Grand Tetons: Snake River raft tour was one of trip’s highlights

By Steve Scauzillo, Staff Writer

This park has 300 historic buildings. One place that fits that category and then some is Jenny Lake and lodge. Named after the trapper Beaver Dick Leigh’s wife, Jenny, the lake, lodge and visitor center blend into the idyllic setting.

If you get there early, grab a boat ride to Hidden Falls. Or just wander the lake’s gentle shores. You might catch a family of deer grazing near the boathouse.

The raft tour of the Snake River was one of the highlights of our trip. No rapids, just smooth sailing with an expert guide who pointed out the nesting bald eagles overhead.

My wife also spotted a river beaver on the muddy bank. Tours are available for $65 for adults out of Jackson Lake Lodge. You don’t have to be fit to do this. All we did was sit and let the man with the oars steer us into hours of tranquility.

I saved the best for last: A tour of Oxbow Bend, the most photographed area in the United States. In fall, the gold and burnt orange leaves shimmer against the backdrop of Mount Moran and the whole Teton Range.

Be sure to ask for the Rock ‘n’ Roll Ranger. He adds music from Bob Dylan and The Byrds to an engrossing evening of history, politics and nature.

When you’re planning your trip to the Gran Tetons, just remember to tell your travel agent: It’s the place with the unusual name. It was named by French trappers who missed their women.

Don’t miss this place.

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Grand Tetons: Lots of easy hikes in this national park

By Steve Scauzillo, Staff Writer

If you enjoy hikes but aren’t the most athletic, there are a lot of easy ones in Grand Tetons National Park. We checked out the list of hikes with the friendly ranger at the Colter Bay Visitor Center.

The next day, my wife, Karen, and our 21-year-old son, Andy, were 10 minutes into a woodsy jaunt along Jackson Lake when I yelled out: “Deer!”

The doe shot me a look with her big, black eyes and then moved on.

Later, we arrived at our destination: Swan Lake. Here, a family of white swans took up residency at the far end of a blue kettle lake half-covered in green lily pods. The distant sound of the birds’ honking told us this was their home — we were only guests.

Jackson Lake is controlled by Jackson Lake Dam. So with the drought, the water levels were low. When the Congress preserved the lake as part of the park, it did so knowing that a large portion of the water belonged to the Idaho potato farmers.

Naturalists wanted to renege on the agreement but the farmers held firm. After much debate and bitter fights, the 484-square-mile park became one of the first with a dam on a river to be preserved. A compromise, indeed, that took three acts of Congress starting in 1929 and ending in 1950.

Jackson Lake Lodge is part of the history of the Grand Tetons. The view from inside the main room envelopes you like a warm bath. Your eyes travel past the floor-to-ceiling windows into the 40-mile Teton mountain range outside.

There’s a short, 1-mile hike outside the wood veranda that’s perfect for burning off the calories from breakfast at the lodge’s famous Americana restaurant, the Pioneer Grill.

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Grand Tetons: L.A. families can fly or drive to Wyoming

By Steve Scauzillo, Staff Writer

You don’t have to rough it or learn how to honk like a goose to enjoy the Grand Tetons.

First, you can drive or fly. It is in Wyoming, so it’s not too far. Flights to Jackson or Boseman, Mont., are convenient. You can hire a car service from the airport.

My family and I made it part of a two-fer with Yellowstone, which is less than an hour’s drive away.

After checking out bubbling geysers, waterfalls and ambling bison at Yellowstone, we hopped in the rental car and drove this gorgeous big-sky country into Teton.

Confession: I liked Grand Teton Park better than Yellowstone. Teton is balm for the anxious soul. It’s less crowded and more beautiful.

We went in the off-season, when fall breezes brought a chilly snap to the fresh air. They also delivered thunderstorms and hail, but that didn’t last too long, and by the next day, gave way to blue skies and cotton-ball clouds.

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Grand Tetons: Put this national park on your must-see list

By Steve Scauzillo, Staff Writer

Fishermen, hunters and naturalists don’t need to read what I’m writing about because chances are they’ve been there.

They’ve fished its lazy rivers. Hunted for game. Peered through binoculars in the freezing cold for a glimpse at the fleeting pronghorn elk.

It’s Grand Teton National Park.

This preserved, not totally pristine but picturesque wonder of the national park system receives plenty of popularity from the specialized outdoor adventurers but might be overlooked by family vacationers.

They’d rather go to Yosemite National Park, the Grand Canyon, one of those awe-inspiring parks in Utah and of course, Yellowstone National Park. But you might want to put Grand Teton on your list of must-see natural places, even if pitching a tent or bird-watching in the rain ain’t your thing.

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