Arriving In Jackson Hole
First, let me set everyone straight on exactly what “Jackson Hole” is. It is a valley about 50 miles long. The main population center in this valley is the city of Jackson, Wyoming. There are several other towns in the valley, ranging in size all the way down to a few buildings and a stop sign.
One of the reasons we decided to come to this area was that here was another “friend I’d never met,” a wonderful man by the name of Don Cushman. Don is the person who encouraged me to come there, and told me it would be better to come in September rather than July, because the weather is nicer, many of the tourists have gone home because school is in session, but all the parks are still open, not yet having closed for the winter.
Don retired from being the director of the Jackson Hole Community Band a few years ago, but still played with the group. Besides this, his day job, from which he has also retired, was as a Park Ranger in Grand Teton National Park. Wow! Talk about a gold mine of local knowledge.
As we approached Jackson Hole, I called Don and told him we figured to arrive at our AirBNB about 5PM. Don said that if we weren’t totally travel-weary, he thought it would be better if he could show us Grand Teton National park this evening, because the weather right now was good, but it was expected to cloud up over the next several days. It’s much better to see the park when there are fewer clouds to hide the mountains.
Our First Tour of Grand Teton National Park
We arrived at our AirBNB about when we expected. This BNB was simply a room in someone’s home, but I’ll tell more about that later. We unpacked the car enough to empty the back seat so Don would have a place to sit.
Don arrived about 5:30 (as near as I can remember – it’s been a while between then and when I’m writing this), and we loaded up and headed into the park.
Needless to say, the view of the Tetons was magnificent.
Don told us the mountain range is the Tetons, but there is only one GRAND Teton, so it is incorrect to refer to “The Grand Tetons” in the plural.
In this first tour of GTNP, we saw a juvenile moose bedded down in some swampy area,
we used Don’s 12-power gyro-stabilized binoculars to see a bull elk we could hear bugling on a mountainside more than half a mile away, then we saw a herd of cow elk grazing, and we saw some deer in a pasture.
We also went out Whitegrass Ranch Road, where Don said he had often seen and heard elk bugling, but unfortunately, there were no elk to be found this time. Here we are at that location:
Thanks to the magic GPS included with modern phone cameras, you can see the exact location where this picture was taken on Google Maps by clicking here.
We then went to see The Episcopal Chapel of the Transfiguration. Don told us a lot of information about how the founding preacher came to build the chapel, but I was running on information overload, and much of that information just didn’t stay with me.
The next two pictures show the chapel, and what a magnificent view there is from inside it.
I understand there are still services held there on special days.
By then, it was well past suppertime, so we went to a restaurant Don knew about, I think in the little town of Moose, but the place was so crowded, with people waiting to get in, that we just left and headed back to the city of Jackson.
When we got back to Jackson, Don steered us to a barbecue restaurant that was quite good (we love barbecue!), then we went back to our room in the AirBNB house and settled in after a very long day.
The next day, we slept in a bit, then drove to downtown Jackson, where we parked the car and walked around the town a bit.
Jackson is one of those towns that caters to active tourists, like Gatlinburg. There are dozens of shops offering some rather high-end merchandise, leather goods, clothing, fudge, and quite a few art galleries as well.
I was quite impressed with the quality of several of the art galleries, and even more astounded at their prices. I could have easily spent more than $200,000 in one of those galleries and still not walked out with everything I liked.
I wanted to take all kinds of pictures of a couple of the galleries, but gallery owners tend to get a bit upset when they see people taking pictures of their artwork.
As we walked around the town square, we got a closer look at the arches Don had pointed out to us the night before. There is one of these arches on each of the four corners of the square in the center of the town.
These arches are made out of – believe it or not – ELK antlers. As you may know, elk shed their antlers every year, a number of months after rutting season is done. People would gather up these shed antlers and bring them in to make up these arches. Here’s a closer look at the base of an arch:In this picture, you can see the individual antlers.
Grand Teton National Park – Again
That afternoon, we drove to and through Grand Teton National Park again. We did a lot of hiking on trails, and I took a ton of pictures, but I’ll only share one more of them right now:
This is Jenny Lake. You can click on this photo for an enlarged view if you like.
The Jackson Hole Community Band
We got back from our driving and hiking sojourn in GTNP in time to meet Don and several other leaders of the Jackson Hole Community Band for dinner before their evening rehearsal.
We had a good meal and a good time exchanging experiences and information. I could have sat and chatted with them for several more hours, but they had to leave to get to their rehearsal.
The next day, we got up at zero-dark-thirty (literally), and were able to drive the nearly two hours north to the southern entrance to Yellowstone National Park, arriving there just at daybreak which happened about 7AM that day.
As an overview, we entered the park at West Thumb, and made the south loop in a counterclockwise direction. Above is a map of Yellowstone so you can get a rough idea of which way we went.
There had been a very serious forest fire in the mountains south of Yellowstone the previous week, and the direct road from Jackson to Yellowstone had been closed all week because of smoke. We were afraid we would have to go around through Idaho to get into Yellowstone, a 3+ hour drive. However, Don texted us about 9:30 the night before, and told us the road was now open! Hooray. So we were able to go the direct route and save a few hours of driving.
Even so, we went through areas where the forest was burned out, where there were still trees smoldering and smoking, and several spots where small fires were still burning.
I know this is a necessary part of forest ecology and preservation, but it is sad to see, nevertheless.
I’ll spare you the first-time-tourist-in-Yellowstone narrative. However, here are a few pictures we took while there. Click on any image to see a larger version.
It was after dark when we got back to our AirBNB. It was a very long day, but it was worth it.
LEAVING JACKSON HOLE
The next day, we had come to the end of our time in Jackson Hole, and it was time to head back home.
That portion will be continued in the next segment of this travelogue.