The ever changing Tetons

The advantage of spending the summer in one area, is getting to watch the seasons changing.  This year, I made a point of taking a picture of Mount Moran from Oxbow Bend, every few weeks while we were here in Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming.  It’s interesting to see how the mountain changes.   I took these photos with the same camera, and did not edit them.  Our first view this year was on May 14, 2018.  The mountains are still snow-covered and the Aspen trees are starting to bloom.

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May 14, 2018


By June 6, the mountains still have snow, but everything has greened up nicely.

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June 6, 2018

By the end of June, the snow has continued to melt, and the wildflowers are starting to bloom.  The trees seemed to have turned a darker shade of green.

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June 28, 1018

By the end of July, a small amount of snow remains on the peaks.  The skillet glacier on Mount Moran is more in view.  The locals refer to it as the Jimmy Hendrix guitar.

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July 25, 2018

The fires from California started to bring a haze over the mountains in August.  The view is not as “sharp” as July, as a result of the haze.

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August 14, 2018


We had our first winter storm watch of the season on August 28, at altitudes above 9,000 feet.  So the next day, we ventured into the park to see the tops of the mountains with a fresh coat of snow!  The snow cleared out a lot of the haze, which brought the mountains back into focus.

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August 29, 2018 after our first snowfall of the season


On September 8, the leaves were starting to change in the park, but not yet in the Oxbow Bend area.  The bushes on the right have started to turn, however.  It was a late afternoon photo, with haze over the mountains, from a new fire 60 miles south of the park.

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September 8, 2018

By September 19, the leaves on the Aspen trees were turning yellow, and the haze was not too visible.

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September 19, 2018

Fall has arrived in the Tetons, and the park is bursting with visitors for the wildlife and colors.  On September 25, the color in the bushes on the right has faded, but more trees are showing color, and with the cool nights, the mountains are clear.

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September 25, 2018

On our last day of work, October 3, we made one last quick trip through the park.  The final “green” trees, have turned yellow and orange.  The leaves on the trees to the right, have mostly fallen off.  The ducks and geese are migrating through on the way south.


Good-bye Wyoming!  See you next year….

Quote for the Day:  “You are not in the mountains.  The mountains are in you.”  – John Muir

Close Encounters of the Moose Kind!

I have a lot to catch up on with the blogs.  We have been very busy the last few weeks, with visitors, wildlife sightings, packing up the rig, working 8 days in a row, and driving back to Wisconsin.  I will split this up into several posts.  First up:  visitors and wildlife.

September is a beautiful time to visit Grand Teton National Park, as the colors are changing, and the wildlife are very active.  It is the third busiest month in the park, and the weather can be hit or miss.  We had some visitors of our own, Mike and Sue, friends since college, drove out from Wisconsin to visit.  Mike was going elk hunting in Idaho, so he was only able to stay for one night, but Sue was able to spend several days hanging out with us.

We managed to give them a brief tour of GTNP, including a stop at the now peaceful String Lake.  During the summer months, this is a very popular area for swimming, kayaking and stand-up paddle boards.


Dan, Jonell, Sue & Mike

We went up by Jackson Lake, and were shocked by how much the lake has dropped since we saw it a month ago.  It should be a good crop of potatoes this year, as Idaho has taken plenty of water from the lake! Idaho has water rights to remove water from the top of Jackson Lake and due to the lack of rain they took a considerable amount this year.

dsc03956-1A short drive north of Jackson Lake brought us to the Berry Creek Fire area.  It was sad to see acres of burned forest land, but it will be interesting to watch this area rejuvenate over time.

dsc03959-1During our drive through the park, we spotted a lone female moose.

dsc03972-1Along with a large heard of pronghorns, including a mama with two hungry babies!


After Mike left the next morning, the three of us headed out to a short 4 mile hike to Taggert Lake. GTNP has so many excellent hiking trails, and the views never get old.

dsc03990-1After our hike, we starting driving around and noticed a number of cars pulled off the road, but we could not see what they were looking at, so we pulled over and walked about 100 yards to where the crowd was standing.  And we were glad we did!  At first, we just saw a head of a moose pop out of the willows. But then mama came into full view, followed by a pretty good sized baby.  We watched them for a while until they walked back out of view.


