Today marked our final day in the Tetons. We spent the morning in the Jackson Hole Valley, and then traveled north to Yellowstone.
Morning Wildlife Watching
For the second straight morning, we rose before sunrise, packed the car, and left our Airbnb in Victor, ID. We drove across the Teton Pass, and turned onto Moose Wilson Road to look for wildlife.
Today was much more successful than yesterday. Almost immediately inside the entrance of the park, we saw a large bull elk up on the hillside above us. We followed him for a while as he moved parallel to the road, until he finally disappeared into the woods off to our left.
A couple hundred yards down the road, we heard another elk bugling, and finally caught a glimpse of him through the trees. This bull was enormous (dwarfing the last one we saw), but he was moving so fast in and out of the trees that I wasn’t able to get a picture. We followed him for almost a mile, before he finally turned off and headed east, away from the road.
By now, the sun had begun to rise, so our chances of seeing more wildlife close to the road decreased with every minute.
Further up the road, we saw a few pronghorn eating their breakfast in a field by the side of the road.
Signal Mountain Lodge
Continuing north on Teton Park road, we stopped to eat breakfast at Signal Mountain Lodge. It was a good meal, reminiscent of a cafeteria/camp breakfast. Mom and Dad got pancakes, eggs, and bacon; Faith got a hot oatmeal bowl with fruit and bacon; and I got a yogurt parfait with a blueberry muffin and eggs on the side.
After breakfast, we stopped at Signal Mountain General Store on the other side of the parking lot to get some coffees for the road. Mom, Dad, and Faith got mochas, and I got a huckleberry mocha (a little weird, would not try it again). The coffee was okay – it tasted a little burnt.
Teton Park Road
We left Signal Mountain Lodge and backtracked on Teton Park Road, pausing to enjoy the views and clean up a spilled coffee along the way.
Turning onto Jenny Lake Road, we stopped at String Lake. Dad and I took a quick stroll down to the water. I thought it was just as beautiful, if not more so, than Jenny Lake. It was definitely much more peaceful, and far less crowded. String Lake runs off into Jenny Lake, which forms the waterfall we saw yesterday on our boat tour.
Continuing the one-way drive, we stopped at Jenny Lake Overlook to enjoy one of the park’s most famous views. Here, Jenny Lake is framed perfectly by trees on the sides, with the mountains as a snow-capped backdrop.
As we left the lake, we saw a large mule deer grazing by the side of the road. He didn’t seem to mind the people or cars at all.
Turning off of Jenny Lake Road back onto Teton Park Road, we drove the short distance to Jenny Lake Visitor Center. Faith and I rented a two-person kayak for an hour, and took it out onto the lake. Once we finally figured out how to steer effectively, we paddled almost all the way to the other side of the lake, until we decided we needed to turn around to get back to the east side dock before our time was up. The views were beautiful, and it was very peaceful out on the water.
Two things I’ll note about the kayaking: (1) I did not like having to travel through the wake of the powerboats. That made me very uneasy. (2) Faith is a terrible paddling partner for a tandem kayak.
We decided to make a couple final stops before we left Grand Teton for good. First, we drove to Cattleman’s Bridge site, a quiet picnic spot down by a calm section of the Snake River. There used to be a cattle bridge here, but it’s now long removed.
Our final stop in the park was Oxbow Bend. This pullout is right next to the Snake River, and as you look up the river, you see Mount Moran in the distance. It was a beautiful view, especially with the aspens everywhere. There were a lot of waterfowl in the river; we spent about 20 minutes watching them and enjoying the landscape.
From Oxbow Bend, we briefly pulled off into Colter Bay Village Vistor Center to use the restrooms, and take advantage of the window of cell service to plan the rest of our afternoon. We bid goodbye to Grand Teton National Park and drove north on the John D. Rockefeller Jr. Parkway into Yellowstone National Park. After passing through the south entrance station, we drove about a mile up the road to Moose Falls.
Crawfish Creek flows under an arched stone bridge, and then plunges 30 ft’ over a steep cliff. Because of the creek, the falls are sometimes referred to as Crawfish Falls. Moose Falls is unique not because of its height, but because of its geothermal-heated water. Moose and other animals often stop to warm themselves in the water. The creek is named Crawfish Creek because the warmer waters allow crawfish to thrive at an altitude where they ordinarily would freeze to death. The top of the waterfall is just a short walk away from the car; I chose to not climb down to the bottom because it was quite steep, and I was more concerned about getting something to eat ASAP.
Walker conveniently chose this spot to have a massive blowout. After an all-hands-on-deck effort to get him cleaned up, we ate some delicious huckleberry bon-bons I’d purchased at Signal Mountain Lodge, and continued on our merry way.
Near the overlook for Lewis Canyon Falls, we noticed a small crowd of people gathered by the side of the road watching something. We stopped to see what they were looking at, and saw that there was a bald eagle on a tree branch just a short distance below the overlook. I scrambled around to the side through some trees to get an almost eye-level view of the magnificent bird.
Old Faithful Inn
About an hour later, we arrived at Old Faithful Inn, and decided to see if we could get a table for dinner, since it was fairly early. The line was tremendously long, and they didn’t have any remaining reservations, but the hostess told us to wait around in the Inn’s grand lobby and see if something came available. About 30 minutes later, our buzzer rang; someone had not shown up for their reservation!
Seated at a table in Old Faithful’s beautiful rustic dining room, we learned from our waitress that a lot of the chaos was because the Old Faithful Obsidian Lodge across the way had lost power, so guests were pouring over to the Inn instead. Mom and Dad got the dinner buffet, and Faith and I ordered prime rib with potatoes and asparagus. The buffet had huckleberry chicken, salmon, beef short ribs, salad, vegetables, soup, dessert, etc.. The prime rib was delicious, but all of us except Mom thought the dinner buffet was lackluster. Dad didn’t even clear his first plate.
Despite the disappointing buffet fare, it was a special meal. We were all very glad we got to eat a meal in the historic dining room; we felt like we’d experienced the Inn as more than a passerby. The Inn had live music in the lobby, and some interesting exhibitions from local photographers, artists, and craftsmen – all this added to the ambiance.
We drove out of the park, crossing into Montana and passing through the town of West Yellowstone. After about an hour drive, we arrived at our lodging for the night, near Henry’s Lake in Idaho. It was pitch black outside, and was very difficult to find the gate to the development, let alone the cabin itself. We finally got inside, and settled down for the night.
Here’s a video from today’s adventures.
The Best Things we Saw Today
The best thing I saw today was… “the view while kayaking on Jenny Lake”.
The best thing I ate today was… “prime rib”.
The best thing I saw today was… “the view from Jenny Lake kayaking”.
The best thing I ate today was… “oatmeal at breakfast”.
The best thing I saw today was… “the elk with the humongous rack this morning”.
The best thing I ate today was… “the huckleberry bon-bon”.
The best thing I saw today was… “Old Faithful Inn”.
The best thing I ate today was… “the meal at Old Faithful Inn”.
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Tomorrow, we’ll continue exploring Yellowstone National Park.
– Isaac & Co.