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Connecting to nature in the Tetons

After going through an emotional start to our trip in the Tetons, I was able to really enjoy the rest of the trip. It was just in time too because there are so many opportunities to enjoy the great outdoors. We took advantage of every minute of daylight available while we were in the park and filled it with putting our boots on the trails. Here's what we did.

Searching for AnimalsAfter tidying up our outdoor “house”, we had our first visitor. The park ranger came by to check on us, make sure we knew the rules of the campground, and chat. He told us about bears, how to use bear spray, and the animal sightings that people had that day. I immediately wanted to go out and see what there was to see --- especially since I just lost all that weight off my back. Want to know the easiest way to lose 30 lbs? Take off your pack.

After we learned about the beavers at Trapper Lake, we decided to hike the two miles to see if we could catch a glimpse of them ourselves. We crossed the bridge of a skipping stream, wandered through the tall trees, and saw the snow caps of the Tetons. There were no beavers in site... just two lone tree stumps at the top of a hill where we could see the lake from all around. After scanning the lake one last time to spot those V's made by a beaver's tail and still not seeing any signs, we chose to rest for a bit and take it all in.

Elk Superhighway

As we were walking back, I wondered out loud if the animals used the hiking trails too. Later that evening, I got my answer. As Tom was putting away our food in the bear bin, I heard him exclaim, “Woah!” Two seconds later, he was walking into the campsite explaining how he almost got run over by an elk --- que music for “Grandma Got Runover by a Reindeer”. Apparently, since there’s hardly any activity on the path during the evening and since it’s so easy to traverse, the elk use it for super quick transportation. We saw them run up and down the way, so it was affectionately named the Elk Superhighway. Whenever one of us would go to put the food away or use the bathroom, we would remind the other to “look both ways before you cross the street.”

An elk can run up to 45 mph.

Day Hiking

The next day was our only full day in the park, and we wanted to make it a full day of hiking. I got to choose between going to Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point. All I really had to go off of was the names; so, out of curiosity, I picked Inspiration Point. I wanted to see what people thought was so inspiring.

We started by heading south toward Jenny Lake. There must’ve been more rain than usual because parts of the trail were under water, and one bench was surrounded by the water that came creeping out of the lake towards the path. The water could be easily crossed by foot, so I was really glad I was wearing my waterproof boots.

A little later, I was mesmerized by the rapids that flowed over some of the fallen logs. I could’ve stopped and watched them for a bit, but Tom reminded me that we needed to keep moving if we wanted to get to Inspiration Point and back to the camp site before dark.

We headed up the steep Horse Trail in the direction of Cascade Canyon, and I was immediately grateful we didn’t keep our campsite at Paintbrush Canyon. While Horse Trail was challenging but doable with my daypack, going up Paintbrush with a full pack would’ve killed me.

As we continued walking into the higher elevation, we saw more snow melt and ice. We reached the turn for Inspiration Point, but found our way blocked. Since it was the afternoon and about where our turn around point would’ve been, it was the perfect time for lunch. I picked a spot for us upstream of the snowmelt. It was the perfect place to relax, eat, and watch everyone try to keep their feet dry while crossing the snowmelt. The adults were significantly more cautious than the children.

Once lunch was done, we headed back to the camp. We chose to walk along the opposite side of the lake on our way back so we could get a different view. It’s always interesting seeing how different things look from the other side or at a different altitude.

As we sat by the campfire and watched the sun go down behind the mountains, we reflected on all the wonderful things we saw. I really liked seeing all the animals out and about. We saw mostly marmots, but Tom got his wish and finally saw a moose out in the wild. One of the men watching alongside us was narrating a video, and I ended up learning more than I needed to know about the mating preparations of the bull moose.

The skin that hangs from a moose's neck is called a bell. Both males and females have them.

left to right, top to bottom: mother marmot, baby marmot, black marmot, running marmot

The only thing that would’ve made the day better would be a little more wind to get rid of the mosquitoes. They’re not really an issue when it’s windy. But when the wind stops, look out! They’ll get you… even through clothing. We were so grateful for our bug nets. I became an expert at drinking hot chocolate without leaving the safety of my net. Unfortunately, I did NOT master the art of using the bathroom without getting bit. Better luck next time.

Keep those mosquitoes out!

Mosquitoes aside, our time in the Tetons was amazing.

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