Dan and Sue spotted a bull moose on the way to the airport the next morning, but it was too dark to get a good picture.  So on our next day off from work, we left early in the morning to see if we could spot him again, and we were in luck.  He was still hanging out down by the airport.  The pictures are not the best, as it was early morning, and he was pretty far away.


I did remember to turn around and take one shot of the mountains while we were watching the moose.  You can see the airport on the left.  Jackson Hole Airport is the only airport located within a National Park.


We drove over to the same spot we saw mama and baby moose the prior week, and there was no one around (people that is), so we pulled over and started walking along the river.  Dan was about 30 yards ahead of me, when I saw him jump up and quickly start walking backwards.  Turns out he practically ran right into mama and baby moose, as they were on the opposite side of the river!  Dan was less than 10 yards from the mama moose as she looked right up at him as she was eating some vegetation. Did you know more people are killed by moose than bears?  I managed to take a quick picture of mama moose peering up at me, before we both walked away to a safe viewing distance.  I just love the expression on her face!


We walked away from the moose to a safe viewing distance, and both of them got up and started grazing.  The baby was very curious, and would look over at us.


We capped off our moose-filled day by having lunch with our friends Tom and Ellen.  Ellen’s daughter, son-in-law, and granddaughter were visiting with them up in Yellowstone, and came down hiking for the day in the Tetons.  It was a great way to end a wonderful day!


It was a busy, but great week with visitors.  We started packing up the fifth wheel and getting ready for our last stretch of work.  (that will be for the next blog)

Quote for the day: “We do not remember days, we remember moments.” – Cesare Pavese






Fall Colors in Grand Teton National Park

Fall has arrived, and although the weather has been hit or miss lately, the view continues to be spectacular.  Now we know why September is the third busiest month at Grand Teton National Park.  The colors are amazing.  The photos simply do not do justice to the colors.

As I was typing up this blog, I received a notification from Word Press, which is the site that I blog from.  It said today is the third anniversary of this blog!  I was not aware of that.  Amazing how time flies.  And thank you to those who have been following along on our journey.  September 30th will be our last day at Luton’s Teton Cabins.  It has been a great summer, and I will have more next week, wrapping up all of our recent activities and animal sightings.

This will just be a quick, picture filled blog, so enjoy!



Quote for the day:  “Fall has always been my favorite season.  The time when everything bursts with its last beauty, as if nature had been saving up all year for the grand finale.” – Lauren DeStefano

Fire update, tourist time and graduation!

The road to Yellowstone National Park (South Entrance) from Grand Teton National Park has re-opened, thanks to the brave efforts of over two hundred fire fighters.  They spent a week battling the Berry Creek fire that had jumped over Jackson Lake and Highway 191/89.  The fire is still burning, but has been contained enough to keep the highway open.

We had a brief scare last week when a new fire started just 3 miles East of Luton’s Teton Cabins, on US Forest land.  It is believed someone had an illegal campfire which quickly grew out of control.  Because this fire was so close to homes and businesses, they worked to quickly extinguish this fire.  We watched several helicopters dump water on the fire, and they had it out in a few hours.  It made a few of our cabin guests very nervous though!  You can see the smoke and one of the helicopters in the photo below.


Just 3 miles away


Brad and Joanne, the owners of the cabins, surprised all of us with tickets on the Jackson Lake Dinner Cruise.  We only had a week to book the dinner though, as they were shutting down the cruise for the season.  The State of Idaho actually owns the water rights to Jackson Lake.  With it being so dry, the potato farmers have been requesting a lot of water this summer.  Apparently it was the farmers that paid for the dam on the lake many years ago, and in return they received the water rights.  They have been drawing down the lake at a rate of 1 foot every 5 days.  So we booked a Wednesday night cruise with Karen, Al and Jane.  If you look at the far left on the photo below, the water level is normally up to the trees.

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Jackson Lake marina

The boat leaves the marina and docks on an island close to Mount Moran.  The buffet dinner consisted of steak and trout.  The salad bar is served out of the canoe!

