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Published: September 22nd 2014
Before diving into our day, a little background on how this trip came about. This trip is a bit different from my previous ones, for this time the traveling party consists of 4 adults - David (technically my uncle, but to me he is just David), Peggy (David's longtime girlfriend), Linda (my mother) and me (the trip planner). David and Peggy went to Yellowstone and Grand Tetons last summer and wanted to go back. After hearing of the things we saw on a previous trip and some things they missed, they asked if we would go back with them and sort of plan it for them. So me, a person who loves to visit our national parks and is a bit OCD and very much a planner, did just that and here we are - sitting right in the middle of the parks. David and Peggy drove to Minnesota last week to visit family and drove over to Wyoming a few days later. My mother and I flew into Jackson Hole last night and our ride was waiting for us when we arrived - the blue truck with the Alabama license plate. One would be surprised how much attention a truck
with an Alabama Crimson Tide tag on it will get in the state of Wyoming.
Today is where the trip really begins. We could not have asked for a more weather perfect day for our first day in the parks. We woke to cool temps, a cloudless sky, grabbed a jacket and took off - to downtown Jackson. We stopped by the Jackson farmers market on the square which they apparently have every Saturday this time of year. We looked, took photos, ate a few samples and then headed out of town. David and Peggy saw a moose and baby last night on the way to the airport so they decided to go back to that area to see if we could find them again. We turned down the road going towards Gross Venture Butte and pulled off at an overlook of the river. We looked but could not find a moose. But Peggy would not give up. She kept walking and looking until......she found one . Not sure if it was the same one or not, but her persistence certainly paid off. We watched the moose for a while, discarded the jackets, travelled through Mormon Row
and then went back to the area of the park known as Moose and down the Moose-Wilson road for our first official hike.
The hike was to Phelps Lake Overlook via the Death Canyon Trail. The hike itself was only 2 miles round trip, but felt much longer (at least the incline felt longer). It was rated as moderately-easy, but we all agreed they should drop the 'easy' off their description. The road to the trail head takes you down a paved road which turns into a gravel road which turns into a rocky, bumpy, pot hole, crazy road. The sign at the beginning states 4wd recommended for the last mile. That recommendation should not be taken lightly. We were on a 4wd truck but the road was no easy task. After finally getting to the trailhead, we geared up and started climbing. It did not take long to see who the slow pokes were. David and I had to stop many many times to wait for the other half of our hiking party to catch up. Along our hike we met a few people and let a few others pass as we were waiting for the
slow pokes. The trailhead had many cars, but the trail itself was not crowded at all. I assumed most of them were venturing a lot further than we were. We passed 2 mule deer on the trail. I walked right by one of them, who was only 20 feet away and looking straight me, and didn't see him until David pointed him out to me. It was also David who spotted the 2nd one. I guess being from Alabama and an avid hunter are good traits when trying to spot wildlife. We reached the overlook after about an hour of hiking and stopping (waiting) and it was absolutely beautiful. We were all impressed by the sight. It was so striking with blue and green water surrounded by mountains filled with green evergreens and yellow aspens. After we rested a bit, we turned around and headed back down in a much faster pace than going up (well some of us were faster). The deer were gone, but more people were coming up taking advantage of 75 degree September beauty.
We stopped at a picnic area and ate a bit of lunch before continuing to tour the park. I
had planned another lake hike, but thought it best to skip it since the first one was a bit of a climb and to prevent us from being sore tomorrow, for we have a 6 mile hike planned. Next we took in the sights of Jenny Lake and took a few side gravel roads. Not all were named and only warned you to not camp, to not make fires and to be bear aware. We traveled down one long road to find that you could actually camp and use water craft at the end of that road - probably the most remote area one could camp and reach via a vehicle. It would be a great place to camp, as long as you didn't forget anything important. No wildlife like we expected, but a nice drive nonetheless.
We drove up Signal Mountain a while later and took photos of some exceptional overlooks. On the way down, I spotted two elk in the woods, so we stopped there briefly. That was a slight redemption from not seeing the deer earlier. After turning back on the main road, we spotted a bull elk in a meadow and again stopped
for pics. It was like a sea of grass and you could only see his antlers swimming through. A few more side roads, a few more pictures and a lot of wildlife searching, we decided it was time to start winding down our day. We drove to Flagg Ranch (located between Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons) and ate dinner (not very tasty, but very pricey). Then we checked into our cabin for the night. We were all exhausted and ready to unwind. The cabins have no televisions, but we were too tired to miss it. They also have no air conditioning - I did miss that. But David and Peggy were so thoughtful and brought a fan for me to use. Somehow they knew I would be the hot one of the bunch. So while they covered up with blankets, I slept with the window open and the fan blowing.
Our first day was a really good day - great weather, an awesome hike, beautiful scenery, quite a bit of wildlife (a moose, 3 elk, 2 mule deer, 2 white tail deer, dozens of buffalo, and many squirrels and chipmunks). And hopefully this is only the beginning.
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