Weather: Sunny, beautiful, and mid-70's!
Steps: Shaun - 15,094; Shan - 14,950
Varmints: Heron, beaver, common merganser, green winged teal, moose, elk, pronghorn, bison, bald eagle, golden eagle (maybe), red-tailed hawk, mountain bluebird, yellow warbler, gold-bellied marmot...you know...just a typical day in the Grand Tetons
Points total: Shaun - 22; Shan - 23 or 24 (depending on how you count the various scats we found).
Yes, Shannon pulled it out at the end, dang it! It was a very fun game, though, so thank you Uncle Rod and Aunt Phyl! This was a keeper, and we'll do it again on our next trip for sure.
It is our final day in Jackson, and what better way to end our trip than to ride in a hot air balloon? We planned this trip, in part, to celebrate Shannon's 30th birthday, and before we left, Shannon wanted to mark one thing off her bucket list. Riding in a hot air balloon was that thing.
It was an early start to the day because we had to be at Teton Village by 6:30am. From there, we were driven to a nearby ranch from which three balloons would be taking off. When we arrived at the site, workers were busily setting up the balloons. We were able to watch them set up each of the components, put them all together, inflate the balloons, and then see them rise. That was pretty nifty.
There were 22 people waiting to go up, and we were curious how we were going to be distributed. Well, it turned out that two people went in one balloon, four in another, and 16 were in the biggest balloon! Guess which one we were in? Yup, we got up close and personal with 14 other passengers (and one pilot). The basket was divided into five parts, with the pilot in the center. A group of four went in each basket, and once we were in, we were IN. We couldn't move around much, and we were pretty sandwiched so as not to infringe on the space of the couple sharing with us. Shaun was at the corner to take pictures (and because she's short).
The scenery could not be beat, and it was pretty cool to see the other balloons while we were up. However, we didn't go up in sustained flight for very long. Our pilot kept bringing us down close to the ground (I mean CLOSE -- we brushed the grass a lot), and we pretty much stayed pointed one direction for the duration of the flight. So we didn't get much of the wind in our faces or the view on all sides for miles around that I was expecting. I have to admit I was a little disappointed as a result.
Still, it was a great experience, and one we're glad we had in Wyoming.
Fun side note, the balloon operators had to change the location we left from because the usual field was full of cows. Apparently with the drought in California, ranchers are moving up to Idaho and Wyoming where water is more plentiful for the cattle. The ranch that owns the fields from which the balloons take off was receiving 3,000 head of cattle that day, and the cows were being unloaded from trucks into the field the balloons usually use. We actually watched the cows flow over the fields from the trucks as we were rising into the air. You can see our encounter with cows that had arrived the previous day in the picture above.
Once the balloons had landed and been unloaded, we were returned to Teton Village, where we ate a delicious breakfast of fruit-topped waffles. Then we headed north toward Jenny Lake. Along the way, we were keeping an eye out for the elusive grey owl, and as a result, found these beauties, a blue heron and what we think is a red-tailed hawk (correct us if we're wrong!)
We also stopped at the Lupine Meadows (named for obvious reasons) where the lupine was just starting to bloom. Shaun took some artsy fartsy shots of it, and then we continued on our way.
We arrived at Jenny Lake and took the shuttle boat over the lake to the trail that would take us to Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point. Our plan was to do the easy hike to Hidden Falls and then see if we felt like going up to Inspiration Point, which is rated moderate-hard. Well, we missed the turn for Hidden Falls and ended up going towards Inspiration Point first. We said we would go up the trail a bit, see if we could do it, and we could always go back. Yeah right. Once we started, no way could we turn back. Our pride was involved. It was pretty much uphill the whole way, and we had to stop to catch our breath a lot, but we made it!
We figured this was as close to climbing up a mountain as we were likely to get, so we were pretty proud of ourselves. We ate a snack at the top and enjoyed the view for awhile, then headed back down.
|Do you see the varmint hidden in this picture?|
On the way back down the mountain, we were able to take a little detour off the trail to see Hidden Falls. Normally you have to take a completely separate trail to see them, but we knew they were close by because we could hear them, so we took the chance. The picture above is very blown out, but you get the idea. We also saw a male moose pigging out close to the trail, and a yellow-bellied marmot. We made it safely back down the mountain with no mishaps and took the shuttle boat back to the non-mountainous side of the lake. The picture above is our last view of Cascade Canyon from the boat, at the opening of which are located Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point.
After the strenuous hike, we didn't want to do anything that required the use of our legs, so we decided to drive to some of the spots Jean had taken us on our wildlife safari to see if we could spot any last varmints. We struck out on the grey owl and the fox babies, but we hit pay dirt with the coyote babies. Just after we arrived, the mother arrived, checked things out, and then came back with her pups. There were about five, all frolicking behind her in a row. So cute! The last one in the line decided it wanted to stay outside and roll around in the grass, so we got to watch that bit of adorableness for awhile. Then another joined it, and they wrestled for awhile. We just about died from the cuteness of it all.
Eventually we dragged ourselves away from the coyote pups, made one last fruitless search for sagebrush grouse (look here to see why we wanted to see one so badly), and then headed back to Jackson. We were just tootling down the street when what should we see but another moose! This one was also a male, and he was also just hanging out by the side of the road eating to his heart's content, completely ignoring the minor traffic jam he was causing. We eventually dragged ourselves away from him, and he was our last animal sighting on this trip. A great send-off and a fitting end to this most excellent trip.
Shaun here with a little wrap up commentary.....I'd just like to say how grateful I am for having a daughter who loves to travel with her mom and loves to share the world in all its grandeur with me. I know I'm lucky and blessed in this gift, and I thank you, Shannon, for giving me the kind of opportunities that are so much richer because we do them together. I will cherish this one forever, and I can't wait for our next Awesome Adventure!