Ultimate Road Trip

That’s a Bear

Tuesday was an excellent day for wildlife. Up at 6:30, we worked from a quiet workspace above the resort’s coffee shop. The coffee shop was closed and we didn’t know if we were even supposed to be up there, but it was so free of distraction that we stayed. The skies were still grey and stormy looking, making us skeptical we’d have any better luck at climbing.

We debated what to do over lunch. At 2:30, the weather was shaping up to improve on the other side of Teton Pass, so I proposed we head back to the National Park to re-attempt Delta Lake. Ryan was game.

Conditions were exceedingly better this time around. There were only intermittent clouds, the sun was making an appearance, there was no thunder, and no forecast of rain. Back on the same trail, we were really cranking — even more than the original go. I suppose we both just wanted to get back to the point we’d reached on Sunday, so we could see some new views. On the way up, we got to see a mother deer with two fawns — spitting images of Bambi — as well as chipmunks right on trail, munching on acorns. Once we reached the junction to Delta Lake, we started seeing pikas, indicating the elevation.

The last mile of the hike was burly — steep, rocky, broken by boulder fields. But getting to the lake was so worth it. Beams of light were peeking through the clouds. We briefly stopped to take photos and eat a snack, then started heading back down.

View at the top of Delta Lake

We decided we’d trail run down, having several other agenda items for the evening. Running down without nickel-sized hail falling on us was far more pleasant. We were about 2.5 miles from the trailhead when I skidded to a stop. “That’s a bear,” I told Ryan.

We couldn’t tell what type of bear it was, but in retrospect, it may have been a young grizzly. The bear didn’t seem interested in us at all, but we nonetheless backed up a ways. We had passed a dad and his two teenage kids not long before, so we waited for them to catch up and warn them. Unfortunately, they didn’t have bear spray, but at least we did and there were now 5 of us. We made some noise and waited for the bear to move on, which wasn’t too long. To be safe, we walked along with the family for a half mile before continuing our jog down. In hindsight, it was kind of the ideal scenario to encounter a bear, and it made us feel a lot more prepared for it in the future.

We finished the hike by 6:15. Stoked to have redeemed ourselves, we then drove north through the park to Willow Flats Overlook, in the hope of seeing wolves. It seemed like it was too early and also not a high enough vantage point, but the views were still solid. We then turned around to head back toward Victor, stopping twice to view wildlife with Ryan’s binoculars: moose and elk. So, although disappointed by the lack of wolves, we still got a good wildlife turnout overall.

We had seen a food and drink joint in Wilson that intrigued us, so we stopped there on the way home. It did not disappoint. Stagecoach was a lively bar, full of lots of laughter and delicious pub food. We got Wilson IPAs made by Roadhouse Brewing, a Jackson staple, and enjoyed the atmosphere. It seemed like a place locals go to escape all the tourists. Hopefully we blended in OK.

On Wednesday, we started work at the resort, then transitioned to Teton Village. The drive over Teton Pass was other-worldly; we were above the clouds. Surrounded by sun, we dropped into the valley and were consumed by fog. I’ve never seen something quite like it.

I wanted to stop at Persephone, a classy bakery that a college friend of mine worked at some years ago. It was almost impossible to choose a pastry, between exotic croissants like raspberry pistachio and thick-cut sweet breads. Everything about the place was so refined, and I wish I could have stayed all day.

Teton Village was also a fun vibe, as really any town at the base of a mountain should be. There were lots of outdoor spaces to work and admire the view. Over lunch hour, we went to tackle some boulder problems right outside of town — a V0, V1/2, and V5. The V5 had a sloping, overhanging roof section that made for a solid challenge. It felt good to finally climb, albeit briefly.

After work, we drove back to Victor but stopped to do a short hike on Teton Pass. The trail cruised through rolling wildflower fields, ending at a small but pretty pond.

Top of the hike

We then spent the evening enjoying the resort while we could, eating paninis and lounging in the hot tub. We really loved the place and the town of Victor itself. It always seems like an exaggeration, saying you could live somewhere that you visit … but I could live in Victor.

Thursday was a transition day to Yellowstone. We re-packed the car, took our last showers, did laundry, charged our electronics. We stopped in Jackson for groceries, ice, and gas. Though sad to go, we were also ready to see some new sights and take on some new endeavors.

Winding our way through the Tetons one last time, we paused at a picnic area for lunch, taking in Jackson Lake. I feel that all lunches should be picnics, if possible. We then pushed on into Yellowstone, giddy to hand over the National Parks Pass again.

The first stop was Old Faithful. When we arrived, the next eruption was expected in another 40 minutes, so we meandered around the nearby geysers until viewing time. I had seen Old Faithful four years ago, and I couldn’t remember it. This experience reminded me why. The geyser only burbled a handful of times, but never really “erupted.” We weren’t very disappointed, since the geyser is impressive to see regardless. But you’d think it would be more spectacular, given how many people are watching.

Bby’s first Old Faithful

Up next was the Middle Geyser Basin and Grand Prismatic. The colors of these rocks and pools are just mesmerizing, and although the tourist swarms can be a distraction, you can’t help but smile in childlike wonder at what you’re viewing.

Bridge leading to Grand Prismatic

We then pushed on toward Gardiner, where we’d be camping in the evening. Gibbon Falls caught our eye, so we peeled off briefly for a better look.

Gibbons are considered lesser apes, but if you do your research, you’ll find they’re very impressive

Once in Gardiner, we were starving. Unfortunately the town is so touristy that the restaurants can get away with being mediocre AND overpriced. We were hungry enough that we weren’t picky. We had a decent beer and a subpar pizza while we plotted our adventures in Yellowstone the next day, both having requested off. To top off the evening, we got some incredible graham cracker ice cream and I topped it with free sprinkles (which tickled me thoroughly). Camp was just 10 minutes away, and we passed out at 9:30.

It was a whirlwind week and the weekend is shaping up to be the same!

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Isn't this fun?!

August 7, 2023