Sunday, July 24, 2016

Grand Tetons - Idaho - Montana

Wyoming & Montana July 2016

We continued with our adventure in Wyoming with four days at Grand Teton National Park. I don't think there is a more dramatic range of mountains like this one rising from the valley floor of Jackson Hole. We did an easy hike along the shores of String and Leigh Lakes on the first afternoon. Once we made it past the people swimming, canoeing, and paddleboarding the peacefulness took over. The park was very crowded, but we expect that in mid-summer. We just remind ourselves that it is a wonderful place that we must share with others.
                  The Grand Teton Mountains

       On our second morning, we made it to the Jenny Lake parking lot very early and began a more strenuous hike up to Inspiration Point. We met a woman hiking alone who grew up in Woodville, TX and we ended up completing the 6-mile hike with her. The view over Jenny Lake was beautiful – worth every mile of hiking. On the way back to the campground, we made a side trip to the top of Signal Mountain where we gained a panoramic view of Jackson Hole.

       Cascade Canyon Trail 

         Overlooking Jenny Lake from Inspiration Point

Early morning reflection in Oxbow Bend Lake

Our third day was spent exploring areas outside of the national park, including a drive along the Hoback River south of Jackson...very scenic. We made it down 3 miles of gravel road to an old abandoned cabin to find a geocache...nice to be away from the crowds.
The cabin
Back at GTNP, we joined a ranger talk at an old historic general store. We bought a bottle of sarsaparilla “sodie pop” that had cane sugar in it. We could drink only a little bit at a time because it was so sweet. Later that afternoon, we attended mass at the Chapel of the Sacred Heart. It is a log church situated within the park boundaries, but maintained by the parish in Jackson. We really enjoy these small churches and worshiping with fellow travelers.

Chapel of the Sacred Heart, Grand Tetons National Park

We decided to spend a fourth night at the Tetons campground so we could make a day trip to Yellowstone NP. We had much trouble getting a campsite there 4 years ago and spent only a brief day and a half and visited the more central and northern parts of the park. This time we decided to concentrate on the Old Faithful area. We arrived early and got a good parking place and watched Old Faithful erupt on time, then walked around the geyser basin for another hour or so. By 1:00 we were tired of the crowds and headed back to GTNP.

 Old Faithful

 Yellowstone thermal feature

another Yellowstone feature

As we were leaving the next morning, it was hard to see the mountains because of smoke. A wildfire was burning in the Hoback River area where we had explored two days prior. We are glad we drove out there when we did! Before leaving Jackson Hole for good, we made a visit to the National Museum of Wildlife Art.

This sculpture overlooks the National Elk Refuge, Jackson Hole

We found ourselves not far from Fossil Butte National Monument in southwest Wyoming and found it quite interesting. They have found fish, turtle, crocodile, lizard, plant fossils, and this guy:

The next area we explored was eastern Idaho. This was the first time we have seen the Teton Mountains from the west side. We drove the Teton Scenic Byway and saw the thundering Mesa Falls in Targhee National Forest.

Upper Mesa Falls

Early morning rainbow at Upper Mesa Falls

  We drove up to Salmon, Idaho after stopping at a hot springs pool maintained by the Bureau of Land Management. It was not advertised from the highway but we knew it was 5 miles down a gravel road because of a nearby geocache. Another place we would never have found if it weren't for geocaching.

We crossed Lost Trail Pass into Montana, following the route of Lewis and Clark. We made a visit to Big Hole National Battlefield where the U.S. Army and a band of Nez Perce Indians fought on the Big Hole River... a very sobering place to visit. We continued down the Bitterroot Valley and Lolo Creek – more history relating to Lewis and Clark.

On the way to Flathead Lake, we made a return visit to St. Ignatius Mission Church with its 100+ year old frescoes.  Still an inspiring place.  We visited on a Sat. and by Sunday morning we were 80 miles away so did not backtrack to attend mass there.

Love this Madonna painting in the church!

Soon we will cross into Canada from Montana and visit several Canadian national parks in British Columbia and Alberta – places we haven't been to since 1980. 

Other points of interest:

Sculpture in front of Idaho Falls Public Library:
"Where the Red Fern Grows" - author Wilson Rawls lived in Idaho Falls.

In front of a still-in-operation drive in movie theater in Driggs, Idaho
(we found the geocache there)

Our campsite below Tower Rock near Salmon, ID
Lewis and Clark camped here, too.

Osprey nest right next to our Tower Rock campsite in Idaho

We stopped for a tour of the National Forest Service Smoke Jumper Center in Missoula, MT


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