We’d set aside today to explore the Grand Tetons National Park. Though it’s adjacent to Yellowstone and the pair are often linked, we realise now how different in character they are. Yellowstone is tourism and sightseeing, the Grand Tetons provide a spectacular backdrop to activity of all kinds. Not being terribly active ourselves, we planned a fairly relaxing day, simply enjoying being here and taking the opportunity to take a break from the busy-busy, must-see-it-all mindset of travelling.
The Grand Tetons rise directly from the valley floor and for the most part, there’s a lake at the foot of each mountain. The access to the park then, is on the other side of the lake(s) with nothing at all on the mountain side. We looked at our maps and guidebooks and decided to drive through the park with a pretty relaxed approach, taking our time and spending an hour or two here and there with a book, knitting or sketchbook.
We felt we ought to know of this place before we began however, so we started at the Visitor Centre. These National Park centres are so well done with Ranger presentations and plenty of detail for whatever plans might be afoot.
I was keen to watch the twenty-minute film about the park and the three of us took up the best seats in the auditorium as the show began, spotting this lovely display of Indian sewing bags and their contents as we went in. We had the place to ourselves as we watched some spectacular footage of the park in all seasons. Maybe it was as well there was blue sky and sunshine outside today - it appears to be a very chilly place in the winter!
We’d not gone very far before we came to a pullout and viewing point with picnic tables and a fine view of the mountains. Sorry, this isn’t a good photo at all, but I rather liked the shot of red in the picture!
Spotting a few picniic tables there, we decided this was a pretty spot to settle for a while and gathered reading material and art stuff, taking serious note of the sign on the table.
We spent a happy hour reading, painting and watching the comings and goings here in the sunshine. How lovely to have the time to simply enjoy being here.
After a while though, we felt we ought to move on a little. Maybe we should consider finding a similar site with a different - lakeside? - location for our picnic lunch? Off we went, finding little traffic on the main parkway and thinking that it’d be relatively easy to find another good spot.
We headed on to Jenny Lake, where our map showed a range of facilities including a picnic site and loos!
But we were wrong about it being quiet. The first hint came when we saw cars parked on the roadside, long before we reached the central visitor area. It being a Saturday, possibly the last one before school returns, everyone had come for a day’s activity, parking their car whilst they went off cycling/walking/boating. We didn’t stand a chance finding somewhere to settle in any place with a trailhead or boat dock.
A little further on, by the side of Jenny Lake, there was a pullout with nothing but a viewpoint. Just as we were thinking that we wouldn’t even find a space there, a couple returned to their car and waved to us that they were leaving. Woohoo! And seeing the breathtaking view that lay just beyond the trees, we felt thrilled that we’d had that stroke of luck. But we couldn’t stay. - there was nowhere to sit and the narrow walkway was busy.
The picnic came at the next turnout, with the name of the Chapel of the Sacred Heart - a wedding chapel it seems, not that we saw any evidence of it! Mindful of all the warnings about bears, the travelling companions joined us for a mini feast of fruit, cheese, sausage and crackers, with yet another stunning view and the occasional extra guest who settled on Mary’s hat.
I’d like to say how peaceful and idyllic it was, but the large family barbeque just through the trees put paid to that. Never mind - this lovely place is here for us all to enjoy!
Last evening we’d celebrated Mary’s birthday in the Mural Room of the Jackson Lake Lodge, so seeing the sign on the roadside prompted a return visit. Yes, to take the photos we’d not been able to take last night because of the light, but also to make good use of the facilities!
Feeling more comfortable thanks to the convenience of the Jackson Lake Lodge, we drove a little further up the lake shore and found a spot to spend an hour or so before we needed to head back. Out came the paints again - good grief, twice in one day! They are odd sort of paints though - I had forgotten mine and so bought these Crayola “watercolours” in a supermarket the other day. They appear to have some kind of additive in them which creates a plasticky surface when it dries, but hey, we’re not talking masterpieces here, are we?
The difference between the honeypots of the visitor/activity centres and these simple pullouts/picnic sites was clear - and we knew which we preferred!
I couldn’t resist snapping the other user of our lovely picnic spot = one man and his dog! Perhaps it’s not immediately clear from the photo, but the golden labrador is sitting up proudly in the passenger seat as if it’s the most natural thing in the world. It seems like he does that often too, for the seat was covered in pawprint fabric! (I didn’s see if he was wearing a seatbelt)
All too soon it was time to head back into Jackson. I couldn’t help but take yet another photograph of that distinctive skyline.