Home Away From Home, National Park, Wyoming

Hidden Lake and Inspiration Point Hike

It was our last day in the Tetons so we tried to make the best of it. As usual, we got a late start and then had to return to the campground not once but twice for things we forgot. We finally headed out to the Jenny Lake Visitor’s Center to catch the shuttle over the lake for the hikes.

We were planning to hike to Hidden Lake and then Inspiration Point, just a one-mile hike one way. Easy peasy. Right? Wrong! The hike to Hidden Lake was all uphill and though for the most part, the path was not difficult to walk the climbing was another story. We met a ranger who encouraged us to take it slow and take plenty of breaks because of the altitude. We were going to gain about 600 feet! The hike was nice. We had sun and shade and an occasional breeze which helped tremendously. We saw the turnoff for Inspiration Point but headed for the very lovely Hidden Falls. Situated near the mouth of Cascade Canyon, Hidden Falls drops roughly two hundred feet in a series of steps, thus easily making this the best waterfall hike in the park. As a result of its popularity, the waterfall is one of the most visited destinations in Grand Teton National Park.

When we got to Hidden Falls, we just sat by the falls enjoying the beauty and the sound of the rushing water plus we got to rest a little bit and catch our breath. Little did we know how much we would need it! After all, it was only a half-mile up. Right?

A pretty treacherous path
We began climbing along a very rocky and rugged trail stopping often to catch our breath and have some water. Near the Point, we passed over a short section with a fairly steep, narrow ledge. Of course, there were people going both ways but most of the time people would take turns on the more treacherous parts. It was however so worth the effort as we had an outstanding panoramic view of Jenny Lake, the second largest lake in the Tetons.

We made it!

The lake was named after a Shoshone Indian named Jenny Leigh who helped with the initial survey, the 1872 Hayden Survey. Another lake in the Tetons is named for her husband. As I researched Jenny Leigh, I learned that in 1876 Jenny and her six children all died of smallpox. What a sad ending for an outstanding woman.

The hike back to the shuttle was mercifully mostly downhill. We still had to stop for breaks but not as often. That was when I understood why the people we had met on our ascent had looked so ragged. I am sure we looked pretty ragged by then too. The shuttle ride back was blessedly cool.

After the return to shore, we headed for the car and hopefully a nice cool picnic area. I saw the sign for the Teton Village so told Jerry to turn there. I had not researched the village but I had read that it was a point of interest so off we went. We didn’t find any picnic areas so since it was after 2:00 Jerry just pulled off of the road and we did our usual, picnic lunch in the car. We rode right past the village and into Jackson Hole and did some light grocery shopping.

We returned to the campground for a little rest as we were both pretty exhausted from our hot, difficult but rewarding hike. A bit later we decided to ride out to Mormon Row. As we left the campground on Gros Ventre Road we saw a lot of cars pulled over and we all know what that means – an animal of some sort. It was a moose! I had been so disappointed that I had not seen a moose during our visit despite having been told that they were around. There he was, a huge bull moose. Of course, Jerry had left his good camera at the campground so we jumped in the car, rode back to the campground, returned to the sight of the moose and he was still there. He stayed until he was frightened by some guys entering the river to fish.

T. A. Moultan Barn
We continued on to Mormon Row. Mormon Row was a village started by members of the Church of Latter-Day Saints to sent out to establish new communities. They clustered their farms together to share labor and community which was in stark contrast with the isolation typical of most western homesteads. There are only a couple of houses there now and two barns which highlight Mormon Row. The T.A. Moulton Barn draws photographers from around the world to want to capture the barn with the majestic Tetons in the background.

Despite the fact that we only hiked a little over five miles total today we were pretty tired when we got back to the motor home. Jerry grilled pork chops and I prepared corn, peas and Mac and cheese knowing we’d have leftovers for dinner tomorrow night. Tomorrow morning will be an early start as we begin our trek back to North Carolina via Lawrenceville, Ga for some RV repair. It’s been a grand trip, more wonderful than I even anticipated but it is time to go home. The best part of every trip to me is returning home. It’s time to see our grands!!!!

