Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Day 13 - Jackson, Teton Village, Teton Pass, and Phelps Lake

Weather: despite the photos above, it was actually mid-60s on the ground.
Steps: Shaun - 14,159; Shannon - 14,571 Varmints: a light day - osprey, mule deer, pronghorn, magpie, and a red-tailed hawk (maybe)

Our trip is winding down, and we're visiting our last, must-see places before heading home on Sunday. Today we got a late start, partially because we were supposed to have a hot air balloon ride but couldn't because of the weather. We'll try again tomorrow and then again Saturday if we have to, but for today, we decided to take it easy. First, we drove to Teton Village, a resort area about 15 minutes outside of Jackson. They have lots of summer and winter activities, including parasailing, skiing, etc. What we were interested in was the aerial tram that goes 4,139 feet up Mount Rendezvous.

The tram was completely rebuilt a few years ago, and it's super nifty. Each car can hold up to 60 people, but there were only 3 other people with us when we ascended. The weather on the ground was mid-60s and partly cloudy, but as we got further up the mountain, it started snowing and the temperature plummeted 30 degrees. We reached the top in 12 minutes and found snow ten feet deep! After the winter Shan had in Boston, she never wanted to see snow again, but there it was, looking terribly familiar.

The top was shrouded in clouds when we got up there, so we went into the snack shop that serves hot chocolate, coffee, and booze to wait for the next tram going down. We were finishing up and heading back to the platform when what should we see but the clouds parting and the green valley of Jackson Hole laid out before us. What an incredible sight!

There were quite a few more people on the tram going down than going up, so I couldn't get as many cool pictures, but I did get these two artsy fartsy ones with the cowboy on a horse etched into the window and then Shan's reflection superimposed over the waterfall.  Pretty cool, huh?

After finishing up with the tram ride, we ate at a cool little bistro called Nick's where we were introduced to Grand Teton Root Beer and wondered where it had been all our lives. It was super nummy but is, unfortunately, not distributed anywhere close to where we live.  Bummer.  We did find some more in a little grocery store in Teton Village, and we also found some other Native American crafts we couldn't live without, like goat's milk hand cream.  Dang it...a couple more things to ship home after we already had our boxes packed!

Our next activity was to drive over Teton Pass, which reaches 8,431 feet at its highest point and has a 10% grade.  An interesting side story is that we met a man in Jackson who had just ridden his bike from Portland, Oregon to Jackson Lake Lodge -- 806 miles -- through Teton Pass, and he was not a young guy!  He was probably older than me (which isn't very old, mind you), but holy've got to give the guy some serious credit for that one!  Anyway, we drove through the pass, actually saw the brewery where they make the Grand Teton Root Beer (totally by luck), so we bought some to have for the rest of the trip, and Shan bought a t-shirt and a Raging Bitch beer glass. I'm not making any further comments on that one for fear that it may incriminate me!

Our trip back over the pass was quite a bit more challenging since it started to pour down rain, and those of you who know about my little Jeep-rolling incident know that wet, curvy roads make me nervous.  Throw in a 10% grade going down, and I wasn't having fun!

Osprey nesting right side the park entrance

After coming off the pass, we were uncertain about what to do next because the weather was crappy, but it was still early, and we didn't want to waste the time we had left, so we decided to hike through the Rockefeller Preserve.  John D. Rockefeller, Jr. and his wife, Fanny, were huge supporters of the Grand Tetons area in their day, along with their son Laurance.  As a matter of fact, they bought 39,000 acres at the base of the mountains and then donated them to the government, thereby expanding the park substantially.  What a way to spend your money...preserving some of the most beautiful natural resources on the planet.  Not a bad day at the office!

The hike followed the Lake Creek Trail up a fairly gentle slope until it ended at Phelps Lake. The rain had backed off some, and at some points it got downright warm!  We saw all kinds of wonderful plants and water features along the way...but then...we got a four-legged surprise!

This female mule deer could have cared less that we were in her space.  She obviously knew we were there despite our very clandestine approach...sneaking up behind the trees...but she just kept eating and checking us out.  Shan decided to continue on down the trail, and the deer just walked right up to her!  It was seriously cool!

Phelps Lake was very pretty but about 20 degrees colder than the surrounding area, so we didn't stick around too long. We still had about another 1.5 miles to go and the skies were clouding up again. We crossed a very unusual bridge that had multiple levels and rock enclosures along the side. We also came across another raptor of some kind, but we couldn't identify him.  Probably a red-tailed hawk since we've seen a whole lot of them here.

We were so glad that we decided to take this hike, and we decided that 3 miles was the perfect length...we were tired but not exhausted, and we'd dressed appropriately and were prepared for both the rain and the sun.  Here we are in front of a waterfall that you could actually walk right up to.  Isn't Shannon getting good at these selfies?

On our way back to the cabin, we were treated to a lovely sunset. Tomorrow is a big day because we have a float trip in the morning and a wildlife safari in the afternoon with a possible hot air balloon ride thrown in for good measure, so we're going to crash fairly early. More on the morrow!

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