See the rugged snow-covered peaks stretching up towards the heavens above. The lake valleys that reflect those mountains and are surrounded with wildflowers in the spring. Imagine the wildlife; elk, bear, moose and wolves. The crisp morning air, fresh and energizing. The Grand Teton Mountain range is exactly that. I haven’t seen many mountains in my life but so far I have yet to find any that are more majestic and magical than these.
A Hot Air Balloon Ride in the Mountains
Steve had mentioned that he wanted to go on a hot air balloon ride. I decided to set up a surprise trip for him with the Teton Balloon Flight Company, located in Driggs, Idaho. Not only was Steve surprised but we had a wonderful time. The pilot was friendly and very knowledgeable of the area. He explained a little bit of the history of the mountains as well as local legends. We had a little bit of a rough landing (we were excited about it) because the wind speeds picked up but he prepared us for it and we landed safely. Afterwards, the company provided us with champagne as is tradition since one of the first hot air balloon flights. Reservations are required in advance.
Rafting the Snake River
While the hot air balloon was Steve’s favorite activity of the trip, mine was whitewater rafting on the Snake River. What a way to experience the mountains, traveling through the waterways. We went with a company in Jackson Hole called Sands Whitewater and Scenic River Trips and were very happy with the trip. We were placed in a raft with two other groups, totally seven paddlers plus a guide. Steve and I have never been whitewater rafting before so this was an entirely new experience. The Snake River was an excellent first trip. The rapids were challenging and we were soaked by the end. There were also breaks between rapids to allow us to enjoy the scenery. We did not make reservations in advance.
Who wouldn’t want to drive to the summit (or near summit) of a mountain? Signal Mountain offers incredible views of plains, the snake river, forests and other mountains. It was about a 5 mile drive from the base to near the summit and was easily accessible. The scenery on the way up wasn’t bad either. After enjoying the views in the day time, we decided to come back at night to admire the sky. We were in the for a surprise. The night sky from Signal Mountain is incredible. The amount of stars was unbelievable. And the milk way! It starkly contrasted with the surrounding stars and the night sky. We were able to make it up the mountain before the moon rose and it was one of the best night skies I have ever seen.
While we were watching the stars, we were able to see the moon rise. Now that was a sight. We couldn’t figure out what was on the horizon at first as it was this fiery reddish orange color. As it rose above the horizon, the color began to fade but I have never seen anything quite like it.
A Picnic at Jenny Lake
Tucked in the wilderness surrounding Jenny Lake are picnic areas. We stopped at one spontaneously that was close enough to the road for us to see the parking lot but far enough away to give privacy at the picnic tables. We made and ate our dinner while watching the sunset over the mountains and the lake. It was a very peaceful experience. Remember that you are in the wild still and to be cautious. We didn’t see any bears but we had a Squirrel that kept trying to steal our food. There are bear proof containers provided in the parking area.
We were in the Grand Teton National Park for a week and stayed in two places; Colter Bay Village Cabins and Colter Bay Village Campground. The nice thing about it is that we were close to groceries, laundry and showers but still far enough away, especially when camping, to have our privacy. We didn’t do any back country camping. We loved our cabin; it was one room with a private bath. The campground was also pleasant, with large sites so we could set up well away from any neighbors. Keep in mind too that this area is filled with hikers, so at least while we were there, the campground was most active first thing in the morning.
Activities aside, my favorite part of the Grand Teton’s was the wildlife. We didn’t see the Bison like we saw in Yellowstone nor did we see any wolves or coyotes. We did see numerous Elk (adults and young), a wide variety of birds, a few beavers and a black bear and much to my happiness, a moose! We spent the majority of our trip out west looking for a moose, just for me so I was particular excited about the opportunity to see one of these amazing creatures in the wild. Please remember that no matter the wildlife and no matter where they are, they are still wild and need their space.