August 17 – Immediately to the south of
Yellowstone Park is the Grand Teton National Park. This park was created to
protect the majestic
Teton mountains from development. Much of the land was actually bought up by John D. Rockefeller and donated to the government to expand the original park. Along with the mountains the park contains much of the valley to the east of them.
There are not a wealth of things to see in the park, but the main road runs along the mountain range and has lots of great views. We drove the road south and stopped for pictures along the way. As in Yellowstone there were fires in and near the park and while the day started out clear, it became more and more hazy as the day went on, but Stacie still managed to get some good shots. Before the land was bought up to create the park there were many ranches and lodges, some of which were preserved and are still in operation today. We stopped off at one, the Jenny Lake Lodge, for lunch. Stacie had a buffalo burger and Dave had a regular burger. Stacie enjoyed her burger and Dave is now afraid that she may take up hunting on the remaining days of our adventure. At the south end of the park was the Menors Ferry Historic Area. The area included the original cabin of Bill Menor who built and operated a cable ferry across the Snake River. This ferry became the primary link between the valley and the outside world. The Park Service has built a replica (actually a replica of a replica) of the original ferry and offers rides across the river. This type of ferry dates back to Roman times and is a very clever creation. A heavy cable is strung across the river and above the water. On the cable is a trolley that can slide along the cable. The ferry is a simple platform supported by two pontoons. A rope is run from one end of the trolley to a pulley on the tip of one of the pontoons. From there the cable runs to a steering wheel of sorts and then to a pulley on the other pontoon and back to the trolley. The current of the river keeps the ferry downstream of the cable with the pontoons pointed into the current. When the operator wants to cross the river the steering wheel is turned which takes in rope on one pontoon while letting out rope on the other. As a result the ferry is at an angle to the current and much like wind pushing on a sail the ferry is pushed sideways by the current and it crosses the river. To return to the other shore the operator simply turns the steering wheel the other way and the ferry is held on an opposite angle. The more the ferry is angled, the faster it goes.
After many years of operating the ferry, Bill Menor sold his homestead (actually he had successfully squatted to get the land) to Maude Noble. She had her log cabin disassembled and moved to her new home at the ferry. She operated the ferry for several years and then a bridge was built across the river and the ferry was out of business. Maude continued living on the site and operated a store from Bill’s old cabin. She and a number of residents were concerned about the continuing development in the area and held a meeting in her cabin with the superintendent of Yellowstone Park asking him to help create a park to protect the area. That evening Grand Teton National Park was born. Maude also donated some nearby land so that a church, the Chapel of the Transfiguration, could be built to serve local residents. Maude was eventually approached by the Snake River Land Company who wanted to buy her land. They offered her much more than she thought the land was worth and she quickly sold out. The Snake River Land Company was actually a cover for John D. Rockefeller and all of the land that was bought became the park.
The folks who owned the land across from the ferry didn’t sell out and the land is still privately owned and surrounded by the park (called an “in holding” there are many spots like this in the park). There is a lodging resort with a bar and restaurant on the property and we took the ferry over to check the place out. The bar didn’t have Alaskan Amber on tap, but they did have Alaskan Pale! (a lighter brew, kind of like Amber Lite). We enjoyed an Alaskan Pale and afterwards tried a local brew, Snake River Lager which was a little darker than a pale ale. After our tasting break we caught the ferry back to the other side and continued our driving tour. The fire smoke had pretty much settled in and the mountains had become shadows in the distance. We headed north and back into Yellowstone and on the way there was another moose sighting! We arrived at the crampground entrance and realized that there were still a few hours of daylight left so we headed up to the Thumb Basin, another of the geyser basins. As we pulled into the entrance we saw a small herd of elk grazing. They were quite used to people and weren’t bothered by all the people taking pictures. The basin didn’t have and truly active geysers (a few of the geysers will erupt, but it is very infrequent). These geysers were much smaller than those in the Old Faithful area, although there was one interesting one – Lakeside Geyser. This geyser had formed just a few feet offshore in the lake and its cone of deposited material had built up to the point where the geyser was above the water (sort of like a volcano forming underwater). There are great stories of fishermen standing on the cone and catching fish and lowering them (still on the hook) into the geyser to be instantly cooked! As dusk settled in we returned to camp.