The Teton Range and a Fort – Jackson, Wyoming

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I like to pose at signs ūüôā

It’s been eleven years since our last visit to Grand Teton National Park, and we looked forward to driving through again while we were relatively nearby.¬† Although the crowds and traffic tend to keep us away from the national parks we’ve already visited (we skipped Yellowstone this time), our early arrival kept the crowds away until the early afternoon when we were leaving.

Our last visit was in the springtime when the range was covered in snow, and we really enjoyed the new perspective this summer journey gave us.

Bison

Bison, one of the beloved locals of the area

We thought of adding a hike to our tour, but the 60-mile drive from our campground at Thayne put us past our usual start time.  Instead, we drove the scenic route counter-clockwise to experience the legendary beauty in a half-day visit.  The spectacular Teton Range with snow-capped spires thrust toward the sky is a beauty to behold from every angle!

In 2004, Steve and his pilot buddies flew over the jagged peaks of the Teton Range in a small plane

At the top of Lunch Tree Hill was a plaque commemorating¬†John D. Rockefeller Jr., who created a controversy when he purchased “the entire Jackson Hole Valley” under a different business name in 1933. ¬†His intent was to donate the land to the National Park Service to bolster the acreage of Grand Teton National Park.¬† While Rockefeller‚Äôs connection to the project was revealed during a hearing, the Grand Teton National Park vision was eventually realized in 1950 with the expansion of the park to include Jackson Hole.¬† The term “Hole” was used early on by fur trappers to describe high altitude plateaus surrounded by mountains.

Willow Flats

Searching for moose at Willow Flats overlook

Moose

As if on cue, mama and baby moose casually strolled out from some bushes for a photo op

Pausing at each overlook along the scenic route, the striking magnificent views and wildlife did not disappoint:

Herds of bison grazed with a spectacular backdrop

It wasn’t just bison causing traffic delays, the cowboys and ranchers have to get around too!

Pronghorn were active that day

We drove out to Colter Bay, where Grand Teton seemed to float on Jackson Lake:

Grand Teton on a clear, cloudless day at Colter Bay

Teton Glacier is the largest of the twelve named glaciers in the park

Mount Moran

Zooming in on Mount Moran, a distinctive dark basalt intrusion known as the Black Dike runs to the summit on the south side of the mountain

A great view of the range from the lobby of Jackson Lodge

By 1pm we couldn’t find a parking spot at Jenny Lake.¬† I jumped out of the car and snapped a picture of the Cathedral Group Towers above the lake:

Jenny Lake nestled at the mouth of glacially carved Cascade Canyon

I was too far away to get a good shot of a nesting Great Heron

During our first visit in 2007, Grand Teton was shrouded in clouds.¬† This time the weather was perfect to see the whole range on grandiose display.¬† Except for the very popular Jenny Lake at the end of our drive, the summer crowds weren’t too bad.

Teton Range

My Peak Finder app named the peaks correctly.  Mt. Moran is the one on the far right, looking taller since it was relatively close to us

On our way home we passed through the crowded and very touristy western town of Jackson.  I captured one of the four dense elkhorn antler arches guarding the corners of Town Square.  I preferred these over the larger one in Afton, Wyoming.

One of the four elkhorn arches in Jackson

At first, I was scared to think how many elk had been killed to gather the thousands of antlers!  But then I learned they simply fall off naturally from animals who grow new sets every year.  Each of these arches is a mosaic of 10,000 to 12,000 pounds of antlers and replaced every 30 to 40 years.

Heading south on Bridger Valley Historic Byway – formerly the California/Oregon Trail

Fort Bridger State Historic Site

We left Thayne the following day and drove 152 miles south to Fort Bridger, our last stop in Wyoming.  Right next door to our campground was the Fort Bridger Historic Site where we learned that Jim Bridger and his partner, Louis Vasquez, established Fort Bridger to service emigrant traffic in 1842.

Human imitating art!

One of the plaques advised that Jim Bridger, the discoverer of Great Salt Lake, was a notable pioneer, trapper, fur trader, scout and guide.¬† He’s been called America’s greatest frontiersman, so it’s no wonder a national forest has been named after him.

Taking a break at a replica of Jim Bridger’s fur trading outpost

The historic site maintains and interprets historic structures and remnants from its 5 eras of occupation, including Jim Bridgers trading outpost, mormons, military, milkbarn/motel, and now a museum.

One of the original stone barracks has been turned into a museum, with artifacts from different time periods in the fort’s history

Officers Row – The Army established a military post here in 1858, operational until its closure in 1890

Unusual officer’s lounging chairs

Black and Orange Garage Camp cabins

The Lincoln Highway drive-in garage cabins were built in 1929 and restored in 2009.  For $1 folks got a room with a garage, but the bathrooms were in a separate structure

Little did we know that the area where we camped Рnow known as Bridger Valley Рserved as a crossroads for the Oregon/California Trail, the Mormon Trail, the Pony Express Route, the Transcontinental Railroad and the Lincoln Highway.  We enjoyed the quiet campground, relaxing and learning some history at the same time.

Both of our stops in Wyoming, Thayne and Fort Bridger, led us off the beaten path to see a natural phenomenon and an historic site which used to be a major stopping point on the old west trails.

 

Next up:  Back to Utah for a week