After successfully extending our campervan for another 5 days, we were on the way to Grand Tetons and Yellowstone from Bryce Canyon! Flat tire and no campsite booking on Saturday but everything was working out well. It almost seemed like the world was making it happen for us – Bollywood reference from Om Shanti Om right here!
The drive from outskirts of Ogden to Grand Tetons was one of the prettiest. The landscape reminded me of South Island of NZ, minus the lakes.
We stopped for coffee and spotted a cowboy family! The dads and sons were dressed appropriately and Shruti couldn’t help but snap them from the car.
As we got closer to the Twin National Parks (Grand Tetons & Yellowstone), the hills became mountains and eventually we were seeing the most beautiful mountains I have ever witnessed!
Grand Tetons National Park
We drove towards Jackson Hole which is the epicenter for angling and other sports in Wyoming. The town is at the edge of the National Park. With hundreds of people visiting the area, the town was bustling with energy. What a pity we had to skip the town as we had to rush for a campsite.
Upon entering the park from Moose entrance, we were surprised to see that most of the campsites were full. We hit the accelerator and rushed towards Coulter Bay at the northern area of the park and hoped they had a spot.
The drive was through some of the best mountainous country that we had seen in the USA. In the winter, the place would be in several feet of snow. We went past several lakes before arriving at Coulter Bay. Again what a pity we couldn’t stop anywhere. Well it all paid off. Upon arriving at the campground, we realised that only a handful campsites were available. Alas, we were here and thats all that mattered. Oh and the camp host told us not to leave anything outside unattended as bears lived in the area. What!!!
The first day, we checked out the lake itself, the visitors centre and the facilities. Unlike many other national parks, this place had paid showers, internet and laundry but no shuttle service. Moreover, this was serious bear country. Both Grizzly and Black bears lived in these parts along with wolves, bisons, moose, ploghorns and elks. This was real America and we were quite pumped. We decided to buy a pair of binoculars. But first we had to go get cleaned up.
After being at a few National Parks, we wanted to take full advantage if ranger talks and their knowledge. The first talk we attended was on an American animal sometimes called Buffalo. The ranger was a little nervous as we sat around the ampitheatre. She explained how White Americans nearly wiped out the Bison off the earth. 1000 were saved and now there are 30,000 wild bison. The next talk was about photography in Grand Tetons. We realised during the slideshow, that we had missed the best scenic parts of the park as we rushed towards North for campsite. Bummer!
The final talk the next day was eventful. We scheduled to attend another ranger talk on predator and prey. We reached 5 mins late and the talk was underway. It had only been a second in the talk when a little girl pointed to a bear 50 metres from us. Next, the crowd went wild. Everyone clapping to get the Black bear away from us especially the kids. That had no effect on the bear though, and he kept looking for food. He wasn’t scared which was scary, though he eventually left. Phew!
PS, this was probably the only time Shruti didn’t carry her camera :(
Hikes in Grand Tetons
We did a few hikes in the area. First, we went up a hill in the area early in the morning which would give us a view of the entire region and the mountains. We had been told that there were a couple of grizzly bears in the area. I was shit scared for obvious reasons! We drove down a dirty road to the entry of the trail and started walking up a steep quiet trail. The entire time I was knocking things, making sounds, and trying to make sure we don’t run into a grizzly looking for breakfast.
Once we reached the top, the view was enchanting. At the top, looking east, we could see two elks peacefully grazing in the distance on the paddocks, while looking west, we could see the mountain range in all its might. A true paradise!
We also did a 4 hour walk around the Coulter Lake. It was mostly a pine forest walk with a few lakes, though we lost our way along with many others. The forest was thick, and we were struggling to talk loudly to avoid bears again. However, once the forest opened, the view was picture perfect. The Grand Teton mountains were only across the lake. Incredible!
On the last day, we wanted to see more animals, especially wolves. We had heard from rangers that wolves hang around young Elks. We arrived near the Elk calving area at 6:30am sharp and stayed til 8am but we couldn’t see any wolves or bears. But nevertheless, the massive herd of elks provided enough entertainment!
Later on, we focussed on spotting a bison. We had heard from people that a herd usually grazes at a ranch nearby. The herd was too far from the road, though we could see the iconic American animal with our new binoculars. On return, we again tried to find wolves to no avail.
Finally, it maybe a bit offtrack, but one of the best things about this NP was that there was internet. We could sit there and plan out the next few days while also working on our blog. It provided some downtime so we could recharge our batteries. This NP was one of the prettiest in our trip. We would love to return someday!
But right now all we could think about was – Yellowstone, here we come!