Irrespective of hour or season, whether viewed on clear days or stormy, the Tetons are so surpassingly beautiful that one is likely to gaze silently upon them conscious of the futility of speech.

Fritiof Fryxell – 1958

Home Away From Home, National Park, Wyoming

Taggart Lake Trail in the Tetons

Our hike this morning was Taggart Lake Trail which was off the Jenny Lake highway. It was a little more than three miles round trip and had sun and shade, ascent and descent, flat and rocky climb. All in all, a perfect hike. We ran into a young couple from Virginia on their way to San Francisco for graduate school and chatted with them for the last half mile. It made the hike go much faster and then suddenly we were at Taggart Lake. It’s a small lake but pretty with beautiful reflections in the water. We did see some small fish swimming around. It took us about 30 minutes to walk back to the parking lot.

We returned to the campground for lunch and then went into to Jackson Hole for me to get a haircut and boy did I get one! I told her I was going to let it grow out and just needed a trim and shape up. Glad I didn’t tell her I wanted it short but I did get a good cut.

Afterward, we walked around Jackson Hole looking at t-shirts. If you can’t find one you want it’s not because there aren’t enough stores in town. They are everywhere! We ended up at Starbucks where we did some computer catch up. Both of us needed to sort pictures. I had already downloaded the pictures from Jerry’s camera to my computer but I wanted to put them in my Google photos in case something happened to my computer. Backup! We spent a good while in there.

Later we went to the Chapel of Transfiguration. It is a lovely log church which still holds Sunday services in the summer. I do wish we could have been there for a service. There is a large picture window at the back of the altar that frames the Tetons just behind the cross. Everyone is invited in to pray.

We then walked over to the Mentor buildings but everything was closed so we didn’t get to enter in the buildings.

We returned to the campground for leftovers for dinner. Jerry didn’t sleep well last night so an early night was in store.

Home Away From Home, National Park, Wyoming

A Day in the Grand Tetons

We slept in this morning. Since Jerry was not feeling well last night, I didn’t want to awaken him so he slept even later. We got a late start, almost 10:00. Heading to Coulter Bay where our first hike began was second on the list. First, Jerry wanted to find the overlook we had seen when we first entered the park. The view of the Tetons and their reflection on the water was a picture that couldn’t be described. We ran into the ever-present road construction but that didn’t slow us down too much as we headed back toward Yellowstone. Jerry wanted to get his pictures!

We finally found the turnoff – we think – and Jerry got his pictures. Again, the view was spectacular. On the way back we again were stopped for construction but it was a short delay. We headed on to Coulter Bay and made a stop at the general store first. It was a very nice store with groceries, gas, and then a gift shop on the other side. We ended up passing on the t-shirts but we did buy a fanny pack that would hold a water bottle and my phone. That will not be very pretty but it beats carrying a water bottle all of the time.

We decided to take the Lakeshore Trail which is a mostly flat trail that winds around Colter Bay. The views again are incredible. As we hiked along, we met someone who told us they had seen a bear and although we kept our eyes opened, we never saw one. We did sit on the shore of Swan Lake for a while. While sitting there a butterfly landed on my foot and stayed there long enough for us to get a picture. The water was not freezing but it was too cold for me to want to swim although there were others who did venture in.

After walking back to the Visitor’s Center, we got our lunch and found a picnic table in front of the center with a view of Colter Bay and the marina. There were some pretty nice boats out there all privately owned. It was the perfect place for a picnic and definitely the most perfect place we found to have lunch during the entire trip. Cool, shaded and peaceful.

After lunch, we walked back into the center and talked with a ranger about how to spend the rest of our day. Unfortunately, Signal Mountain is closed due to aggressive bear behavior. Apparently, someone had been feeding the bears and they were aggressive toward the rangers, thus the closure. We left the center and suddenly we were on the very picturesque road the ranger had suggested driving. We stopped at the Jackson Lake Dam and Reservoir. What power!

