On a road trip, the pull to keep rolling down the road is strong, but sometimes when you find yourself in a stunningly perfect place, at just the right time, it’s best to keep still for awhile. A few days before the 4th of July I rolled through the zoo of Jackson, Wyoming, up past the Elk Refuge to a sweet free campsite overlooking Jackson Hole and the Tetons and decided to call it home for the week. It was the perfect spot to ride out the 4th: my dog Dio is petrified of fireworks and from my vantage I could see the exploding stars across the valley at Teton Village, but they were far enough away that the sounds didn’t turn Dio into a quivering gun shy mess.
The fireworks were nice and all, but no man-made display could ever compare with the light show put on by sunset over the Tetons every evening.
Teardrop Sunset with the Tetons
A week’s worth of Tetons sunsets is priceless
Dogs hanging out at the paragliding launch site
I hiked up to this grassy plateau every day, sometimes twice a day.
What a skyline!
Of course, I didn’t just sit around all week, watching the sky. I also did a fair bit of exploring on forest roads east of the Tetons, often driving to the end of the track (I’ve always wanted a vehicle that can take me all the way to the end of any road) and setting off on foot into the Gros Ventre Wilderness. I also made it most of the way up Jackson Peak, the 10,741-foot mountain overlooking the town of Jackson, but the spring snow was too deep and slippery to go for the summit. Oh well, someday I’ll have to return for another week and another try!
Exploring national forest roads east of the Tetons. If your Land Rover is clean, you’re doing it wrong.
Red, White & Blue on the 4th of July
This slippery snow made for hard going up Jackson.
Snowy D.O.G. resting below Jackson Peak
Sitting below the too-snowy-to-summit of Jackson Peak and yet feeling totally accomplished. In the wise words of Pam Houston: “Success has less to do with the accumulation of things and more to do with an accumulation of moments and creating a successful life might be as simple as determining which moments are the most valuable and seeing how many of those I can string together in a line.”
My trusty ice axe came in handy for dragging myself out of hip-deep post holes on the way up Jackson.
Self Portrait with Jackson Peak. I fear it’s time for new mountain boots. My feet were soaked by the end of this hike, even with the gaiters.
I stayed put through the holiday weekend and then headed north, closer to the Tetons I’d been studying all week. One of these days I’d love to take a crack at the Grand, but on this trip I settled for hiking around Jenny Lake and up Cascade Canyon.
The Tetons: the Grand on the left, Mount Owen on the right
One of my most beloved possessions: my Tetons belt buckle!
I left the dogs in the trailer for a few hours while hiking in the National Park. It doesn’t get hot the way a car does and they’re quite safe and comfortable in their rolling dog house. Check out the ride parked behind me! A vintage stretch limo from Yellowstone!
To avoid the crowds at Jenny Lake, I took the horse trail, which runs parallel to the main trail and didn’t see anybody until I got around the other side to where the ferry drops people off at the trailhead to Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point.
Ahhhh Jenny Lake. I was heading for the canyon hidden behind the green mountain in the middle. Mount Owen on the left.
Self Portrait with Mount Owen in Cataract Canyon
Stay tuned for more from Wyoming! For more on graciously sharing crowded trails in National Parks check out my previous post: (Not So) Delicate Arch
On the trail, my mountain legs carried me past dozens of people, families, singles, couples, kids, geezers, all wheezing their way up the slightly sloped trail. People in flip-flops, heeled boots; no water, no supplies. Where do they think they are? At the very least, carry water and wear proper footwear! Show some respect to the sun and the snakes! I have to remind myself to smile, be nice and share. At least they’re out here, out of the car. This might be the only hike they take all year and I can always go hiking alone elsewhere…
Mary Caperton Morton is a freelance science and travel writer with degrees in biology and geology and a master’s in science writing. A regular contributor to EARTH magazine, where her favorite beat is the Travels in Geology column, she has also written for the anthologies Best Women's Travel Writing 2010 and Best Travel Writing 2011. Mary is currently based in western Colorado. When she’s not at the computer she can usually be found outside -- hiking, skiing, climbing mountains and taking photographs. Visit her website at www.marycapertonmorton.com.
What fun, we hike the horse trail around Jenny Lake the first part of June. We waded through slushy snow. Like you, we saw no one until we got to the falls where all the ferry people were headed. We continued on up to Inspiration Point. Quite a climb for us flatlanders.
Jenny Lake, the Tetons, Jackson Hole … such memories of our trip around that part of the States, and marvellous photos, capturing – is it possible? – the grand scale and the smaller belt-buckle cameos.
That opening paragraph is so, so true… and that sunset picture carries a message.
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I love your posts! Looking forward to the next
I will be there in just a few weeks, thanks for the preview!
This is a fabulous set of photos of a most beautiful place. Wondering where you found the free camping, as we might like to follow in your tire-tracks and boot-treads on this one. Happy journeys to you. Carol
Fabulous! Not surprised that you love these places, esp. Jenny Lake. Looking forward to your next Wyoming post.
Love the Tetons. We’re heading there after the grandson’s baseball tournament. Wonderful pics. Getting the itch to head west once again. Thanks for the post. We love the WEST!
Such an attractive place and I enjoyed the diary with photos – how right you are to say that it’s good to stay a while – rushing everywhere doesn’t give time to absorb the beauty of the setting does it!
Beautiful photos as always. I’ll be heading to Yellowstone later this summer and hope I can make it down to Tetons too.
And your end note is so true! I live in Western Montana and see people out hiking completely unprepared, but those numbers pale in comparison to what I see in the National Parks. I feel like they forget it can still be dangerous, or maybe they never knew in the first place.
The summer I was twelve my family took a road trip from Oklahoma to Montana. 32 hours in the car both ways, but we hit Glacier National Park, the Tetons, and Yellowstone. When we drove away from the Tetons, I cried. I have to go back.
If you’re anywhere close to Canyon Village in Yellowstone tomorrow (Monday 7/14), come into the General Store and I’ll happily buy you a chocolate milkshake or some Moose Tracks ice cream! Just ask for Kirsty (between 2pm and closing!) 😃
Gorgeous! I love the Tetons!!
These pics whant me to start my world tour in this moment!
Unfortunately I can’t… but your fotos are spectacular anyway 😀
Can I just say that on top of everything else, I do love that you manage to have nicely polished toes out there in the wild… and I mean that sincerely. Complete sync on that one 🙂
Wish I had known you were going my son lives there and creates art as well. Glad you had a wonderful 4th
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Love Wyoming –(use to live in Lander..) – can you give me details on the location of this sweet free campsite you found?
I generally don’t post directions to free sites on here to keep them from being overused. I found this spot the old fashioned way: by looking. Lots of free land around Jackson, if you know where to look. You can read my post on How To Find A Sweet Free Campsite here: https://theblondecoyote.com/2012/05/22/boondocking-part-2-finding-a-sweet-free-campsite/
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Hi — do you happen to recall what campsite you found overlooking Jackson, from which you could view fireworks? I’ve been trying to hunt one down but your post was the only one I could find that mentioned being able to view the fireworks from a campsite. Thanks!!!