Friday, August 7, 2015

Sunset on the Snake: Our Adventures in the Grand Tetons

Denny and Peter on the Snake River

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

The trip began with a Scary Flight. It's less than two hours from LAX to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, and except for a few bumps over the Rockies (as per usual) it was smooth enough and arriving on schedule, at 8:30 PM.  We descended through golden evening clouds enjoying the sight of Jackson Hole below looking gorgeous. But we kept circling around the valley four times, then five, and it got to be 9 PM with the sunset turning purple, and people started wondering why we weren't landing. Then the pilot came on and said there was an "equipment problem" and he "needed a longer runway"!  Not what you want to hear. A few minutes later they announced that we couldn't land and would divert to Idaho Falls instead, where the runway "is really long and flat."  Really?  It was only 15 minutes flight time to Idaho, but during it I noticed that the nice plump middle aged flight attendant was CRYING!  When a flight attendant cries, wouldn't you think you were in trouble?  I didn't point it out to Peter, but gritted my teeth and we landed with a thump at Idaho Falls. 

Jackson Lake from the air

Then we waited for the mechanic to check out the plane and tell us if we could fly back to Jackson or not. By that time I would have preferred to rent a car!  The pilot explained that it had been a computer problem, he didn't know what the mechanic did, but (he joked) "it was probably something like Control Alt Delete." Ha ha, very funny. Not exactly calculated to fill you with confidence.  Anyway we were good to go, and landed safely in Jackson. There we saw the flight attendant apologizing profusely to a group of people who'd been waiting for her all that time - THAT'S why she was crying, from frustration not fear!  Good professional behavior, lady. We picked up our rapacious Hertz car (the kind that quotes $400 for a week and ends up costing $900), at midnight in the black-as-pitch wilderness, no food in sight. So we drove into Jackson and found the one noisy bar open full of guys and gals getting ready for boinking, but they did have pizza. We devoured some, and then drove for 45 minutes to Jackson Lake Lodge through dark like the inside of a cow, no road signs, but air smelling thrillingly pure. Soon we were comfortably tucked up in our luxuriously cozy (or cozily luxurious - anyway it was just as we like it) cabin.  That's when Peter told me that when he heard we'd had to refuel in Idaho Falls, he knew they must have DUMPED fuel over Jackson, as a precaution.  Argghhh, I am SO over flying.  But here we are, for a whole week - and it's nice being in just one great place on a trip, you can really relax and soak in the beauty.  

View from Jackson Lake Lodge

Rainy day view, first day

Lunch with a view, Jackson Lake Lodge

The start of the trail - my favorite hike

Same trail, but different every time...

Wildflower walk, rich in bluebells

My daily walk - flowers and view

Looking over the moose habitat

No moose, just a garter snake!

Peter enjoys the lounge

Thursday, July 9

Took it easy after yesterday's journey. It rained most of the day, but here at the cozy lodge the view over the moose habitat, Jackson Lake, and the Grand Tetons backdrop, is sheer gorgeousness, and it's so relaxing to just sit in the comfortable, beautiful lodge, and watch the sky change. We had lunch at the fancy restaurant, enjoying the rain and the view while eating juicy buffalo hamburgers. Afterwards, it cleared enough for me to take my favorite walk. A path near the hotel climbs to an overlook of the river, where there used to be moose (apparently the moose population in the Grand Tetons has declined as the wolf population has increased).  I dearly love this walk, so exalting and soul-restoring in the brisk weather, and resolved to take it every day, watching the changes in the sky and the wildflowers progressing over the week. Most abundant are bluebells of the sort they call Scottish harebells in the UK, and asters. We ended the day with a twilight drive, reveling in the mountain views and their ever-changing colors, and seeing elk. Enjoyed a steak dinner and huckleberry ice cream, followed by a sleep in the most comfortable beds in our own silent cabin, simply heavenly. This, my first trip after my retirement, somehow seems different from any other I ever took - I'm no longer all on fire to see and accomplish and tick off things. We've done all the sightseeing here many times, and just being at the lodge enjoying everything deeply seems enough. 

