Wednesday, February 20, 2008
Windows with a View -- Grand Teton Mountains
Rising 13,770 feet, the jagged, snow-covered peak of the Grand Teton Mountain is an amazing sight to behold. Link that impressive peak to nearby Mount Moran (at 12,605 ft.) and a number of other slightly smaller mountains, and you have a 45-mile range of mountains that fill the horizon from end to end.
The Grand Teton National Park is unique among national parks. The star of the show in this park -- the spectacular mountain range – is visible from almost any spot within the park. That’s saying a lot considering the park covers 485 square miles.
The photo with this article is one of my favorites from our recent trip to Wyoming. This "window with a view" is in The Chapel of Transfiguration, which sits in a valley with one of the most beautiful views in the world – the Grand Teton Mountain range. The cross planted in the center of this amazing view reminds me of how God is the center of all things, and how all things are held together by His great power. "For the earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof," I Cor. 10:26.
Grand Teton National Park stretches from just above the town of Jackson at its southern tip, 45-miles north to the entrance of Yellowstone National Park. Entrance fee is $25 per car and is good for seven days. There is ample lodging available in Jackson, and also within the park. Moose Visitor Center, not far from Jackson, is open year round, 8-5 p.m. (307-739-3399). Be aware, however, that heavy snow can be expected from early November through the end of March. We were there May 27, and it was cool – a great time of year to visit.
Recommended Things to See and Do in the Park (listed north to south):
(1) Jackson Lake Lodge: Located just northwest of Jackson Lake Junction. The Lodge has 60-foot tall picture windows in the huge lobby, with amazing views of the beautiful mountains beyond the lake. The lobby has numerous comfy sofas and chairs, fireplaces, and lovely paintings of the wildlife where you can relax and enjoy the view. There are also restaurants, coffee shop, grill, and gift shops in the Lodge. It is pricey to stay there (around $275. If you can afford it – go for it!), but you can certainly pop in for the incredible view and perhaps a meal.
(2) Signal Mountain: Signal Mountain Summit Road is a five-mile road that circles the mountain and takes you to a scenic area 800 feet above the valley floor. It’s very windy on the summit, but the view is amazing. The entire mountain range spreads from one end of your horizon to the other, with Jackson, Leigh, and Jenny Lakes in the foreground. A helpful note: Just as in the old days when the mountain was used for the lighting of a signal fire (hence the name "Signal Mtn"), these days it still provides a signal – for cell phones that is. It’s the best place in the surrounding area to get a signal.
(3) Jenny Lake Scenic Drive and Scenic Overlook: This is a 3-mile, one-way drive along the shoreline, with only one scenic Over-look, which is easy to miss. Pull into the parking area and walk along a stone pathway to view the stunning "Cathedral Group Turnout" which rises above the lake. This is a close-up view of majestic rocky mountains that are almost too amazing to be real.
(4) Hidden Falls: Curve to your right as you come to the end of Jenny Lake and park at the far end of the Jenny Lake Visitor Center lot. You have three choices here: either walk the Cascade Canyon trail to Hidden Falls (2 miles each way-free), or take the shuttle boat across the lake, with a ½ mile hike ($9 adult, round-trip), or mix the two modes of transportation. The last ½ mile is a rocky, mostly uphill walk. The trip is a neat experience and well worth the effort. You are at the base of the Teton mountains, among the rocks and trees with a mountain stream rushing along beside you. At Hidden Falls, there is a gushing waterfall tucked away on the side of a mountain – quite lovely. You also pass an enormous rockslide area. Altogether, the jaunt took around 2 hours.
(5) Chapel of the Transfiguration, and Menors Ferry and Homestead: These two places are reached from the same parking lot, just north of the Moose Visitor Center. There is a short path to the small, rustic Chapel (ca 1925), that features not only the amazing view, but also lovely stained glass windows, peace, and inspiration. A slightly longer path in the opposite direction leads to the simple, whitewashed log homestead of Bill Menor, built in 1892. I sat in a rocking chair on the plank porch enjoying the pungent fragrance of woodsmoke, and gazing at the same spectacular view Bill had enjoyed – the Grand Teton Mountains to my right, and the fast-running Snake River to my left. Inside, the docent had the big, black wood stove fired up, providing heat for the interior that still has no electricity. There is a small museum (free), and a gift shop inside. During peak season, visitors can ride a replica of Menor’s Ferry, that was used to take people from one side of the Snake to the other.
(6) Antelope Flats Road: When you get to the junction of Teton Park Road with Highway 26/89, turn left, then right onto Antelope Flats Road. Drive about a mile or so, and you will probably see wild bison grazing in the fields. An old, plank barn sits to the right. This is a favorite photographers spot for snapping pictures of the barn with the mountains in the background. You can end up capturing your very own "postcard" picture.
The town of Jackson, at the southern edge of the Park, is an authentic western town (although they do obviously cater to tourists) and the perfect place to find lodging. We stayed at the Sundance Inn, which is in a great location on Broadway (888-478-6326). The motel is not fancy and the rooms are small, but it was clean, convenient, and the price was right (less than $100). The owners are friendly and provide a great continental breakfast. On the morning we were there it included homemade pumpkin bread warm from the oven, freshly sliced strawberries, and Bing cherries, along with cereals, breads, and such. The town is easily walked, and features the longest running "shootout" in the country. It’s played in the town square since 1957.
There is more to see and do at Grand Teton National Park, but this is a sampling that makes for a well-rounded visit, and can be accomplished in a very full day (or two days, if you prefer a leisurely pace). Check out the park’s website www.nps.gov/grte. Due to rugged winter conditions, always confirm your plans.
After a visit to the beautiful, snow-capped Grand Teton Mountains, you will surely agree that they are among the most spectacular mountains in our nation