Our next stop was the Chapel of the Sacred Heart. The chapel, built entirely of logs was dedicated on August 15, 1937. It is a lovely church and they still have services on Sundays during the summer. Jerry decided not to stop anymore and take pictures and then there was another view that he couldn’t resist. The granite mountains are beautiful but the glaciers on top just seem to complete the lovely picture.

We then rode into Jackson trying to find someone to cut my hair. That is one busy little town! Traffic was terrible and of course, people were walking everywhere. We got a picture of the elkhorn arch and then headed back to the campground.

We had planned to have an early dinner and then go out animal watching or should I say animal looking. After dinner, we rode around for a while but we returned to the campground with our efforts in vain. Other than seeing a few bison here and there we haven’t seen any animals during our stay in the Tetons other than chipmunks which are abundant, almost like the prairie dogs in South Dakota.

Thankfully so far, we have had cool nights so one air conditioner has been sufficient. We’re a little worried about the trip home because we are headed to hotter and more humid weather. It has been cool and dry and we have been blessed with great weather these past seven weeks.

Home Away From Home, Wyoming

A Full Day in Cody

We started our day with a tour of Old Trail Town which shows the old West as it really was. It was a sunny but cool day, perfect for wandering in and out of the authentic cabins moved to Cody. This was where the original town of Cody was located. There were over twenty buildings, some we could enter and some roped off. All had authentic items in them and nearly all had either a bison head, a pronghorn head, a deer head, antlers from various animals or animal skulls. Each cabin is unique in its own way.

Bob Edgar, a Wyoming native with an interest in archeology realized that old historical buildings were rapidly disappearing so in 1967 he began the work of gathering the buildings and relics that are now located at Old Trail Town as this was where Cody had chosen for the first townsite of Cody in 1895. Many of the buildings were taken completely apart, moved and then reassembled. Among the relics at Old Trail Town are horse-drawn vehicles, memorabilia from the Wyoming frontier and Indian artifacts. While much of the memorabilia is in the various cabins the majority is housed in a very extensive museum viewed at the end of the trail.

The first cabin we entered was “Curley’s Cabin”. Curley was an Indian scout for Custer and luckily was able to escape the carnage at Little Bighorn as he was on the outside circle of the Sioux and Cheyenne. Many believe he was the first to bring the news of Custer’s defeat. The cabin was originally built near Crow Agency, Montana.

In 1882 some of the first sheep arrived in Central Wyoming brought by Luther Morrison. Morrison originally came west on the Oregon Trail in 1853 and built this cabin in 1884 located at the foot of Copper Mountain east of Shoshone, Wyoming. As in the other cabins, the walls were encircled by mounted animal heads but in addition, there was a two-headed calf! There was also a lovely old organ. Talking about juxtaposition.

Hole in the Wall cabin is a two-room cabin which was built on Buffalo Creek in the Wall Country, west of Kaycee, Wyoming by Alexander Ghent. It was known as the rendezvous place for Butch Cassidy, The Sundance Kid and other outlaws of the famous “Hole in the Wall Gang”.

Our next stop was the graveyard where five of the more infamous folks were buried. The first grave we visited was that of Jeremiah Johnson or better known as “Liver-Eating’ Johnson. Johnson was a trapper, hunter, wood hawk, army scout, marshal and Civil War veteran. He got his nickname because reportedly after he killed someone, he would take a bite of their liver. Yuk! Johnson’s body was moved to this location and one of the pallbearers was Robert Redford who played Jeremiah Johnson in the movie.

Other graves were those of Jim White also known as Buffalo Hunter, Jack Stilwell known as Frontiersman, Phillip Vetter, a trapper killed by a grizzly, W.A. Gallagher and Blind Bill, cowboys who were murdered and then the famous or more likely infamous Belle Drewry, the Woman in Blue. Supposedly she was involved in the murder of Gallagher and Blind Bill. She was buried in a blue dress.

