After such an amazing time in Churchill with the Beluga Whales and the unforgettable Polar Bears, we boarded our flight to Winnipeg, where we would spend one more night before embracing the wonders of Yellowstone National Park and the Grand Teton National Park.
In Churchill, we had met a couple from England, Carol and Paul, whose passion for life was so similar to ours, we hit it off instantly. Together that night, we explored Winnipeg; and after spending a fun filled night sampling some of the local brew along the river, eating delicious Indian food at Restaurant Ivory and scrumptious ice creams at The Forks, we received notification that our 9am flight to Salt Lake City had been changed to 5am.
It almost wasn't worth going to bed, but again the Fairmont at the Forks was outstanding, and the few hours in bed refreshed us for the next part of our journey.
Ice cream at The Forks - photo from Paul's smart watch - can I add, not our best photo :)
On arriving in Salt Lake City, I managed to upgrade our car by trading one of my Grizzly Bear photos - certainly a win/win situation. I had organised to stay overnight at Double Tree by Hilton in SLC so we could spend the day exploring the area. The ducks in the pond beside the hotel were wonderful breakfast companions.
After a lot of research about which route to take from SLC to Yellowstone National Park, we decided to take the longer, but certainly more picturesque drive. Some of the main attractions on this route are Bear Lake, Afton, Snake River, Jackson Hole and then on to Grand Teton National Park before arriving in Yellowstone National Park. We left SLC around 8am and arrived at Grand Teton National Park somewhere around 8pm. This route on Google Maps is calculated at 326 miles with a time of just under 6 1/2 hours, but we had many stops, soaking up the amazing atmosphere and views.
Our return trip from Yellowstone to SLC however, had to be quicker due to flights and we ended up taking the most direct route, I-15 North via Idaho Falls, at just over 320 miles.
We stopped for morning tea at Mantua, which is a beautiful lake (reservoir) just outside Brigham City.
Bear Lake is definitely a spot to stop, stretch the legs and take in the amazing scenery. As you approach Bear Lake from the south, there is an overlook which provides the most spectacular scenery. It is easy to miss the turn off, but if you do, it's easy enough to turn around and certainly well worth the stop.
There were massive fires throughout the area on our visit, which did hinder some of the outstanding views over the mountains.
Garden City, Bear Lake is known as "home of the raspberry shake". This was one shake we were going to sample and as we drove toward the shop, we realised everyone else had the same idea; and yes, the 40 minute wait to purchase the famous Raspberry Shake was well worth it. This shake is in fact, a huge cup of soft ice cream - you just have to choose the flavour. I went for the Raspberry and Mango, whilst Peter typically had lots of chocolate in his.
About 30 minutes down the road from Garden City, we decided we need to stop for lunch. I know what you're thinking, how could anyone be hungry after that enormous shake. Well ask anyone that knows me, I tend to eat frequently throughout the day and am always hungry - obviously a fast metabolism :)
We saw a turn off on our right hand side and upon driving down for quite some distance, found this lovely lake (North Beach State Park) which is on the left hand side driving in - absolutely amazing scenery and a perfect spot to sit, eat lunch and watch the birds and take in the views of the mountains. On the right hand side of this road, hundreds of people and children were enjoying playing in the water, which is the furthermost point of Bear Lake. To access the waterside part of the lake, you need to pay a small fee.
Road trips are made more memorable by passing through some of the smaller towns on the way to your final destination. Afton, Wyoming with a population somewhere around 2,000 is no exception. The World's Largest Elkhorn Arch contains over 3,000 elk antlers. The arch is stated to be 75 feet wide, and 18 feet above the four lanes of Highway 89 in downtown. An informative sign on one end claims: "To duplicate this arch at today's prices the cost would be over $400,000 for the antlers alone".
After leaving Afton, we took the route which winds parallel to Snake River. Snake River is breathtaking - it rises in the mountains of the Continental Divide near the southeastern corner of Yellow National Park in northwestern Wyoming and flows south through Jackson Lake along the eastern base of the Teton Range in Grand Teton National Park.
At many points along the river, we passed people whitewater rafting, kayaking and some just floating downstream on their rafts. If we had time, kayaking down the river would have been on the top of our list. Next time we will spend more time along the trailheads of the Alpine/Snake River Canyon.
We had finally reached Jackson Hole valley. Not to get confused over the difference between Jackson and Jackson Hole - Jackson Hole is a valley between the Teton Mountain Range and the Gros Ventre Range in Wyoming sitting near the border of Idaho. Jackson Hole refers to an entire valley, including several smaller towns including Jackson, Teton Village, Wilson, the Aspens, Moran Junction and Moose. Continuing the Wyoming tradition of elk antler arches, I found this iconic arch across the road from the Jackson Hole Visitor centre, where we picked up some very valuable and interesting information for the rest of our trip and some wonderful souvenirs.
On arriving at Coulter Bay, Teton National Park around 8pm we found our lovely little cabin. The mountains in and around Teton National Park were covered with what we thought was haze, but found out that all of Montana and the surroundings States were on fire. Very sad for the areas affected by the fires, but the entire time we spent in the Tetons and Yellowstone areas, we encountered lots of smoke which certainly hindered and obstructed the beautiful views of the area.
Teton National park
Teton National Park
I just could not resist this shot as we approached the mountain ranges. Breathtaking views.