This year for our summer vacation, Ann and I had 10 days and no plan. Well, we did have an agenda for the first two days – a wedding and a reunion – but then it was wide open and unplanned for the next 8 days.
We knew we wanted to unplug as much as possible, and so car/tent camping was what we were prepared to do. Originally, we thought about simply working our way back from western Wyoming thru central Idaho and ending up back in Boise. What actually happened was that we wound our way through the Greys River drainage, crossed over the Wyoming Range and into the Green River Basin, dropped over “The Rim” into the Hoback Basin and the Hoback Canyon, followed the Snake River into Jackson Hole, took a side trip up the Gros Ventre River, and ended up camped at Colter Bay in GTNP. From there, we made the dash for Boise on the last day of our vacation.
Unwinding on the Greys River
After some persistent hinting and encouragement from Ann’s brother, Steve, we made the decision to begin our adventure up the Greys River. He and Paula, his girl friend, had an ulterior motive; they wanted to get us up to their little campsite and get us decompressed! After 2 1/2 days of mainly sitting around a campfire, doing a little fishing and some wildlife viewing excursions, Ann and I agreed that they accomplished their mission. We were now sufficiently unplugged, unwound and ready to enjoy our vacation.
Taking the Backroads to Jackson Hole
From the Greys River, you can take a maintained gravel road up Sheep Creek and through McDougal Gap. This cool mountain pass goes directly between two of the iconic peaks in the Wyoming Range, (McDougal Peak on the north and Triple Peak on the South). I had never actually been thru the range via this route. Eventually, you end up in Daniel on the Green River. As you leave the Wyoming Range, the road heads out across a high desert with outstanding views of the Wind River range in your front window, dramatic views of the Wyoming Range in the rearview mirror, and inviting views of the Gros Ventre Range out the drivers side window. From Daniel, we travel over the “Rim” into the Hoback Valley and are treated to spectacular views of the northern peaks in the Wyoming Range, and the southwestern peaks of the Gros Ventre. Eventually we pass by the guest ranch where I grew up and then down Hoback Canyon to it’s confluence with the Snake River.
Gros Ventre River Tour
The Gros Ventre River flows out of the heart of the range with the same name and into the Snake River just north of Jackson. As you head east, through the area called Mormon Row and enter the Gros Ventre valley, the change of scenery is spectacularly abrupt. The Tetons are still visible in the rearview mirror, and yet the landscape differs dramatically. You are suddenly no longer seeing the granite peaks with glacial lakes and green landscape dominating the view, but you are looking at hills and mountains with bright red hues, giving way to pink and gray hills and mountains. Most of the high peaks of the Gros Ventre Range are obscured by the foothills and lower mountains in this valley.
Relaxing in GTNP
For the first time in many years, I spent more time in and around the water in GTNP then on the mountains. Ann and I set up base camp in Colter Bay, which isn’t exactly “roughing it”. Even though we were tent camping, we had clean rest rooms that were literally steps away, showers and a small grocery store. Our time in the park was spent on the beach of Jackson Lake, hiking around Leigh Lake, fishing and sight-seeing. Oh, and we did get to one summit; Signal Mountain, where you can drive to within about 20 vertical feet of the summit and a short walk of about 50 yards.
The Fish Story – A Team Effort Pays Off
The last time I was fishing in GTNP a few years ago, I ended up in an area of the Snake River just above Oxbow bend. We could see fish rising that day, but never really had any action. I decided to try it on Saturday morning. Again, I was treated to fish rising all around me, and not having the right fly to match the hatch. Finally, I decided to get analytical with the operation and I scooped up one of the little devils with my cap, before another fish could slurp him up right before my eyes. I wasn’t exactly sure what the fly was, but I was determined to find as close of a match as possible.
The fly selection in the marina store at Colter Bay isn’t exactly well stocked, but with Ann’s help she was able to find a pretty close match. (I had forgot my reading glasses, so they were all pretty blurry to me). It turns out, that a #16 Pale Morning Dun was as close as we could find. That evening, we decided to return to the river for another try at the fish, and the hopes of maybe getting a moose or even a bear sighting at dusk. The fish were still rising, but not as prolifically as they were earlier. However, there was still a few of the little “Duns” on the water. Now I encountered my 2nd real issue. Even with my “reading” glasses on, I simply couldn’t thread the needle and get the fly on the line. Fortunately, Ann is near-sighted and has steady hands. She had to assist and get the fly on the line!
After a few minutes, of a couple of “bumps”, I got a solid hit. A nice 16″ Brown Trout liked what he saw and I was up to the task. We had a good little battle, and I knew I couldn’t “horse” him around much with a #16 fly, so now I needed the third assist from Ann. I had left my fishing net in the car. Fortunately, it was only about 25 yards away, so she made a quick run and made the hand-off in time for me to get the fish netted! In spite of the minor chaos, she also got some pretty good photos of the action.
This trip was not about the “challenge”, or even the “adventure”, it was more about reconnecting with the spirit of these mountains and the waters that flow beneath them. It was about relaxing, and reconnecting with each other. And of course, there was some discovery and “scouting” for future adventures that are on my radar. Ann and I both agree that our souls have been rejuvenated – that is what the mountains do for all of us, and it is especially what these mountains of western Wyoming do for me!
Mountain Ranges visited, or viewed; Salt River Range, Wyoming Range, Wind River Range, Gros Ventre Range, Teton Range, Southwest Absaroka Range and Snake River Range.