Every long family vacation must allow for at least three days of discontent. Yesterday we used up at least two of those days between 6:30 a.m. and 4 p.m.! It all started when I woke a certain tween up from a solid comfy motel room slumber in order to snag a campsite at the Colter Bay campground on Jackson Lake in the Grand Teton National Park. Our early-waking boy has been a reliable household alarm clock for years, but it seems that we are witnessing the beginning of some changes to his circadian rhythms.
The next incident was when we exited the motel and walked to the van. I was temporarily blinded by the brilliant sun and managed to walk right into a tree limb at forehead height. Ouch! That left quite a goose egg and put me in a bit of a funk.
Finally I failed my family by finding a less-than-stellar grocery store for breakfast items and sub-standard coffee. When we finally hit the road and head northeast toward Wyoming and along the Idaho border, we took turns being very grumpy, and this sour mood hung like a dark cloud over us all until a while after we set up camp. The mood did lighten considerably when we stopped for groceries and a picnic in Jackson Hole. The quality and range of the offerings were not far off of Wegmans standards, quite a change from the last time we were here in the mid-90s. They even had things like pre-packaged Portobello mushrooms with basil, finely chopped tomato and feta cheese, all ready for the grill and a wide range of fake meat products.
It always takes a little while to feel settled in at a new campsite, so instead of immediately putting up the tent, we took in the breathtaking views of Colter Bay and the rugged Tetons in the background. Then we did the ritual tour of the visitor center and gift shop. We were most impressed by the quality of fresh produce and range of products available in the camp grocery store, including our favorite Greek yogurt, which made for a great lunchtime treat today.
Family peace was restored when we went to the evening program, sang familiar campfire songs, and learned about the history and the biology of the bison. We continue to be most impressed by the quality of the programming. Every park ranger that I’ve met has been so patient and kind, and they deserve kudos for figuring out how to manage the endless questions and occasional inappropriate interruptions from the junior ranger crowd.
We woke up on Sunday to a beautiful sky, and I worked on the omelet and home fries breakfast while Gail went for her first run in a little while. After piling on the calories, I went for a bike ride to the Yellowstone border and back. This was my fastest ride of the vacation, and aside from a 600’ climb spread over 3 miles, it was great time trial material—I wish I had aero bars for the flat sections, but in spite of that, I averaged 21.4 mph over the 37 mile ride with almost 2200’ of total climbing. The return trip was most rewarding, with views of the Tetons and a tailwind, but surprisingly I didn’t see many other cyclists.
This afternoon we went on a three-hour ranger-led easy hike. Ranger Danielle was terrific, and she taught us a great deal about the trees, plant life, animals and the entire web of life in this portion of the park. The bear claw markings on the lodge pole pines were most impressive, and I really hope that we have any close calls with bears, based on the size of the incisions. I’ll definitely be buying a canister of bear spray, since the Tetons, Yellowstone and Glacier are all prominent bear territory.
When it started raining, I raced ahead, since once again I forgot to close all of the tent windows. When will I learn? Fortunately nothing got too wet, and the skies cleared again after a two-hour light shower. A burrito dinner hit the spot, and now we look forward to another evening program. Tomorrow it’s off to Jenny lake and some more adventurous hiking that will take us closer to the big mountains, particularly Rockchuck Peak, which is just over 11,000’ high, weather permitting. The current plan is for me to bike ahead to the trailhead with a bit of a head start. Hopefully we’ll also find a 3G hotspot so that I can upload this blog entry as well!