Day 77, to Grand Teton National Park: Into and onto the Tetons - Chris Cross America - CycleBlaze

July 8, 2022

Day 77, to Grand Teton National Park: Into and onto the Tetons

Grand Teton, with streaks of snow on its top third and bands of green pine trees on its lower two-thirds, towers over the rippling, crystal-clear water of Jenny Lake in the southern half of Grand Teton National Park.
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Friday stats

New stat first! Miles hiked (yeah, we actually hiked today): About 3 miles. This doesn't factor in the climbing. I learned that I may be in very good biking shape, but I'm quickly exhausted by hiking. Maybe it was the heat or the fact that we've been biking so much or the fact that I haven't been walking much or jogging or doing anything besides cycling. Nonetheless, it was a rewarding hike involving a dramatic waterfall, an excellent view of Jenny Lake and the area east of the Tetons, and an incredible swarm of chipmunks.

Start: Hatchet Campground, east of Moran, Wyo.

End: Jenny Lake Campground, Grand Teton National Park

The Daily Progress: 25.9 miles

Cumulative climb: 869 feet

Cumulative descent: 909 feet

Elevation at endpoint: 6842

Ice cream flavors: An ice cream on a stick, covered with chocolate and peanuts. I forget what you call those things. 

Lodging expenses: $77 for today and tomorrow. This includes showers. 

Entertainment expenses: National parks pass: $80. Ferry ride back from the other side of the lake: $24

Food expenses: $44 for breakfast at Signal Mountain lodge, 12 for lunch.

Friday fun

What a full day. We packed up at Hatchet Campground, dodging the mosquitoes, who seemed to be waking up shortly after we did. We scrambled around and met on the road just outside the campground and set off. We had only 25 miles to go today and they felt great right from the start.

We stopped and watched a group of elk crossing a river. We saw the Tetons rising on the horizon. We entered the park and came across a bunch of cars pulled over and people looking at something from a distance, and then we reached a sign warning motorists not to stop ahead of the sign. And then I heard a park ranger say there was a grizzly just ahead and we immediately stopped and got behind that sign. We discussed our options with the ranger and decided to ride alongside a large vehicle so that the bear, if it was still in the area where it was last seen, would not see us. The ranger said the breeze charged him yesterday. I rode with our bear spray in my hand. We never saw the bear, but it was still an exciting introduction to the park.

We stopped at the restaurant at the Signal Mountain Lodge. Delicious. Blackberry French toast and an egg -and-veggies skillet. And real coffee. With a view of Jackson Lake and the Tetons. With classic rock playing in the background, including "Bicycle Race" by Queen. Everything was exactly as it should be.

We rode down to the Jenny Lake area of the park, the Tetons growing larger and more three -dimensional with every pedal stroke — although they seemed so big that they felt two-dimensional until the very end, as if someone had painted them on a giant wall that we were rapidly approaching. Dani pointed out that the way they were formed (tectonic plates crashing into each other, with one being pushed upward and the other pushed downward) meant that there were no foothills, which could explain that feeling that our final approach was rather flat and then — boom! — there are these huge mountains.

Anyway, we reached the campground, got the lay of the land, bought Lunchables and ice cream at the store next to the visitor center and then set off on a hike, which included Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point, where we were outright ambushed by chipmunks who were clearly habituated to humans feeding them. It was a simultaneous overload of cuteness and depressing-ness. Dani and I tried to to shoo them away ("Humans are not good for you!" I told them), but the chipmunks didn't listen. I must have given the stink eye to one woman tho held out her hand to a chipmunk because she said she wasn't feeding them, as if trying to pet them was totally fine.

We took the boat ferry back to the visitor center … and I'll leave it to Dani to tell the end of the story because it's quite late now as I'm writing this.

Dani's notes

This morning we sped away from the mosquito-infested hellscape where we had camped toward the entrancing peaks of the Teton Range.

Soon after entering Grand Teton National Park, we saw a herd of elk ford a river. Welcome to Grand Teton.

A few miles later we spotted cars parked on either side of the road -- a tell-tale sign of interesting animal activity. We slowed down but couldn't see anything and were about to continue on when a man in a yellow vest said "if you go, stay to the right and don't stop, there's a grizzly in those trees."

You should have heard our brakes squeal. Apparently a mama grizzly and her two cubs had been spotted entering a copse of aspen about forty-five minutes before we arrived and were never seen to leave. The man in the yellow vest, a National Park Service wildlife manager, was there to make sure no cars stopped close to the trees. He told us that he could not guarantee that it was safe to pass, but if we were to attempt it, he recommended that we find a motorist to drive slowly beside us and shield us from the bear. And to carry our bear spray in our hand just in case. A woman with a huge Chevy Suburban heard his suggestion and offered to give us cover as we biked past the trees. Luckily, we did not need the bear spray.

Our next adventure was breakfast at Signal Mountain Lodge. It was our first proper breakfast since Walden.  We got a breakfast skillet with home fries, vegetables, eggs, and cheese and blackberry french toast and coffee. It was pretty normal national park lodge fare but it tasted goooooooooooooood to us.

We scored a hiker/biker site at the Jenny Lake campground for two nights, then set off for a hike around Jenny Lake to see Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point. A hike revealed how tired our legs really were. The whole thing was only three miles over moderate terrain, but we inched along while the vacationing masses of America strode by us in their flip-flops. Both the falls and the view from Inspiration Point were impressive. I had fun identifying a new bird -- Swainson's thrush. Beautiful song.

Dani and I smile for a selfie while taking a break on Inspiration Point, which offers a sweeping view of Jenny Lake and the valley to the east.
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Biking past the unseen grizzly bear in the morning was hair-raising, but the real encounter with aggressive wildlife was at Inspiration Point. Here we were attacked by chubby chipmunks habituated to human food. They were cute (chubby chipmunks!) but horrifying (why aren't you afraid of me!?). We had to squirt them with water bottles to keep them away. It makes me sad/angry that humans can't keep themselves from feeding wildlife despite the thousand signs imploring us not to.

No doubt, the chipmunks on Inspiration Point were excessively cute, as I tried to capture in this profile image of a chipmunk propped up on its front legs and looking off to the side.
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But the chipmunks were also terrifying (obviously, I'm exaggerating), but as you can see by the focused expression of the chipmunk in this photo, they meant business. "Give me your snacks or I will climb all over you."
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We took the boat back across Jenny Lake (to avoid more hiking), cooked some dinner, took showers, attended a ranger talk, and chatted with the other folks at the hiker/biker campsite (a man from South Korea biking a segment of the Continental Divide trail -- hard core! and a Dutch man biking from California to Colorado.)

Today's ride: 26 miles (42 km)
Total: 2,880 miles (4,635 km)

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