Wyoming: Grand Teton National Park, finally...kind of.
After 2.5 weeks of technical difficulties, our trip was officially up and running on July 18, 2018! We waved goodbye and hit the road; destination: Tetons. We decided to weave our way up through Colorado to hit a state bucket list item on our way out, Rifle State Falls. I'd had my eye on this place for a while (thanks, Pinterest) and was pretty excited to see if it lived up to the idea in my head.
We leashed up the puppers and hiked a short trail that lead to the top of the falls, which is a triple, 70 foot waterfall. The trail allows you to cross over the top of the falls and down the other side, where you'll find multiple sections of small caves to check out. A few are large enough to duck or climb into, and the general feel of the area was reminiscent of the jungle in Costa Rica.
Once you reach the base of the falls, there are side trails that will also lead you up behind the falls for a mistier approach. The park allows camping and was a great stopover on our way out of town.
The next day we made our way out of Colorado, through Utah, and up into Wyoming. Ah, Wyoming. Wind, plains, and broken glass. The broken glass is so abundant we've concluded that it must be the state plant of Wyoming. That said, I'll take free camping where I can get it.
For those of you who don't know, in early fall 2017 Tim and I took a dog-free vacation and went up to the Tetons and Yellowstone. We did Yellowstone first and spent a few days searching for all the wildlife we could find in the quiet morning hours and shoving our way through hoards of tourists to see all the other attractions during the day. We enjoyed ourselves, in spite of the growing presence of wildfire smoke from the fires burning in Montana. Sadly, by the time we made it down to the Tetons, the smoke was so thick that the mountains were completely obscured. We ended up heading home early, rather disappointed.
Therefore, even though this was our second time in the park, it was our first time actually seeing the peaks. Consensus: They. Are. Awesome. So craggy and majestic.
Since we arrived on a Friday evening, all the campgrounds were full. Good thing we had an insider tip for a bit of boondocking in the Tetons! (Thanks, Shannon). We headed east from the Moulton Barn and discovered we certainly weren't the only ones in on the secret. Luckily, there was enough room to cozy on into a spot and settle in for the night, mountain view and all.
The next morning we nabbed a spot at Colter Bay Campground and spent the morning puttering around in the rain, crossing our fingers that the weather and haze would move out for our big hike the next day. In the afternoon we headed into Jackson Hole to check out the town and drop the dogs off for their overnight stay.
The next day we got lucky—most of the haze from this summer's fires moved out overnight and we took the first ferry out of Jenny lake around 7am to hike to Lake Solitude. Pro tip—they give a morning discount for paying in cash!
The trail up through Cascade Canyon to Lake Solitude is about 15 miles and just over 2,600 feet of elevation gain. It was our longest hike to date, and by far the best. It was worth every step, including the ones I felt for days to follow. I cannot stress enough how amazing this hike is. As you hike along the river on the way up you keep thinking “This is a really nice hike.” Then, you reach a certain point, turn around and realize... “This is most amazing vista I've ever seen.”
It's like every time we turned a corner the views were more spectacular.
The trail leads up through fields of wildflowers and cascades and ends with a glacial lake and stunning views. And marmots. All the marmots.
And impromptu snowball fights. :)
The view at the top was just spectacular. The lake is entirely fed by the snow melt, as evidenced by the melting snow fields dotting the valley. It was the perfect place to lay back, close your eyes, and listen to the sounds of nature.
Tim though, is apparently into cryotherapy, and decided to take a wee plunge into the lake. Twice, since the first time I didn't focus the shot correctly :)
Best part of the hike back down, a new set of views. We exchanged what was in front of us for what was behind us and it was no less breathtaking, perhaps more so.
On our way down we decided that our hike would only be made better if we were able to see a bear. We've been lucky enough to see a lot of the other big game animals, but the bear was still eluding us. About two thirds of our way down the mountain we came around a bend and BAM!
A giant bull moose casually walking up the trail towards us. This was both awesome and terrifying. Statistically, you are more likely to be killed by a moose than a bear. As I am “calmly” making my way back up the trail away from the moose, Tim is trying to get himself killed by taking photos and falling in ditches. Luckily for us, the moose decided to make his way off the trail and disappear. Private moose showing, check.
As we got closer to the end of the trail, whisperings of a bear started to make their way to our ears. With hope in our eyes, we took off running. If there was a bear, we were going to find it. And we did. He was just on the other side of the river peacefully munching on grass and letting us take all the photographs we wanted, before gliding into the water and swimming away. Lake Solitude Trail: Officially the best ever.
Later that evening, we made our way over to Moulton Barn hoping to capture a version of the iconic shot. Unfortunately, there was too much haze (again with the wildfires) for a spectacular sunset. I'm sure Tim is disappointed, as he seems to be whenever there is a cloudless sunset, but he was still able to manage this shot:
Looks like we will have to come back in the cold months, when wildfire smoke is a near impossibility. Maybe with some fresh snow on the ground :) Although our time in the Tetons was rather short this trip, there was no shortage of smiles and amazement. The bar was certainly set high for the rest of our trip.
Next stop, Montana.