We had originally planned to visit the Grand Tetons after visiting Yellowstone National Park; however, after studying the best route from the Black Hills to Yellowstone we determined that entering Yellowstone from the south instead of the east would allow us to drive over fewer and less steep mountain passes. With this change in our route, it made more sense to visit the Grand Tetons first. You can’t help but know you have entered a unique part of the country when you drive into the Grand Teton National Park. To say the mountain range is impressive is an understatement.
We stayed at the Colter Bay Campground which had no hookups for water or electricity. This has become a familiar situation for us, but we weren’t prepared for no drinking water being available. They had had a water line break, so we had to drive 7 miles to get drinking water from another campground. We knew there would be a lot of wildlife around, but it became very real when the volunteer that checked us in reminded us to keep all food inside and mentioned that a black bear had been seen in the campground. We didn’t see any bears in the campground, but did watch some deer in one of the picnic areas.
We checked in at the visitor center to see what was available. We had not done much planning for activities and played it by ear. The visitor center had trail guides for some day hikes in the area. We hiked about five miles along the shore of Leigh and String Lakes and part of the way up the mountain side. The view of the Teton Mountain range was amazing. On another day we hiked two miles around a peninsula near the visitor center. As we hiked we noticed a sort of haze over the mountain range. We later discovered it was smoke from the forest fires in California and Idaho.
One evening we attended a campfire program about Sacajawea, the Shoshone Indian who helped the Lewis and Clark Expedition. The speaker was the author of several books about the west, Kenneth Thomasma. He was an excellent speaker and story teller. It was a marvelous experience to listen to him describe how Sacajawea grew up, traveled with Lewis and Clark, and how much help she provided to the expedition.
Our last full day in the park was a busy one. We had a picnic on the beach with a grand view of the mountain range. That afternoon we went on a “rock and roll” nature hike where the Ranger used clips of rock and roll music to describe the flora, wildlife, and geology of the park. It was a very unique way to learn about nature! Then, after a quick dinner in the truck we went on a rafting trip down the Snake River. Our guide was outstanding! He has written a book about the development of the Grand Teton area and was a wealth of information. We saw a lot of wildlife – elk, beaver, bald eagles to name a few. The Snake River is one of the fastest rivers in the west, but you could hardly tell it. The Snake has such a constant depth and smooth bottom that doesn’t cause the rapids you see on other rivers. Our guide did more steering than paddling as he navigated our raft downstream.