Thursday, July 14, 2011

Family Summer Trip Day 7 - Tetons Taggart Lake Trail

Today was a much clearer day.  The sky was still cloudy, but the clouds were turning into the higher, white, puffy clouds and there was much hope that we would finally get to see the Grand Teton.  We had to check out of the Lodge today so we got a little bit of a late start, but we were on no timetable as we weren't supposed to be in West Yellowstone, MT until around 5:30, so we had plenty of time.  The plan for today was to hike up to Taggart Lake for lunch, then hike back and then drive up to Yellowstone.

We arrived at the Taggart Lake Trailhead and make the 4 mile loop to Taggart Lake.  There was a lot of people across from the parking lot looking at something below the road near the river.  We went over to see what it was and saw that there was a moose and her calf in the brush.  Moose are one of my favorite animals to see and watch, but definitely from a distance.


After the moose disappeared into the wilderness, we got packed up and headed up the trail.  This is a fairly easy trail, with only a moderate elevation gain of 300 or 400 vertical feet in 2 miles to Taggart Lake.  There's an option when there's not a lot of snow to go up to Bradley Lake which I believe adds a degree of difficulty and some more distance, however, we were told not to try it due to snow and ice.  

We still had some other difficulties to deal with.  There's one section through some new growth pine trees where the snow had melted and the trail was covered in about 6 inches of water.  The new growth was extremely dense making it near impossible to weave through.  So, we ended up sort of sidestepping and using the trees bordering the trail to allow us to swing out over the trail, but keep our feet on the high side as demonstrated by my agile daughter below.


Emerging from this stretch, we came upon a clearing with some small patches of rocks.  We found a black marmot, something I've never seen before.  He appeared to show no fear of us and wanted to show off his nice, shiny black coat.


Shortly after this, we found ourselves at Taggart Lake.  This was my first time here and it actually felt a bit like being in the backcountry.  We were directly below the Grand Teton and it was extremely quiet.  We only saw a couple of other groups on our hike.  .


We found a nice set of flat rocks and set our lunch out.  You can see the Grand Teton between my son and my wife.  What a spectacular view for a lunch.


After lunch, I set up the tripod in a tree and snapped a good picture of the family.  Unfortunately, the Grand got hidden by the tree.  I only wish I'd brought the fly rod.


The rest of the trail was fairly uneventful and not much to see.  There is a nice meadow and you get some good views of the city from above, but overall, I thought the North side of the loop was much nicer.  We did however see some sort of snake along the trail.  I wasn't aware there were snakes in the Tetons.  I'm sure it was a garter snake or something like that.

We were hoping to see some bears, but were not fortunate enough to see any.  But, there's always Yellowstone, which is next up on the trip.

Driving out of the Tetons, I took one last snapshot of probably my favorite mountain range.  They are truly special.


Yellowstone National Park is just a short 30-45 minute drive up the John D. Rockefeller Jr. Parkway.  There were huge snow banks from the snow plow on the side of the road the entire way.  When we got inside the park, Lewis Lake was frozen over.

Lewis Lake Frozen Over
We drove through the park from the South entrance to the West entrance to West Yellowstone to check into the house we rented for the next three nights.

The house we rented was called the Bear Tracks Inn.  Like I mentioned earlier, I found this on Vacation Rentals by Owner, which is a great site for finding houses pretty much anywhere in the world. The rate for the house was very reasonable and it was very clean.  It was a 3 bedroom house (perfect for the family of 6) and had a big kitchen which was great for making breakfast and dinner saving us a few dollars.  Dining in West Yellowstone is not cheap and the food is not that good.

The property managers run the Golden West Motel in West Yellowstone.  They are extremely nice folks and if you ever need a place to stay, check out their motel.  The owner of the home lives across the street and works in town at the local hardware store.  She came over and greeted us and told us how to get in touch with her if we needed.

The house is conveniently located in West Yellowstone and is less than 5 minutes to the West entrance of the park.  The one downside to the house was that it was located on one of the busiest streets in West Yellowstone, but I think I have more traffic sometimes on my street at home so it wasn't bad and it was very quiet at night.  It's within walking distance of a grocery store and several restaurants, but I didn't find any restaurant in town that I'd recommend.

We got settled in and made our plans for tomorrow, head to Old Faithful and the Geyser Basin.

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