After one of our longest nights of sleep after a Friday departure, we woke to the sun peeking over the mountains and through the back window of the Tribute. With our eyes firmly locked on Jackson just over the gorgeous and steep Teton Pass, we quickly converted back into day mode and got back on the highway.
As we rolled through Jackson Hole, following the winding road from Wilson to Jackson, we got our first big game encounter. A few elk grazing in a roadside meadow not giving any attention to the tons of steel hurtling past.
Despite its location, Jackson is well provisioned with everything you might need before heading north to the National Parks, with an Albertson’s right as you come into town giving us a chance to grab those last minute provisions that we need for a few days out of touch with the modern world.
More importantly is the little coffee shop near the Saturday Market that we have found to have very good coffee. This trip saw us leave behind our camp stove and coffee kit in favor of the expediency of cold brew in the cooler. However this cool morning we were grateful to have Cowboy Coffee open so we could grab a couple large black coffees for the road north.
With coffee and breakfast figured out, we bid farewell to the trappings of civilization and turn our wheels north. Our route for the rest of the day still fully undecided. First up though, is the western road of Grand Teton. With no animal sightings to stop and enjoy, we make quick time to the turn off for the scenic Jenny Lake drive. If there is one lesson I have learned from my visits to National Parks, is turn down side roads. Especially if they are one way. The Jenny Lake drive puts you across Jenny Lake from the base of the Tetons, with killer views throughout the few miles it traverses.
If you are able to be along this route during the early morning hours, you can find a mirror finish on the lake with amazing reflections of the peaks. We weren’t that early this time, but the view still holds you enraptured as you look up at over 6,000 feet of mountain above the lakes surface.
From Jenny Lake, our route took us further north, back onto the main thoroughfare from Jackson to Yellowstone. Grand Teton is an interesting experience in many ways, because it is not as wild as it’s larger neighbor. From the airport in the south of the park, to the dam at Jackson Lake, you are never all that far from signs of civilization. It is still a beautiful and amazing place and I would never say don’t visit. I just prefer something a little more removed.
Rolling down the John D. Rockafeller Memorial Parkway, with the Tetons in the rear-view mirror, the energy in the air turns electric as mile by mile we mentally count down to that iconic sign. YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK emblazoned on the large wooden boards painted Park Service Brown next to the National Park Service arrowhead logo.
Even though we are entering through the south, and our favorite region is the Lamar Valley some 80 miles away to the north northeast, we can’t help but smile and celebrate as we roll through the gate booth and collect our map and newsletter.
First stop is one of our favorite lunch and hang spots along Gull Point Drive overlooking the Lake Hotel across the water. The dogs may have enjoyed it a bit as well.
After our lunch break we take a quick detour down the east entrance road to look around for a Sub-adult Female Grizzly known as Snow. We’ve been able to find her on each of our last 4 trips to Yellowstone and have followed her story as one of the more popular bears in the park. Unfortunately Fall in Yellowstone is new to us, so we are left without an encounter today and decide it’s time to head up to Hayden Valley, where we’re guaranteed to see Bison at a minimum.
The fall is the rut for Bison and Elk, which are typically easy animals to find throughout the park. We came this weekend not only to destress and enjoy one of our favorite places on Earth, but to experience the rut and see and hear what it’s all about. Images of huge bull Bison sparring and kicking up dust fill my head as we descend the hill after Sulphur Caldron into the wide expanse of the Hayden Valley.