The Mountain Goat Gallery

Reflections: A Beautiful Weekend in the Tetons

Posted by Jim Steele on November 16th, 2008 filed in Grand Teton National Park

Grand Teton National Park was absolutely spectacular this weekend. The solitude, the snow in the mountains, the general lack of snow on the valley floor, and the reasonably warm temperatures and clear skies created one of the most beautiful settings I’ve enjoyed lately.

Even better, it felt like I had the entire place to myself. The season, combined with the closure of the Inner Park Road, part of the Moose-Wilson Road, and almost all of the park facilities meant that only the hearty ventured off the road.

And after two soggy weekends, a trailhead was a sight for sore eyes. So I did the only thing I could do – an outdoor overdose. I hiked the Phelps Lake loop on Saturday, accessing the area via the Phelps Lake Overlook trail instead of the Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve. Then on Sunday, I biked from the Taggart Lake trailhead into Spalding Bay of Jackson Lake.

A beautiful reflection in the waters of Phelps Lake just below the Phelps Lake Overlook. Photographed November 15, 2008.

Jenny Lake, looking from the east shore into Cascade Canyon. Photographed November 16, 2008.

Saturday’s adventure started from near the White Grass Trailhead. I was pleasantly surprised to see that the road from the Moose-Wilson Road to the trailhead was open, and I got within a five minute walk of the trailhead in Plinko, my non-four-wheel drive, non-high-clearance car, despite signs helpfully noting that the Park Service recommends a high-clearance, four-wheel drive vehicle on this treacherous road. The Moose-Wilson Road is closed for the season from the Granite Creek trailhead to the White Grass Ranch Road, so getting to Phelps Lake is a little more complicated than it would be in the summer.

But it was worth the trip. After a few minutes exploring the White Grass Ranch, which the Park Service is renovating, I started the trip toward the Phelps Lake Overlook, and then down to Phelps Lake. The trail from the overlook down to the lake yields great views, which were made even better by a blue sky that was reflected vividly in the water.

Renovations are under way at the White Grass Ranch. Photographed November 15, 2008.

Since the establishment of the Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve after Mr. Rockefeller’s donation of the JY Ranch, the trail around Phelps Lake is now open to everyone and I enjoyed my first time completing the full loop.

A reflection in Phelps Lake. I took this picture northwest of Huckleberry Point on November 15, 2008.

Sleeping Indian, reflected in Phelps Lake on November 15, 2008.

Phelps Lake, photographed from Huckleberry Point on November 15, 2008.

A very cool reflection in Phelps Lake. I took this picture from the north end of the lake, near the campsites, looking into Jackson Hole. Photographed November 15, 2008.

Then today, I dusted off PlinkoBike and headed for the Taggart Lake trailhead. The Inner Park Road is closed to cars until next spring. Until the snow falls, bicyclists, joggers, hikers and roller bladers can enjoy the road from the Taggart Lake trailhead to the Signal Mountain area without fear of being smashed by a dude from California that rented a motor home the size of a semi truck and is still making the adjustment from his Pontiac Grand Prix.

There is something very unique about biking through the park instead of driving. You’re going slower, so you notice more things. It’s easier to stop at the various pullouts and take in the myriad views of the Tetons and notice how much different the view is from, for example, the Mountain View Turnout compared to the Teton Glacier Turnout. There’s nothing at all between you and the mountains and you just feel closer. The section of road between the Taggart Lake trailhead and Jenny Lake is particularly poignant. There is plenty of snow in the Tetons and the contrast of the white snow on the mountains was beautiful.

After I got done exploring the South Jenny Lake area (where I didn’t see a soul – a stark contrast to the summertime when the huge parking lot sometimes fills up) and detouring to String Lake, I headed up to Spaulding Bay, which I had never been to. It was such a serene setting and I was glad I had a few minutes to soak it in. The lake was beautiful, especially with snow-covered mountains rising in the distance. I wished I’d brought a tent and (very warm) sleeping bag so I could camp. Instead, having neither, I headed back and made it back to my car right around sunset.

The view from the south Jenny Lake area. Photographed November 16, 2008.

Jackson Lake from Spaulding Bay. This picture looks toward Signal Mountain. Photographed November 16, 2008.

Sleeping Indian, viewed late in the day from just south of Timbered Island. Photographed November 16, 2008.

The last light of the day touches the tops of the Tetons above a ranch near Taggart Lake. Photographed November 16, 2008.

Sunset over the Snake River, viewed from the bridge at Moose. Photographed November 16, 2008.

The conditions were some of the best I’ve had lately for photography, so I hope you enjoy my pictures.

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