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a beautiful setting

We all enjoyed the boat ride over, as well as dinner.  I think Dan was still chewing in this photo!

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Jane, Karen, Al and Dan

After dinner we did a short hike up a steep hill and ha a great view of Mount Moran and the boat ramp on the island below.

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Mount Moran


A very popular “touristy to-do” in Grand Teton National Park is a float trip down the Snake River.  There are many companies that offer trips.  Barker-Ewing is the company that we recommend to our guests, as they will give them a discounted trip.  To reciprocate, Barker-Ewing gives all of the work campers a free trip.  We finally made time to book an evening float trip, and had a great time.  We would definitely recommend a float trip to anyone coming to the area.  Unlike whitewater rafting, this is more of a “lazy float” down an 8 mile stretch of the river.

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the boat launched ahead of ours

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having a good time!

We had good views of the evening sky over the Grand Tetons.

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Grand Tetons

And beautiful views down the Snake River.

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Snake River

We were fortunate to see plenty of wildlife along the way as well.

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a giant beaver home

Along with several beavers in the area.

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This beaver was busy carrying a tree branch!

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busy, busy, busy!

We saw quite a few bald eagles, and I was able to get a photo of one of them.

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a majestic bird

The highlight of our trip was seeing a mama and two baby moose.  Unfortunately, I was only able to capture a photo of one of the babies.  Mama and the other baby were too hidden from my view.

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Back in June, when I was still wearing the boot on my foot, we were looking for things to do in the park that did not involve a lot of walking.  Karen suggested a ranger led talk on Menor’s Ferry.  During the talk, Ranger Casey mentioned the Junior Ranger program that they offer in the park (almost all of the national parks have programs).  When the Ranger mentioned the program was not just for young kids, but anyone “young at heart”, well that caught my attention!  One of the requirements of the program is to attend a Ranger led program in the park.  Check!

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Ranger Casey

The booklet that you have to complete has various activities, geared to different age groups.  All Junior Rangers have to complete various activities, from a hike in the park, to viewing some of the historical structures.  For the older kids (and the “young at heart”) there are additional math and science related activities.  (it’s always about math!)

After our ranger led program, I was reading the booklet and commented to Karen, Al and Dan that one of my activities is to pick up litter in the park.  So they all obliged and threw trash down on the ground for me to pick up!  (ummm….thanks?!)  So I studied up on the booklet, and worked on it over the summer.

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Enter a caption

Once I got my boot off and was able to do more in the park, I continued on the program.  Last Wednesday I finally “graduated” and went back to the visitors center for my Junior Ranger oath and badge ceremony!  Al played the ‘pomp and circumstance’ graduation march on his Apple watch!


an official Junior Ranger


taking the oath


my “official” badges

I would highly recommend this program to anyone.  It really forces you to take the time to learn a lot more about the park that you are visiting.


Quote for the day:  “You don’t stop laughing when you grow old, you grow old when you stop laughing.” – George Bernard Shaw

Visitors and Fires

For the past 6 weeks, fires have been burning all around us, but have not had much impact on us.  Things changed yesterday, after 20-25 mph winds started in the afternoon.  A small fire that was burning in a remote area of Grand Teton National Park jumped across Jackson Lake and spread over 5 miles.  The main highway from GTNP to Yellowstone National Park is now closed.  They had an emergency evacuation of Flagg Ranch and Lizard Creek Campground this morning.  The fire is about 20 miles from our location, and it is not headed our way.  However, with another afternoon of high winds expected, who knows what will happen.  I think the most popular website in the state of Wyoming right now is Incident Information.  You can click on that if you want to keep up with the fires in the area.

Work continues, but at a little slower pace this week.  This is a “transition time”, as we switch over from families with school-age children, to couples and families with toddlers.  By September 1st, we are back to full occupancy, for almost the entire month.  So we are enjoying our ‘calm before the storm’ which hopefully won’t involve any fire related issues!


Our door is always open for visits from friends and family, and we have had two visits this month.  Our nieces, Carmen and Jasmine, were passing through on the way to Tacoma, Washington, and stayed overnight.  Jasmine, who graduated from Pharmacy School in May, has accepted a pharmacy position in Tacoma, Washington, and they were moving her stuff out west.  Makena was excited to have visitors!

