9/17/12

Grand Teton National Park

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Yesterday morning, we were on the road headed for Grand Teton National Park fairly early.  When we left, Smitty was soaking up his morning rays and snoopervising our next-door-neighbor camper from his catio.


You may recall in my blog post a few days ago that the air quality in Montana was bad because of all the fires.  As we drove south the air quality improved and eventually cleared all together...or as much as we generally expect.  So imagine our disappointment as we drove toward the Tetons yesterday morning when the sky began to turn yellow and our view of the mountains became more and more obscured.  We passed a sign on the road warning of Wyoming wildfires and instructing us to turn on our lights.  It also said that the smoke could become thick at times.

We continued on despite all of that and pulled into the sparkly new visitor center at the south entrance to the park.  We visited the Tetons around 15 years ago, and we do not recall the visitor center being so up-to-date and beautiful.  In any case, here was the view of the mountains from the visitor center yesterday:


What's the matter?  Can't see them?  No?  Neither could we.  If you've never seen the Tetons, you must understand that they are immense and unmistakable.  To have them completely shrouded in smoke was not only disappointing, it was remarkable.  In fact, I'm remarking on it right now, so I know I'm right about that.

There was an interesting sort of weather board inside the visitor center with this graphic.


If you look almost dead center and a little lower in the image, you'll see the "pin" marking Grand Teton National Park.  Then you'll see all the wildfires burning in Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming that are marked by little flames.  The blackness that you see represents the smoke plumes.  Now it would appear that the smoke that we were experiencing wasn't even from the plumes, but from the residual smoke just hanging in the "hole" of Jackson Hole.  I would hate to think how it might look if the wind shifted and blew the plumes our direction.  

That was all well and good, but it didn't help us to see the mountains any more clearly.  There was not a breath of wind in the park when we were looking at this graphic.  The whiteboard to the side of it indicated that tomorrow (today) would be clear.  While it was tempting to cancel the rest of this portion of the trip, we had hope that today would be clearer and better for viewing.  We decided instead to visit some of the man-made portions of the park.  That would include some of the historic homestead buildings and the area known as "Mormon Row" and so that is what we decided to do.  

Our first stop was at the area known as Menor's Ferry Historic District.  Jackson, Wyoming, owes its existence to William Menor, who homesteaded near the Snake River and found an area he believed was a perfect spot to build a ferry.  This proved vitally important to settlers coming to the Jackson Hole area.  Jackson Hole was so isolated by its surrounding mountains and had such a harsh climate that it was one of the last areas of the lower 48 states to be settled.  The Menor homestead once included barns, a blacksmith shop, a garden, and irrigated hayfields and pastures.  Only a few of the buildings remain, but we thoroughly enjoyed exploring them.

This next image is the cabin that belonged to Maude Noble.  She held meetings in her cabin when the idea of protecting the valley and creating a national park started to take hold.  It could be said that this is where the park was born.


This is the other side of the cabin and her smoke house in the rear.


And here is a replica of the original Menor's Ferry in the place where it crosses the Snake River.  The Ferry is still operational and visitors to the park can ride along with a ranger in the summer time.


The ferry operated by turning this wheel and steering it into the river current.  Then the current carried it across to the other side.


This next image is the explanatory sign, showing how it worked.  It's ingenious, really.


This next image is of the general store.


It was such fun to snoop inside the store.  There were all sorts of things for sale, and lots of vintage items that might have been for sale during the time the store was operational.  Now it contains a small gift shop with some very interesting items, including beginning quilt kits, yarn for knitting, and counted cross stitch kits.


The woodstove inside was fired up and the woman working in the store was baking cookies inside.  She was fussing about it not being hot enough and she added some wood to the fire while we watched.  I considered myself lucky to be standing there while she did all of that since I've never actually seen one of these in operation.



Some vintage coffee cans.  Love the names on these.


Menor stored items in cool storage in this building.  He used ice he had hacked off during the winter.  Behind is his smoke house.


Here's the not-so-private privy.  The, um, waste from the privy fell directly into the river.  There was no pesky EPA in those days, apparently.


Also among these buildings was the Episcopalian Chapel of the Transfiguration.  You can see it in the image below.  It was built in the 1920s and services are held there to this day.  To the left of the image is the church bell.  There is also outside seating if the inside pews fill up.


Below is a view of the inside and the sanctuary.


These next two images show the stained glass that adorns either side of the entry into the chapel.



After thoroughly exploring this area, we moved on to Mormon Row, which is what remains of a once-thriving Mormon settlement.  When we arrived, we were met by a herd of bison roaming the area and crossing the road.  They seemed a happy bunch, some of them deciding to take off running and generally kicking up their heels.  I think they, like the "Welcome to Wyoming" sign, were just glad to see us.


You can see the smoke in the air in this next image.  The barn you see in the back is a part of the Mormon settlement.


Evidence of their "droppings" could be seen everywhere.  And I just want to say that this is some serious poo.  Watch your step, please.


It was interesting and fun to explore this area.  The Mormon settlers were different from other homesteaders to the area since their settlements were focused on community.  Other homesteaders seemed to prefer isolation.  The Mormons were able to successfully farm the area because of their knowledge of irrigation techniques learned from previous settlements.  They dug irrigation trenches that carried water to the area from the Gros Ventres River and the Snake River.  Here are some images of the buildings that can be seen in the area.  Keep in mind that the valley is surrounded by gorgeous mountains, none of which were visible yesterday because of the smoke.



