Travel to Jackson, Wyoming

Balsamroot bouquets at the Grand Tetons

We got out of Salt Lake around 9:30 and headed north towards Jackson, Wyoming. We went up I-15 along the same path as the day before when we went to the Golden Spike site, but continued into Idaho and then crossed over to Wyoming via US 30 which was part of the Oregon Trail and is marked Pioneer Trail for the Mormons that pulled handcarts through the area. Idaho was surprisingly pretty. US 89 in Wyoming follows the Snake River which is a pretty wild tumbling river at that point. We got to Jackson right around 2:30 and check-in wasn't until 3, so we drove around looking for a place to eat. Jackson is very touristy and traffic and parking is congested. Also there was some road construction. Because it is basically a ski resort town, this is the off season and not everything is open. We wound up getting burgers at McPhails. Susan noticed the waitress said "ya'll" and asked her where she was from. Turned out to be North Carolina where she goes to UNC, but she is working in Jackson for the summer.

Porcupine at Phelps Lake Restrooms

We had driven past the bed and breakfast before lunch, so by the time lunch was over we could go check in. It turned out to be more like a small hotel than an old house fixed up, but that worked out okay because the room was bigger than a typical B&B. After we got everything up to the room, we headed up to Grand Teton National Park (see map) which starts just outside of town (the map in my guidebook didn't show some of the early entrances, but we made it up to the map boundary and Moose Junction after turning around once), but by the time we got to the entrance and found the visitor's center it was almost 5, which is when the visitor center closes.

Grand Teton National Park and Phelps Lake


We went through the entrance gate and paid $25 for a 1-week pass that includes entrance to Yellowstone. Just past that was a pullout where you could take pictures of the Tetons. There were these great yellow daisies (arrowleaf balsamroot) growing in clumps all over the place. After that we headed back out of the gate towards the Laurence S. Rockefeller Preserve for a trail to Phelps Lake. The LSRP visitor center hasn't opened for the season yet, but is pretty new and has environmentally friendly construction. The walk to the lake was reasonably flat, but uphill. We took the shorter woodland trail to the lake and saw a grouse, but no deer. Also saw a couple of ground squirrels (chipmunks, though a slightly different variety) and squirrels which are more tan than the ones at home. The lake is quite pretty and is naturally formed from glaciers that come down the mountains and gouged big divots; then the glaciers melted and made lakes.

Sunset over the sage

At a bridge across the creek we saw a beaver on the other side who ducked down under the bridge when some people walked up. Then at a composting toilet there was a porcupine intent on chewing the wooden siding. You aren't supposed to approach the wildlife, but they aren't supposed to chew on the restrooms either. He had eaten away part of a board. I told him to stop doing it and took his picture, but he didn't mind me. On the way back to the car we took the creek trail and looked for wildlife but didn't see anything. We noticed all the nice wildflowers outside the visitor center including the clumps of balsamroot and purple larkspur.

Anetelope Flats and Mormon Row

Balsamroot again

As we were driving out we saw beavers swimming in some wetlands and a beaver lodge they had built. A lot of people were stopped along the road taking pictures, but we stayed in the car. We also saw an elk at a distance and Susan saw an indigo bunting, that the next day became a blue tanager, and was actually a mountain bluebird. Then as we crossed the Snake River out of the park we saw a moose lying in a field, again with a lot of people stopped to look and take pictures. Apparently there are a couple of moose that hang out in this spot, which is called Moose Junction.

Iconic picture of Tetons from Mormon Row

From Moose Junction we drove up US 89 to Antelope Flats Road Road where you are supposed to be able to see antelope and bison at dusk. We saw bison from a distance and then some antelope heading away from us after we turned down Mormon Row, where some Mormon settlers moved back in the 1800's. They built a few barns that still stand, including one that appears in a lot of pictures with the Grand Tetons as a backdrop. So I took that picture. There was a photographer with a tripod standing there. I asked him when he knew when to take a picture and he said he was waiting for better light, but had been there all day. I took three pictures and left (none of which came out that well because the light wasn't great). Then we kept driving down Mormon Row, which was a mistake because it is a long bumpy dirt road. We should have just gone back the way we came. We came out near the Gros Ventre (pronounced Grow Vaant) River and followed a paved road back to US 89.