Monday, July 7, 2014

Grand Teton National Park, Wyoming - Hiking and Kayaking

Roger and I spent the Fourth of July holiday weekend camping in eastern Idaho and exploring parts of Grand Teton National Park in nearby western Wyoming.  I have passed through Grand Teton several times and spent time in Jackson Hole, but this was my first opportunity to travel within the park and explore this spectacular mountain range.  We left Salt Lake on Wednesday morning and made our way to the Falls Campground in Swan Valley, Idaho, located within the Targhee National Forest.  After setting up camp, we made the quick trip over to Fall Creek Falls and the spectacular overlook of the Snake River Valley.

Camping in Swan Valley, Idaho

Fall Creek Falls and Snake River Valley

My preference is generally for desert scenery and red rock canyons, but the view of the Teton Range was breathtaking as we drove into the park on Thursday morning.  We headed to Colter Bay Marina and rented a kayak to paddle around a part of Jackson Lake for a few hours.  This was a ton of fun and the views of the Teton Range were even more spectacular than the drive in, with the added benefit of total solitude in an otherwise bustling national park.  We finished our paddling just in time to avoid a late afternoon thunderstorm that rolled through the valley.

Roger kayaking on Jackson Lake

Enjoying the paddle on Jackson Lake

Great views on Jackson Lake

On our way back to Grand Teton National Park on Friday morning, we passed through the town of Victor, ID just in time to enjoy their Fourth of July parade.  It was a much larger event than I expected given the small size of the town and the street was covered in candy.

Famous Idaho potatoes

Tall Uncle Sam

We spent the rest of the day hiking around Taggart and Bradley Lakes, enjoying the endless views of the Grand Tetons and the rainbow of wildflowers that filled the lush fields surrounding the lakes.  We had a late start, but managed to hike the entire loop along with a portion of the Amphitheater Lake trail before a bear sighting made for a good stopping point.

Views of Grand Teton

Bradley Lake

 Roger enjoying the views of the Tetons



Taggart Lake

To top off a great Fourth of July, we stopped in Jackson for dinner and a bit of wandering around the main square before driving up to Teton Village to enjoy some beverages at the Mangy Moose Saloon and watch the fireworks display.

Happy Birthday, America and Roger!

We decided to try a more challenging hike on Saturday after reading that Table Mountain, on the west side of the Tetons, offered one of the best views of the mountain range.  We knew that it was early in the season for high elevation hikes so we brought along our snowshoes and microspikes, but ended up not needing anything as the trail was packed down in most places.  Hiking poles, however, came in extremely handy on the slippery snow for most of the hike.  It appears that there are two routes to the summit, with one being less-official, shorter, and steeper.  We chose the longer, more traditional route and enjoyed the trail very much with it's ever changing views of forests, mountain peaks, and streams.

Roger crossing a stream - this bridge was nearly under water on the return trip down

 On the way to Table Mountain

Grand Teton in the distance on the way to Table Mountain

Table Mountain

Lots of snow near the summit

The view from the summit of Table Mountain was spectacular and well worth the long hike through mud and snow.  Grand Teton looked close enough to touch, and the panorama of snow covered peaks in all directions was an unusual sight in July.

At the summit of Table Mountain

Grand Teton from Table Mountain

Roger on Table Mountain

At the summit of Table Mountain

The three days that we spent around the Teton Range were spectacular and a reminder that "green" places can be just as enjoyable as the canyons of southern Utah.  One of the best parts of the trip was having four nights of camping, giving us ample time to actually relax and enjoy the experience instead of just collapsing into the tent after an exhausting day of adventuring.

Evening light while relaxing at camp

Sunset on another great adventure