Camping on the Snake River

Between the Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks is the John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Parkway.  That’s the name of the road, and also the name of the area that connects the two parks.  Grassy Lake Road comes off the Parkway and goes behind the Flagg Ranch resort complex.  It runs along the Snake River for a few miles, then connects to Ashton, Idaho.  The road is reported to be very rough, but the first few miles aren’t too bad, and the Park Service has constructed several mini campgrounds there. It’s free to stay for up to 14 days.  I stopped at the 2nd campground, which has 2 campsites.  One site had a tent but no car, and the other site was vacant.  I grabbed the vacant site and hoped the tent didn’t belong to an axe-murderer.

Grassy Lake Road Camp

Grassy Lake Camp. The little building on the left is a new rest room (pit toilet) constructed by the Park Service.

After getting level and setting up, a car drove up and I got to meet my neighbor. It was a young woman named Gillian, solo camping with her newly adopted dog – a Chihuahua named Mouse.  Gillian had been living in New York, but was originally from Scotland, so had just the best accent.  We had a great time talking about how we each took to the road (many similarities), our plans, and had fun playing with the dogs.  She left early the next morning, as she had many miles to make that day.  She was such a lovely, fantastic, free-spirit I was sorry we didn’t have another day or 2 to visit.  That’s one of the hard things about traveling around – you meet fantastic people and make great friendships, but the time is too short before saying goodbye.

The Snake River runs directly behind the campsites, and in the mornings there would be fog in the area and mist over the water.  It made for great pictures.  Usually there were fisherman further along the river, and I often thought about how much my friend Chris Turner, an avid fly-fisherman, would love that site.

Morning on the Snake River

After Gillian left some deer came by, checking on the site.

Deer wondering where Gillian and Mouse went

The National Park Service patrols the campsites, both with rangers and a very nice retired volunteer gentleman.  He told me there were other campsites further up the road (I was aware about just the first 2 campgrounds), so Riley and I took a walk up the road a mile or so to check out the other sites.  We met another lovely woman, Jen from New Jersey, solo tent camping out of her car.  She too had quit her job and hit the road.  Her goal was to do some back-country hiking in the Tetons, so was very excited to be there and close to her dream.  We talked for a couple of hours, then later, she came to visit at our campground.  Turns out she had been camped next to me at Colter Bay 2 days before, and really liked the look of my Lazy Daze motorhome.  She was surprised and glad to see me in the same area, but had camped further up the road since our little 2-site area was full.  So, I gave a tour and we talked a couple of hours more.  I was planning to leave the next morning to go to Yellowstone, and we arranged for her to come by and take my site, as it was nicer than the one she had up the road.  Again, I made a great friend and was saying a sad goodbye to head on to the next part of my trip.

I love a campsite with a nice view!

I had stayed Sunday/Monday, Sept. 2nd & 3rd at the Grassy Lake Road camp.  Now that Labor Day had passed I wanted to get to Yellowstone, since the crowds should be smaller than during the ‘summer season’.   There would be a lot to see there, and I planned to meet my friend Dwight, who was in Norris Campground.  I have a LOT of pictures from Yellowstone and will post on that part of the trip soon.

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Grand Teton National Park

Next we headed to the Tetons.  Approaching from the east on Hwy. 26, the Teton range is seen from the side, a great angle.  What I didn’t expect was to see glimpses through openings in the trees as I was driving towards Moran Junction.  I was stunned.  You see pictures, but nothing can prepare you for the first sighting of the Teton range.

Glimpse of Tetons, approaching on Hwy. 26

The prior night had been stormy and there were still a lot of low clouds hanging around.  Unfortunately, a lot of my pictures have those clouds along the mountaintops.  (By the way, clicking on the pictures will open them to a bigger view.)

Low clouds over the Teton range

We stopped at a few places, including along the Snake River, a view made famous by Ansel Adams.

Tetons from Snake River Overlook

We drove through the park down to Jackson, passing by fields of bison, to take care of our gas, grocery and internet access needs.  Then we took the park road back north, to the visitor center at Moose, to viewpoint pull-offs, by Jenny Lake, and to Jackson Lake, where we would get a site at Colter Bay campground.  Another storm was gathering over the mountains and we were driving into it.

Storm over Tetons

Closer view

Jenny Lake

Colter Bay Campsite

At Colter Bay, Riley and I walked around the area, including to the beach at Jackson Lake.

Tetons and Jackson Lake

Jackson Lake near Colter Bay campsite

Riley at Jackson Lake

Back at the campground we met Margaret, from New York, originally from Australia.  She was traveling solo with her bird and tent camping out of her car.  A spunky, lovely lady.

The next morning we headed toward Yellowstone. The road hugs Jackson Lake north of Colter Bay and I got a picture of Myrtle (my rig) with a pretty backdrop.

The low clouds hide the tops of the mountains. You can just see a few tips above the clouds in places.

I had read about a park campground just south of Yellowstone, right on the Snake River and free!  This post is already long enough, so will write about that stop separately.

