Holy shit, guys. THE GRAND TETONS.
We rolled into the Moose, Wyoming area of the Bridger-Teton National Forest around 3pm on Father’s Day Sunday in June. The undeveloped camping areas on National Forest land here are pretty damned popular amongst the free camping faction. We scouted ahead to assess our comfort level with the access road and the availability of space for us to plop our big butt up on Upper Teton, then we slowly hauled ass up a steep, narrow dirt road and docked in a postcard.
The view at Upper Teton View is mythical. But in a real way. Like, a real life mythical view.
We were super pumped about our spot and our view.
Except then our new neighbor, Angry Dennis, decided to play villain in our storybook spot up on Upper Teton. Us planting ourselves in the group camping area apparently blocked a reported 1/5 of his previous view. Which I won’t argue- is true. Prior to our arrival (and the concurrent arrival of our new friends Joan &Don) Angry Dennis had a sweeping, completely unobstructed view of the Teton Range. Because Angry Dennis chose a camping spot near the back of the group area. And apparently assumed that meant that no one else would park on the other side of the group camping area. Dennis made sure that we were aware that he was displeased by our obstruction of a 1/5 of his view. And asked us to leave. We compromised by scooting backwards a few feet. And then Dennis neglected to spend any more time sitting outside of his rig enjoying his now 4/5 view of the Tetons from his rig. Every fairytale needs a villain.
Public service announcement: if you don’t like to share space with others, don’t set-up camp in a group camping area. Also, clean up after yourselves and take care of your mother (Earth). End of announcement.
Luckily Angry Dennis and his crew of 2 buddy rigs vacated the scene a day after we arrived.
So we took his spot.
And then we proceeded to make a bunch of new camping friends and have evening campfires and sunset viewing sessions with the new friends and we were very happy that Angry Dennis wasn’t there to piss on our joy.
We fought with horribly overloaded Verizon & AT&T towers in sometimes successful attempts to stay online so that we could work. And when we predictably lost the battle around 3pm each day, I headed out for a walk up the dirt roads which wound higher into the hillside and opened up to even more incredible Teton views. Jake is smart and usually set himself up to work offline by the time our data speeds stagnated. I walked.
We did need to drive 45 minutes into Jackson, WY one morning when the cellular towers hit us with a sneak mid-morning ‘no usable data’ attack. And while this loss of connectivity may sound horrific and possibly life-threatening and you are probably really worried about us… don’t. Jackson, Wyoming’s public library is worth working from whether or not you can get online in another manner. Jackson is a rich people town with a rich people library. And we were there. for. it.
When we weren’t fighting in internet usability battles or walking up the hillsides of Bridger-Teton National Forest, we visited with the shifting groups of free land lovers who set up shop in our general vicinity. Some stayed for just a night, others set up camp for several days.
A few days into our stay up on Upper Teton (which would have turned into just staying forever if there was not a 5 day overnight limit), our friends Jeffy and Jen popped up for drinks and a Teton backdropped fire. They were on the tail-end of a summer road trip up from Phoenix. We love us some Jeffy and Jen.
We spent several mornings consuming coffee with our new friend Keith, who plopped his tent next to Dyna while we were out working at the library one day. When we returned, he emerged from his tent, greeted us with a big smile and an offer to cook steaks over a campfire. Keith is a good neighbor. It soon came to be knowledge that he was road tripping from Rochester, NY – OUR PLACE! So clearly we fell even more in love with Keith. I worried that he might freeze to death in his tent every night, being as it was getting down into the 20ºs some nights. But he didn’t freeze. And he joined me for coffee every morning until we were forced to leave on morning 5 of our stay.
Our brand new friends Katie and Nick that we didn’t know until they showed up, showed up on Upper Teton once afternoon and leveled out nearby. They let us play with their lady-pup, Scully, and joined us for a few evening campfires.
Upper Teton is an epic place. And we were more than sad to have to leave. There may have been a tear leaking from my face.
Since we didn’t want to continue our fugitive tendencies, which apparently developed when I was too tired to continue driving without more diet cola back in South Dakota, we moved along after 5 days.
And by ‘moved along’, I mean we moved a few miles down the road to a new Moose, WY free camping spot. This may have been in a ‘legal gray area’, since we were technically supposed to move more miles away from our first spot at Upper Teton than we did, I think. The volunteer forest service gent (Bill is awesome) said it wouldn’t be a problem if we didn’t cause a ruckus. I promised not to cause any ruckuses.
Which is how we ended up living at Spread Creek for 5 days. And yes, we would have stayed much longer than 5 days if the entire Front Range of Bridger-Teton National Forest wasn’t on a 5 day limit due to its popularity. I’m cool with it – this is an incredible place and sometimes when people find themselves in incredible places they don’t want to share. Kind of like how I don’t like to share my most awesome candy with Jake and we get into verbal altercations regarding him sharing my non-shareable candy. NON-SHAREABLE.
