May 5th was planned as BIG drive day to get us north and out of Colorado and up into Wyoming for the Grand Teton National park and then soon onto Yellowstone so after 9 hours of a drive fulled by far too much jerky (which became a theme) and heading 460 miles out of Boulder on I-80 and US 191 we arrived in the mountain town of Jackson hole – tired, hungry and keen to get in , dump our kit and plan for the next day.
We found the Mountain Modern Motel easily (on the main road through the town) and after some 1 way confusion managed to park up and check in. The team are amazing – super welcoming, very helpful and the motel itself was only redecorated and renovated 2 years ago and is very cool. Rooms are wallpapered in topo maps, have lovely big comfy beds, sink, microwave, TV lovely bathroom etc and you can grab a free basic hot breakfast in the lobby in the morning. (I highly recommend the Egg and Sausage muffin!
In the lobby is also a large table with extensive maps for planning, and a big old style magnifying glass to help those of us with ageing eyes.
May 6th – As we hadn’t yet bought bear spray, we asked the guy at reception where to buy it but instead he went in then back and produced one for us to borrow free of charge, which really he didn’t need to do as most people would offer to sell it . .A passing local commented that bear spray just make you taste better :D.. all joking aside though bears are prolific and spray really is essential (… although effectiveness is variable apparently ) and carried by all !
This somewhat (our bad) unexpected level of courtesy and this whole welcoming attitude really did continue through Colorado, Wyoming and Montana and we commented
Jackson Hole & Greater Yellowstone visitor centre in Jackson or the one in the park itself is highly recommended – similar to Alpine guide centres in Europe the folks there are very helpful, super knowledgeable and are there to help you plan based on conditions at the time. The very lovely lady there also trained us on how to use Bear Spray (essential if you are hiking anywhere around Wyoming/Montana mountains) and checked we had the basic kit and experience to head off into the trails and park. Hearing a Scottish accent its not unusual for folks in Canada and the US respond very warmly and as we discovered everyone was keen to find out more and tell us about their Scottish heritage – handshakes all round and bog smiles we headed off into the park. Stopping in at the main Visitor centre where you can speak to rangers, get back country permits if needed and see exhibitions and find out more a bout the park as well as check out the large 3D map of the area – very helpful when planning hikes.
To access the Moose/Phelps Lake trails doesn’t actually require you to enter the park proper of get a pass but if you want to head in deeper North , to take in Jenny lake for example (which we did after our hike) you will need to buy one either in advance (see the website) or at the ranger gate on the way in (where you also get helpful maps and guides for free).
I had planned (rather ambitiously given the time of year and current conditions) for us to hike up into Death canyon, coming in from Moose around Phelps lake but found that as Spring means a lot of ground snow that we had to hike in around a mile in deep snow before even reaching what would have been the Trail head, then we kept going , post holing for another couple of miles until sense encouraged us to abandon it and retreat.. we were really starting to lose the “trail” , weather (as forecasted) seemed to closing in fast – and going was hard – so we accepted our lot and decided to head back. Having stretched the legs, gotten loads of sun on our faces and fresh air in our lungs next stop was to go see Jenny lake and more of the the incredible Teton range.
It’s a truly stunning mountain range a result of activity along the Teton fault between 6 and 9 million years ago and running around 40 miles along the west of Grand Teton National park and in the south of Yellowstone. In summer you can drive over the South Yellowstone pass which rises to over 2000m elevation , directly north of Jackson but as it was late spring and the deep snows still had that closed off.
History suggests the name of the range is derived from the Shoshone people who called it Teewinot , meaning many pinnacles with the central cluster of the “Cathedral” group of peaks including Grand Teton itself rising to 4,199m (13,775′). One peak today is still called Teewinot (3,757m / 12,325′). Early French Canadian trappers called it es trois tétons (“the three nipples”) so its gone through some re-branding over the years 😀
After hiking back out we headed to Jenny Lake to take in the Range and do a bight of sightseeing , tourist style (it was a holiday after all!).
You can see why many say the Tetons are their favourite mountains in America, lacking foothills like many ranges it suddenly shoots straight up so is dramatic and majestic in equal measure – I will certainly be back to get onto some of it’s peaks!
100 photos’ and gasps of wonder later and back in town, we went for a wander …and to get a beer and some food.
Walking around Jackson itself is great fun – its a great town, very chilled and with a real frontier sort of feel. Dotted with beautiful Bison sculptures, painted in vivid colours with local cultural depictions as well as quirky local shops (also the home of Teton Gravity Research , and in fact there is an experience centre and film House if you have time which sadly we didn’t ), cowboy bars and like most places I visit now a microbrewery serving over 20 types of craft beer. There are also a couple of outdoor/ski/climbing shops so if you need gear or forget something you are sorted.. we grabbed Bear Spray (expect to pay around $50) for heading up to Yellowstone at Teton Mountaineering where again the folks were really nice, helpful and happy to chat.. and to offer money saving tips!
The buildings and bars are really cool.. I could happily spend a week based here , hitting trails and climbing peaks, hanging out in the evening – In winter of course the Skiing is highly renowned. Coffee varies wildly in quality in the US it seems.. focus is often more on volume than strength or flavour but I highly recommend the Cowboy Coffee Shop on Southpark drive for a SUPERB cuppa joe!
Local shops … quirky was not the word.. it is the US 😉
Dinner was bar snacks and more beer at the Cowboy bar , with it saddle seats, knobbly pine interior and pool tables…
Fresh air and exercise coupled with jet-lag = early night so off we headed to get our heads down ahead of a relatively early rise, before a quick stop in town to buy bear spray and then head south and west to finally head up North to one of our biggest stops for a few days in the very famous, expansive and truly incredible Yellowstone… which I’ll share in the next report…
Hoping you find this interesting , helpful even if you are considering a road-trip or visiting National Parks, id love to hear comments and if you have any questions just let me know !