I imagine there was a door on this outhouse at one time.  Mike helpfully explained to me that these were positioned over a deep hole.  When the hole filled up, one simply dug another hole and moved the outhouse over the top of it.  Lovely.  This is only one part of pioneer life that I would have been ill-suited for.






After that, and with the air quality no better, we decided to drive into Jackson and spend a little time there.  Jackson has grown significantly since our last visit here.  It's quite touristy, and I'm sure most everything that can be purchased there is over-priced.  I took only one picture.


Being Sunday, the one quilt shop in town was closed.  We may go there today.  The wind did come up later in the day, and we noticed that the sky was visibly clearer.  We can only hope that today we will be able to see the mountains.  We picked up a hiking book while we were at the visitor center, and we have some hikes in mind.  Today, we are going to try again to drive the loop road around Jenny Lake, and reserve hiking for tomorrow, assuming the smoke doesn't move in again.

  

20 comments from clever and witty friends:

Patricia said...

Too bad about the smoke & fire. I want to visit that area too.

Patricia said...

Too bad about the smoke & fire. I want to visit that area too.

WoolenSails said...

It is sad to see all of the fires and the destruction they have caused. It is such a beautiful area and so much history, how fun to walk through the villages and imagine what it was like then. I do love that statue, I want one, lol.

Debbie

Denise :) said...

Never, every should the first sentence under a photo of a pile of bison poo read, "It was interesting and fun..." LOL! Disappointing about the smoke. Wildfires have been especially treacherous this past year. It looks like you're getting in some great stops (and shots, thank you!) in spite of it. Perhaps you'll get a chance to visit the quilt shop today...that would brighten fire-dampened (oxymoron??) spirits! Oh -- and loved the line about Smitty "snoopervising"! You clever girl, you! :)

Karin said...

Snoopervising - snort. :) I'm sorry to hear of all the devastation caused by the fires. It's been another rough year. I hope the air clears up a bit and that that area gets a good dousing of rain. I'm thinking those outhouses were simply the precursor to the port-a-potty. :) I love that photo of the girl on the bench - looks a lot like our kiddo who always has an animal in her lap and her nose in a book.

Terry said...

OMG that is some seriously big poop! I'd hate to step in it! Hope you have a better day with clearer skies today, Those old buildings and way of life are always so interesting.

Samantha said...

We used to live in that area and whenever we head that way it always feels like going home, even all these years later, even though neither of us was born in that part of the country. Weird huh?

My maternal Grands had one of those old stoves in the kitchen and Gram used to bake her pies in it every year for the holidays. She swore they turned out better being baked in that wood stove than they ever did in her "newfangled" electric oven. :D

Winona said...

Thank you so much for sharing these pictures with us. I really want to visit this area some day. I loved looking at the old buildings. It is sad that the fires are destroying so much. I hope you continue to have fun on your trip. Looks like Smitty is enjoying himself.

make.share.give said...

I'm really enjoying your vacation. Thanks for taking us along.

Diane Wild said...

This brings back many memories of my trip to that area in 1988 when Yellowstone was on fire. Again, the smoke was very pervasive throughout Wyoming and we had to camp on the Idaho side. It was a memorable trip in spite of the smoke and detours. And the outhouse? I grew up with that. You'd think there would be indoor plumbing in the 1950s but not where we lived.

Kirsty said...

I love that you've taken Smitty with you! Is Gracie there too? How are they with all the travelling? Can we see a pictuer of the catio from the outside? What a fab idea.

Loretta said...

I am really enjoying this tour with you...beautiful photos and beautiful country! Thanks!

Rachel said...

Love the educational experience today! I can see why no one wants to try to make Bison a pet, they don't want to clean up after them :-) Hope the smoke clears out. Smitty is a great supervisor!

Snoodles said...

And here I thought I had a lot of poo to deal with, with eight ducklings! LOL Good to see Smitty! Hope the air cleared for you to see the mountains. :)

Anonymous said...

The inside of the general store with those shelves reminds me of my grandma's homestead house, which my parents restored and donated to the local museum for all to enjoy and learn. I can't believe you actually took and posted a picture of bison poo! As for the outhouse, we grew up with one in eastern Montana in the 1950's! Sharon
ssauser@dishmail.net

quiltzyx said...

Great job Smitty, keep up the good work.

Hate all those wildfires mucking up your photo ops. Darn! May the 'morrow dawn more clearly for you.

And here I thought that the cow patties at my friend's place in MO were big - I'm sure glad she didn't have any bison!!!!

Kate said...

Hope you get clearer skies today. If you don't, one photo opp suggestion. When we have fires here in the state during the spring, the sunsets can be really, really spectacular due all the smoke particles in air. That might be something to look out for.

Enjoyed all the photos you posted today.

Dana Gaffney said...

Fire, smoke, outhouses and gigantic poop, nice trip LOL. I do really like the statue all the way to her shirt, nice details.

Kate Brown said...

The mountains there are so breathtaking, I hope the air clears for you. It would be heart breaking to miss them after all that traveling!!

LethargicLass said...

Barbara... you are the only blogger I know who would stand that close to a buffalo patty just so we can get a size reference... you rock!