Let the Grand Tetons aventuring begin!
We woke up early Friday morning (like 6am) and set off in the van from Powder Mountain to Jackson Hole, hoping to get to the Grand Tetons (just north of Jackson Hole) early enough to snag a campsite and set up before picking up The Kramer’s (mom and dad) from the airport that evening!
First things first, we saw a large bull moose about an hour into our drive, which has been on Emily’s must see list for quite some time #score. Otherwise, the drive was uneventful (but very pretty), we listened to a few podcasts and cruised into the Gros Ventre Campground (in the southern end of the Tetons) just after 12noon. And holy smokes, there was a line out the office door of the campground office, BUT… never fear, we were able to snag a non-electric spot and decided this would be our base for the whole time in the Tetons (who needs electricity?!).
Now (just so you know) the campground wasn’t anything mind blowing, no great cell reception (actually it really sucked), but we were 15 mins from Jackson Hole and 10 mins from the airport. Sometimes convenience is key! Since both of us had to work, this was a blessing.
At the campsite we unloaded the massive box we carry on our hitch mount and headed back into the town of Jackson Hole where we found a FANTASTIC coffee shop called Cowboy Coffee. We highly recommend this place if you are in Jackson and need to work… they have great coffee, food, and most importantly blazing fast internet speeds!
After running some other errands in town and stocking up our food supply for the weekend (Kramer’s eat a LOT), we headed back to camp and waited for the Kramer plane to arrive (FYI they didn’t have their own plane).
We waited and waited, and around 8pm we got the call that they had landed, so we hopped in the van and headed to the airport.
Now a couple of important things..
1. This was our first use of our back bench seat while the car was in motion!
2. Yes we planned on spending FOUR days in a van with Emily’s parents (and we were excited!). #bunkbuddies
3. Just so you’re reading that correctly… we were sleeping four adults in a 144 Sprinter for FOUR days 🙂
Cruising into the airport… it was so nice to see more familiar faces, and we buckled them up and drove back to camp.
After catching up for a bit it was time to configure the sleeping situation (Chuck & Sue – bottom bunk / Joe & Emily – top bunk). We had a full day of adventuring ahead of us. And good news, everyone fit in the van and we all slept soundly the first night.
Side note… the bed passed Mom’s (Sue Kramer’s) standard and was deemed “better than the tent” by Dad (Chuck Kramer). Success!
Our First Grand Tetons Hike
The following morning, we woke up slow (we aren’t a morning bunch, except Sue), made sandwiches and ventured into Grand Tetons National Park for the first time.
We decided to hike Surprise and Amphitheater lake (it was just us and about 300 other people). No joke the trailhead was chaos, lucky for us we have a 4×4 so we just backed the van down an incline that no one else would risk and called it good.
The picture doesn’t really do it justice. We thought we might need the 4 wheel drive to get out.
Once our parking was secured we headed up the trail. And after quite a climb we found some awesome views of the surrounding valley and lakes.
Surprise Lake was a beautiful alpine lake nestled up into the Tetons. From there we continued up to Amphitheater Lake where most of us took an icy cold plunge and we all had lunch (sandwiches are good). Amphitheater lake was really beautiful and we had several pica visitors while lunching. After hanging out for a while we decided to start our trek down.
For the number of cars at the trailhead the top lakes really were not crowded at all (which was nice)! We think most people were using the trailhead for some shorter and flatter trails. The one we did was NOT flat.
All in all we hiked about 10 miles and had some pretty good climbing. Needless to say we were hungry and stinky! Lots of those things!
Time for PIZZA
After that long hike, we were ready for some nourishment and headed into Jackson where we had some AMAZING wood fired pizza at Hand Fire Pizza. Emily thought we should order three larges, which ended up being perfect for four hungry hikers. Then we might have topped the pizza off with a quick ice cream cone (or three for Chuck) from Moo’s Gourmet Ice Cream and we were happy campers! Literally.
We cruised back into camp keeping our eyes peeled for animals, but no such luck. So we set up our home for the night and we all took turns showering in our fancy outdoor van shower.
Side note: Have we talked about our shower lately? It is so great, the folks over at Momentum Vans gave us an indoor and outdoor option for showering, and the outdoor shower just can’t be beat. It gets blazing hot and feels so good after a long day of adventuring.
With tired legs we settled into bed and schemed about where tomorrow would take us!
