Got up early today (7 am) and put things on that could get wet before we took off for our whitewater rafting trip with “Mad River Rafting,” a company Mark remembered using for a trip like this 24 years ago, when he spent some time in Yellowstone and environs. The trip started with a breakfast–muffin, egg & ham wrap, coffee, juice, and then we were off, with just five of us (the trip wouldn’t have made if we hadn’t booked it late yesterday; the other three were an Australian dad and his 12- and 14-year-old kids). The van ride took about 30 minutes and there was some fog, but then we were off on an 8-mile trip down the Snake River that took about 1 1/2 hours and was loads of fun, all in sunny weather (at about 65 degrees). We all had to help paddle, but Mark and the Australian, Matt, sat in front, so they got much wetter than we got (we all got wet, of course–I was glad we spent the extra money for a wet suit rental, because that kept me pretty warm, except for my feet!). Part of the trip was pretty calm water and wildlife watching–we saw THREE bald eagles, one of them in flight, and a few small critters like a marmot and some ducks–but part of it was really quite bumpy and fun–there was a famous spot called the lunch table that has a long stretch of whitewater to get through; some other places were also fun, at least for rookies like us. I had never done anything like this before, so it was a blast. The ride back in the van was a little bit boring, but at least we got a chance to warm up a little bit while the van driver talked about her beloved jeep.
We stopped at the full-size Albertson’s on the way back to the hotel to pick up a few more groceries, and then dried off and changed clothes. We had yesterday’s leftover pizza for lunch, with a scone/turnover for dessert. After a bit of puttering, we left for our short but still wonderful adventure exploring the Grand Tetons. We basically took a loop through the National Park (which isn’t that big, as far as drivable roads are concerned), and stopped at the Taggard Lake trailhead, where we took about a 2-hour hike to the lake and back. It was very nice — not steep at all and almost effortless compared to our last hike (less altitude, and less elevation change), although we went almost 5 miles. The view of the Grand Teton and the adjacent mountains was beautiful, and again, we were very happy to see lots of water–not just the gorgeous lake, but also a creek and a small waterfall. At about 3 pm we were back in the car and then just got out at various viewpoints for a few minutes: at Jenny Lake, then at a small mountaintop that we could drive all the way up–it was called Signal Mountain, and we joked that we should have a good cell phone signal up there, only to find a huge cell tower with serious cables sticking out right near the top! We also briefly stopped at Lake Jackson, at the small dam that makes Jackson Lake as enormous as it is and allows them to control flow into the snake river, and at a historical marker of an old cabin. Everywhere, there were beautiful views of the Tetons and of the valley to the other side, with its sage brush and its wetlands around the Snake River, and some of the “light effects” as the clouds moved in and as rain was obviously coming down elsewhere in the park were spectacular. Only the wildlife viewing was a bit disappointing–a baby moose and his mother were almost completely hidden by the trees they were resting under, the bison we saw were really far away and never lifted their heads, and the birds of prey we saw circling over the river were very far away! But we’re confident we’ll see more tomorrow on the way to and then in Yellowstone.
We were back in town around 6 pm and eventually decided to go back to the same restaurant as yesterday, the Lift–but this time, to the downstairs area, which has a different menu. We got to sit outside, which was lovely, and we split a big pasta meal and a salad, which was just about right. Admittedly, we did look around town a bit for some interesting dessert, but since we couldn’t find anything we liked and it started to rain, we simply picked up a couple of 80-cent-packages of “factory cookies” and had those with the hot chocolate from packets that were sitting alongside the coffee packs in our hotel room while listening to the downpour outside. It’ll be an early night, especially for me, since I woke up very early, but we did have another great day.