Access to sites on Spread Creek Road was much less janky than access to Upper Teton. And, the sites on Spread Creek Road are not intended to be group sites (although if you want, you could fit a few rigs in most of the sites), so we enjoyed some non-social time with the mountains. We might have rumbled a bit further up the road to Spread Creek Meadow, which is a big group site with great Teton Views, but it was occupied (non-permanently) by a bible-teepee-child-art group of some sort. I like the bible-teepee-child-art group of some sort’s horses, which I made sure to pet on my walks up past their place.
While I would have been happy just to sit outside and soak in the Teton Views and afternoon sunshine, we also really wanted to find a real life wild moose. And no moose had been spotted near either Upper Teton or Spread Creek. So, we took our new friend Keith’s advice and headed up into Teton National Park for a hike which he promised had moose.
We arrived early for a parking spot, and hiked around Jenny Lake and up Cascade Canyon towards Lake Solitude. It’s a popular hike in the area, but wasn’t too crowded because it’s also a bit taxing. If you can get more than a mile up a trail, you’ll usually have some solitude. And we ‘oohed’ and ‘aahed’ and gasped for breath, and laughed at the fat rodent creatures called marmots that sunned their fat selves on rocks. We were delighted by all of sights and sounds and smells that mother nature was putting on display in the Tetons.
But we weren’t seeing any moose! Where were all the damned moose!?
We came to a fork which headed further up towards Lake Solitude, which was reportedly still packed in with snow. We considered turning around, cutting our marmots to moose losses. But we didn’t. And about 100 feet beyond that fork, we saw him. We saw our moose. I was elated. I shrieked a little bit before Jake shushed me. Jake ran back down the trail to alert some folks who were resting at the Y that there was an actual, real-life, no-shit moose up ahead. And then there was just a gaggle of about 6 humans ogling over a real life wild moose. He ate some branches and stomped around and then he wandered deeper into the forest and was gone. It was the best.
After the excitement of the moose, and the 8 mile trek back through the canyon and to the parking lot near the Jenny Lake Visitor’s Center – which was now brimming with people, we Jeeped ourselves over for some nourishment and Teton View afternoon libations at Jackson Lake Lodge.
The libations are Jackson Lake Lodge aren’t cheap. And the snacks are sparse if it’s not warm enough for them to run their outdoor grill (it wasn’t), but the views are worth the tithe.
Our moose hike day was a really really great day.
On our last day before eviction from Spread Creek, Jake’s little sister Emily flew into town for a visit. She brought her boyfriend, Clay. We taught them the ways of living off-grid and bathing quickly and efficiently. We have a 110gallon freshwater tank, and Jake and I have learned to make that last two weeks while still maintaining a semblance of cleanliness.
Because Emily and Clay wanted to explore the Teton area, and because we had grown obsessed with Teton views and free living locations, we decided to move down closer to Jackson onto another swatch of free camping land. We popped into Jackson proper to dump our nasty water and refill our fresh tank. And we all showered (one at a time, weirdos) in the RV while we were at the gas station filling water because we’re rude like that. And also: four showers worth of fresh/gray water saved!
We were a bit unsure if we could finagle our big ass into this new area (Antelope Flat.) We had scoped out Antelope Flat a few days before – and the road into the area was horrendously rutted. If one Dyna’s drive tires comes up off the ground… we’re stuck. But, our ‘must have more Teton views‘ brain outweighed our logical ‘let’s not risk getting stuck‘ brain. And guess what? The ‘let’s not risk getting stuck‘ brain can suck it because we didn’t get stuck!
While Antelope Flats was nasty dusty when the wind kicked up, and the individual sites (this is a marked camping area, with numbered, but free, campsites) are closer together than a lot of free camping locations – the views are SICK NASTY AWESOME. Bonus? There are trees here for hanging hammocks. Shit yes! Twist my arm I’ll meat sack (aka, hammock) outside with a book and a beer and Teton breezes everyday after work. HECK. YES. I. WILL.
Emily and Clay wandered off in the Jeep most days, exploring Teton National Park and Jackson and Jackson Hole. Jake and I had to work. But these were the best office views (and some of the worst cellular connectivity) we’ve ever had. So no complaints.
When Saturday rolled around we headed up into Yellowstone National Park with Emily and Clay to explore. I love Yellowstone. It’s all gushing, scalding water and furious spouts of steam and tiny chubby animals and shaggy snorting behemoth bison and the occasional bear. We rounded out our (very early *cough*cough* 4:30am) day with dinner at Jackson Lake Lodge, which was, again, expensive. But those views. And also, little butter patties shaped like moose.
Emily and Clay were slated to leave and we were slated to be evicted (5 days were up) from our space in Antelope Flat. We weren’t able to find any additional Front Range free camping spots, so 15 days of Teton magic would have to suffice us for this go round.
We left the Teton Front range with a new perspective on what a truly epic free camping spot is, a new respect for decent cellular based internet experiences, and lots of red dust covering our window sills. Emily left with an epic sunburn.
Next up: The other side of the Tetons! We’re headed to Idaho, baby! And we plan to get there and grab another free campsite before the July 4th crowds roll in…