The campsite we managed to find in the wee hours of the morning turned out to be really good. $40/night seemed pretty expensive compared to some of the other ones, but it did come with showers, flushing toilets, a bear box, and a picnic table at each campsite.
I wanted a shower, even if it was cold, to get the bug spray and sunblock off. (I had noticed that what little sunburn I had from the previous day’s trail was already vanishing.) I’d been to church camp before, so I was not expecting the shower facilities to be spectacular by any means. Was it fancy? Nope.
It was glorious. To be clean again, even if for not very long, was glorious.
We loaded up, made a stop for breakfast, and tried to figure out what our day would look like. Gas inside the park was a staggering $4.05/gal, where outside it had been $3.55-3.65. Grand Teton National Park is actually just south of Yellowstone, almost to the point of feeling like they are joined. The pine forests just keep stretching on and on (and how I love the smell of the pine forests!). Grand Teton boasts a “strenuous” Death Canyon Trail hike. After the events of yesterday, my only thoughts were no thank you!
Today was a perfect opportunity for photo ops. This area of the country is just too breathtaking for words. These pictures have not been photoshopped in any way, and were taken with my phone’s camera. David’s pictures are much better.
And in case you didn’t know, signs that read “Caution! Wildlife Ahead!” actually means to get your cameras ready. The three Tetons, which is actually French for the Three Brothers, and the surrounding areas are so massive, so regal, so incredible. Standing at the base, all of my stupid problems at home with work and having to move just didn’t seem important anymore.
David defected to me for ideas on which hikes to do for the day. I’d already marked one in my book, Jenny Lake trail. It’s a 6-mile hike around Jenny Lake that is supposed to be a hiker’s favorite. Teenage me would be shocked with herself for thinking that a 6-mile hike was no big deal and totally appropriate for a day’s activities. Once we got to the lake, though, it was ridiculously crowded, and we weren’t really sure why. Cars were parked in the grass, made their own parking spots in random places, parking alongside the road, and especially in front of signs that said NO PARKING. So instead of parking immediately at the visitor’s center of the lake, we drove out on a gravel road a mile or so away, near the Lupine Meadows Trailhead. We then walked from there to the Jenny Lake Trailhead, right along the base of the Grand Tetons. The total expected hiking distance was supposed to be 8.5 miles of easy/moderate trail since we didn’t start immediately at the trailhead.
Poor David got sick on me just as we were beginning this trail. I wasn’t sure what to do with him. We made lots of stops for water and protein, but he just didn’t seem to act like he felt well. We contemplated trudging on or just going back to the car. Somehow, we managed to continue.
Hidden Falls was well worth the trials to get there. They are massive and thundering, and the area to get the best views will also spray you with the cool water, which felt amazing after how hot we got on the trail.
Hikers we met on the trial were talking about bears, but we hadn’t seen any wildlife so far. But we kept pushing on. At times it felt like this trail would never end, or that we would never even make it across the river to the other half of the lake.
As we made our way around the late, I started to get a bit upset. 8.5 miles and we didn’t see a single bear. As I walked, I smacked my empty water bottle on my leg/knee, since hikers are asked to make noise on the trails. All the fuss my grandma made about worrying about us running into a bear, and being almost a full week into our trip and still not seeing a single one, and having to call grandma to tell her that no, we hadn’t seen any… I was nonplussed. We’d even bough Bear Spray for crying out loud!
And of course, that’s when it happens. David was a few steps in front of me on the narrow part of the trail. He whispered, “Allie, stop!”, so I immediately froze and looked in the direction that he was pointing.
And there it was. A young grizzly bear, not very far away from where we were standing. My blood immediately ran cold. There was nothing really separating us from the bear besides some underbrush and a few trees. This was definitely not a zoo, where there are precautions to keep anything from happening.
We made lots of noise and watched him or her wander off before we continued around the trail (and evidence–bear scat right in the middle of the trail just ahead of us). When we got to the visitor’s center, we looked for a ranger to tell about the bear, to keep other people safe, but by the time we got there, the center was closed and no rangers were to be found. We rested our weary feet before we decided to go back to the car. The sun was starting to set behind the Tetons, so we were trying to make good time.
However, this was not to be. During the time that we had been gone, areas of our trail were roped off and we had to take a detour. This was the trail that never ended! We finally made our way to the gravel road that led back to the Lupine Meadows Trailhead. On our way back to the car, a young family pulled up in their car to tell us that a Ranger had told them that our parking lot was a good spot to watch for Grizzlies to come down from the mountains at night to feed, so they were going to camp out to watch with their binoculars. They seemed like a really nice family.
By the time we got to our car, we were both well past exhausted, a bit cranky, sore, and hungry. (But all the while, thinking that thing we just did was really freaking cool.) We did manage to take our time to put up our gear (and take off our shoes–my poor feet!). Our 6-mile hike that I thought would be a good idea had turned into a 10.5 mile adventure. In the time that we had put our stuff up and got into the car to leave, the nice family had already left their spot to bear watch. But as we left, we noticed a car on the gravel road and pulled over and the two passengers had gotten out of the car and seemed to be taking pictures of something. We slowed down, not seeing anything… until I spotted the bear cub super close to the couple, and David spotted another one a bit farther off. I was so glad we were inside the car! I did not want to be caught close to the bear cubs when momma bear came to check on them.
We stopped to eat at Jackson Lake Lodge’s Pioneer Grill. This place was amazing. There’s a lot of history to it, including a massive investment by the Rockefeller family. When we go back (yes, when), I hope we get to stay here. This was some of the best food I’d had in a long time (maybe it just tasted better because I was famished), but I would recommend it to anyone! Some older lady sitting across from us kept looking at me in disgust, my hair all a mess, my clothes dirty, my blistered feet in flip flops so I wouldn’t have to wear my heavy hiking boots… but the women’s restroom was closed off for cleaning, so I couldn’t even clean up when I wanted to. So yeah, we went to a nice hotel and restaurant dirty from hiking 10.5 miles… and I’d have done it all over again in a heartbeat.