Early Morning Hike #2
Our plan for Saturday was to wake up early (a tough task for most of this crowd), close up the van and drive to the Lake Jenny parking lot. Here, we would make coffee, eat breakfast, get our gear together and decide which trail we should tackle. This turned out to be a great plan as we had no trouble finding parking in the early morning hours, so we just popped the top and had an easy morning. Joe did some tanning…
We were debating between a few trails, one of them being Lake Solitude, which had been recommended to us by friends (and a Grand Tetons ranger). It was pretty long, 14+ miles including a boat ride each way. In the end we decided to go for it (Lake Solitude), and around 9am we hopped on the Jenny Lake Shuttle boat and set off.
Lake Solitude – Top 5 Hike (ever)
The boat ride itself was beautiful, Jenny Lake is pristine and clear, and settled in with the mountains as a magnificent backdrop. Little did we know, this was just the start to one of the most stunning hikes any of us have ever been on.
The first few miles through the canyon were heavily trafficked and had some stunning vistas.
However, once you make the turn at the end of Cascade Canyon nature put on a show!
We hiked through fields and fields of wildflowers, Indian Paintbrush (Joe’s favorite), Monkeyflower and bluebells (just to name a few). Then the valley opened up and you could see 360 degree views of the waterfalls and mountains.
At the end of the valley you have a short climb up to Lake Solitude. A peaceful mountain lake, with icy cold waters (by icy cold we mean fridged) and a dozen fat marmots running about (they are so cute you just want to shake them). At the lake we stopped and had lunch (again, sandwiches are so good), soaked our feet and took a million pictures. The pictures won’t do the area justice it was absolutely amazing!
To share something like this with my Mom, Dad and Joe, made me feel truly grateful. It’s special moments like up at the top of that trail that will stay with me forever.
The hike down we had some nice afternoon light on the peaks and were awarded with more wild life!
Momma Sue spotted some moose tracks in the mud and just up ahead were two moose cows hanging out just off the trail. They didn’t mind us so we snapped our pictures and moved on, we had a boat to catch!
Then further down the trail we came upon a line of hikers stopped on the trail. Turns out there was a HUGE bull moose right in the trail, just munching away. We were stuck, so we took a lot of pictures and just watched him until he moved off the trail enough for us to squeeze past.
After that it was smooth sailing to the boat dock, where we were all happy to sit back and be off our feet. We opted to not make dinner again since we had a long day and were all tired, so we set off into town to Liberty Burgers.
Man oh man Jackson had some great food, maybe it’s because we were tired and hungry, but we had some delicious burgers, sweet potato fries and milkshakes! Joe and Chuck claim the burgers might be the best they’ve ever had…
Day two was in the books and we were looking forward to a low key Monday!
Time for an Easy Day 🙂
Since we nearly killed Chuck on Saturday, we let him sleep in and eat cereal for breakfast. Then we headed into Jackson so the guys could do some work at Cowboy Coffee. And Mom and I strolled around the town and window shopped before we all headed back to Jenny Lake. Again, it was packed but since it was late afternoon people had started to head home.
We went down to the lake and rented a kayak and canoe, and set out for a peaceful paddle. After paddling (not very straight) we ended up on the far shore where we found a small sand beach to pull our boats up on, have lunch, and go for a swim. The water was chilly, but so clear and blue. It was a nice way to spend the sunny afternoon and we would highly recommend it if you are in the area!
That night, we opted for dinner in the van, and dazzled our guests with a gourmet meal of rice, meatballs and salad! Very fancy indeed!
Our Final Day – Rock Jumping
Tuesday was our last day with the crew, but their flight home wasn’t until 5pm or so, and we decided set off and squeeze in one more quick hike around Phelps Lake. This was a nice short hike and we were able to find a big rock to jump off of into the lake! Everyone jumped, except Momma Sue, she took pictures.
From here we set off toward the airport, gave lots of hugs and said goodbye.
OR SO WE THOUGHT.
The Extended Stay
Turns out something on the plane was broken, so their flight was delayed a few hours. Joe and I had just driven into Jackson, so we got the call and headed out to grab them.
Once we were all back in the van, we decided to take a quick drive back towards the park entrance and grab dinner at Dornan’s. The salads here were quite tasty and the deck has a phenomenal view of the mountains. A nice way to send off Mom and Dad.
8pm rolled around and we took them back to the airport for a second attempt. They successfully boarded their flight and headed home.
While we were sad to see them go, both Joe and I felt so much love and support from their visit. Spending time with them and sharing this lifestyle in a place like the Grand Tetons was something special and we will never forget this trip.
Joe and I stuck around the Gros Ventre one more night before heading North to Yellowstone!