June 11–15, 2019
Up Close & Personal
Flaming Gorge marked the halfway point between Fruita and Jackson, so we made the trip in a few hours. The landscape was mostly gentle and rolling, and the Teton Range started as nothing more than a small dot in the distance.
As we moved closer, though, the mountains grew larger, until we entered the Jackson Hole Valley. We’ve seen a lot of mountain ranges, but watching the Tetons appear in front of you makes you simultaneously feel small, but also incredibly energized. It’s breathtaking.
“Hello wildlife,” we say as we drop into the valley.
Elk, Moose, & Bicycles, Oh My!
Jamie booked us a spot at the Gros Ventre campground about 15 minutes outside of Jackson, and about 10 minutes from Kelly, so we went to the lodge after pulling in, received our assigned space from the host, and then pulled around to get set up. We were slowly becoming used to the rhythm of RV life, and had everything leveled and ready to go in our fastest time yet.
Gros Ventre sits on the National Elk Refuge, so you’re guaranteed to experience lots of wild animals during your stay. Our first visit was a couple of years ago when we met our very close friends to tent camp, and we had large—but thankfully friendly—animals sleeping outside our tent each night.
Pro tip: Gros Ventre sits smack in the middle of a very active bear area, so they’ve installed lockable bear-safe containers in each campsite—and you better use them if you’re tent camping.
Out first year, we learned this the hard way after leaving a cooler out in the middle of the day for a very brief time, which was swiftly confiscated by park rangers. Luckily, we were extremely apologetic and they didn’t fine us.
Now, though, we were sitting pretty in an RV with outfitted with electricity, plumbing, a refrigerator, and a freezer, so we wouldn’t have to worry. Plus, we scored a killer spot close to the Gros Ventre River, which was beautifully flowing fast and high.
Although there are more than 300 spots at this gem of a campground, it’s super quiet. In fact, from sundown to well after dawn, you hear nothing except the river racing.
Each morning and evening, our neighborhood moose would meander through our side of the campground, and at times, we would find it resting in the shade next to the trees a hundred feet or so from our spot.
Even adolescent moose are massive and intimidating creatures, and are just as dangerous—if not more so—than bears. But, despite frequent signs warning onlookers, we were consistently surprised at how close tourists got to these animals in an attempt to shoot the perfect selfie.
We also saw plenty of bison—easily one of our favorite aspects of Jackson—and their adorable babies quietly meandering through fields, which are equally as massive and mysterious as Moose. Then, at night, the elk would commence their otherworldly bugling, looking to hookup with the ladies.
Although we got some solid work in, this was a lazy, magical time, since we spent the days enjoying the peacefulness and wildlife, and only had leave our spot a couple of times per week to fill up with water and dump.
Derek got in a couple of longer road bike rides, and we all enjoyed a shorter family MTB ride along the Putt Putt trail on the southeast side of Jackson’s downtown.
The Town of Jackson
Despite the spellbinding scenery surrounding it, we tried to avoid the town of Jackson as much as possible, which is an interesting place full of contrasts.
It’s very small, but it’s also vibrant and cosmopolitan—and unbearably jam-packed with tourists. In fact, during peak hours, the narrow sidewalks are as crowded as any bustling, world-class city hundreds of times its size.
The town also boasts world-class dining, if you have the money to spend. However, the food for the rest of us “normal folks” is consistently bland, overpriced, and served with robustly lax attitudes. We’ve yet to enjoy a stellar dining experience there.
JH Roasters is our respite from some of this madness, and is our favorite spots to stake out a table, pop in some headphones, and get a couple hours’ worth of work done when needed. They also have great lunch, delicious coffee, and the gals working the front this time enjoyed chatting with Ava & Livi about their travels.
Leaving Jackson Hole Through Yellowstone
The beauty and slow pace of life in Gros Ventre was fantastic, but we were itching to move on.
After a bit of planning, we decided to take the roughly six-hour drive up to Helena, MT, set up shop for a bit, enjoy the local mountain bike trails, and get ready for our eventual launch into Canada.
But instead of following the highway, we drove north through Yellowstone National Park, which never disappoints. Compared to the cloudiness and rain from a couple of years ago, the weather held out for the most part, with deep blue skies and fluffy clouds.
It wasn’t until we exited the park in Montana that we received our first thundershower. It actually snowed in Yellowstone a few days after we passed through on the Summer solstice, which we weren’t sad to miss!