Our day started early because we planned to take the 9 a.m. raft trip down the Snake River from Jackson Lake Lodge. This raft trip is billed as a leisurely excursion on the quest to see various animals who frequent the river. When we woke up at 7 a.m., the sun was somewhere far above a thick layer of gray clouds. Luckily, it had stopped snowing and the snow was beginning to melt, creating large puddles around the all-dirt campground.
We arrived at Jackson Lake Lodge early because I was convinced that people would be on this river float. There is an earlier float and several later opportunities throughout the day. We discovered that yesterday’s evening floats had been cancelled, so we were sure that these visitors would want to complete the journey this morning instead. We were greeted by a friendly, retired police officer who works for the float company and lives in the park during the summer months. He welcomed us, then told us we were the only people going on the 9 a.m. raft trip. He drove us to the meeting point with the raft, about 20 minutes from the lodge. There, we met our very knowledgeable and relaxed guide.
Our guide was happy we came prepared with winter ski jackets, gloves and hats.
He also had a large pile of wool blankets we used as the trip progressed and he was happy to tell us stories about the area, animals, and his own life as we gently floated along the river. The sun was trying to come out, providing odd peaks of the Tetons through the lower clouds.
I was not sure we were going to see the mountains today, either. The Snake River, like all rivers, has varying flow rates. On this June day, they told us the flow was actually quite slow due to an early run-off and more late spring snow that hadn’t melted. We saw bald eagles, beavers, several ducks, and other water birds that flew around us. The float is incredibly peaceful.
The float companies space the boats so you rarely see any others on the river. Usually, the boats hold up to 12 guests. The guide told us a private float usually would cost $1,000. This made our price seem like a bargain.
The breeze began to pick up during the last quarter of the trip down the river and my son and I were enjoying the blankets along with our winter clothes. This is a beautiful and worthwhile excursion, even in cold, cloudy weather. We landed ashore and were driven back to Jackson Lake Lodge in time for a late lunch.
Since we missed our dinner at the Mural Room the night before, we decided to have lunch here instead. We still could not see the mountains, though this restaurant boasts views from every seat due to their floor-to-ceiling windows. Murals and original paintings are on the walls of this restaurant. My husband and I both ordered the trout, which came on a bed of risotto. My son ordered the 1/3 pound hamburger special piled high with sautéed onions, local cheese, garlic aoli spread, and sweet potato fries. We all finished our lunches just in time to see the clouds lift over the mountains. At last! We could see the beautiful view as we ate our decadent dessert of huckleberry crumb pie and cinnamon ice cream. It was a relaxing and warm experience.
The views from the back of the lodge are breathtaking and the reason people fall in love with Grand Tetons National Park. The mountains were covered in snow, but the flocked trees were quickly melting, presenting us with a beautiful contrast in seasons. The sky and Jackson Lake were mirror images of each other. Birds began chirping and the lush meadows glistened from their ice bath. It was finally time to see more. We stopped at various turn-outs as we drove north, taking photos, until we reached Coulter Bay again, this time in the sun.
The view of Jackson Lake is lovely from here, but taking the short trail closer to the water’s edge presents the grandeur of this place. Probably because of the weather, we saw only one boat (a kayak) on the entire lake.
We attended the ranger program on grizzly bears where we learned about their appearance, temperament, and what to do if we saw or were approached by a bear. We had bear spray with us for all our hikes and would not feel comfortable without it given the numerous sitings and information provided by the rangers. Black bears are somewhat frequent visitors to our street at home, but we learned they are drastically different than grizzly bears.
Our son finished his Junior Ranger book and activities to earn his Junior Ranger badge. Our next stop was the Canyon hike close to our campground. We parked in the parking lot near the trail head with four other cars and crossed the road to the trailhead. The hike, which begins level with the Snake River, meanders through a meadow and up an incline until you are on a cliff overlooking the river with the Tetons in the distance.
The forest is not too dense and, despite the feeling that you are far from civilization, the road and entrance to the campsite is parallel to this trail.
We returned to the campground ready to make dinner. The sun was out and the snow had melted, leaving large puddles in several campsites. Luckily, ours was less filled with water and we could enjoy our fire pit for smores.