Published: September 16th 2009September 15th 2009
The rain and cloudy weather from last evening was still with us when we awoke this morning. So what does one do on a rainy day in Grand Teton National Park? We began the day with a little drive around Teton Village where we are staying. There are some lovely homes here and even on a rainy day there is usually something to photograph. I found my "something". The Tetons were completely hidden by the low hanging clouds and there was nothing to been seen there but I found a fire hydrant surrounded by daisies. When you are desperate, you will photograph anything.
Our plan had been to drive along the Snake River to Oxbow Bend where there is a lovely view of the Tetons and then go to Signal Mountain. We did take the drive to Oxbow, stopping at a few places along the way but it was raining and although we could see the mountains by now, it was certainly not good photography weather. There were quite a few people giving it a try. We even saw one man atop a step ladder and others juggling umbrellas and cameras trying to take photos. I took a couple of shots
but it was to no avail.
The next thought was to take a scenic drive to the town of Dubois. The route across the mountain through the Togwotee pass at an elevation of 9658 ft was marked on the map by AAA as being a scenic one so we thought that to be a good choice. We would drive to Dubois, check out the scenery along the way and have lunch in town at a little place called the Sundance Cafe. We needed something with the word "sun" in it so off we went. It turned out to be a memorable trip in more ways than one. The road was undergoing some MAJOR construction, by now it was raining quite a bit, the temp was 48 and the road turned into a mud pit. There was a lead car taking us through the construction which lasted for miles and miles. The sign on the lead car said "follow me" and another sign said "no stopping or parking". I was incredibly thankful for the brand new snow and mud tires that I had put on the car before the trip because even the 4x4 truck ahead of us was sliding and
fishtailing in the mud. Our little Saturn Vue all wheel drive held tight to the road and we had no trouble at all. The truck ahead would occasionally spin it's tires and throw mud at us. I took a photo of today's "scenic" drive through Togwotee Pass and laughed when I looked at it later in the day.
After a few hours of mud and construction we arrived in Dubois. It was just about 2pm when we arrived at the Sundance Cafe which was an absolute delight. It was located along a river bank and had both outdoor and indoor seating so we chose indoor due to the damp day. It had been 48 degrees along the mountain pass but warmed to 55 F in Dubois. The cafe had a very artsy decor and good food.
We thought it best to start back after lunch because we knew what lay ahead of us. The Togwotee pass was the only way back to Jackson Hole according to the AAA map. We stopped to top up the gas tank and as luck would have it, there was a Fed ex lady driver also filling up at the gas station. She took one
look at the mud covered car and said "you must have come over Togwotee Pass". I said yes and unfortunately we have to go back the same way and we were not looking forward to the trip. Being a local Fedex driver, she knew of another route known only to the locals. It was a narrow road through something called Union Pass. She said it was a dirt road and not on the map but if we didn't mind a gravel road then we might consider it. She also said that it was very scenic and we could possibly see some wildlife along the way. Well the "main" road was certainly not paved either and the Union Pass road couldn't be any worse so we decided to give it a try.
Although it was a very long 55 miles of gravel road that at times seemed nothing more than a cattle trail, it turned out to be the right choice. The Fedex lady was right. It was REALLY scenic and a lovely trip. By now the weather had changed and the sun was shining.
Wildlife?? Well we did see three squirrels, one very fast deer and a whole lot of
very slow cows which are not exactly wildlife. It was open range country and the cows were just wandering across the path. We passed through forest, along little rivers and streams and through some wide open hilly country. It was absolutely gorgeous and turned out to be one of the loveliest "trails" we have been on. I say trail because as I said earlier it was at times nothing more than a cattle trail. It was definitely the road less traveled and very beautiful. Thank you Fedex lady!!!!
The road eventually led us to a main route and from that point on it was fast going. We saw more wildlife along the main road than on the "Fedex Trail" as it will be know to me from now on. There were lots of pronhorns along the main roadside. We drove into Jackson with hopes of finding a self serve power spray car wash because the car was just a big moving mud ball by now. We couldn't see out of the windows or get in and out without dragging along some mud. We stopped for a few groceries, filled up with gas and inquired about the car wash. It was
This was the "road" that we shared with the cattle.
a few blocks up the road so we stopped in and just washed off the surface mud. At least we could see out the windows again and get in and out without being scraped with mud. It had been a memorable day as I said in the beginning, in more ways than one. Memorable because of the horrible trip out and memorable because of the gorgeous trip back.
The weather forecast for tomorrow is sunny so we've decided to stay here for another night and see if we can do the Oxbow Bend and Signal mountain trip in good weather.