Next, we visited a tribute to the famous Mountain Men including James “Old Gabe” Bridger, a hunter and trapper and Jim Bridger. Possibly the first man known as a Mountain Man was John Colter, a trapper who worked for Lewis and Clark. During his journey, he found “Colter’s Hell” which is where a tribute to him is now located. Although it cannot be accessed from Old Trail Town his monument can be seen in the distance. Legend has it that when captured by the Blackfeet he was forced to run for his life. He outdistanced the entire tribe for seven miles and survived, naked and weaponless but alive.

One of the last places we visited was the Rivers Saloon. It was frequented by Butch Cassidy, W.A. Gallager, Blind Bill and many other colorful cowboys of the old west. It is the oldest remaining saloon in northwest Wyoming. I saw bullet holes in the door!

Last but certainly not least is a museum filled with artifacts of the Old West including a horse-drawn hearse from the late 1800s. Initially, I didn’t realize what it was and then – wow!

We had decided to picnic again today so we went to the park at the Cody Visitor’s Center and had a nice lunch on the grounds. We still had two more museums to visit at the Buffalo Bill Center for the West so we returned there. We immediately went to the Plains Indians museum because we knew we would spend more time in there.

Jerry had remarked earlier that most of the photographs that we see of the Native Americans are either of children or men. Why not women? We asked at Old Trail Town but they were mystified as well. When we entered the Plains museum the very first and very large photograph we saw was of a woman. The first part of the museum emphasized the important role that the women played in their everyday lives.

“We women had our children to care for, meat to cook, and to dry, robes to dress, skins to tan, clothes, lodges and moccasins to make. We not only pitched the lodges, but took them down and packed the horses and the travois, when we move camp. We were busy, especially when we were going to move. I love to move, even after I was a married woman with children to take care of. Moving made me happy.” Pretty Shield, Absaroke (Crow)

Continuing on through the museum we saw life-sized women and men mounted on horses. Interestingly, before horses arrived on the Plains, dogs were essential to maintaining the season rounds. Dogs were not only family pets, but they were also used to carry the lodge poles and covers when families moved. After horses arrived the poles became longer and bigger so dogs were no longer used for that purpose.

One of the most interesting exhibits consisted of a life-size buffalo hide tipi. As buffalo disappeared from the Plains, women began making tipis from canvas so very few buffalo hides tipis exist today. This tipi showed evidence of many patches and repairs as well as hands and circles painted in red pigment. The audio that accompanied the exhibit explained the life of the Indians throughout each season.

The last museum we visited was the Cody Firearms Museum. It houses the most comprehensive collection of American firearms in the world with over 7,000 firearms and 30,000 firearms-related artifacts.

By this time, we were getting a little weary so we returned to the campground for a little rest as we knew we had an exciting night ahead.

After a little respite, we went to the Cody Cattle Company for dinner and a show before the rodeo. We were assigned seats for dinner and unfortunately, we were at a table with four people from Denmark. I chatted with the lady sitting next to me briefly but other than that neither of the others spoke to us keeping to themselves. I’m not sure they could speak English as I never heard them say anything in English. Dinner was beef brisket and/or chicken served with a choice of salad, slaw, vegetables and cowboy beans. It was good but the best part was the outstanding show. The band, The Three C, played a varied selection of old and new western songs. The guitarist was absolutely outstanding and has won several national titles. Watching him strum each of his guitars was mesmerizing.

Immediately after the show, we walked over to the rodeo. A PBR rodeo, it features all of the usual contests: bull riding, bare bronc riding, barrel racing, roping, and others. The rodeo started with a salute to the flag and prayed to our Lord and Savior. What a nice way to begin an evening. Someone had told us to take a jacket as it might be cold and when the wind started blowing it did indeed get a little chilly. Jerry and I have watched rodeos on television in the past but the real thing is a little different. The cowboys and cowgirls are a brave bunch and from the junior contests we saw, it looks like the future of the rodeo is on solid ground.