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Carmen and Jasmine

After they left, Dan’s sister and brother-in-law, Linda and Doug drove out from Wisconsin to visit with us for a few days.  On their way out, they stopped in Custer, SD and met up with our friends Phil and Rudee at Crazy Horse, as well as visiting Mount Rushmore.  We were able to switch days with another couple at work, so we had three full days to play tourist.  We forgot how exhausting it is to be a tourist!  We were able to cram as much as we could in a very limited time.  There is just too much to see and do in three days.
Can you see Yellowstone in one day? No, but you can see a few of the highlights if you pack a lunch and plan on a long day visiting.  We discovered an Elk happily licking the salty grass right inside the West Thumb geyser basin. It is always fun to see wildlife up close.
We have heard there has been an unusually high number of broken toilet seats in the park this year, due to visitors from countries not familiar with our bathroom protocol.  So I was a bit amused to find this diagram in a porta-pottie in the park.
After our stop at the West Thumb Geyser Basin, we headed towards the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, to see the Upper and Lower Falls.

Upper Falls of Yellowstone

The Lower Falls were just as spectacular!

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Dan, Linda and Doug at Lower Falls

After a quick picnic lunch, we headed over to the Midway Geyser Basin, home to the most beautiful geyser in the world, (in my opinion), the Grand Prismatic Geyser.

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And no visit would be complete without a stop at Old Faithful!

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Old Faithful

We spent another day touring the Grand Tetons, seeing wildlife, and then we drove down to Jackson.  We walked around the town square and stopped in at the Famous Cowboy Bar for a cold beverage.

DSC03822 (1)Since all the barstools are saddles, Doug opted to recreate the cowboy on the bar’s roof!

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ride’em Doug!

Doug and Linda discovered when you are out West, anything goes for a vehicle.  You never know what will be parked outside on the street.

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Although the time went by way to fast, we did enjoy having Carmen and Jasmine, as well as Doug and Linda stop in for a visit.  Our door, wherever it may be parked, is always open!

Quote for the day:  “Isn’t it amazing how much stuff we get done the day before  vacation?” – Zig Ziglar

Going to the Chapel…

Located within the boundaries of Grand Teton National Park are two chapels, both of which are open daily to the public.  Both offer services on Sunday for park visitors and area residents, during the summer.  And weddings are held at both chapels, with a special permit through the national park service.


Built in 1925, this is an Episcopal Church, affiliated with St. John’s Episcopal Church in Jackson, WY.  It was built to provide local ranchers and residents a place of worship without having to make the 12 mile ride into Jackson, which was a treacherous trip at that time, before automobiles and roads were commonplace.

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Chapel of the Transfiguration

The cozy chapel seats 65 people, and does offer additional outdoor seating, weather permitting.  They do have a Christmas service, but you need your cross country skis, or snowshoes, to make it to the chapel.  The roads to the chapel are closed in the winter.

The window behind the altar offers a spectacular view of the Tetons.

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I think it might be hard to focus on the sermon, when you are staring out at this view!

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Built in 1937, the Chapel of the Sacred Heart is a Catholic Church, affiliated with Our Lady of the Mountains in Jackson, WY.  It is right on the shore of Jackson Lake.

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Unlike the other Chapel, it does not take advantage of the views of the lake, as there are no windows overlooking the lake.  My guess is the Priests want you to pay attention during Mass!

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No view out this altar!


The chapel holds 115 people for mass.  The stations of the cross are very simple plaques.

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stations of the cross


Well I can’t have a post about the chapels, without putting in some wedding photos!  The step-sister of our boss was getting married on Sunday, and they had the wedding on the grounds of our cabins.  I was working in the office that day, and fortunately all of my check-in’s for the day had arrived.  Many of our guests noticed several people all dressed up, and I mentioned there would be a wedding in the early evening.  They  all commented on what a beautiful setting it would be for a wedding.

