Sunday, September 18, 2016

Grand Teton National Park

Grand Teton mountains from Jackson Lake Lodge.Grand Teton National Park was the last destination of our Montana-Wyoming vacation. We spent three nights in Grand Teton, albeit in two different location to make the drive to the airport on our last day easier to avoid unexpected road blocks along the way.

From Jackson Lake.For the first two nights we opted in to stay at Flagg Ranch which is the same place we stayed at during our last visit to Grand Teton. Grand Teton National Park itself is pretty much adjacent to the southern end of Yellowstone. So Flagg Ranch is located on the northern end of the park and somewhere under 30 miles south of West Thumb — which is really on the southern end of Yellowstone — our last stop in Yellowstone itself, as Alёna wrote earlier.

Flagg Ranch cabins.We got to our cabins closer to the end of the day which we mostly spent in Yellowstone and were pretty tired. We had our dinner at the main lodge as there are zero other choices in a reasonable range. The food was nothing to write home about, but it wasn’t bad either. Soon after dinner we turned in for the night to recharge for park exploration on the next day.

Shore of Jackson Lake.We decided to set a hike along a trail on Jackson Lake as the goal for our day. The road through the park runs on the eastern side of Teton Range itself and magnificent views in the forms of lakes and vistas open up between you and the peaks of the mountains.

Throwing pebbles.The trail that we picked was in the Colter Bay area of Jackson Lake. There was a visitor center where we obtain a new set of stamps and acquired some Grand Teton National Park themed apparel. We also decided to eat lunch before heading out in order to avoid our awkward schedule of nobody being hungry for dinner in time.

Grand Teton National Park.The trails itself starts right near the visitor center and runs along the shore of the lake onto a peninsula. Once you make it to the west-most end of the peninsula itself you are presented with a grand view of the Teton Range reflecting in Jackson Lake.

Picking out pebbles.The water wasn’t as still as I wish it was and there was a considerable haze in the air. That seemed to be a theme throughout our stay at the park. On the beach itself though, while I was taking photographs, kids played in the sand and threw an uncountable quantity of pebbles into the lake.

Little boat.After we were done with this trail we drove south to Jenny Lake. Last time when we were here with Alёna in 2009 we took a ferry across the lake and then went on a trail up to some waterfall. The thing that I remember the most about that trail was a huge population of giant mosquitoes which that particular piece of the forest sported. Actually that’s not true. Last time mosquitoes were everywhere. Including at least 50 of them in our cabin at Flagg Ranch whom we proceeded to eradicate viciously with Eldar.

Jackson Lake shore trail.Anyhow — there was a lot of construction going on at Jenny Lake visitor area and we were all pretty tired either-way. So we settled for a set of new stamps and all the scenic views along the lake shore that we stopped at. However by that time the sun was shining directly into the lens along with all the haze presents a very challenging set of conditions for any decent photographs.

Tetons.We set course back north hoping to find a new place to have dinner at. We stopped by Jackson Lake Lodge which had multiple restaurants. Everything was extremely overpriced, so we decided to just go with Flagg Ranch dining room again.

Colter Bay.But at Jackson Lake Lodge one can walk out onto the back porch of the lodge which has one of the best vantage points to look at the mountains from. I remembered that this is exactly the place that I took a picture from the printout of which I had on my desk for the last 5 years or so.

Official Grand Teton National Park sign.Since the sun was still shining in our face we decided to make a stop here again the next morning on our way to Jackson for our last night stay of our road trip. The dinner we ate at Flagg Ranch, as I said, and for breakfast we stocked up on Cup-A-Noodle soups at the general store. These, for me, have a strong nostalgia feeling connected to our breakfasts in Shenandoah at the end of 2010.

Store. Great prices on awesome things.On the last day we did stop at Jackson Lake Lodge again for pictures and drove down to the town of Jackson via a route that runs through the town of Moran — a more eastern way to go than the route we took a day before. There were still numerous scenic overlooks that one can stop at — which we did — to take in the views of the mountains from all possible angles.

Janny Lake overlook.We grabbed some lunch at a visitor center near Moose — along with some stamps of course and decide to finish our Grand Teton stay with a place that we missed the last time around. There is an old abandoned Mormon town on the southern end of the park — Mormon Row with a number of old houses and barns. In fact one of those barns must be the most photographed barn in the world.

