After a breathtaking 4 days in Yellowstone National Park, we headed down south to the neighbouring Grand Teton National Park to meet some very special visitors. Annie’s brother Matt and his Fiancé Jade are on a 2 week road trip through the northern states so we managed to align our schedules for a few days. Credit now to Jade for the bulk of the photos in this post!
Our base to explore would be Jackson Hole, a tourist town which is largely utilised by skiers and snowboarders in winter, and visitors the national parks during summer. The year round attraction manages to keep motel prices around the $200 – $300 mark for a basic room, so Matt & Jade stayed a little out-of-town while we discreetly parked outside the local brewery for a cheap nights sleep.
We enjoyed the luxury of travelling with an expert planner for our time there, as Jade had researched & found the best things for us to do. Our first day we were planning to go for a hike around Jenny Lake, but had been told that arriving at 10 would be far too late (!), so instead opted for the smaller less popular Phelps Lake. Still it looked like we had arrived too late, as we pulled in at 10 the car park only has space for 50 cars, so we ended up queueing for over an hour in what felt very British…
Luckily the wait was worth it, and the advantage of having such a small car park is the 7 mile hike around the like was almost deserted which was a welcome change from Yellowstone. A largely flat hike and with beautiful views on a gorgeous sunny day, we took our chance at a cool down in the glacial lake. Needless to say, walking in wouldn’t be an option in such cold water as we’d all have changed our minds around knee hight. We had previously spotted a rock-turned-diving platform people were making use of so we joined in and took the plunge – except Annie, who was our resident photographer.
After the cool off we hiked the last couple of miles back to the car – slightly disappointed that we hadn’t spotted a bear. We’d heard a few families walking back saying they’d spotted a brown bear on their hike but we had no such luck, until the last 500 metres of our trek when a ‘be careful what you wish for’ moment happened. As we were walking along chatting to ourselves Jade noticed something rustle in the bush right beside her and heard a stick snap. She slowed down to investigate only to come to a jarring halt in front of the three of us.
What she’d spotted was a brown bear – not a large one – about 6 ft away from the path. Bearing in mind you’re told to stay around 300ft away from bears at all time it was a heart stopping moment. It was so close to us that we actually split up into two, Matt & I were behind the bear and Annie & Jade were in front of it. We all whipped out our bear spray and slowly & calmly walked backwards willing it not to follow. It took a few steps forward then stopped on the path, splitting us even further.
Both parties backed away until it was out of sight and when Matt & I came back towards where it had been we saw it lazily loping off in the distance. After this we all became a bit more on edge whilst hiking for the next few days, and never left without bearspray. Apologies for the lack of photo’s of this moment – it didn’t seem like the biggest priority at the time!
The second day followed a much similar pattern, only this time the lake was too big to hike around & then do the hike the other side so the park service operate boat trips across the lake. Another glacial temperature body of water but with nothing to jump off of this time we decided against venturing in. After the boat ride we hiked to ‘inspiration point’, however none of us left particularly inspired especially as the rest of the trail was closed for maintenance.
We then hiked into the canyon – not entirely sure what we were expecting but when we heard high granite stone sides it was a little different in our heads to how it turned out. Nonetheless it was a stunning canyon with a glacial river flowing through it which was MUCH colder than the lake. After 10 seconds of paddling our bones felt cold to their cores! We returned via the hike down and headed off for an early bed – it was a big day tomorrow!
Independence day, a celebration of the American victory over the British was an interesting day to be visiting the USA. The day started with a parade through the streets which lasted about 90 minutes – it felt like every shop in the little town had it’s own float.
After the parade we headed to the brewery to enjoy some local beers in the sweltering sun, and play some corn hole against locals. We did a lot of losing, however Matt persisted and became competitive. We then headed to the main event of the evening – the Rodeo. Jade had booked us tickets before they came to meet us, but none of us knew what to expect.
In short, Rodeo is everything Western you would have come to expect from the movies and more. People riding fully grown bulls for 8 seconds while they buck and shake was the first shock of the night, which was quickly superseded by 5-year-old children doing the same thing!
Following that were people showing lasso skills, incredible displays of speed & accuracy at horse riding and more and more bull riding. One of the highlights for us was the ‘sheep run’, where all of the children in the arena were brought to the middle (around 200 by our guess) and tasked with removing the bandanas from 2 sheep released into the stadium. As you can expect all hell followed – with most of the scrapping being between the children rather than the sheep.
Following a lacklustre fireworks display it was time to say our goodbyes, as Matt & Jade were heading off to Yellowstone the next day. We had an incredible few days so thanks for coming to visit us both, and cannot wait for the wedding!