highest civilian honor awarded by the United States.
The EarthRoamers @ Murie Ranch
The Bear bought me one of Mardy’s books after Daniel had allowed us to sit on the porch and eat our lunch while he gave his presentation - something he would be doing all summer as a guide at the ranch for TSS, Teton Science Schools. The season hasn’t quite started and he didn’t feel fully trained but we said we would gladly be a trainee audience for him! He did really well. So well that I immediately fell in love with Mardy and Olaus Murie and wanted to know more about them. Mardy’s book, "Two in the Far North", was published in 1962, and is a memoir of her early life, her marriage, and research expeditions in Alaska. She wrote "Island Between", published in 1977, and "Wapiti Wilderness", published in 1966 with her husband as co-author. A documentary, "Arctic Dance", was made about her life.
Mardy and Olaus Murie
I loved her book. It described so much of the Alaska that we saw and experienced- albeit from a vehicle and not from dog sled, poling boat or later, a float plane; and primitive camps with simple provisions. But she reinforced my romantic image of this State - the camaraderie and deep friendships created from survival in inhospitable conditions; the absolute and unconditional delight of nature and desire to protect it; and her energy and reserve to accompany Olaus on his assignments and even bring along a baby on one expedition!
Nicely said....plaque at the Discovery Center, Grand Teton National Park
Sunday 10 June - a day to do some cleaning and tidying and relocate from Colter. The Blonde - a morning of laundry at Colter Village. It was so cold outside that for once I didn’t mind hanging around the dryers or folding the warm clothes. There was also some decent internet/wifi here so it gave us some time to catch up. At least there are no mosquitoes today. We’re moving on to a National Forest dispersed camp opposite Cunningham Cabin and when we get there the view is just so spectacular we decide to have a day of domesticity and just breathe in the view. I can see a meadow in between the road and the Snake River with 100 or more Elk (by the way Wapiti means Elk). What’s special is that every car passing will not be able to see them for a barrier of vegetation....but we can.
View to The Teton Range from our camp above Cunningham Cabin....glorious!
Tomorrow we plan to go into the south entrance of the park for a hike and then into town....Jackson Hole....time for a culture fix and to scope out some other opportunities to go hiking and biking. So far....The Grand Tetons have just impressed the hell out of us, and to think most folks just drive through here in a day on their mission to get to Yellowstone!