Day 13 again: Time for Tetons

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Where were we?

Having settled up on our Junior Ranger business in Yellowstone, we made the relatively brief two-hour drive down to the Grand Tetons National Park. Our first stop was the Gros Ventre Campground, a first-come, first-served place like most of the Yellowstone campgrounds. Gros Ventre (pronounced grow vahn) means ‘big belly’ in French. The French explorers who came through here must have been an earthy bunch, because the name Grand Teton is French for ‘large breast’. Hey kids, let’s go spend a couple days exploring Large Breast National Park!

People of France, consider us pranked.

Our campsite at Gros Ventre was similar to our site in Yellowstone, with the big difference that Gros Ventre had bathrooms with running water and electricity. What luxury!

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By the time we had set up camp, it was late afternoon. We decided to go around the corner from our campground and visit a swimming hole with a hot spring. ‘Hot’ in Wyoming is a relative concept – the water was probably around 75F/24C – not frigid, mind you, but not what comes to mind when you hear that a hot spring is involved. We were still excited to have it at all, since our hopes for swimming in Yellowstone had been dashed by the snow melt and high water everywhere.

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What the swimming hole lacked in temperature, it made up in scenery.

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We got cleaned up from swimming and then set out for dinner. I had read about a place called Dornan’s Chuckwagon, a local institution, and dragged the family there. Dornan’s is part of a private food-and-entertainment complex inside the park, a legacy of the fact that private settlement of the Jackson valley was well underway before the National Park was created. The Chuckwagon is a barbecue buffet – two great words that go great together. Plus, they had a huge Indian tepee that you could sit inside while eating.

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The Chuckwagon served barbecued beef ribs, skin-on Yukon Gold mashed potatoes, baked beans, biscuits, and mixed berry cobbler. My family wanted nothing to do with any of that food. So they got pizza and pasta from another restaurant across the way, and we ate our divided meals in the tepee.

After dinner we went for a drive through the park. We stopped for a bit on the shore of Jenny Lake, in the shadow of the great mountains. By this point it was twilight – still late in the day at 9:00 at night – and there were rich opportunities for taking pictures.

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Tomorrow: Let’s do some hiking.