“I have always believed in having a sense of balance and stealth”
State 16: Wyoming - September 23, 2017
Woke up at a Walmart in Riverton, WY excited about the day’s events. The Walmart in Riverton was the last one available to us before we entered Grand Teton National Park. We would be Walmartless until we departed Yellowstone, and subsequently arrived at Cody, WY 5 days from now. Before departing “big blue” aka Walmart, we took the opportunity to pick up a few essentials. With our fridge full and our pantry packed, we disembarked for a 133 mile drive Northwest via Wyoming Centennial Scenic Byway to Grand Teton National Park.
About 55 miles outside of the Grand Tetons we entered the town of Dubois, WY. It is a quaint and cute western town, and the last stop before the entering the Tetons. We topped off Rosie’s tank with overpriced gas and continued on. The drive into the Grand Tetons was spectacular! We meandered up mountains, and deep into valleys blanketed with the most unique snow speckled skinny trees I had ever seen. Please see the pictures below.
Soon thereafter, the Grand Tetons came in to view in the far off distance, and their majestic beauty inspired us to proceed onward. Long at last, we celebrated when we finally arrived at the entrance of Grand Teton National Park. See the pictures below.
The Teton Range is part of the Rocky Mountains within Wyoming, and 27 miles South of Yellowstone National Park. Grand Teton National Park extends 45 miles in length, 26 miles in width, 485 square miles and 310,000 acres. The highest peak in the Teton Range is Grand Teton with an elevation 13,770 ft, and there are a total of eight peaks with an elevation over 12,000 ft. From a geological perspective, the Tetons are a relatively new mountain range having formed between six and nine million years ago. The origins of the name of the Teton Range, is not exactly known. The Shoshone Indians who once inhabited the region called the range Teewinot, which translates to "many pinnacles". Early French explorers in the area named the range les trois tétons, which translates into “the three nipples”. The French origins of the name is derived from the breast like shapes of it's peaks from which the modern name Grand Tetons is derived.
Although Grand Teton National Park was established in 1929, The original park only protected the high peaks and a few of the lakes, so development continued in the Teton valleys. In 1943, Jackson Hole National Monument was created, and the two parks were merged to become the present Grand Teton National Park in 1950.
The primary path within the park is a 42-mile grand loop road. The outer portion of the loop farthest from Teton range was free, but the inner portion of the loop road closest to the Teton Range was $30.00 per vehicle. However, we received complimentary admission because we are the Cross Country Couple! Yeah I wish! We got in free because we have a national park pass. We entered Grand Teton National Park at Moran Junction at the Northern portion of the grand loop, and decided to begin our exploration with the outer loop. Below are the overlooks we stopped at along the outer portion of the grand loop farthest from the Teton Mountain Range.
Snake River Overlook
This was our first overlook, and it was a good one! This overlook was the exact location where famous American photographer and environmentalist Ansel Adams took his picture of Snake River and The Teton Range in 1941. Please see the picture to the left. Adams was hired by the National Park Service to photograph the beauty of the countries national parks. Adams photographs lead to the promotion, protection and preservation of dozens of iconic American Western Landscapes. Although I am no Ansel Adams, I think the pictures below came out incredible.
Teton Point Turnout
This lookout point offers the best panoramic views of the entire Teton Range on the outer portion of the loop road.
When we reached the Southernmost point of the outer grand loop, we stopped at the Craig Thomas Visitor Center to get out passbook stamped, picked up a park map, and entered the inner portion of the grand loop via Moose Junction. Below are the overlooks we visited driving northbound on the inner loop.
Our first stop on the inner loop was the William Menor’s original 1892 homestead along the Snake River. Menor operated a ferry across the Snake River from 1892 until a bridge was constructed in 1927. During the summer months, Menor’s Ferry still operates, but was not in service during our visit. Menor also owned, operated, and lived in a general store on his homestead. Today, the general store is still opened for business, so we decided to go inside to have a look. Inside we found a quaint gift store, and the living quarters of William Menor. After leaving the general store, we walked down a path to a nearby barn, and saw an antique horse drawn carriage used by tourists in Yellowstone during a bygone era. Please see the pictures below.
Chapel of Transfiguration
The log cabin Episcopal Church was constructed in 1925, and sits at the base of the Teton Mountain Range. The church is open to the public every day, and services are still held each Sunday during the summer months. Above the alter of the church is a large glass window offering unprecedented views of the Grand Teton Mountain Range. While in the church, I was feeling exceptionally grateful for the ability to take this year long cross country trip, which is the opportunity of a lifetime. I decided to say a prayer thanking God for all he has blessed me with. Unbeknownst to me, Nate entered the church while I was praying, and took the picture below. The surrounding shadows of the church, and the cross on the alter, highlights the view of the Tetons Range. Nate says it is his favorite picture he has taken of me on this trip thus far.
Teton Glacier Turnout
South Jenny Lake Junction
Jenny Lake is the most accessible, and beautiful lake within the park. It features a visitor center, but the area is closed while under construction. The park offers boat rides across the lake for $15.00 per person, but they were not offered the day of our visit.
Cascade Canyon Turnout
Conditions within the canyon are wild and harsh. In the summer, the valley is filled with colorful wildflowers, and in the winters the canyon features subzero temperatures and 100mph wind gusts.
Cathedral Group Turnout
This turnout offers the best vantage point for the 3 highest peaks in the Teton Mountain Range;
Mount Owen, Teewinot Mountain, and Grand Teton. Collectively, these 3 ranges are called the Cathedral Group. The Cathedral Group was named by the Grand Teton Park’s first Naturalist Fritiof Fryxell who once said, "God’s presence is more evident here than in the great cathedrals constructed by man”.
