Day 14: Hiking around Jenny Lake

The sun was shining bright and hot in the crisp blue sky when we got up on Friday morning, our last full day out West. After a leisurely camp breakfast, we drove into the park to the Jenny Lake trailhead. Our plan was to hike around the lake shore, a total distance of 7 miles (11km).

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Before setting out on our hike, we stopped at the visitor center to borrow a naturalist backpack. Yellowstone and the Grand Tetons both have a program where kids can borrow a backpack full of supplies for day hiking. The Yellowstone packs are for geology work, and include nifty tools such as an infrared thermometer for checking the temperature of hot springs from a safe distance. The pack we borrowed in the Grand Tetons had art supplies for sketching and painting wildlife, as well as plaster of Paris for making casts of animal tracks. We were keen to find moose tracks – the real ones, not the ice cream – and sure enough, we came across the fresh prints of a young moose near a small stream not far from the lake.

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While the cast set up, the girls made some paintings of flowers around us.

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Nick, who is still pursuing his interest in photography, manned the big camera.

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It was really neat to have the backpack, since we never would have brought plaster and watercolor materials along by ourselves. Ukuleles and beer, yes, but not art supplies.

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Once the cast was firmed up, we scooped it out of the mud and kept hiking. Jenny Lake was running high because of the snow melt, and in a few places we had to divert off the trail and up into the woods because the trail had disappeared under the water – the same problem we encountered in Lamar Valley at Yellowstone.

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The kids also found an abundance of rocks to scramble over – no surprise, given the mighty mountains looming over us.

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The trail led us to an incredible series of waterfalls coming out of Cascade Canyon. Here the water was so rough and powerful that all but one of the footbridges were closed.

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The raging waters were beautiful at a safe distance:

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We got someone from a big family reunion group to take a family picture for us.

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The weather started to get gloomier. Having been out West for nearly two weeks now, we took the clouds seriously. Instead of hiking back, we hopped on a shuttle boat that would take us straight back to the trailhead. We were glad we did, too, because there was a thunderstorm crashing overhead within the hour.

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There was a French-speaking family from Paris sitting on the shuttle behind us, and I broke out my high school French to chat with them for a few minutes. I didn’t feel bold enough to ask about this fat belly and large breast business.

Back at the visitor center, the girls earned another Junior Ranger badge for their scientific and artistic work out on the trail.

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We had a lovely dinner at a rollicking bar and pub in Jackson called Sidewinders, and then we headed back to camp for some packing and some sleep before it was time to head back East. I want to note here that Chelsea and Nicholas did some extraordinary packing work, staying up until 2:00 in the morning to get ready while I was sleeping for the drive. They had prepared us so well that it only took 40 minutes from wake-up to starting the drive the next morning.

Tomorrow: On the road again.