The Tetons, as they are commonly referred to, are much different than Yellowstone. They feature the Teton mountain range (~4000 m), which is omnipresent throughout your experience in the park.
Most of my time in the park was on the east side of the Teton range, which meant that the sun was setting behind the range. The result are these majestic, sharp backlit mountains that seem to glow in the evening.
Before I left for the Tetons, I asked a Yellowstonian what I should see and do in their Tetonic neighbor. She highly recommended taking a walk around Jenny Lake.
Jenny Lake is a gorgeous little body of water nestled just in the valley of the Tetons. A lot of campers come and camp out along the edge of the lake. Hammock abound. And, the views are stunning. Unfortunately, the lake water levels were a bit high, which obfuscated the path around the lake. Yes, I did just use the word obfuscate.
But, I met a local gal who was hangin' in a hammock and we got to chattin'.
Told her I had ~2 days to play with, and she recommended I hike the Delta Lake Trail. It takes about 3 hours to get up to the top, but apparently, the view of this emerald green Delta Lake is worth the difficult and lengthy trek.
She also warned of serious bear action on that trail.
You can't go anywhere around these national parks without hearing about bear safety. And, at a certain point, you think, "Well maybe I should stop and listen to this action?"
Knowing I was going to hike alone, I decided to invest in some bear spray. Bear spray is like high powered pepper spray, shoots up to 30 feet. Maybe saves your life.
Next up, I stopped at the National Park Visitor Center to see if they had any updates about the Delta Lake Trail.
Also, met the moose outside.
When I told the worker I planned on doing the Delta Lake hike, she went from playful, positive happy-go-lucky government worker --- to concerned & cautious parent.
I guess she trekked it a few days before and there were some slippery spots near the top.
"Oh, ok, that's good to know. I also heard there are bears up there, so I bought bear spray."
She looked me in the eyes and said, "Oh, bears are probably the least of your worry."
She went on to tell the story of a girl who was trekking earlier in the week, and stepped on a snowy patch, only to realize the snow was just covering up a shallow crevasse. She stepped into the crevasse and a stick impaled her calf. 30 stitches.
Ok, I get it. it's a tough trek.
But, I'm still gonna send it!
Halfway up the trail, the weather is gorgeous, the views are great. No bears yet.
Met some nice trekkers from Canada. And then, 90% up the trail, I run into these 3 Bostonian hikers. I'm from the Boston area too! Serendipity.
Andrew, Ana and Alice---I later dubbed them the "A team". Or, "Triple A".
It was nice to have a crew to summit with, especially so close to the top and especially when the trail gets a little dodgy. Here is Ana and Alice crossing this avalanche-y area which I felt a little uneasy on.
And, YUP. We made it! The reward: Delta Lake.
I wish I had gone a little earlier in the day, because the sun was setting right behind the range, and affected my snaps. If you're goin' for the high quality snaps, check where the sun will be on PhotoPills first.
It was already getting late and it was gonna take a couple hours to get back down, so we didn't spend much time at the top, even though we all wanted to.
This was one of the better hikes I've done in my life and truly satisfying to reach the top! The adrenaline was flowin' for all of us as we headed back down.
We were hootin' n hollerin' n yuckin' it up nice. The A-Team was awesome and I was super glad I met them and got to share the experience with them!
Also, we were stoked we didn't see any bear action!
We traded stories about recent run ins with wildlife. I shared my story of seeing the mama griz and her two cubs at Yellowstone 2 days before.
And, the A-Team shared their story of how they were surrounded by bison TWICE on a Yellowstone trail days before!!!
We talked about how we had no idea how we would react if we did indeed run into a bear.
And, then we turn a sharp corner and Andrew says, "Guys, there's a bear right there...and we need to keep moving."
WE RAN INTO A BEAR.
10 YARDS AWAY.
Here's a full video description of the experience, OR continue reading.
The bear was no more than 10 yards away. A black bear. As soon as I see it, it sees us. And, stands up at attention.
Andrew is in front, then Ana, then Alice then me bringing up the rear. The first thought that went through my head was, that we should actually retreat and put distance between ourselves and the bear. But that's because I was in back. And, going forward meant that I was actually cutting the distance between me and the bear!
Second thought that came to mind was, "I should take a photo." I had my camera hangin' off my neck, and thought, this would be an epic National Geographic snap that will put me on the map!
My third thought was, "NOOO, this will be the last photo I ever take."
And, my next thought was, "Oh, Alice has her bear spray out. Oh yea...bear spray."
It is incredible how quickly thoughts race through your mind in a traumatic experience. It all happens so fast, yet time seems to stand still.
And then, "Don't make eye contact. No sudden movement. Talk a little bit..."
Seconds after pulling out the bear spray, I realized my legs were very shaky. Everything else felt ok, but I was a little jelly-legged as I continued to walk.
3 out of 4 of us had bear spray. And, petite Ana had a knife. Which is slightly funny in hindsight.
Thankfully, the bear did NOT charge. It was probably eating some berries and simply let us walk by.
Maybe if I was alone, I might have been viewed as prey. But, there's strength in numbers when it comes to bears in the wilderness.
We still had about ~1 hour to get back down and the rest of the way was giddy! We were all freaked out and tried to joke as much as possible. While nervously scanning our surroundings like paranoid fiends.
Thankfully, no more bear action. We made it down. What an incredible experience! What a day.
Ohhh, Delta Lake, you!!! You gave us the thrill of a lifetime! And, thank you for being kind.
My thoughts in the immediate aftermath:
Sadly, I had to part ways with the A-Team. They were heading to West Yellowstone and I was heading to Jackson Hole. And, driving out, I was lucky to see some non threatening wildlife.
And, stopped to admire the heavenly glow behind the Teton range.
And, back to Jackson, which rivals West Yellowstone in its charm and design!
All in all, an epic adventure in Wyoming, which now ranks up there in my list of most underrated U.S. States. Do yourself a favor and book a trip to Yellowstone and Grand Teton. I know you will not be disappointed!