When we were planning the Grand Teton leg of our 5 ½ month road trip, TG happened upon a most unique accommodation: two cabins located inside the national park boundary and only 1.5 miles from the famous Mormon Row and Moulton Barns.
McReynolds Blacktail Cabins looked like the perfect place, but TG said, “it’s a little out of our budget.” “Wait a minute,” I replied, “isn’t this 2022??? It’s our 40th wedding anniversary this year!”
Forty years of marriage is certainly worthy of a Grand Splurge celebration, don’t you think?!? TG inquired and the West Cabin was available the last week of October.
If you haven’t already read Episode 1: Walk on the Wild Side, you can click here to open a new tab and read all about our 32 nights in Big Sky, MT and Yellowstone National Park.
We left our Airbnb in Big Sky on Monday, October 24. It had snowed non-stop since early Saturday, and there was somewhere between 18-24 inches on the ground. It was a bit edgy going the nine miles down the mountain, but thanks to TG’s great driving we made it safe & sound.
Any drive through Yellowstone or Grand Teton National Park is a potential photo safari so we always keep our cameras within easy reach. On the Rockefeller Parkway we saw two cars stopped on a bridge up ahead. Did they spot a moose? No! OMG!!! A huge grizzly bear was crossing the river!
We quickly parked the car, and we got some wonderfully close shots of this magnificent animal as he lumbered by. We found out later that the locals have nicknamed this grizzly “Huck,” for the nearby Huckleberry Mountain. He is extremely elusive, so this was a rare and very fortunate spy.
Watch “Huck the Magic Grizzly” slowly walk by!
Thus began our animal count for Grand Teton NP. In addition to Huck, we also saw a coyote in the beautiful afternoon light,
A skunk, a badger, and a lovely herd of pronghorns.
We pulled into the driveway at McReynold’s West Cabin a little after 4 pm.
The cabin was perfect, with everything we could need, and an incredible view of the Teton mountains.
We woke up early Tuesday morning, excited to begin our week inside the park. As predicted, the sky threatened snow, so we headed to the Snake River Overlook to channel our inner Ansel Adams – aka concentrate on black and whites on this cloudy, gray day.
This is approximately where the famous photographer Ansel Adams took his iconic image of the Snake River and the Tetons rising above it – and helped convince Congress to designate this area a national park.
After a picnic with a view,
We drove to the Chapel of the Transfiguration, another iconic park image. This tiny rustic chapel was built in 1925 and provided local ranchers as well as tourists a place to worship close to home.
It is a spiritual place, with beautiful stained-glass windows in the foyer
And a view of the mountains behind the altar.
At the back of the chapel is a book for prayer requests. I am not a particularly religious person, but I wrote a special prayer in the book. It seemed the right thing to do in such a sacred space.
Within walking distance of the chapel is the old Menor’s Ferry. This was the only way across the Snake River before they built the steel truss bridge in 1927, making the ferry obsolete.
Wednesday morning started out cold. From the coziness inside our cabin, we could see that the clouds over the mountains were dramatic.
After a quick breakfast, we buddled ourselves up and spent some time photographing the Mormon Row barns.
While TG concentrated on his long-exposure panoramas,
I entertained myself with the adorable little chipmunks that scurried about the old, wooden buildings.
You can see all of TG’s beautiful Mormon Row Historic District photos here: (click on link to open in new tab)
Thursday morning started clear, and we drove the loop road, stopping to admire the beautiful sunrise along 191,
And the Willow Flats Overlook.
Along the way, we spied the largest herd of elk we had seen yet. There were at least 200 cows, all herded along by three or four large bulls. We could hear the bulls bugling, which sounds like something between a painful scream and a horse neighing and is part of their mating ritual.
We stopped at the Jenny Lake Overlook,
And checked out the Taggart Lake trailhead. The clouds had started to move in, obscuring our view of the mountains, so we decided to leave the hike for another day.
By nightfall the clouds were gone, and millions of stars lit up the sky.
The Big Dipper was perfectly positioned above the Teton mountain range, so I set up my tripod for a star stack.
As I broke down my tripod 90 minutes later, I heard a loud rustling in the tall grass and the distinctive sounds of something (big?) crossing the small stream that runs through the property. A moose? A pronghorn? A coyote??? Whatever it was, it wanted nothing to do with me and given the number of mule deer we saw around the cabin, I’m guessing that’s what I most likely heard.
Friday was another cold but clear day. We found a nice set of black bear prints and TG may or may not have taken off his shoes and socks for a bear feet/bare feet photo op.
We took advantage of the beautiful weather for another photo shoot at the Moulton Barns,
Went for a drive around the park,
And captured the last vestiges of autumn before heading home for an afternoon nap.
That night the stars once again filled the sky. Around 9 pm, we drove the five minutes back to Mormon Row to capture the Milky Way rising above the famous T.A. Moulton Barn.
Before we arrived in the Greater Yellowstone/Grand Teton area, it was my dream to see a moose and we had already spied 35. After all of our great animal sightings over the past month, we started Saturday with no expectations.
We decided on an early morning drive on the Moose-Wilson Road and no sooner had we turned the corner when we came upon two beautiful bull moose grazing in the meadow very close to the road.
On our way back, a cow had joined them! Make that 38 moose — so far!
The beautiful Teton mountain range lined the west side of our drive as we made our way north.
A large group was pulled over at Oxbow Bend and as we hopped out of the car, we spied a bald eagle on the ice. TG managed to capture the eagle in flight along with a little beaver sitting nearby, hoping no one would notice him!
The afternoon warmed into the balmy mid-40s with plenty of sunshine. We decided to hike to Taggart Lake – something we had been looking forward to all week. This beautiful glacier lake is a 3.2-mile round trip hike and is rated “easy” on the park website.
The trail crossed through flat, rolling sagebrush and past a little waterfall,
Before beginning a slow, gentle climb through aspen-covered moraine and pine forests.
The lake is stunning, and we could not have picked a more perfect day. The water was like glass, reflecting the Teton mountains rising above it.
Despite it being so late in the season, there were plenty of hikers on the trail, meaning we did not see much wildlife besides chipmunks, squirrels, and a few snowshoe hare tracks.
It was simply a beautiful day for a lovely hike!
You can see all of TG’s beautiful landscape panoramas here, including Taggart Lake:
After a fun morning with the muskrats and beavers at Oxbow Bend, we relaxed on Sunday afternoon. We had been going pretty much continuously for the past six weeks and needed to ready ourselves for stop #3 on our road trip: New Mexico.
We did enjoy a lovely last supper at Dornan’s Pizza & Pasta Company.
It’s nothing fancy, but it has a million-dollar view and was a relaxing place to enjoy the sunset.
Our road trip thus far had been extraordinary. Between the two parks we had enjoyed 29 photo safari days and already a lifetime of memories!
You can view all of our wildlife photos from Grand Teton on the Flickr link below:
Most locals say that fall is a perfect time to visit the Yellowstone-Grand Teton area. There are far fewer people and a 50/50 chance of decent weather year in and out. In our six weeks we only had two days of what we would consider “bad” weather.
And McReynolds Blacktail Cabins was the perfect “Grand Splurge” for our 40th anniversary! It is a charming cabin and its location inside the park is priceless.
You can view all of our Grand Teton landscape photos on the Flickr link below:
As we left the Grand Tetons in our review mirror, our feelings were bittersweet. We were sad to leave this place, with its astounding beauty, but also excited to continue our journey.
Coming next: Westward Ho(ly Cow) Episode 3 “Back to the Bosque”