Jenny Lake.And that was pretty much it for the park. When we arrived to Jackson we checked into a huge two-story suite at Jackson Hole Lodge. This was probably the best setup for a family trip that we had — too bad we only had this for a single night.

View from Jackson Lake Lodge.Town of Jackson turned out to be a pretty busy place with a ton of people. It’s somewhat surprising seeing how it’s quite a long way away from Yellowstone and not all that close to most places in Grand Teton either. It’a great place to finish one’s trip, but not so much as a base of operations.

One of scenic stops.We went for a walk along the busy streets of the town, stopping a numerous souvenir and jewelry stores. But windows shopping was all we could afford as most prices really make no sense. Too much tourists equals to too high prices.

Mormon Row.Here, however, we ate probably the best dinner of our vacation. We stopped by a Spanish — as in Spain — tapas place called Bin 22. We ordered a bottle of Beaujolais wine and a good number of tapas. In fact we just tried to recreate the experience with Alёna yesterday in a placed called Brook Vin in Park Slope. Parents also enjoyed the experience very much which made us happy that we had them try something new.

Barn at Mormon Row.And then we walked to the central square of the town which had four sizable arches — on each corner — created of antlers collected at a nearby National Elk Refuge. The square, by the way, was full of people complete obsessed with Pokemon Go — it was that week when it just came out.

Jackson central square.The next morning Alёna and Arosha brought us all breakfast from a nearby bagel place. Afterwards we drove to the airport, turned in our banged up car without any hassles and boarded a plane to New York with a layover at Salt Lake City. There the flight was delayed many times so we arrived home very very late. Thus another one of our great road trips has concluded. Another trove of great memories.

Antler arches at Jackson Hole.

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Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Montana & Wyoming National Parks

This is a vacation that we were planning to take for several years now and it’s finally booked. The main point of this trip is going to be Yellowstone National Park. While Alёna and I have been to Yellowstone before, my dad always wanted to visit it as well. It’s going to be an interesting destination for our kids too. I, on the other hand, wanted to visit Glacier National Park in Montana for a while now, so this trip is it.

This is the first road trip that all six of us are going on. Original plan was to fly up to Calgary and explore Banff National Park in addition to everything else, but it turned out that renting a car in Canada and returning it in U.S. is not easily achievable. So we decided to nix Canada and start from Great Falls in Montana instead. And we’ll finish in Jackson Hole of Wyoming.

As expected there are no direct flights1 to either of these locations, but we’ll save time on having to drive to any big destination such as Salt Lake City. We also have reserved a humongous SUV for this trip — Chevy Suburban2 or similar. Seven seats and plenty of luggage room. I wish we could fit into something smaller such as Tahoe, but we’ll probably have to take a look and see if it’s feasible at the rental place.

So on July 14th we arrive to Great Falls. We rent a car and drive north to East Glacier Park Village — a town on the edge of Glacier National Park. We’ll be staying here for 3 nights3 and we’ll explore different parts of the park from here. On July 17th we start our drive south, but in order to break up the trip we’ll spend one night4 in Helena — the capital of Montana.

On July 18th we arrive to Yellowstone. We’ll be staying here for 5 nights5 in a little town right on the edge of the park called West Yellowstone. There is a lot to explore, but kids can only take so much in a day, so we figure 5 days should be good. And we opted in for a regular hotel instead of a lodge because lodges typically don’t have pools. And kids love pools.

And on July 23rd we arrive to Grand Teton National Park — a really short drive from Yellowstone. It’s actually right to the south of it. We’ll be staying here for 2 nights6 at the same exact place that we stayed at with Eldar back during our 2009 trip. This was the most affordable place even though it’s a bit farther out than the rest of the lodging.

And our last night we are planning to spend in the town of Jackson itself to save ourselves a drive on the day of our flight back home.

  1. Delta from JFK — $593 per person and we need tickets for both of our kids now. []
  2. Alamo — $885 with all the taxes and fees included. []
  3. Glacier Park Lodge — $640 per room for 3 nights with all the taxes. []
  4. Hampton Inn Helena — $147 for the night. []
  5. Best Western Weston Inn — $1,108 for 5 nights with taxes per room. []
  6. Headwaters Lodge & Cabins at Flagg Ranch — $434 for 2 nights per room. []

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Friday, July 31, 2009

Grand Teton National Park

Grand Teton National Park. View from Jackson Lake Lodge.Second part of our road trip was dedicated to exploring Grand Teton National Park which is located directly south of Yellowstone. We left out most of Wednesday (excluding the small drive to reach it in the morning) and an early part of Thursday for this task.

