October 4, 2022
Well, “Falling for Yellowstone” would’ve been a strange name for an adventure day happening in Grand Teton National Park! The final day of adventure was here. We packed up the moist tent for the last time (it was a rockstar when it came to keeping us dry the entire trip!), and headed south from Lewis Lake.
Originally we were planning on a seven mile hike circling Jenny Lake with a stop at Inspiration Point, but I was exhausted. On top of that exhaustion was the looming drive of over seven hours from Jackson to get home. So in line with a lot of the best laid plans for this trip, we decided not to do a long hike. However, this opened up more time for exploring some other things, so not all was lost!
First up after getting into Grand Teton National Park was the drive up Signal Mountain, a 7,727 foot mountain that provides some great views over Jackson Hole and the Tetons. There was a strong cloud inversion going on, so this also provided the opportunity to pop out of the clouds and prove to Eric there really are big pointy mountains in this area (recall on the first day, there was strong cloud cover on the summits, so we had yet to see the whole mountains this trip). You can hike to the top of Signal Mountain on a 6.8 mile roundtrip hike, or take the road up and park very close to the summit. The road sounded like a lovely idea!
After Signal Mountain, we turned towards Jenny Lake. Though our hiking plans were cancelled, I still wanted to show Eric what Jenny Lake was all about, even in abbreviated form. And feel guilty about being too wimpy to hike… especially as I saw the clouds beginning to burn off…
We meandered about a mile or so along the lake, taking plenty of photos and watching the clouds lift and more of the landscape come into view. Next up was continuing south to the Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center right after the Moose entrance station. This is a great visitor center with wonderful exhibits, a ranger desk, and a large gift shop.
But first… THE TETONS!
After parking, we made a beeline (after I took yet another photo of Grand Teton) to the rangers’ desk so we could get sworn in as Junior Rangers for Grand Teton National Park. The ranger looked through our books, asking questions. I’m not sure she was use to too many adults, as our answers to the “How would you change the park if you were the superintendent?” question involved answers surrounding time entry reservations (and me joking about an elevator to the top of Grand Teton for the tourists, or perhaps a paved road). But she did appreciate Eric’s answer to rename the Tetons to “Meowtains.”
After our swearing in, we wandering around the crazily crowded gift shop. I knew the passport stamps for the closed visitor centers, such as the Jenny Lake Visitor Center, were kept somewhere, and the cashier pointed me back to the rangers. “Wait, who told you we had these?!” was the answer, so I got to go into detail about the database and website with these sort of things. This ranger had no idea people get really into collecting the stamps, and took it in good stride. Since I was now the owner of a collector edition book, I was able to get that one stamped for GTNP and the John D Rockefeller Jr Parkway. Then we checked out the exhibits, which including a great one on the history of mountaineering and climbing in the Tetons.
Our day was not done yet. We decided to check out the Jackson National Fish Hatchery just north of town. It is free to visit, and pretty much self guided and you can wander around (within reason) on your own. I also knew they had a passport stamp at one time… unfortunately we were unable to locate it, and I wasn’t about to pester an employee to hunt it down.
I had visited fish hatcheries as a kid and have vague memories of watching people “milk” eggs from fish (not even sure that is the correct term), so it was nice to visit one again. Jackson National Fish Hatchery was established in 1950 and raises native cutthroat trout.
Eric and I worked up an appetite, so after the fish hatchery I tasked Eric with finding a lunch option while I headed us towards the visitor center in Jackson, which has the passport stamp for the National Elk Refuge, a place I visited as a kid and where I got to go on a wagon ride and pick up antlers (therefore clearly earning me the passport stamp like thirty years later). Yeahhhh… it was closed (I swear there is a curse against me ever stamping my Blue Goose Passport!!!). I guess I’ll have to try again this upcoming summer when I am back in Jackson for work… so up next was trying to find some downtown parking since Jackson was still crowded this time of year. We had to walk several blocks, and I was so hangry by the time we got to Thai Plate, I could not wait to put food in my mouth and give myself an attitude adjustment! (Full disclosure, traffic in Jackson has driven me nuts since I lived there as a teenager. Too small of an area with too many people…)
I opted to get beef noodles soup (kind of like pho) and a big order of fried chicken and shrimp wontons. Eric also opted for the soup, but made a lot spicier, and an order of spring rolls since my wontons were ridden with gluten. It wasn’t shabby, but definitely not the best Thai I’ve had – I probably should’ve chosen something a bit more Thai and little less pho-ish as I tend to be disappointed in pho-ish soups outside of Vietnamese restaurants. On the bright side, the restaurant is across the street from a stupidly expensive hotel (like $800+/night), and Eric and I were quite entertained by watching the valets and hotel guests and coming with stories about them. People watching at its finest!
After a fuel up as we were leaving town, there was nothing left to do but begin the seven hour or so drive back to Cheyenne. We made a quick obligatory stop the Farson Mercantile for gigantic ice cream cones – it is literally the size of my face! Then it was back on the road until Rawlins when we ran through McDonalds and fueled up for the push through the dark towards home.
We arrived back in Cheyenne from the adventure about 9:30pm, covering nearly 1300 miles on the five day trip. What a long, long day! But was it worth it? Hell yeah! :D. We took to unpacking the car rather quickly, and showering away five days of adventuring before crashing out asleep. The next day we hung the soggy tent out to dry, which so it did in minutes in the sunshine and wind, and I took Eric to the airport in Denver. With that, the last massive adventure of 2022 was wrapped up!