Ahhhhhh ... the Tetons. Simply spectacular. Although they were cloaked in a smoky haze from wildfires to the west, so the view was considerably diminished. The haze, unfortunately, got thicker and thicker throughout the day.
First, some history.
Grand Teton National Park is just north of Jackson, Wyoming and about 10 miles south of Yellowstone National Park. it is named for Grand Teton which is the tallest mountain in the Teton Range. The naming of the mountains is attributed to early 19th-century French-speaking trappers (les trois tétons - the three teats - yes, exactly that) was later anglicized and shortened to Tetons. Grand Teton mountain is 13,775 feet tall (more than 7,000 feet above the Jackson Hole valley below), and it rises abruptly from the valley. There are no foothills at the base of these mountains due to the presence of a fault line right at the base. Some of the rocks in the park are the oldest found in any US National Park and have been dated at nearly 2.7 billion years.
The park was established in 1929 under President Calvin Coolidge. It was expanded to include the Jackson Hole Valley and further protected thanks to the efforts of John D. Rockefeller, Jr.
Even with the haze, they are pretty stunning.
So here's what we did and saw.
We traveled along the eastern edge of the park to a place called Mormon Row. It is the remnant of a Mormon settlement from the turn of the 19th century. The Thomas Alma (T.A.) Moulton Barn is the only remaining barn from the settlement. It is reportedly the most photographed barn in the United States. The Tetons can be seen in the background of the barn making for a striking scene.
We then continued north and stopped at a place named Schwabacher's Landing which is one of the most popular spots for photographers to get dramatic pictures of the Tetons with a water reflection in the foreground. Beavers dam up the river to create these ponds that create the reflections.
Continuing north, we went to the Snake River Overlook. Ansel Adams famously took a picture in 1942 of the Tetons from the Snake River Overlook. You can read about it and see the picture here. The area has changed a little bit since then as more trees have grown up. The signage at the overlook says that the National Park Service hired Ansel Adams to take pictures to convince people that the Jackson Hole Valley should be added to the park.
We stopped at a historic area where the J.P. Cunningham Cabin is located. The Cunningham Cabin is one of the area’s few remaining structures from the homesteading era when settlers filed nearly 400 claims in Jackson Hole. It has a sod roof and is a style brought in from Appalachia.
We continued driving north and just before we were to make the turn to enter the park gate at Moran, we spotted what appeared to be several hundred bison in a field in the distance. We found a little gravel road that led back to what appeared to be old ranching cabins and saw that there was a small hill between us and where we thought the bison were. There as a path that led up the hill and headed up to see if we could see anything. At first it looked like we wouldn't be able to see anything, but we continued down the path a bit more and began to be able to see the herd. We slowly and cautiously kept walking forward, but stayed back the appropriate distance. The bison were just grazing and there were lots of them. At one point, we saw two very large herds of pronghorns running at a very fast speed on the other side of the field.
We continued through the park and stopped at various overlooks and then stopped at the Signal Mountain Lodge for lunch. Normally, this would be a great places to get pictures of the mountains over the lake, but by then the smoke haze had almost completely covered the mountains.
We continued around the park and finally got to the main visitor center for the park in Moose, Wyoming. They have a bunch of interpretive displays about the park and its origins and about the wildlife in the park. The center is really well done.
Such a great day despite the smokey haze. We will be driving back by them on the way to Yellowstone in a few days, so we are going to see if we can get a better glimpse of the mountains then.