Jackson Point Overlook
We went up a narrow and windy 14-mile road to the summit of Signal Mountain to this overlook, which was the best vantage point of the Teton Mountain Range.
Signal Mountain Lodge
Jackson Lake Dam
Oxbow Bend Turnout
We stopped at this turnout and caught an amazing sunset.
After weeks of frugal traveling, Lori and I decided to treat ourselves to a night on the town in Jackson Hole, WY. We heard about a local hot spot called the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar, and decided to check it out. Upon our arrival, we discovered there were no vegetarian menu options, and a $10 cover for a house band even google hadn’t heard of. It also had a very strange layout with the restaurant in basement, and the bar and dance floor upstairs. Most disappointing of all, Lori was hoping to see some real cowboys, but there were none to be seen. Talk about false advertising! Even I was left wondering "Where had all the cowboys gone?". These frugal vagabonds weren’t feeling the love from the Million Dollar Cowboy Bar, so we decided to go elsewhere.
Right next door was a restaurant called Local, which at least attempted to create a few vegetarian friendly menu options of interest. Lori had butternut squash mushroom rotollo, which was the 2nd most spectacular meal she had ever had. Here is the blog about first. The dish possessed a perfect melody, and complexity of flavors textures and ingredients, which I am finding hard to accurately describe other than delicious. The chef was a bit liberal with the butter, which did detract from the dish. I had a veggie burger, which was absolutely disgusting!!! The patty of the veggie burger did stay formed, which is no easy task. However, it's cohesion was achieved by deep frying it to hell and back, and it returned saturated with oil. The chef cleverly chose red quinoa to mimic the consistency and color of ground beef, but failed to use enough. Instead, the chef over compensated by using way too much mashed black beans resulting in a mushy oil soaked deep fried bean ball! Yuck!
Next, we walked 2 blocks West, and stumbled across an awesome restaurant with vegan options called Lotus. They also had a scratch vegan bakery, which is sooooo rare to find! Lori and I shared a slice of homemade vegan cardamom carrot cake that was to die for! Cardamom is traditionally an Indian spice used with rice pudding. It is also a strong spice, which can overpower a dish if used incorrectly. However, pairing cardamom with carrot cake was a stroke of genius, and made the dessert forever memorable! I would have taken a picture, but we devoured it immediately. I had a delicious cup of chamomile tea to help me wind down, and Lori had a watered down cold chai tea to get her going!
After leaving Lotus, we walked down the street to Silver Dollar Saloon at Wort Hotel to listen to some live music with no cover. This was the absolute worst band either of us have ever heard in our entire lives! With the exception of the lead singer who was all around awful, the fiddle player, bassist, guitarist, drummer, and tambourine girl were all very good; individually! However, put them all together, and it's just one massive migraine. Their song selection was bizarre! They played “I Wanna be Like You” from the children’s movie Jungle Book, and then followed it up with “What’s Going On?” by Two Non Blondes. We decided to go back Rosie to pop a couple aspirins, and call it a night.
In Jackson Hole, WY, there are no Walmart’s, no Cracker Barrel’s, and no truck stops where we could sleep. There were plenty of $200 a night hotels, but that’s not how the Cross Country Couple travels. Where would we find a place to park Rosie for the night, and rest our weary heads? These resourceful vagabonds would have to reach deep into their bag of tricks, and for the first time in our cross country trip we would have to “Stealth Park”! OMG!
The topic of stealth parking could be a book unto itself. Generally speaking, stealth parking is sleeping in your vehicle in a location where your presence goes undetected. Many municipalities have passed laws against people sleeping in their vehicles. Even if overnight parking is legal in a town, police or the locals may still hassle you due to discrimination against those who live unconventional lifestyles. People fear what they don’t understand! According to mainstream society, we must be bums or drug addicts since we live in a van, or we would be living in an apartment or a house instead. In actuality, we are both medical professionals who willfully choose to live in a van to explore the country for a year, and find a new state to call home. We live in a van, not because we have no other options. We live in a van, because each day we want our options to be limitless. Some people reading this blog post will understand the previous statement, and unfortunately most will not. Nevertheless, the best way to avoid becoming the scapegoat of societies naivety, is to stealth park. For example, a 30-foot Class A RV parked overnight on the street directly in front of City Hall would certainly attract attention from law enforcement. However, a plain white cargo van parked on the street in front of a vacant house with a “For Sale” sign in a middle class neighborhood would likely go unnoticed. Most would just assume the van belongs to a carpenter, who is working on the house. Without going into great detail, the ultimate goal of stealth parking is to blend into your environment, and draw minimal attention to yourself. Even when we are parking overnight in a public location where we have permission to do so, we always employ some basic principles of stealth parking. We always arrive late after most go to sleep, and leave early just before most wake up. We always keep lights to a minimum, and sounds to a whisper. The aforementioned is a very basic overview on stealth parking, and I will likely devote a future blog post to the concept.
We did some super sleuthing, and discovered Jackson Hole allows overnight parking on the streets for 72 hours outside of their central business district. We found a hotel that was out of business with a for sale sign in front of it, which was located right next to a Marriott Hotel. We parked on the street right in front of the defunct hotel, but close enough to the Marriott, so it looks like we were staying there for the night. The biggest negative to stealth parking is you are sleeping in a place where you are not supposed be, which usually results in a less restful night sleep. After tossing and turning for a few hours, the sandman finally found the cross country couple, and we slowly drifted off into dreamland.