The Lodge

Fireweed at the lodge

Butterfly - which an English friend identified as Weidemeyer's Admiral

Friday, July 10

Our Snake River raft trip was scheduled today but there was some question of whether it would happen when there was a big midday thunderstorm. However, it cleared, the sun came out, and we went!  It's the thing Peter was looking forward to most, and I was so glad. The group went by bus to the little town of Moose, and then had to walk about a third of a mile to the Snake River for the barbecue by the river, and sadly it was too much for Peter - the altitude made him tired and he could hardly walk. The kind young men who were running the thing had a truck and they drove him to the picnic spot - they couldn't have been sweeter, and said it happens all the time, which made us feel better. In the event, we loved the barbecue, delicious steaks and beans and corn and berry pie - and then we spent several happy hours on the raft, gliding down the Snake River and seeing quite impressive numbers of wildlife: beavers, eagles, and a moose and a herd of elk on the road. A wonderful day. 

Barbecue by the Snake River

Us at the barbecue

What we ate!

I wore a Nepalese jacket I bought at the lodge, with lots of sparkles!

The Snake River, as seen from the air

On the raft

Peter, happy on the Snake

Frangonard clouds on the way back...

Golden bombshell cloud

Saturday, July 11

Peter was tired today after the exciting Snake River raft ride yesterday, so he decided he'd spend the day relaxing in the lovely lounge (his favorite place) reading Tacitus while I went off on an adventure. Drove alone through glorious mountain scenery to Teton Village, 30 miles away, where there's a tram that takes you up to the top of Rendezvous Mountain, a rise from 6,500 feet to 10,000 feet in 12 minutes with great views!  At the top I had my truly heavenly mountain hike, enjoying and photographing the lovely miniature alpine wildflowers to my absolute heart's content.  Alpine phlox, white columbine, hardy paintbrush both white and red. When I came down, it was a short drive to my favorite barbecue place, the Chuckwagon at Dornans, where I had a feast of spareribs, garlic mashed potatoes, white beans, fresh picked corn on the cob, etc. Then I drove back to Jackson Lake Lodge, took Peter for a short sunset drive and he had dinner at the lodge's diner.

Me on Rendezvous Peak!

On Rendezvous Peak, looking down at the tram

Rock cliff, just below the top

The hut at the top

51 degrees here, 76 in Teton Village

Just a little lower, wildflowers begin to appear...

White columbine


Alpine Phlox

Flowers of every color...yellow..., purple...

A delicate blue...

White Indian paintbrush

Sunday, July 12

A wonderful day, though cool and rainy. We drove into Yellowstone, which was all the better for the rain (no crowds), and very beautiful. Had a lovely early dinner at Flagg Ranch, just inside the park, bison and elk chili, and drove by Yellowstone Lake. Saw quite a lot of wildlife, elk and a young moose, and altogether it was everything we could have wanted. On this trip Peter and I have really rediscovered the joy of adventuring together - even despite the health problems. It's still such fun exploring, and there's a savor in remembering all the wonderful adventures we've had...and are still having. 


At dinner at Yellowstone

Driving through Yellowstone

Yellowstone Lake

Monday, July 13

A quiet day at the lodge, and then we drove to Moose, for dinner at Dornan's. Barbecue, country music, and a beautiful sunset with clouds...

Tuesday, July 14
Peter rested at the lodge while I drove to Colter Bay, and had a nice walk around the lake and through the woods to Swan Lake, which is covered with lily pads, very Narnia like. Plenty of scope for my usual favorite activity, photographing wildflowers, and then I drove back and we had a wonderful last-night-of-the-trip dinner at nearby lakeside lodge restaurant, The Peaks restaurant at Signal Mountain Lodge. Enjoyed the sunset lake view, while eating lamb minestrone soup; then I had trout with a pecan crust and Peter had a juicy huckleberry pork chop, and we finished with excellent marionberry pie ever with ice cream! 

Colter Bay at Jackson Lake

Swan Lake, with lily pads

Indian paintbrush in the woods

Wednesday, July 15

Oh boy, an early day for both of us. We had a 5:30 AM wakeup call so we could get to the airport for the 8 AM flight. We're all packed, but traveling is hard because Peter isn't feeling well (chest congestion, back pain, very tired) and can't carry anything; I even had to get him a wheelchair at the airport. But the flight was smooth, and once he was at home, at sea level, he felt well enough to go to the coffeehouse and tell his friends all about it!  [Note: Since then, he has since recovered very well, though is wisely resolved to get in better shape before going to 8,000 feet elevation!]