We broke camp from the Fishing Bridge campground, following the shore of Yellowstone Lake south before winding down out of the mountains along the Snake River toward Grand Teton National Park. Well, I say “out of the mountains” only because we dropped down through some gorgeous peaks and came out in a broad valley beneath the towering Grand Tetons. Even on the shore of Jackson Lake, though, we were still at over 6700 feet elevation. When John Muir wrote, “The mountains are calling and I must go,” I think he had a place like this in mind.
Beneath the peaks of Mount Moran and company, just inside the northern edge of Grand Teton National Park, lies Colter Bay Campground and Marina. After a short, beautiful walk along Lake Jackson, we decided to make this our base camp for exploring the park. Over the next few days we rented a boat, fished for cutthroat and rainbow trout, drove the Jenny Lake Scenic Loop with spectacular views of the mountains, and finally got to have a fire in camp.
On our last night, we backpacked several miles from the String Lake trailhead to a spectacular campsite on Leigh Lake. We pitched our tents, then hiked another mile or so further with our fishing poles to Bearpaw Lake. Just off the trail near the lake, we discovered a pine tree shredded by what must have been a massive bear paw – close to 12 inches from one edge of the claw marks to the other! On the way back to camp, we were extra diligent with the hikers’ bear chant, “Heeey, bear! Comin’ through, bear!” The mosquitos swarmed us briefly at dusk but a good roaring fire and cool night air eventually combined to give us some relief. We ate rehydrated camp meals, finished the evening with s’mores (of course!), and stargazed by the lakeshore.
The next morning we woke to truly amazing views of Mount Moran, Grand Teton, and a whole series of mountain peaks extending north toward Yellowstone reflected in the mirror surface of the lake just steps from our tents. Bridger says that there’s no better way to wake up than to a campfire and hot chocolate but that scenery comes close! After breakfast we hooked packs back down from the bear pole, pulled our food out of the bear box, rolled up tents, and headed back to the trailhead where we loaded up and drove down into Jackson, Wyoming. What a cool mountain town! At the Snake River Brewery, we found real craftsmanship – a metalwork wall piece inspired by a Van Gogh painting (we recognized it from seeing the original in Chicago) and Zonker – their delicious, award-winning stout. The next morning we left it all behind, following the Snake River down along Bridger National Forest, trading bison herds for cattle ranches on the wide valley floor. Next stop – Utah!