Day 10, 11 & 12, Sunday – Tuesday, August 14, 15 & 16, 2016
Grand Teton is most known for its views of the mountains, and its back-country hiking. Wildlife spotting seems to be secondary, and we certainly found that to be true. While we did find some wildlife, we had way more luck in Yellowstone. That said, here is what we found!
While I believe these were farmed bison, they were bison nonetheless:
These pronghorn were hanging out with the bison. My sister-in-law believed they were imaginary, but here they are!
Least Chipmunks – we saw lots of these at the lower elevations.
Golden-Mantled Ground Squirrels. Although they look like chipmunks, you can tell they aren’t because of the lack of stripes on their heads.
Pika! I saw two when I hiked Inspiration Point.
Birds. We saw several birds – mostly little-brown-jobs, but ducks too. Some of them I couldn’t identify.
Mule deer. I saw this lady on the hill heading up to the summit of Signal Mountain. Beautiful!
I am a wildlife lover, and although not the primary focus at Grand Teton, I was happy to see what we did! I was disappointed to not see a moose though! Maybe another time…
Day 11, Monday, August 15, 2016
The Snake River is generally a wide multi-channeled river as it flows through Grand Teton National Park. There are only a few places within the park boundary where the river narrows to a single channel. It is at one of these spots where Bill Menor settled in 1892, and established a ferry to cross the river, as well a General Store. His brother Holiday settled on the other side of the river and operated a limekiln. Bill Menor used this lime to whitewash his General Store.
The ferry was a reaction ferry, which used the current of the river to propel the ferry. In the winter, when the river was low, he used a cable car to transport passengers. Menor operated the ferry until 1918, when he sold the store and the ferry to Maud Noble, a Philadelphia women who came to Jackson Hole looking for adventure. She operated the ferry until 1927, when the state of Wyoming built a bridge nearby.
Maud Noble was significant for another reason too. She was instrumental in the movement to create Grand Teton National Park. She hosted Horace Albright, then the Superintendent of the National Park Service, along with several local ranchers and farmers, at a historic meeting in her cabin to talk about the creation of the park.
The Menor’s Ferry history area contains the Menor General Store, a replica reaction ferry, the original well, a replica barn and Maud Noble’s cabin, which was moved to the site when she purchased the store and ferry in 1918.
Nearby is also the Chapel of the Transfiguration, an Episcopal Church that was built in 1925 on land donated by Maud Noble. Services are held weekly between May and September, and the chapel can be booked for weddings with the stunning backdrop of the Tetons through the window.
Be sure to visit the area when you are in Grand Teton National Park – it is worth a look around!
Day 11, Monday, August 15, 2016
One of the activities that I most wanted to do at Grand Teton was to take the boat across Jenny Lake, and hike up to Inspiration Point. I knew that there was going to be a lot of congestion in the area, because they are renovating the parking lot and services there, so we got up early to make sure we could get a parking spot and a spot on the boat.
The boat ride was nice – a relaxing, short trip on a gorgeous lake. The mountains in the background are stunning. Once you get off the boat, you can choose how far you want to go. The entire hike up to Inspiration Point, with a stop at Hidden Falls is about .9 miles each way. However, the trail to Hidden Falls was closed for repairs when we were there, so I didn’t get to see it! My mom didn’t want to hike all the way to Inspiration Point, so I pulled away from her with the agreement that I would meet her wherever she happened to end up. That works fine with an out and back trail.
The trail is a gentle uphill at the beginning, but the last bit of it is steeper switchbacks along the side of a mountain. You will need to be patient about passing, as not all spots are quite wide enough for two. Once you are at the top, at an elevation of 7,200 feet, the view is amazing! You look out over the lake and see the boats coming and going from the dock down below. It is well worth the exertion! I found a family to take my photo and spent a bit of time enjoying the view. A little Golden-Mantled Ground Squirrel was excited to see me; he wanted me to feed him…
On the way down I saw two different pika and spent some time getting photos of them. It was fairly quiet since it was still relatively early, so I got some good photos before another group of people came along to scare them away. I loved seeing those little guys!
