There are two things that you need to take away from this post:
1. We saw a live moose in the wild.
2. We hiked 10 miles in the Grand Tetons.
If either of those interest you, keep reading.
Let’s start with a recap of the night before. We camped at Gros Ventre Campground, where there are about a thousand signs warning you to be “Bear Aware,” as this is a big bear habitat. This, to a normal person, probably means that bears are living in the mountains, and if you leave food out, they might come down to your tent. To me, this means that bears are wandering the campground at night, waiting to feast on the humans who used too much scented hand sanitizer. Needless to say, the first night’s sleep was not awesome. I woke up with a stomachache and wanted to go to the bathroom. Unfortunately, the bathroom was a bit of a hike from our campsite. I considered just going outside the tent, but I thought that might attract bears (are bears attracted be the scent of pee? I have no idea), so instead, I lay awake for at least an hour, hoping Eric would happen to wake up too. When that didn’t happen, I started to nudge Eric with my legs, hoping that would wake him up. When that didn’t work, I just said his name over and over. And before he was even completely conscious, I was explaining the situation. “I don’t feel good and I have to go to the bathroom and I’m afraid of bears and I think I might throw up and I need you to go to the bathroom with me.” So my super wonderful, kind husband got up, grabbed his Bear Grylls knife, and walked me to the bathroom. And he didn’t even complain, even though I apologized during the entire journey for waking him up.
A few hours later, Eric wakes me up to give him his sweater, which I was using as a pillow, because he was freezing. The temperature in Jackson Hole drops about 40 degrees at night, to a chilly low 40’s while we were there. I was in my 40-degree rated sleeping bag, so I was feeling great. But poor Eric was freezing. When I woke up in the morning, he had a t-shirt wrapped around his head to keep it warm.
Once we got up, we headed into town for breakfast. We kind of wanted to avoid the touristy breakfast spots, as I don’t enjoy being a super obvious tourist in a town that I think is really cool. So we went off the main square to a place called “Shades Cafe.” Definitely an excellent choice. But let me back up a minute.
I mentioned in the last post that Eric and I have the life habits of the retired population. Apparently this is even the case in a mountain town, where we wake up before any breakfast restaurants are open. Literally nothing was open in Jackson at 7 am, when we pulled into town.
Anywho, back to breakfast. We knew we picked something good when lots of locals came in. You know that they are locals when they all know one another and make conversation about business and kids. And what can I tell about the locals from this experience? Let me make some broad generalizations. They are all tall, incredibly good looking, and dressed in that “yeah, my clothes are expensive, but I just threw this outfit together” sort of way. And they produce incredibly adorable children. There was a little boy there, probably about three years old, that just about melted my heart right out of my body. He was wearing skinny jeans, red Toms, a Patagonia puff jacket, and one of those animal hats with the strings hanging down. Oh my goodness. Too cute. Once he got his food, he looked at all the tables, looked at his dad, and said, “Why are all of the tables full?” It was so cute.
Once again, back to breakfast. I had a breakfast burrito that was out of this world. And the coffee was also awesome. Definitely give it a go if you’re ever in Jackson.
After breakfast, we headed back into Grand Teton National Park to go hiking. We were a bit ambitious and decided to hike the 10-mile Surprise and Amphitheater Lake trail. The trail head warns that it’s strenuous, and they weren’t kidding. It was a 5-mile uphill hike, and the 5 miles downhill didn’t go much faster. But the views. Oh, the views. Incredible. We were literally on top of a mountain. Oh, and did I mention that it’s an elevation change of 3,150 feet?
