At Grand Teton National Park, Mount Moran is reflected in the Snake River at Oxbow Turnout.
July 20 – 21 & August 7 – 13, 2020
They are all over out west.
When I first moved to Tucson, AZ from the Midwest some 30 years ago I was awed by the mountains. I’d never lived near mountains before and in Tucson, the city ran right up to their ascent. As I drove about town they were always present, hanging in the background over the flat-roofed houses like a backdrop of a gigantic stage. They continued to surprise and amaze me the whole four years I lived there.
We see a lot of mountains as we drive around the west. Off in the distance, they line the edges of vast empty spaces. Greg often points across the desert and asks, “What are those mountains?” but Google maps never names them. Often times when we stop at overlooks we find photographs identifying distant peaks. We always try to match the view with the picture.
We really haven’t spent much time exploring mountains since in years past we have only been able to travel in the colder months. And when it is a pleasant 70º at an elevation of 1000 feet it is 40º at 6000 feet. But this year we were free to roam in the summer. And in July and August, we got to marvel at parts of the Rocky Mountain range in Wyoming and Montana when we visited Grand Teton and Glacier National Parks.
* As aways, all pics are click to enlarge. Once enlarged, click on the left or right side of the picture to view them in a slide show.
Grand Teton National Park
The Teton Mountain Range is both young and old. The rock that forms the mountains is up to 2.7 billion years old, over half of the Earth’s age. But the mountains themselves have only been exposed for about 10 million years. During that time glaciers have carved away at them, leaving stark bare peaks. Many other ranges are surrounded by hills, making it difficult for observers to see the peaks. But the land just east of the Tetons is mostly flat, allowing visitors to see these spectacular mountains in all their glory.
We only spent two days at Grand Teton. It wasn’t really on our agenda. We had met up with our friends from Scamper Squad and had a camping reservation in Yellowstone National Park. We had a couple of days to spare and soon realized the best way to fill those days was to explore Yellowstone’s majestic park neighbor to the south.
Our first day in the park was spent driving around taking in the sights. View from Jackson Lake.
Marina on Jackson Lake in the Grand Teton National Park.
We took a drive up Signal Mountain and saw this Wapiti, or elk grazing right beside the road in in the woods.
Callippe Fritillary lights upon Spreading Fleabane on Signal Mountain.
View from Signal Mountian. There is little vegetation in the alpine zone at the top of the mountains. Forests grow on the lower elevations of the mountainsides. The sagebrush flats at the base are dry, with wet meadows below them. Numerous lakes in the flatlands support diverse groups of wildlife.
Cabin and general store at the Menors Ferry Distict. This homestead once belonged to William Menor. His ferry was a vital crossing point for early settlers in the area.
Menor’s ferry used to cross the Snake River. It is designed like ferries that used to cross the Nile. A loop of rope runs through pulleys on either side of the river. The “helm” of the ferry is really a windlass that the rope winds through. Turning of the helm winds the rope through the windlass. The catamaran bow faces into the river’s current at a slight angle. The ferry moves sideways (crablike) across the river.
Common Raven at the Menors Ferry District.
Chapel of the Transfiguration near Menors Ferry with Tetons in the background.
Distant view of the Tetons over sagebrush flats.
On day two of our Teton visit we did some hiking. Here is a view of Jenny Lake near the Jenny Lake trailhead.
We left Jenny Lake and hiked up to Hidden Falls which spill down into lake.
And then climbed up to Inspiration Point.
On our way back from Inspiration point we took a little side trip around the Moose Ponds.
We saw a Cackling Goose.
After our hike we visited Mormon Row, where the John and Thomas Moulton families made their homesteads.
Uinta Ground Squirrel at Mormon Row. These guys live in burrows and hibernate most of the year.
