Wednesday, January 7, 2015

The Great American Road Trip: Grand Tetons National Park, Wyoming

My #1 bucket list vacation destination - and I finally made it there in the summer of 2014!  I know, most people desire to visit Yellowstone National Park and they spend days/weeks there.  For me, Grand Teton National Park was my most desired.  As I mentioned in past posts, I lived in Grand Tetons National Park for a couple of my young summers with my dad while he was employed by the park.

Here's our experience:  We headed into the park through the north entrance - from the South entrance/exit of Yellowstone National Park.

As we do before any vacation, we read up on some fun facts and stories of the area.

Map showing Yellowstone NP and the Grand Tetons NP.

This is where I stayed the second summer I lived in the area.
There is a small museum, store, restaurant, camping, cabins, hiking, boating, laundry, and showers.
There are plenty of trails to hike in Colter Bay but we did not go on any of them.  Not events one that I loved as a kid.  By the time we got through Yellowstone I was pretty freaked out by the idea of hiking without bear spray.  I find it humorous that we hiked, ran, biked, walked this area all the time when I was little with nothing more than our knowledge of basic bear/wild animal safety.  Now, they promote carrying bear spray.  It wouldn't be that bad if it wasn't so darn expensive!!!  Especially for the limited amount of time we were going to be out in the wild.
We rented a cabin for the night.
We could have easily spent the day at Colter Bay and then moved on to Jackson lodging.

But, I wanted to maximize my time in this area since I spent an entire summer there as a child.
A view of the lake!
Another picture of the lake.
Idea of what the cabin area looks.
These cabins were moved from ranches to this location.
They all have a story of their history.
This was our cabin.  A little on the rustic side but actually kind of nice.
No air conditioning.  No cell phone coverage.  No television.   I was going through some major withdrawal!
I was mostly worried about the allergies that my family has.  But, it all went well. 

My car was COVERED with pollen when we got up the next morning.

Looking again at this map:  you will notice that there is a split in the road toward the south/east of  Jackson Lake.
the rest of my blog post takes you on the west side of the park (Teton Park Road) to Moose and then heading back north via the east side the highways 191/89/26).

Jenny Lake:  as you travel south on Teton Park road you will notice a sign to Jenny Lake Junction.  This is a more scenic way to get to Jenny Lake.  We decided to take that route.  There were a few bicyclist, some camping and ranch options.  We stopped at a turnout which provided hiking options and a great view of the lakes.
This was  the trail at a turnout we stopped at on the way to the visitors center.
The lake from the turn-out.
The lake from the turn-out.
Note:  it was not easy to find a parking spot at Jenny Lake Visitors Center !!!  

Playing around in the visitors center.

There are a ton of hiking options at Jenny lake!!  I did one when I was in 5th Grade.  
I remember it being very beautiful!

I wish that we would have taken the shuttle boat.
It was crazy busy while we were at Jenny Lake and I was really excited about our next stop.

Finding where I lived my first summer in the Grand Tetons:  Head south toward Moose/Jackson from Jenny Lake.  It's not an advertised place since it is employee housing.  So, here is the best way for me to describe how to find it:
The signs for this ranch is the best way to find it these days.
Although this place was not there when I lived in the area.
The American Alpine Club Climbers Ranch is located further off the main road.  Closer to the road you will see the cabin area pictured below.  That is where I lived - the employee cabins.  I remember it being much more amazing!  There were a lot more trees to the west of the cabins.  There is a large creek (Cottonwood Creek - right next to the cabin we lived in) and on the other side use to be some really cool abandoned cabins.  They reminding me of the Swiss Family Robinson!  I was told they were abandoned due to poor water quality and lack of funds to fix the problem.  Those cabins are now gone.  They burned down during a forest fire that took place shortly after I moved back to Michigan.  Now, in their place, you will find the Climber's Ranch pictured above.

