“Blame it on the Tetons, yeaahhh…”
The Modest Mouse song instantly rushed into my head as I rolled into Grand Teton National Park. I found it on my phone, rolled the windows down and sang aloud. I knew I would be content just to stare at the still snowy and ever-jagged peaks for a few days. I had no agenda other than camping with a view, working a bit with wifi in Jackson Hole, and hopefully seeing some wildlife.
The trip did not disappoint.
On my way into Jackson from camping just south on Granite Creek near the hot springs (a highly recommended overnight stay! Read more here.), I found Cowboy Coffee, where I could get a cup of joe and some food while catching up on a few hours of work. It was the prefect little spot, nestled right in the center of downtown.
I later ventured into the park, where I saw a black bear grazing aside the road within minutes of my arrival. Success! I thought. I could already leave happy.
It was too late in the day to snag a campsite at the parks best tent-only campground, so I drove north to Coulter Bay and got one of the last ones available. To my disappointment, it’s only view was of the restroom, but I was surprised that just a short walk from the campsite led me to a rocky beach with uninterrupted views of the northern Tetons. I walked the beach until I found two trees (barely) strong enough to hold Elvis and I in my hammock and watch the stormy sky settle over white peaks.
After breakfast and coffee the next chilly morning, I crossed my fingers and drove back south to the Jenny Lake campground, and I’m pretty sure I scored the best site in the whole place, with a direct view of the Grand Teton from my tent door. A bull elk visited the campground that evening, and we were warned there had been frequent bear visits, as well as nightly prowls from the shoe-stealing fox. “Keep your shoes inside your tent,” warned the camp host, or it might wind up in the forest. “He’ll leave you with one though!” he would laugh as he drove away in a 4×4 with his sweatered and shivering Boston Terrier.
I was fortunate enough to see a baby moose eating along a back road, trying hard to gather the branches that were way too tall for him to reach. I saw several other moose in the park, as well as an unexpected one on a hike outside of the small town of Wilson. Elvis and I were hiking (since he’s not aloud on the trails inside), and as we descended the hill, I locked eyes with a ginormous moose. Let me tell you, they look bigger when you’re on foot, unprotected except a 35-pound guard dog who’s completely oblivious. She was only about 50 feet away, and watching my every move. Fortunately, the trail went in the opposite direction and we escaped unscathed.
Two nights of s’mores over the campfire with friendly neighboring campsites (a young married and newly pregnant couple, and a family of three from the U.K.) later, I decided it was time to move on. Upon saying my goodbyes, I told Sam, the guy across the way, that I’d be so happy to see a grizzly bear and a buffalo – two animals I’d yet to see in the wild – to make this trip complete.
I got an early start, packed up camp after a wet night, and drove toward Yellowstone. The plan was to cut through the southwestern corner, stopping somewhere between here and home for one final night of camping. And, as if had Mother Nature listened to my desire, I saw a mama grizzly with her two cubs right near the main road in Teton Park. They backed up traffic for miles (which is why I don’t have a photo, sadly), everyone giddy with the rare site, myself included.
Check one off the list.
Upon entering Yellowstone, one quickly realizes just how big the park really is. It takes forever to get from one point to the next, and I knew I’d need to give it several days of justice at a later date. For today, I thought I’d just drive through in search of wildlife and within the first hour I’d seen my first buffalo, followed by a heard of about 50.
You could say I’m one happy camper.
Twin Falls, Idaho was my hopeful destination for the night, about halfway home, until I walked into a gas station restroom and my first thought was, “Wow, this bathroom smells better than I do…” and I knew it was a better decision to push all the way home. I’d already spent several hours in the car, smelling myself (a mixture of campfire smoke and body odor), mixed with campfire clothes, a wet tent, and a dirty dog. Let’s just say setting up camp again was the last thing I felt like doing.
I’ll blame it on the Tetons.