On the way back I ran into my mom at another viewpoint and was impressed with how far she had made it. She got her own view to enjoy while waiting for me to come back down.
Mom and I took the boat both ways, but you can hike all the way around the lake for an additional 3 miles. Next time I visit I want to do that! Plus, I still need to see the falls.
Jenny Lake and Inspiration Point were certainly worth the visit!
Costs and Fees: $15 per person round-trip for Jenny Lake boat shuttle.
Day 10, Sunday, August 14, 2016
In Grand Teton National Park, I visited the Cunningham Cabin, which is a homesteader’s cabin that was built sometime between 1888 and 1890. J. Pierce Cunningham arrived in Jackson Hole from New York in 1885, and spent his first years in the valley trapping. He got married and then decided to try his hand at homesteading, staking a claim for 160 acres. The cabin was constructed in the dogtrot style, with two small cabins joined with an open breezeway – it was a style common in the eastern states.
Unfortunately, ranching was difficult on 160 acres in the West, due to the fact that ranchers had to supplement feed for their cattle in the winter. They needed enough land to grow enough hay to last the winter, which could be up to 6 months long. Cunningham purchased an additional 140 acres in 1897 at $1.25 per acre. In 1918 he increased the size of his ranch again by purchasing 240 acres from a neighbor’s property to the north. Cunningham had to produce and store 200 tons of hay each winter.
The cabin has a dark side too… In fall of 1892, two wranglers showed up at the cabin to buy hay for their horses. Cunningham struck up a deal for them to stay over at the ranch for the winter. However, rumors began spreading that the men were horse thieves. A man who claimed to be a U.S. Marshal arrived in April 1893 with three deputies from Idaho, and convinced several local men to join their posse. The cabin was surrounded and the men were gunned down when they left the cabin. Although Cunningham wasn’t directly involved, he admitted that he felt that the brands on the men’s horses had been altered. Interestingly, neither the allegations against the men nor the identify of the supposed U.S. Marshall was ever proven…
After World War I, beef prices dropped a lot, and many ranchers were no longer able to make a living. Cunningham and his neighbors proposed a petition for the federal government to purchase the valley’s ranches for inclusion with the new Grand Teton National Park. He wasn’t successful. Luckily John D. Rockefeller had fallen in love with the area, and he created the Snake River Land Company to purchase private land and donate it to the park. Rockefeller ultimately purchased and donated 32,000 acres in the Jackson Hole valley, including Cunningham’s ranch.
To get a close up view of the ranch, you just have to walk a short, flat trail. The entire loop is 0.3 mile, if you want to explore all the areas where there were once outbuildings, but the remaining cabin is the only structure that remains. The day that I visited there was a herd of horses on the other side of the fence, so I went to say hello to them too. They looked so beautiful with their stunning mountain backdrop!
This cabin is well worth a quick visit!
That evening in Jackson, Wyoming, we had dinner at King Sushi. The food was fantastic! The kids at the next table whose parents were paying no attention to the fact that they were kicking me – not so fantastic! We also wandered around downtown Jackson for a bit, getting photos at the famous elk antler arch on the main square (each corner of the square has an arch). We also poked around in some shops, and found lots and lots of taxidermy animals. The dressed up critters!
Costs and Fees: $30 per vehicle at Grand Teton National Park (free with a National Parks Pass). Many areas of Grand Teton do not require you to pay the fee.
Distance for the Day: Cody, WY – Jackson, WY (3 hrs, 58 min, 177 miles)
Hotel for the night: Motel 6 – Jackson, WY
Grand Teton National Park is one of the 10 most visited National Parks in the United States – approximately 3,270,076 people visit each year (2016 stats). It is about 310,000 acres, and it is located 10 miles (16 km) south of Yellowstone National Park, in Wyoming. The park protects the major peaks of the 40-mile-long Teton Mountain Range, along with parts of the Jackson Hole valley. On February 26, 1929, President Calvin Coolidge established the park.