Casper, Thermopolis, and Brooks Lake

From Wheatland I headed to Casper, stopping in Douglas for lunch.  They have a city park with overnight RV parking allowed on the banks of the North Platte River.  It was too early to stop for the day so I kept on to Casper.  The highway in central Wyoming is really boring, about like driving through west Texas.  But, I had “This American Life” podcasts on my Ipod playing through my new dash radio.  So, it wasn’t a bad drive.  I planned to go to Stalkups RV in Casper for some parts, then go up to a county park on Casper Mountain where it would be cool.  I’d rather be at elevation with windows open than parked cheek-by-jowls in a commercial RV park in town with A/C running.  Personal preference.  The drive up the mountain was steep and windy, but eventually I was up there driving through the campground looking for a suitable site.  There really weren’t many folks there.  I saw just one RV and a few cars parked with guys just sitting in them.  Most of the sites were small and unlevel.  It just seemed creepy, so I decided to go back down the mountain and find someplace else to stay.  I tried not to think of how many gallons of gas I just wasted going up, then down the mountain.  I did need to go by Walmart, so I just decided to stay there overnight.  RVers stay at Walmarts all the time, but I hadn’t yet.  It was a little noisy, but fine.

North Platte River in Douglas

On the way back down Casper Mountain. It is steep.

The next morning I got my oil changed, then stopped for gas and propane on the way out of town, heading to Thermopolis.  There is a state park there with hot springs.  Supposed to be good soaking, and I had never had a dip in hot springs.  The propane guy gave me the name of an RV park with their own hot springs pool.  Seemed like a good place to stay.  I would need electric hookups for A/C and needed to do laundry.  When I got there I checked in and parked.  If I had paid attention I would have noticed it didn’t look like a nice place.  It wasn’t well kept up, and the laundry room hadn’t been cleaned recently.  I need to remember to drive through and inspect before setting on an RV park.  Oh well, I did get my laundry done, and had a soak or 2.

The drive to and from Thermopolis is through the Wind River Canyon.  It’s a really nice drive, and I wished I wasn’t driving so I could have enjoyed it more.

Wind River Canyon

Wind River Canyon

From there it was on to Dubois and then Brooks Lake Campground.  Brooks Lake was a location I saw RVSue visit a few months before.  I remember showing Sue’s posts/pictures to my folks on my Ipad, saying I wanted to visit a pretty place like that on my travels.  Since it was on the way to Yellowstone/Tetons I would have the chance.  The road to Dubois runs along the Wind River and there was interesting rock formations, too.  At one point we had to stop for a cattle round up crossing the road.  As we passed I noticed they were cowGIRLS herding the cattle.  Giddy-up!!   I stopped at the visitor center in town and the Shoshone Forest office to get info on the forest and fires in the area.  (There were a couple of fires, but not where I would be going.)  Forest road 515 gains about 2,000 feet elevation to 9,200 feet, and is about 5 miles of washboard road.  I really did not enjoy the road to the campground.  But, when I got up there it was really pretty and worth the drive.  The good sites in the main loop by the lake were taken so I drove up a small hill on a spur where there were 3 more sites.  They had recently cut down dead or dying trees and left the wood for campers to use.  There was a nice stack of wood at my site!

Brooks Lake Site

Brooks Lake

On one side of the lake was The Pinnacles and the other side had the Breccia Cliffs.  There was a fire past the lake and the smoke makes interesting sunset color on the Pinnacles.  There was also a trail leading from the lake that is part of the Continental Divide Trail.

Start of Trail and Breccia Cliffs. Across the lake is smoke from the fire.

Pinnacles at Sunset

I got to talking to the Richard, the Camphost.  He said there was a trail branching off that went to Jade Lake, a really beautiful lake.  He had seen a bear in the area, so lent me his bear spray for the hike Riley and I would take the next day.  It was a pretty hike, longer than I thought, and when I got to the lake I was really disappointed.  It seemed really small and unimpressive.  But the sign said Jade Lakes, so maybe there would be another if I kept walking.  After a bit more walking there was still no 2nd lake.  Some folks came walking along and said yes, it was just a little way further.  It was truly a storybook looking lake, so I’m glad we kept walking.

Jade Lake

At Jade Lake

We stayed 3 nights.  On the last night some women pulled up to the site next to me, several women, several trucks.  Turns out they were having a bachelorette party for their friend that works at the fancy lodge/dude ranch next door.  I had seen a cowgirl herding some horses on the trail a day or 2 before, and she was the guest of honor.  It seemed quite ‘Wyoming’ to have a campout bachelorette party.

The next day was Saturday, September 1st, time to head out to Grand Tetons and Yellowstone.  I would take highway 26 over the Continental Divide at Togwotee Pass, through Moran Junction and then to Jackson, as I needed gas and groceries.  Then we would visit Tetons, getting to Yellowstone after Labor Day (when hopefully the crowds would be smaller).

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