Monday, November 21, 2011

The Grand Tetons - By Horse and By Foot

By Foot

We had been told by several people prior to our departure that the best hiking trails were those surrounding Jenny Lake, which struck me as a great drag queen name! Being somewhat experienced hikers we chose a 6 mile round trip hike described as having a difficulty level of moderate. It would take us through the Cascade Canyon, Hidden Falls and finally Inspiration Point. Compared to the cold we had been experiencing on this trip, this day the air was temperate and we began our hike under bright sun which filtered through the trees and brush and reflected off the still water of the lake. Chipmunks dashed about the edges of the trail, communicating with each other with their odd, clicking call.

You hear Cascade Canyon before you see it. Through the years the river has cut a gorge in the rock of the mountain. A small wooden bridge affords a birds eye view of he tumbling water.

When you hike you discover that hikers are polite, friendly and courteous to other hikers. Smiles and greetings are exchanged as you encounter others on the trail. Conversations flow easily as you experience the camaraderie created by the sights each of you see and the memories each of you are creating.

As you ascend higher into the mountains you find Hidden Falls. Water flows from a narrow crevice high above your head. The falls widen as they descend to the cascading river. A short distance further and you are at Inspiration Point which affords you a spectacular view of the serene waters of Jenny Lake surrounded by it's mantle of evergreens. Above you are the magnificent snow covered peaks of the Tetons, this day standing in stark relief against the bright blue sky. We have our lunch of sandwiches and string cheese sitting on a rock enjoying the beauty that envelops us.

Clouds seem to move in quickly in this part of the country. As we make our way back the woods on either side of the trail, sun dappled on our way up, have taken on a dark, almost brooding tone.

The one disappointment we had during our days at Yellowstone was that we had not seen a moose among all the wildlife we were fortunate enough to witness. As we are descending, we see a couple we had exchanged pleasantries with earlier standing off to the side of  the trail staring down at a meadow with a small body of water in it's center called Moose Pond. The name is especially appropriate this day as they point out to us a mother moose and her calf edging along the pond before crossing the meadow and moving out of sight. Another couple join us and relate how earlier they had happened upon the same moose along the trail they had been taking. The husband shows us the photos of their close encounter with this huge animal. My partner suggests to me that they are show offs. Actually, we find them to be friendly and interesting. After scrapping plans to visit Egypt due to the recent unrest there, they started out from their home in San Diego and were spending 3 1/2 weeks visiting as many National Parks as they could get to.  As we leave the wife is making sandwiches on the tailgate of their car in true vacation road warrior fashion.

On our way back to Jackson is the Chapel of the Transfiguration, which I had read about online during my advance research for the trip. I had not realized that it was part of a small complex of buildings called the Menor's Ferry historic district. In the early years of the 20th century a ferry crossed the river at this spot. At this late point in the season the buildings are locked and the small ferry boat is dry docked. Aside from the Chapel there is also a General Store. It now sells antiques during the tourist season in it's front section and has a period bedroom set up in it's back half. The store's small outbuildings include a smokehouse, cold house and on outhouse which gives the term primitive new meaning. The outhouse may explain the legendary mean temper of the store's founder.

The historic district also includes the Maude Noble cabin, a log structure where, in 1923, a meeting took place where the preservation of the unique western nature of the Tetons was first discussed. This meeting was the catalyst for convincing John D Rockefeller to purchase several thousands acres of the Tetons and donate them to the U.S. for use as a National Park.

We spent time peering into the windows of the locked structures. My partner rang the church's bell, which hangs in a small western style gazebo on the wooden boardwalk which leads up to the tiny chapel. He took a bow after his performance before we returned to the car and headed back to Jackson.


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