What a great day!

Home Away From Home, Wyoming

Devils Tower, Wyoming

We got out quickly this morning to go up to Devils Tower. We had been advised to get there early as throngs of people would begin to quickly arrive. Fortunately, we did get there early and got a great parking spot in a pretty limited parking lot. We went to the Visitor’s Center first to acclimate ourselves to the area and learn what we could about the tower.

Devils Tower was the nation’s first national monument proclaimed so by President Theodore Roosevelt in 1906. It is an amazingly powerful monolith whose appearance changes as much as the weather and the time of day. To some, it is a fascinating geological formation. To others, it is a traditional sacred place and still, for others it provides recreational opportunities but obviously to the approximately 500,000 visitors a year it is a very special place.

It rises 1,267 feet above the Belle Fourche River but the base itself is some 4,200 feet above sea level. For someone who lives at 43 feet above sea level hiking can sometimes be a challenge. Many Northern Plains Indian tribes view the area as sacred and oppose climbing on the tower. In fact, there is a voluntary climbing closure in June out of respect for the American Indian beliefs.

We decided to first take the Tower Trail, a paved 1.3-mile easy walk. It started at the parking lot and after a short, steep climb we were on our way around the tower. There are boulders all around, some good for climbers like me. And then, there are the real climbers. We saw several as the morning progressed and watch their progress. We briefly chatted with a few before their ascent. I asked them how long it took to climb – about six hours to go up and about two to go down. I did hear that climbing up took longer but climbing down was more dangerous. I can’t imagine!

The tower is composed of symmetrical columns, some as tall as 600 feet plus and as wide as 20 feet. The columns are 4, 5, 6, and 7 sided. As we walked along the tower changed minute by minute. Each step we took gave us a different view. On the North Side, it was much cooler and quieter. In fact, as we sat and rested we could hear the sound of birds in the air. We never saw any of the animals that live there.

We passed through three habitats – of course, the beautiful lumbering ponderosa pines, the open prairie and then the rightly colored mud and sandstones of the formation. As we walked along we saw remnants of prayer cloths tied in trees and left by the Indians. Out of respect, we did not touch them and they also request no photography of them.

Walking along we were able to gaze out into the valley where vast herds of bison used to live. As they were hunted to near extinction the habitat changed to ranch lands. Cattle ranching remains the primary industry of this area although we didn’t see a sign of any ranches.

When we finished our hike, we went back into the Visitor’s Center for a few minutes and discussed what to do for the rest of the day. Since it was nearly lunchtime we decided to go back to the campground, have some lunch and then go back up later in the day when hopefully the crowds would be smaller and it would be cooler as well.

Note the tall grasses
We left about 4:00 to go back up and hike Joyner Ridge Trail. It’s a 1.5-mile loop trail along the north boundary of the park and then dips down into the draw below the ridge. It’s one of the more scenic but less utilized trails in the park and true to its reputation we saw no one. It’s a narrow foot trail better suited to someone in long pants. We both had on shorts! The trail was lined with wildflowers, sedges, western wheatgrass, and needle and thread grass and it hit our legs nearly every step we took. Occasionally there was a slight breeze that felt like a gift but otherwise, it was pretty warm. The first half of the trail is mainly a walk through the foliage but the last part is a bit more challenging but still an easy hike. When we hit the ravine though we could feel the difference and apparently so could the animals. We were gifted with seeing a large buck with a very large rack. That’s the first buck we’ve ever seen and we have seen more than our share of deer through the years. It definitely was the highlight of the hike although the scenery was amazing as well.

Nearly done!

We finally returned to the campground around 6:00 and started preparing dinner and discussing the route to take to Medora tomorrow. Onward to North Dakota, our 31st RV state.