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Day 19: Road Trip in the Time of Covid

Grand Teton National Park

Glorious of all glorious, the sky finally quit leaking, so I took off early to explore Grand Teton National Park. A little geologic explanation about the region: The Teton Range is a 40-mile long section of the Rocky Mountains, known for its stunning jagged peaks which suddenly rise 7,000 feet above the valley below. Ten million years ago, two tectonic plates collided - the mountains shooting up and the valley sinking low. This created a wide, grassy plain in front of the mountains, called Jackson Hole (a hole is a mountain man term for a valley). The views of the 13,000 ft mountains are so unbeatable since there are virtually no foothills leading up to them.

One of the greatest places to get a view of the Tetons is in front of Jenny Lake. Because it is so popular, it is very difficult to get a motorcoach into the parking area, so we usually have to skip it when I’m on tour. My plan for the day was to do the 8.8 mile hike all the way around the lake. Along the way, I stopped for photos of Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point.

Hidden Falls is appropriately named. I heard the rushing water long before I could see it or the falls.

Inspiration Point looks out over Jenny Lake toward Jackson Hole’s sagebrush flats.

So...I have a confession. It makes me sound like an idiot, so I was leery to mention it, but I feel it’s another all’s-well-that-ends-well cautionary tale.

When you hike in the Rocky Mountains, you’ll always see signs warning about the local bear population. They always encourage people to pack bear spray. Unfortunately, I hadn’t picked any up, yet. I was going to get some at the Visitor Center that morning, but they weren’t open, yet, when I started out. I figured it would be okay since Jenny Lake trails are super popular. Sure enough, there were lots of other people on the trail to the falls and viewpoint. Where I got into a little trouble was when I decided to continue on the Horse Trail past Inspiration Point since that is the one that continues all the way around the lake. I didn’t see anyone on that trail for about 15 minutes.

At one point the bushes about 10 feet in front of me started rustling violently. It definitely wasn’t the wind, it was Jurassic Park level tree shaking. I don’t know if it was a bear since I never actually saw fur - but I do know that whatever it was had MASS. Now, I give animal safety talks to my guests every trip where I diligently relay the National Park Service recommended guidelines of staying 25 yards away from buffalo & elk and 100 yards away from bears & wolves. I was currently a measly 10 feet away from whatever was in the bushes.

The first thing I did was stop walking and yell, “Hey! Hey!” And then started to clap my hands. The shaking moved on through the woods until I could no longer hear whatever it was moving around. I took a deep breath and swore to myself I was going to buy bear spray at the next shop I passed.

Before moving on, I pulled out the little, hot pink pepper spray I carry in my backpack. I know it doesn’t stop bears, but I figured if I was going to be eaten by a wild animal, the least I could do is add some seasoning. About three minutes later, I finally encountered some hikers going the opposite direction. The first thing they asked was, “Did you see the bear?!” Fudge. Yep - I guess I did “see” a bear.

After the hike, I was pretty worn out and starving, so I treated my BBQ dinner. When in Wyoming, you gotta have beef. :)

I tried to get a BLM campsite for the night, but all the ones in the valley were full. Of course, there’s lots of places to pull over to stop for a photo, but all of them have no camping signs prominently posted. Fortunately, while I was on one of the back roads looking for a BLM site, I did come across one pull out which didn’t have a sign. I looked around to see if it had been knocked over, but I didn’t find one. Well, well, well - looks like I had plausible deniability for the night. I practiced my best eyelash bat and “I’m sorry, officer, I didn’t see a no camping sign, so I figured it was okay.”

The view from this pullout was out of this world. I popped the hatchback, made dinner and soaked it all up.


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