Since all my office work was technically done, I decided to be a ‘wedding crasher’, and attended the small family wedding.  It was a nice ceremony, and Brad gave away his step-sister.


Despite the clouds from a recent rainstorm, it was a beautiful backdrop for a wedding.



One final note, when I was out watering the planter boxes by the cabins, I noticed this small bird, or a large moth, pollinating the plants.  I have never seen this type of bird/moth before, so if anyone knows what it is, let me know!



Quote for the day: “Faith makes all things possible.  Love makes all things easy.” – Dwight Moody


Grizzly, Moose and Eagles…oh my!

Before I broke a bone in my foot, we did manage to get in two small hikes in Grand Teton National Park.  And we were rewarded with plenty of wildlife sightings!  Before we even got into the park, Karen and Al spotted this Osprey in a tree.

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For our first hike, we went to Hermitage Point Trailhead in Coulter Bay, and opted for the short 3.5 mile hike around Heron Pond and Swan Lake.  It was a relatively easy hike, with beautiful views of the Tetons (actually, there is no bad view of the Tetons!).


We had some nice views of Mt Moran, which contains what is called the “skillet glacier”, but the locals refer to it as Jimmy Hendrix’s guitar glacier, based on the shape.  The more I stared at it, I started to see a profile of a face (might be the high altitude!).

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What do you see?

Karen, Al and Dan quickly spotted a Bald Eagle in a tree, and it must have taken me 5 minutes before I could see it.  Karen was able to get a nice photograph of the Eagle.

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We also saw a few sandhill cranes, ducks and geese on this hike.  Later that night we went on another short trip down by Shwabachers Landing, and found a very active beaver in the water, along with evidence of his recent tree trunk trimming.

DSC_0607 (1)DSC_0644 (1)The next day we went on another hike with our co-worker Jane, and literally ran into a fox crossing our path.  Fortunately, he/she ignored us, but it did startle us.

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We also spotted a coyote off in the distance.

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But the highlight of our day was spotting our first “wild” grizzly bear.  I will pass along a tip for spotting a grizzly….when you see this:

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bear jam!

Make sure you pull over, because something exciting is lurking nearby!

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The park rangers did an excellent job at keeping traffic moving, and keeping the tourists from getting too close.

After I broke my foot, I was relegated to looking for wildlife from the car, and not on a hike.  Fortunately, I was finally able to cross ‘bull moose’ off my bucket list of animals to see in the wild.  This young man’s antlers are just starting to grow, and still have the velvet on them.  Again, Karen had her nice camera with her, and got some excellent photos (Dan’s worried this will cost us money, as I have been looking at new cameras online!).



Hello Mr. Moose!

But the photo I was most surprised with (and one I took!) was of the bee that popped into the picture I was taking of a flower.  I really didn’t notice the bee until I was looking at my photos later on.

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We hope everyone has a safe and happy Fourth of July!

Quote for the Day:  “Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.”  – Anatole France

Two Sundays in the Park

The past two Sundays, we have ventured down to Grand Teton National Park, about 2 hours South of West Yellowstone, MT. The 40 mile long Teton Range was formed over 10 million years ago, during a series of earthquakes along the Teton fault line. The western side of the line rose up, creating the mountain range, and the eastern side sunk down, creating the valley referred to as Jackson Hole. Over two million years ago, glaciers were present, carving out the mountains, and creating Jackson Lake, which is over 400 feet deep. The lake is very popular for boating, canoeing and kayaking.

Jackson Lake

Jackson Lake

Our first visit to the park, was mainly social. We met up with friends, old and new, for lunch at the Signal Mountain Lodge in the park. It was great getting caught up on everyone’s summer jobs, and we have some great opportunities to think about for future work camping positions. Karen and Al are working at Luton’s Teton Cabins. Steve and Joan, along with Maxine and Dave, are working for a company that maps out BLM land.

lunch with friends

lunch with friends

After lunch, instead of driving on the heavily populated main roads, Al led the pack in an off-road adventure on the Snake River. It was a great way to view the park and wildlife, without fighting all the tourists. July is the busiest month for both the Tetons and Yellowstone.