We finished our visit to the park with a view of the Tetons over the Snake River. This is the spot where Ansel Adams took his iconic image of the Snake River in 1942. See his picture here. The National Park Service had hired Adams to “capture nature as exemplified by national parks.” Adam’s photos were important in helping protect some of the amazing public lands of the west.
Glacier National Park
The Lewis Overthrust of the Rockies was pushed up 75 million years ago. It stretches from Montana to the Waterton Lakes National Park in Canada. For millennia glaciers carved beautiful valleys in this rock. The great glaciers have been gone from here for 12,000 years, leaving smaller ones. Human-induced climate change has reduced the size of the remaining glaciers. Though the Glacier National Park is losing its namesake, evidence of those massive glaciers remains.
A couple of weeks after we left Grand Teton we met up with our friends from Scamper Squad again at Glacier National Park. We arrived a day early and did a little reconnoitering up the Going to the Sun Road which connects the east and west sides of the park, crossing the continental divide at Logan Pass, the road’s pinnacle. Here is a view from Logan’s pass. It was grey and cloudy day.
Bicycling the Going to the Sun Road in Glacier is very popular. Starting near the entrance of the park at the Apgar Visitor Center bikers travel 32 miles and climb over 3300 feet to the Logan Pass.
When these mountains were formed, glaciers filled the valleys up to the mountain tops. They cut through the hard rock, sometimes leaving almost vertical cliffs like the one on the right.
We’ve learned that “V” shaped valleys were carved by rivers, while “U” shaped valleys were carved by glaciers. From this angle, you can clearly see the “U” shape of this valley.
A waterfall streams down in between the hillsides. This water may make its way into the Missouri River, the Mississippi, and eventually the Gulf of Mexico.
St. Mary Lake.
Grizzly Bear. As we were passing St. Mary’s Lake, we saw lots of people in a pull up staring straight up the hill across the road. We stopped to see what they were looking at and saw this guy.
Passing by the Weeping Wall.
Our second day at Glacier was a Saturday. Our friends from Scamper Squad had joined us by then. Due to the crowds that we encountered on Friday, we decided to spend Saturday doing a few things off the beaten track. We started with a hike on the west side of Lake McDonald. The hike was a fail – very buggy and overgrown but the start of the trail had a very nice view of the lake.
We left the lake and drove out of Glacier to reach the western side of the park. On our way we found a mercantile in the community of Polebridge, about 20 miles from the Canadian Border.
Back in the park, we headed to Kintla Lake, just south of British Columbia, Canada. It was a long bumpy ride but when we reached the lake we found the parking lot packed. It seemed like everyone had our same idea to stay off the beaten track.
We hit Bowman Lake on our way back.
On Monday we took another drive on Going to the Sun Road. We saw these Common Merganser near Lake McDonald. One of them (left) has its head above the clear water. Four of its buddies are beneath the surface searching for food.
The next day, we were ready for a big adventure. Since we had two vehicles we decided to hike the 7-mile High Line and connecting 4-mile Loop trail. Usually, the park provides a shuttle to take you back to your vehicle at the end of this trek but due it wasn’t running (I assume due to the pandemic) while we were there.
Water runs over these rocks into the valley.
View from the Highline Trail.
So many wildflowers on the trail.
It took us 8 hours to hike the trail with lots of rests, picture taking, enjoying the amazing views.
Near the end of the Loop Trail, we saw this deer. He came walking right down the path straight at us and turned off onto the side to grab a bite to eat. He was curious but unafraid.
After a day of rest, we hit the trail again following the Tree Falls Trail past St. Mary Lake.
Yellow-bellied Marmot basking in the sun.
St. Mary Falls.
Fawn on the trail. We left Glacier the next day. No doubt we could have spent more time hiking and taking in the scenery but other spots in Montana were beckoning us away.
Today I am sharing this post on My Corner of the World. Click the link and find out what’s happening in other parts of the world.
Do you enjoy the mountains? Do you have a favorite mountain range or peak? Or a favorite hike through the mountains?