The Grand Tetons, with a serious lack of bears

IMG_2882If you’re just joining us, this is the second installment in our somewhat-epic summer journey to Yellowstone, in which I fervently hope we have a bear encounter that ends up well enough for us as well as the bear and whatever we happen to be driving. You can binge-read the whole series here.

We were discussing bear encounter survival techniques on the way out of town this morning and realized we’re all a little confused about how one is supposed to react when running into a bear. One site recommends stopping whatever it is you’re doing to assess the situation, and then identifying yourself by speaking in a calm, appeasing tone.

There was consensus about stopping whatever it was we might be doing if a bear came along that wasn’t immediately behind someone sort of Jurassic Park-style razor wire high voltage fencing. It’s not like anyone’s going to say “hang on, let me finish this episode of Walking Dead, will ya, Mr. Bear?”

Jenny Lake, Grand Teton National Park

But then this whole idea of identifying yourself to the bear … is there a particular etiquette to this? Were we supposed to bring calling cards? What if it’s bear royalty? Do we fall down and bow and scrape? Is there a ring to kiss or something?

We discovered on this trip that, in light of these confusing instructions, we just each had our own way of coping with the situation. Colin would run, which they say you should never do since bears like to play tag. But Colin’s really fast, so he might have some chance of survival, especially if he’s with any of the rest of us, who are not fast, and more likely to be bear chow.

Jack says he’d hand the bear a granola bar. Mike agrees that negotiations in these settings could work, especially if we don’t know for sure if it’s a grizzly or a black bear. I don’t know what freaking difference the type of bear might have to do with things. I’m going to go with intimidation. I hear that bears are big bluffers, anyway, and that’s kind of up my alley. So I’d stand up and yell at the thing, and who knows, we’d probably figure out later that we’re kindred spirits and go have a drink together.

Hidden Falls, above Jenny Lake

Bear: “When we first met, I totally thought you were stuck up and mean, and now I think you’re kind of a bad ass and I like that.”

Me: “Back atcha, bear.”

Anyway, so this was our line of thinking on our trip to the Grand Tetons this morning, and you can imagine our disappointment when we failed to run into a single bear and any chance to test our self-styled bear survival techniques.

Which makes me realize I’m half way through this blog and haven’t told you anything of importance about our day, unless you’re interested in how to cultivate a crew of bluffing, ursine drinking buddies.

First thing this morning, and I’m talking really the crack of dawn this time, we rallied and headed out to the Grand Tetons which are pretty much Jackson’s back yard. We were able to catch a little guided tour and hike. We met up with a ranger at the Jenny Lake Visitor Center, took a shuttle across the lake and a fairly easy, although mostly uphill hike to Hidden Falls. Our ranger was a geologist and fairly excitable about all things igneous, sedimentary and glacial. Despite the overtly educational nature of the hike, the kids seemed to have a good time, and it was heaven after yesterday’s long car trip.

Afterward, we drove around the park trying to figure out if we wanted to stop and pay a fortune for lunch if we weren’t even going to be attacked by bears, and then headed back into Jackson.

FullSizeRender (5)Mike and I had been here before, when Jack was still little. Even though it’s not ski season, Jackson is fairly hopping this time of year, and great for people watching and window shopping, which will last me about a day. It’s also central to two National Parks, some great hiking trails and whitewater, which gives it a bit of a leg up on Sun Valley, which is the place I think of when I think about resort towns.

On the advice of a friend, we then headed about ten miles out of town to the Bar J Chuckwagon for dinner, which, if you know me at all, you know it’s probably the first time in my life I’ve willingly set place in any establishment with the word Chuckwagon in the name, but this place featured western barbecue and a music show which our friend gave rave reviews. I was really reluctant after I saw the menu and realized there would be no beverages more adult than coffee. The kids were pretty reluctant when they heard about the music show, but we all suspended judgment long enough to get there and roll with things for a little while.

IMG_2920The food turned out to be really good, and not just by my standards, but for all the kids as well (and we have a weird spectrum of picky going on here, you know). The entertainment was fantastic. Classic western in four-part harmony, with some great guitar, banjo, fiddle playing and a couple of other stringed instruments I wasn’t aware of before tonight.

No bears, though on the way to or from the Bar J, we did see a moose. Nobody felt the need to break out any survival skills for that one, we just kept our distance.

Where to stay in Jackson 

(A sponsored post written by me on behalf of Antler Inn. The text and opinions are my own)

Jackson and the surrounding area boasts some of the swankiest, most luxurious lodging you can find in the Northwest. Of course, luxury wasn’t what we were going for, and swank would have nudged our budget over the edge. We needed a place that could accommodate five without breaking the bank. Something centrally located so we could ditch the car when we felt like wandering. And, if we’re being honest, I’ve got a little Princess-and-the-Pea issue going on when it comes to hotel beds. So we needed affordable, central, and roomy, and with a mattress that didn’t make me wake up wanting to kill someone the next day. Kind of a tall order, I know.

CREDIT: David J Swift
CREDIT: David J Swift

Antler Inn is located a block off Jackson’s Town Square. We stayed in the Family Fireplace Room, which did, indeed have a fireplace, although we never felt the need for such a comfort in June. The room was comfortable and clean. Basic, but with touches like down comforters and rustic furniture, that reminded us we were in a resort town. Our room was already crammed with two full beds and a king, but when the boys balked at sleeping in the same bed, we were brought a rollaway.

What it lacks in luxury, the Antler Inn more than makes up for in gracious, responsive staff. When we called the front desk for the rollaway and later for a light bulb that had burnt out, the response took minutes. Best of all, the mattress was perfect. Or maybe it was the mountain air that got us. In any case, we all slept like the dead.

For anyone traveling with family on a budget, I’d happily recommend the Antler Inn.

Tomorrow would bring another National Park and another long car drive. Whether there’d be considerably more bears, was anybody’s guess. You can read about it here.


In the meantime, the favor of a vote is appreciated.


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  1. Sounds like a fun vacation. I read your latest post and apologize for the lack of Connecticut plates in the Yellowstone parking lot! I\’ve been trying to get my husband for years to take a cross-country trip and have so far, been unsuccessful. I will keep trying. In the meantime, have a great time and if you run into that bear, hope its very friendly and likes granola bars.