Day 3 - Jackson, WY to Grand Teton NP

Highlights: Coyote, pronghorn antelope and bison in Grand Teton NP, Jenny Lake

Morning breakfast of bagels, cream cheese, juice and coffee in our rooms, then we check out and head off for the Grand Tetons.

First stop right outside of Jackson, is the National Elk Refuge with an informative visitor's center and a expansive view of the range where up to 7,000 elk winter. The Refuge was established in 1912 in order to preserve the remaining elk population. Their ranks were severely decimated by loss of habitat, competition from cattle ranching and a succession of extremely harsh winters. During the summer, the elk migrate away from the refuge, some up to 100 miles, back up into the mountains with the receding snowline. But we could still admire the birds and waterfowl at the Refuge.

Just a few miles north of the Elk Refuge, we enter Grand Teton NP. Instead of heading straight for the Moose Entrance Station, we take a right turn onto Antelope Flats Road which runs alongside the Gros Ventre river. According to our guidebook, this area is a great place to spot wildlife. We are not disappointed.

Right off the bat, we see a coyote run in front of us across the road. Then we spot pronghorn antelope and bison. Tristan and I are getting that African safari deja vu feeling!

The Pronghorn are extremely shy and stay quite far from the road. They are rather sparse in these parts.

The bison on the other hand don't have much to fear and pretty much go where they please including the paved roads. What a thrill to see so many of them and at such close range! Binoculars aren't even necessary.

Along Antelope Flats Rd., we make a bathroom pit stop at a coffee shop in Kelly, which is an unincorporated community of 200 inside the park grounds. In the shop a sign reads "Please stay in the store if bison enter the parking lot." The young man behind the counter explains that since they started allowing bison hunting on the Elk Refuge, the bison have learned to stay on this side of the river which is the demarcation between the Refuge and the National Park.

Back on Antelope Flats Rd, it makes a big U turn and we see more bison and pronghorn. We stop at the much photographed Mormon Row, a collection of old homesteads with the majestic Tetons behind them. Now that's a nice backyard view.

We finally pass thru the official park entrance and flash our annual National Park pass. By now it's past lunch time and the kids are getting hungry. We reach Jenny Lake and hike out past the ferry dock to find a secluded spot to have our picnic lunch. The kids are naturally drawn to water and they have a blast clambering up rocks jutting out of the lake.

It's past 4pm as we leave Jenny Lake and head further north to Colter Bay Village where we have tent cabin reservations. The tent cabins have concrete floors, two bunk beds and a wood stove. The kid at the reservation desk highly recommends using the wood stove at night. The weather has been glorious during the day, so I'd forgotten about the potentially chilly nights. Personally, I like the tent cabins at Curry Village in Yosemite a bit more. Having the concrete floors makes the cabin feel even colder and that wood stove makes me think about carbon monoxide. On the plus side, there's a picnic table and you can cook at your tent cabin, something not permitted in Curry Village.

Burritos and tacos seem like a special dinner when you're camping as opposed to at home. Our campsite even has a place for washing dishes; how civilized! As a fitting ending to the day, the kids toast marshmallows over the campfire and build their s'mores, sticky, gooey and good.

Day's mileage: 47 miles; 1.5 hrs driving

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