Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Yellowstone Road Trip - Day 14 - Grand Teton NP

“There are no foothills to the Tetons. They rise suddenly in rugged majesty from the rock strewn plain . . . the soft light floods the great expanse of the valley, the winding silvery river and the resplendent deeply carved mountain walls.”  ~Lieutenant Gustavus Cheny Doane, Leader of a small exploring party, 1876

“The Tetons have loomed up grandly against the sky. From this point it is perhaps the finest pictorial range in the United States or even North America.”  ~Thomas Moran, while painting the Tetons from the Idaho side, 1879

“Some day I hope to learn more about the sun and the stars, at that time we shall all meet up there, but for the present I prefer to have the boundaries shown by our familiar rivers and mountains.”  ~Washakie, 1876

The old buzzards and their Fannie Mae are roosting for their second night at the Jackson, Wyoming, Motel 6. They took a day trip (after breakfast in their room) to the Grand Teton National Park. There were reports of from 5 to 6 fires in the area but none were supposed to be of any concern to Park visitors. According to the park ranger at the visitor center, only one was in the park and it was surrounded by a boulder field. From what we understand, boulders don't burn.

We headed north out of Jackson into the park at Moose Junction. We drove up Teton Park Drive as far as Oxbow Bend, turned east to Moran Junction and headed back to Jackson. For you mileage madness players, we stayed on Teton Park Drive except for a scenic loop around Jenny Lake and a drive up to Signal Mountain which was around three miles in and three miles to come back down.

If you go to Yellowstone you should also plan to have at least one day to spend in the Tetons. They are truly majestic and are located just south of Yellowstone.  In fact, the northern border of the Grand Teton NP touches the southern border of Yellowstone NP. Linda kept finding herself humming America the Beautiful as we would round a corner and come upon still another spectacular view. The original 1920 Grand Teton National Park protected only the Teton Range and six piedmont lakes. To preserve valley lands not included in the first legislation, Jackson Hole National Monument was established in 1943 (a stellar year). In 1950 President Harry Truman signed a bill uniting the 1929 park with the 1943 monument thereby enlarging the park to its present size of 310,000 acres.

The largest of the mountains in the Teton Range is aptly named Grand Teton. It towers to 13,770 ft. North of Grand Teton is Mount Moran which reaches 12,605 ft. Mount Moran is named after the painter, Thomas Moran, who is quoted above.

The day was a little hazy which you will likely notice in today's photo gallery. John said it reminded him of the Great Smokey Mountains. Despite that, we think this is the ideal time to come to this park. It was crowded compared to other parks we have been to on this trip but, by all reports, it is a real zoo (of people) in the summertime.

At the southern end of the park is a rustic Episcopal chapel that was built in the summer of 1925. It was built for travelers and is constructed of lodgepole pine, with pews of quaking aspen, both cut in the valley. Above the altar is a plate glass reredos window framing the Grand Tetons. What a wonderful view to have, even during the dullest of homilies! It has other beautiful windows as well, some of them are stained glass. The land for the church was donated by Miss Maude Noble who owned the property during the 1920s. At that time there were dude ranches all around the area and the dudes and dudettes wanted a closer place to worship than having to drive all the way into Jackson. Regular services are still held and the doors are open around the clock during the tourist season.

There are many lakes in the park, the most popular being Jenny Lake. It was named after the Native American wife of an early explorer. She was helpful to the pioneers and when she died (at a young age) the lake was named after her. The lakes were formed by natural dams that were result of the movements of glaciers and the rocks they displaced.

On the trail to Jenny Lake, Linda came upon a group being guided by a park ranger. She paused to hear him explain what a debt of gratitude we owe to John Rockefeller who bought up thousands of acres of land in this area for the purpose of it being preserved forever. This was during a period when cheap and tacky lodges had sprung up all around the area. They would burn down because of fire problems and spring right back up. Rockefeller did the purchases quietly (through his Snake River Land Company) and paid fair market value so everybody was happy. He also bought up lots of ranch land from downhearted ranchers who were tired of the risks and hardships of ranching, especially after cattle ranching reached an economic low in 1925. Eventually, Rockefeller purchased 32,000 acres of land. Then, once he made his offer to give the land away, it took the U.S. Government three years to decide whether to accept it or not. Duh! Even then it took politicians a long time to agree on anything.

Have you ever seen a house with so much dirt on the roof that there were plants growing on it? We stopped at the Cunningham Cabin turnoff where this land was homesteaded as the Bar Flying U Ranch by J. Pierce and Margaret Cunningham in the 1880s. This cabin is all that remains of the ranch but it is in remarkable condition. It is “dogtrot” style, common in eastern states. It consists of two small cabins joined with an open, covered breezeway. The floors are made of dirt that was wetted with water, compacted and swept. The roof has sod on it – how very green, then and now! The Cunninghams could surely win some kind of eco-friendly award in almost any state today. Well, maybe not California, we don't have any money!

The buzzards learned that what they had been calling split-rail fences are more properly known as buck-and-rail fences. They were an innovation of the first pioneer ranchers. This fencing system is named for the X-shaped braces or cross bucks used to support the horizontal rails. The fences are self-supporting and used where rails were easily obtained. Snow anchors the fence rather than toppling them and the buck-and-rail fences are easily repaired. With the invention of barbed wire after 1900, post-and-wire became commonly used for ranchers who could afford it. Later, with dude and dudette ranching and tourism, there was a resurgence in the use of the rustic buck-and-rail fences.

You really get your money's worth today with 85 images in the photo gallery. You can view them by clicking here.

We took Hwy 390 back to Jackson and stopped at an Albertsons to get late lunch fixings for ham sandwiches, along with grapes and bananas.

Dinner was at a unique bar joint named The Bird. John had been searching for a place to eat and was, frankly, more impressed by the wording on their menu than anything else. There was much humor in what was written. You gotta love a place that has the temerity to put a sign up over their bar that reads "F*** Off, WE'RE CLOSED!" You might enjoy reading their menu (a pdf file) which you can get by clicking here. John had a burger called "The Jefferson". It was a 1/4 pounder with bacon and blue cheese. Linda had the "Bushy Beaver" a veggie burger, "The best homemade veggie burger that your hippie tongue will ever taste". Both buzzards had a glass of Spaten Optimator, a really yummy dark beer. Oh, and their special homemade ice cream today was Maple Bourbon. You had to be 21 to order it. Linda and John split a dish and it was marvelous.

Rest well. Short drive tomorrow, but lots to see on the way. Don't know how good or reliable our wifi will be in West Yellowstone, but we'll let you know when we do!

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