Human habitation within the park boundary goes back about 11,000 years, when hunter-gatherer Paleo-Indians used the land in the summer for food and supplies. In the early 19th century, when white men first arrived, the Shoshone tribes lived there. It was popular with fur traders between 1810 and 1840, because of the beavers that lived in the rivers there (before they were almost trapped to extinction of course). Grand Teton National Park is named for Grand Teton, which is the tallest mountain in the Teton Range at 13,775 feet. The mountains were named by fur trappers coming through the area, who called them les trois tétons (the three teats), and of course it stuck, and we Americanized the name.
Geologically, the rocks in the park are some of the oldest in the United States; dated at 2.7 billion years. The Teton range has several glaciers too, and the park contains the upper main stem of the Snake River, which flows north, and eventually flows into the Columbia River.
The area was isolated for so long that the ecosystem is much better protected than some other areas of the U.S., so some of the same species have been found there since prehistoric times. Animal species that are found there include bison, moose, elk, mule deer, marmot, pika, Grizzly bear, black bear, osprey, coyote, cutthroat trout, beavers and river otters. The Teton range is also home to the threatened whitebark pine tree.
Grand Teton National Park is really an outdoor-person’s paradise. There are over 200 miles of hiking trails, many of them back-country trails. There are over 1,000 car camping sites. A paved trail through the park provides easy access to the valley areas by bike or roller blades. You can boat or float the rivers, fish, mountain climb, and cross country ski or snow shoe in the winter. There is enough to keep you busy for awhile…
The park has also preserved a lot of the history from the days when homesteaders lived in the valley and built ranches and small communities. There are several historic buildings throughout the park that you can visit.
We spent two days there, and we did and saw a lot in those two days! I will tell you more about my visit coming up!
Day 10, Sunday, August 14, 2016
It’s not everyday that one man gets a huge museum dedicated to him, but the Buffalo Bill Center of the West, in Cody, Wyoming is just that. Here you can learn everything you want to know about Buffalo Bill.
Buffalo Bill was born William Frederick Cody in 1846, in Iowa. His father died when he was only 11, and as the legend goes, he took work as a Pony Express rider and made a daring, physically challenging ride of 322 miles without a break (although the horses were switched out). But the truth is, it never happened. Bill was in school when the Pony Express was operating and never worked for them. He did in fact ride for a messenger service, but he only transported messages a distance of three miles. Bill did serve in the Civil War, after having been in some trouble leading up to it, and then gained his fame as a bison hunter after the war. He worked for the Kansas Pacific Railroad, killing bison to provide food for the men who were working their way across the west building the rail line. He was apparently a very good shot and killed an awful lot of bison.
He was also extremely good at promoting himself. He told his stories, and was apparently a very likable guy, so people wanted to listen to him. He started his Wild West Show – it ran in various versions for over 30 years, from 1883 to 1916, and it traveled the U.S. and even in Europe. He was able to get famous Native Americans to participate, including Sitting Bull and Standing Bear, as well as horsemen from around the world. There were trick riders and sharpshooters, and other types of cowboys, Indians, and Buffalo soldiers. The show had it all…
The museum details all of this, as well as his personal trials, family life and death in 1917. It is very well done.
Of course, the museum is really five in one, with the Draper Natural History Museum, the Whitney Western Art Museum, the Cody Firearms Museum and the Plains Indian Museum, in addition to the Buffalo Bill Museum. There is also a research library. You could spend several days there, and still not feel like you saw it all.
We spent a solid half day in the museum, and tried to see what we could. We visited on the last day that we were headed into Yellowstone National Park, traveling that afternoon down through Grand Teton National Park to stay two nights in Jackson, Wyoming. My mom had an advantage, as she had visited before on a previous trip.
I really liked that the Natural History Museum indicated where their mounted animals had come from (sadly, lots of them had been killed by cars). The Western Art Museum had some really amazing pieces, and I enjoyed the reproduction art studio of Frederic Remington.
If you have a chance, it is well worth the $19 price of admission; be sure to allow plenty of time.