Cabins at Flagg Ranch Resort.We started the day off by eating a breakfast at Grand Village and driving south to our next lodge — Flagg Ranch Resort, picking up 2 last Yellowstone stamps on our way. Check-in was quick, but we were quite shocked when we got to our cabin. It was completely infested with mosquitoes. About 40 of them at least. We tried killing them off, but they would just not end, and they kept biting us in the process. Alёna especially.

Grand Teton mountains. View from Leeks Marina.I was really angered by this, so I called the front desk. I was informed of the fact that they can not spray mosquitoes because they are located inside the national park and that I can have my money back. mad shock Luckily after that they connected me with a manager, who switched out our cabin. Quite honestly we expected to see the same thing, but the other room was good. I guess somebody left the door open in the other one, hence the problem. Either way I would think twice before staying there again.

Grizzly bear.However for all the time that we wasted there we were handily rewarded. We got into the car and drove off in the direction of Jackson Lake. Right when we got onto the main road I noticed that there was a traffic behind us. I don’t remember any construction being there, when we passed that piece of road an hour ago, I thought to myself, and then it clicked. “Turn around!” Eldar made a U-turn and we started looking.

Grizzly bear was not more than 2 meters away from the road.People were cautious. Everyone was taking pictures, but nobody was getting out of the car. And they had a good reason not to! There was a grizzly bear right by the side of the road! We couldn’t believe our bear luck. We took another a million photos yet again, and made several video clips. He was not 2 meters away from us. This encounter made it all worth it. And if it wouldn’t be for the problems at the lodge we would’ve left long time before that and would’ve missed everything.

Hiking around Jenny Lake.After that we made a bunch of stops at all visitor center collecting the stamps, and took some photos of the mountains from the outlooks alongside the road. Our next point of interest was Hidden Falls. Half a mile hike from Jenny Lake.Jenny Lake, where we were planning to take a 2 mile hike around the lake and another half a mile to Hidden Falls. There is a ferry running for those who want to avoid this 2 mile hike, but we enjoyed it a lot. We did take the ferry back.

Now for all the falls we’ve seen inside Yellowstone this one impressed us much more. It wasn’t the fact that it was bigger or wider, but we were standing right at the bottom of the follows starring right at them. The others we saw from quite a big distance and it was OK, but this was certainly impressive. A big river crashing down from the top of the mountain right at your foot. Well worth the trip. The only annoying thing were swarms of blood thirsty mosquitoes all over the place.

Grand Teton Mountains reflecting in Jackson Lake.At this point we drove back up, ate a nice dinner at Flagg Ranch restaurant and turned in for the night, for tomorrow we had a long drive ahead of us, back to Colorado.

Grand Teton and Middle Teton mountains in the background.Thursday morning we made another pass through some outlooks to take shots of the mountains while they were lighted by morning sun from the east. We also stopped by Jackson Lake Lodge and I imagine it would be a hell of a place to stay at. The views from there were magnificent as well.

Rainbow in the sky. I've never seen anything like this before.Soon after we left the great parks of Wyoming and set out on our way. We took a slightly different route back and the views where great for the most part of the drive. On the way there we were driving mostly through huge plains and here we were surrounded by ever changing mountains. I don’t remember anything more about the drive back, but the fact that we placed through a “town” called Muddy Gap. Must be a nice place to live at. o.O

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Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Yellowstone NP Trip

The approximate map of our Yellowstone trip.It’s this time of the year again — time to post the breakdown and the plan of our next road trip. This time our main objective is Yellowstone National Park. It is the oldest and probably one of the most richest and most famous parks.

The route on the map1 above is the most likely way we will go, but it omits all the points of interest. I want to read up more about the stamp locations along the way and the actual plan of exploring2 Yellowstone itself. Continue Reading

  1. A fully interactive map can be viewed on Google. []
  2. Good interactive map of Yellowstone NP at NPS site. []

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