The trail warned that there would be a lot of wildlife, including bears. There was a sign at the start explaining what you should do when you see a bear. Apparently you should do the exact opposite of your instincts. If you encounter a bear and it sees you, you are supposed to talk to it in an even tone while slowly backing away. My first instinct: run and scream. If you encounter a bear that doesn’t see you, you should back away slowly. My first instinct: run and scream. If you encounter a bear while you are eating, you should pack up your food and walk away slowly. My first instinct: throw the food at the bear, run, and scream. Clearly I needed these directions. I was kind of torn between really wanting to see a bear and being absolutely terrified that we would run into a bear on the trail. Don’t worry. We didn’t see a single bear, even though I was on wildlife watch the entire time. In fact, the only animals we saw on the way up the mountain were some chipmunks, birds, and what we think might have been a beaver. I’m just not really sure how animals would live on these mountains anyway. It’s a straight slope. I feel like they would have to just hang out on the trails to keep from falling down the mountain. But perhaps they are a bit more skilled than I give them credit for. Anywho, the way back down was much more exciting, but more on that in a minute.
The hike up the mountain included sweeping views of Jackson Hole, the lakes, and the forest fire burning across the way. This fire was getting bigger and bigger while we were there.
Once we got to the top, we saw Surprise Lake and Amphitheater Lake, where we stopped to eat our lunch and rest our aching feet in the freezing water. I should note that we wore Chacos for this hike, which may not have been the wisest of decisions. Every person that we passed on the trail was wearing hiking boots and carrying a backpack that would carry supplies for days in the wilderness. I’m sure they were laughing at us in our Chacos, especially since I looked like I was hiking with a purse (it’s a camera bag!). So we rested our poor feet in the water that was so cold it made my bones ache (I am an old woman). And then we began our descent.
On the way back down the mountain, we really wanted to see some wildlife. And we did! Eric spotted this doe, which we think could be a young elk. Obviously, we’re not really familiar with mountain animals and have no idea how to distinguish them from their Kentucky look-alikes. But this little animal really didn’t seem to mind that we were there. We had to walk within just a few feet of it, and it wasn’t even scared. It just looked at us and then went back to eating.
A few miles down the mountain, some hikers told us they had just spotted a moose. This is the animal that Eric really wanted to see the whole time we were in Wyoming, so we were pretty jazzed. And we did, indeed, see the moose! I’m not sure we would have spotted it if someone hadn’t told us to be looking for it. It was deep in the brush, munching on some leaves. This trail was full of switchbacks, which means that we got to walk both directly above and below the moose. Being above it wasn’t scary because I honestly don’t think it noticed us, but going below was a bit terrifying. I felt like it could take us out in a single bound. But, once again, it didn’t seem to mind that we were there. Still, we were afraid to get any closer or stand in its direct path in case it was feeling feisty.
Once we made it to the end of our 10-mile hike, we were exhausted. And so sore. I’m not trying to say that we are excellent hikers or anything, but I did not expect to be this sore. I have run half-marathons that have not made me this sore. And we were starving, as our granola bar and apple lunch wasn’t doing much to tide us over. So we headed back into town to get some good food. Of course, we were so sore that we didn’t want to/probably weren’t capable of walking very far. So we ended up at a restaurant that we were way under dressed/way too smelly to fit in, but we were already sitting down when we noticed this, so we sucked it up and stayed. And in the end, I’m glad we did because we ate some killer burgers. Some killer, expensive burgers. But so, so good. They were Kobe beef burgers with sweet potato fries. Holy cow. Nothing has hit the spot quite so well. And I didn’t feel a tinge of guilt because I’m pretty sure we burned approximately one million calories on our hike. Of course, at the end of the fancy meal for which we were way out of place, I spilled my water on my t-shirt and then walked all the way across the restaurant to the bathroom, where I discovered that my face was bright red from a sunburn that I didn’t know I had. A humbling experience, for sure.
After dinner, we popped some Advil, which made the rest of the evening a thousand times better, as we could walk without weird limping. We headed back to our campsite and enjoyed the sunset from our hammock, which was pretty awesome. Eric got me a two-person hammock for our anniversary, and this was the first time we got to use it. I’d say it’s pretty cool to break in your hammock in the Grand Tetons. And to add to the ambiance, the fella camping next to us played a lovely rendition of “You are my Sunshine” on his harmonica.
And we spent the night warm and bear-free in our tent.
Tomorrow we’ll leave Jackson Hole and head to Park City, Utah. I’m really going to miss this awesome place.