Snake River overlook

Snake River overlook

herd of Pronghorns

herd of Pronghorns

Once we completed our off-road adventure, we headed back to Karen and Al’s fifth wheel, to visit for an hour or so, before saying our goodbyes, as we all had two-hour drives back ‘home’. On our way back, we did stop at the sign in Yellowstone where the Continental Divide passes through the park (I like to take pictures of signs)! The Continental Divide, in case you are wondering, is the line that divides the flow of water between the Pacific Ocean and the Atlantic Ocean. Every continent except Antarctica has their own continental divide.

I stop for signs

I stop for signs

While we were stopped at the pull-out, this gentleman pulled up with a very cool RV set-up. A Ford Falcon (year unknown) towing a T@B trailer.

a cool RV set-up

a cool RV set-up

This past Sunday (July 19), we drove back down to the park to do a little more exploring, and met up again with Karen and Al.   They were running a little behind, so Dan and I stopped in to check out the Jackson Lake Lodge. While we were looking at the scenery out back, a women came up to the man next to me and said ‘did you see the moose’? He shook his head and she said to follow her. I quickly followed her as well! She pointed to an area of tall brush, and we waited and were quickly rewarded with this quick view of a moose!



I have never seen a moose before (Dan has while fishing in northern Minnesota with his college roommate Mike) so this was very exciting for me. And then there was more movement in the brush, and we saw a brief glimpse of a baby moose!

Mama and baby

Mama and baby

That just made my day right there! They both went out of sight, and we waited a while, but then continued on to meet up with our friends. We headed up to the top of Signal Mountain, which overlooks the valley.

Signal Mountain View

Signal Mountain View

If you look at the photo above, you will notice a uniquely shaped lake. We discussed various names, and Al came up with “Viagra Lake”. We will leave it up to you to decide what object you think it resembles! We headed back down and continued along the Teton Park Road, stopping at various overlooks. The first one overlooked Mount Moran (elevation 12,605 feet). We had low-lying clouds in the morning.

Mount Moran

Mount Moran

We stopped in at String Lake, which is a very popular swimming and kayaking area. It is also where many of the backcountry hiking trails begin. We saw a number of very tired, but happy guys that were just completing a multi-day hike.

String Lake

String Lake

We continued on down the road, and we were going to stop by Jenny Lake and the Jenny Lake Visitors Center, but they were overflowing with cars and people. We headed down towards Moose Junction to do some hiking in the Rockerfeller Preserve and noticed a lot of cars pulled over with a Park Ranger nearby trying to clear the traffic jam. We were briefly able to see another moose, fairly close to the road! This is when I am glad we have a sunroof in our truck, as I can pop up and take pictures while Dan continues driving.  Now we just need to see a Bull Moose with a big rack.

Another Moose!

Another Moose!

Unfortunately, when we arrived in the parking lot at the Preserve, it was all backed up and the Park Ranger told us there were eight cars ahead of us waiting for a parking spot. We talked it over with Karen and Al, and decided to just head out to lunch. We will plan on a hike later in August, when the park is less crowded. This is certainly a huge advantage to work camping, in that you can pick and choose when to do the things you want. Gone are the days of cramming in everything in one exhausting week of vacation. We see many people at night in the gift store that have “hit the wall” and are just exhausted from battling the crowds all day.

We had a nice late lunch at Dornan’s, which has an upper viewing deck overlooking the Tetons.

our lunch view

our lunch view

After lunch, we headed over to Lower Schwabacher area to view the Grand Tetons, before heading back home. The Grand Teton, at 13,770 feet, is the tallest peak in the range, with the Middle Teton and South Teton beside it. Since the clouds had finally lifted, it was a beautiful view with a nice reflection in the Snake River..

view of Grand Tetons

view of Grand Tetons

Life is Good

Life is Good

We had another great day, with friends, in the park. There are still many more things to do, and we will plan another visit in August. We also plan on spending some time in the city of Jackson, just south of the park. Most people refer to the city as Jackson Hole, but that is the name of the valley region, not the city. And we do plan on coming down through Idaho next time, so we can view the western half of the Teton Range.

Quote for the day: “The mountains are calling and I must go.” – John Muir