That little cabin off to the left of the picture was where I lived for the summer.
It was a great place for the staff to stay and to bond together.  We often had potlucks.
I remember waking up one morning to find a moose eating my neighbors pants off his clothesline:-)
My favorite place:  The Lucas-Fabian Homestead - or, as I know them, the Fabian Cabins!  My dad and I hiked to these cabins often.  I remember how amazing it seemed.  The people that lived here had an amazing view of the mountains!  We also saw many elk wondering the fields behind the cabins.  These cabins were donated to the national park.  Then they were used for staff housing (like the cabin I lived in) until the water system became contaminated.  At least that is what I was told.  After doing some research, it sounds like these cabins were in use until just before I arrived to the area.  No wonder why they still seemed so cared for during my early visits!  It was my mission to visit these cabins again.  It was my #1 mission!!!  So, you can imagine, that I was very excited to find them!

Here's how:  Between Jenny Lake and the American Alpine Club Climbers Ranch you will barely notice a road heading west (near the Teton Glacier Turnout).  You can pull off the street to park but you have to walk from there.

There are great bike trails around the park!
So many people ride their bikes right past this area and have no clue what they are missing!
Beautiful views and the cabins are hidden from the street traffic.
Roughly constructed bridge to cross.
Cottonwood Creek

The first sighting of the cabins!

As a park employee in the mid 1980's, my dad was given a key that unlocked all of these cabins.
I loved exploring them.  I remember that one had Wyoming license plates from many years hung up on the walls.
I believe that was from a park employee that stayed there when the cabins were used.
This is the main cabin.  It seemed so much bigger when I was a kid!
I remember spending hours hanging out on a hammock that was on this porch/deck!

I have always know these as the Fabien Cabins (after the Fabien family that once lived there).  But, I noticed these plaques during our recent visit....

Lots of history!

Now on to the visitors center in Moose, WY.

Not an actual moose - LOL!
The visitors center is big and beautiful!
However, I didn't get any good pictures of it...
There is a museum and store inside.
We wanted to see a moose!  At this point, it was the last thing on our animal list that we hadn't seen.
Before our trip began I heard that there is a moose that hangs out in the town of Moose by the river.
Well, guess who we found???
This is Hollywood.  He likes to hang out by the river right by the big bridge and the visitors center in Moose.
I was told that he comes just about every morning and every evening.

Now we head north from Moose via 191/26/89.  We took a couple of side trips along the way.  First was to see the Mormon Row Cabins.  You know - the ones that you always see in the pictures of the Grand Tetons.  They are both located on a dirt road called "Mormon Row".  To get there you turn east off the main road onto Antelope Flats (paved road with beautiful views)!  Follow that a couple of miles until you get to Mormon Row.  Mormon Row is a dirt road that heads south.  But, to the north of Mormon Row you will see the first barn pictured below.  There is an abandoned farm so the first you will notice is the main house and some sheds.   There is limited parking but you will want to park (even if on the side of the road) to walk the property.

We almost didn't see the second barn (pictured below).  The visitors center told us about the barn above.  But, a photographer at the first barn told us to take Mormon Row (heading south from Antelope Flats) to see another great barn.  I'm glad we did!  This barn is another one we have seen in print materials.  You couldn't see it from the paved road and people didn't want to travel down the dirt road (not knowing there was anything to see there).  So, we had this barn and the limited parking all to ourselves :-)

On the way to Mormons Row.  A little late in the season for the flowers but still very beautiful!

And a bison on the way to Mormon row.

Kelly Warm Springs:  Located near the town of Kelly.  I LOVED this place as a kid!  I remember seeing some of the most beautiful fish in the "pond"!  I was told that people would bring their pet fish there after they didn't want them any more.  I actually heard someone telling people that same story during our visit this time - many, many years later!

It was bigger then I remembered!

Looks clean and pretty in this area.

So warm!!

Kind of gross on this side.

Other animals we saw in the Grand Tetons:

Ground squirrel.

Exploring more of the east side of the park:  There are a lot of scenic turn-outs!

A turnout about Ansel Adams!

The Snake River and the Grand Tetons.
The trees have grown some since the famous picture we are familiar with.

We did not go on this hike but it looks reasonable.  I just wanted to spend my time in other areas.

Hiking options:

Check out the rest of our road trip here.

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