August 1 - Well, it only took till about 10:30 AM for us to regret having told Kieran the translation of "Grand Tetons" (hint: the name was conferred by French trappers, presumably long deprived of the company of women, upon seeing the mountains from their less rugged western side.) Snickering aside, we are loving it here. I have seen most of the Colorado Rockies, the Canadian Rockies in Banff, the Sierras, the Cascades, and a fair bit of the Alps, but these are the most spectacular mountains I have ever encountered. The fact that they rise 7,000 feet from the valley floor with no foothills helps a lot. That some 4,000 feet of them are above tree line helps too.
It was with some satisfaction that we learned that the mountain named after Thomas Moran is perhaps the most interesting of the Tetons, if not the tallest. It is marked by a 150 foot wide column of basalt from an ancient volcanic intrusion dating back to before the mountain uplift, and capped with a layer of sandstone that also predates the uplift. Its corollary is located some 10,000 feet below the current valley floor, an indication of just how sheer the fault event was that created the mountains.
One issue with Grand Teton is that because the mountains are so huge and rugged, there is a bit of a dearth of activities for those without expertise in technical mountaineering (uh, that would be us). To some extent, this is a wander around with your mouth gaping open park. We nonetheless are doing OK. We meant to start out at the Jenny Lake visitors' center and look into taking the boat across to the trails at the base of the mountains, but the parking lot was about 100 vehicles over capacity when we got there—since it's the main place to go, it's where everyone goes. So we found a completely empty pulloff just a little south of there, right on the paved multi-use trail, and pulled out the bikes. We managed a fourteen mile bike ride, both kids' longest ever, down to another visitors' center on the south side, and also to a well-preserved historic site of the Snake River ferry, which now hosts a little general store selling old-fashioned candy, games, and sarsaparilla.
After the ride we checked out the Teton Lodge, built by John D. Rockefeller, who acquired and donated to NPS a huge chunk of Jackson Hole to augment the existing Grand Teton National Park. We had dinner and are camped at Colter Bay, also developed by Rockefeller.
August 2- We got up at the crack of dark again, this time to catch some early morning light on the mountains. We got some good pictures, but nothing rally dramatic—our pattern of excellent weather precluded us getting any interesting cloud shots. After a morning nap,we took a hike around the north side of Jenny Lake and up to Hidden Falls, the Park's major quasi-backcountry destination—and notably full of tourists who had taken the boat across the lake. My good deed for the day was to strike up a conversation with two women who looked a bit unprepared for a hike around the lake—sure enough, they had taken the boat across and missed the turn uphill to the falls. They would have been quite distressed to instead find themselves in the String Lake parking lot. After the hike we took a quick swim in String Lake, which is fairly shallow so less freezing then most of the other water bodies in the area.
In the late afternoon we took a drive down to Jackson for a great meal at the Snake River Brewery (I had a pizza with chorizo, roasted peaches, chipotle bbq sauce, mozzarella and goat cheese, topped with chopped sage. Something to try at home. . .) And they even had organic brown ale. We spent the evening wandering around Jackson, which reminded us as a cowboy version of Santa Fe. A cool town with lots of galleries and jewelry, but also some more dangerous (for us) stores as well - outdoor stores, bike shops, a really amazing rock and mineral place. Headed back north to camp in preparation for driving across Wyoming on Tuesday.