Grand Teton National Park

The Tetons from Mormon Row
The Tetons from Mormon Row

In the 1890s, ten early settlers built their homesteads along Mormon Row – today, still no more than a gravel road just inside Grand Teton. We’d read that the view of the mountains from here was superb, and so it proved. On our first morning in the park we drove out there – it’s also a popular cycling route. A small collection of pioneer cabins and barns remains which are much photographed: I love the way the roofline of the oldest and most dilapidated echoes the peaks.

From Mormon Row, we headed to Teton Village, home of Jackson Hole ski resort and thus furnished with various methods of getting up high without actually climbing. We took the aerial tramway up Rendezvous Mountain. The first picture below shows the tram coming back to base – you might have to enlarge it to see the man sitting on top (to the left of the wires). Totally scary! The second photograph is our view back down as we travelled up the mountain. Inside the tram in our case.

Many people got out, checked the viewing platform, and headed back down. Not us! We had three trails to do. The first, Top of the World, was a simple loop of less than a mile round the summit. It was chilly up there – definitely hang-on-to-your-hat weather – but we warmed up afterwards with coffee and waffles in Corbett’s cabin.

From here, we decided to hike down the 2-mile Cirque Trail to Bridger Restaurant where we could take a gondola back to Teton Village. We had an audience!

You might thing this was easy because it was heading downhill, but the last picture in the gallery shows quite a large ridge in front of the peak which we had to climb up and over. You might also think that when we saw Bridger Restaurant coming into sight we would head straight down to its terrace for a refreshing drink. Well, we took another uphill path to reach the 1.5 mile Casper Ridge Loop which turned out to be a real highlight. This adorable marmot posed for ages and the two mule deer didn’t seem shy at all. (I think they are mule deer, and I think they are different – it could just have been the same one following us!)

Finally, we descended to the café and had that reviving drink before heading back down to Teton Village via the gondola.

On our second, and final, day in Grand Teton we took another hiking trail to Bradley and Taggart Lakes. This 6 mile loop had, once again, wonderful views of the Tetons.

After our hike, we took a drive through some of the rest of the park to see as much as we could before leaving the next day. We admired the Cathedral Group:

Cathedral Group
Cathedral Group

And stopped at Jackson Lake by Signal Mountain Lodge. That’s not cloud to the right, but smoke from a large berry fire in the north of the park. This was going to cause us problems the next day….

Jackson Lake
Jackson Lake

Finally, we saw our first herd of bison. Even if they were behind a fence (cunningly omitted from the pictures.)

Our constant refrain held good here too – “we want to stay longer!” – but this was tempered by our excitement that we would be in Yellowstone the next day. Would it live up to expectations? What do you think!

Linked to Jo’s Monday Walks.

Maryhill Video

I’m taking a short break from blogging about our Wyoming road trip to tell you about the Scottish Heritage Angel Awards which recognise the work of voluntary groups and individuals in protecting and celebrating Scotland’s built heritage. One of the organisations I volunteer for, Maryhill Burgh Halls Trust, was up for an award and four of us attended the ceremony last night. We didn’t win our category (though got a certificate of commendation) but we saw ourselves on a great big screen and the Trust gets to use the short promotional film that was made. I don’t have a speaking part, but I’m there in full tour-guide mode and you can see I’m very good at pointing….

Rock Springs to Jackson

Wind River Range
Wind River Range

The journey from Rock Springs to Jackson fell into two distinct parts. To begin with we crossed flat plains, before reaching more mountainous areas in the late morning. We stopped in the pretty little town of Pinedale where we enquired about local hikes from the very helpful gentleman in the visitor centre. After a wander up and down the main street, and an early lunch in the Heart and Soul Café, we followed his advice.

We headed up Fremont Lake Road to the top and then took what I think was Pole Creek Trail. It wasn’t that interesting a walk to be honest – gently uphill through forest with no views, or at least none in the time we could afford to spend, so we walked about an hour in one direction, then turned round and came back. However, it broke a long car journey and stretched our legs, and there were lovely views of Fremont Lake and the mountains from the road.

From Pinedale, we headed straight on to Jackson, just outside Grand Teton National Park and our base for the next three nights. We were back to staying in a small inn this time – the comfortable and attractive Alpine House.

Other than that, we didn’t engage much with Jackson which was definitely tourist central. We went out for dinner at night and that was about it – though I really have to mention Pizzeria Caldera where we had the best pizza that either of us could remember eating for a long, long time. Jackson was just a dormitory for exploring the park. More on that next time!

Laramie to Rock Springs

Centennial, Wyoming
Centennial, Wyoming

Our next “proper” destination after Laramie was Grand Teton National Park. That would have been a six-hour drive, and we hate sitting in the car all day, so we broke it up with one night in Rock Springs. Even so, it looked a boring drive along the interstate so we decided to cross the Snowy Range Pass again and stop in some different places. The first was the pretty little town of Centennial where we took morning coffee and looked at the outside parts of the Nici Self Historical Museum. The old railroad depot building wasn’t open (we weren’t having much luck with our timing).

We stopped again for lunch in Saratoga, but after that it was all interstate.

Saratoga, Wyoming
Saratoga, Wyoming

Usually, we prefer B&Bs or small inns, but I couldn’t find anywhere suitable listed in Rock Springs so, as it was only one night, I chose a chain hotel, Homewood Suites. Actually, I could get converted back to this sort of place – we had a spacious, comfortable room and, had it not been the weekend, could have partaken of a free dinner buffet. The only downside was its location on the edge of town – but as luck would have it, right next door was Trip Advisor’s number one restaurant, a Chinese / Japanese place called Bonsai which we really enjoyed.

Before that, however, we had driven to the historic downtown area for a walk around. As well as lovely old buildings …

… we enjoyed the street art, including some fine benches, and were amazed that artwork just hung in an underpass and didn’t get vandalised.

Rock Springs used to be a coal mining town – the coal seams running right underneath the downtown area – and they’ve made a lovely job of preserving this history in the park by the railroad.

Outlaw gangs who roamed the West often passed through Rock Springs or used it as a destination. Apparently, as a young man, “Butch” Cassidy acquired his nickname while working in Rock Springs as a butcher. We were really getting to like these old western towns and, you’ve guessed it, wished we had more than one night here, but the next day we had to press on. Grand Teton was calling us!

The Snowy Range, Wyoming

Snowy Range Pass, Wyoming
Snowy Range Pass, Wyoming
On our one full day in Laramie, we headed out on the Snowy Range Scenic Byway, Wyoming’s second highest pass at 10,847 feet. Our first stop was the Libby Flats Observation Point (from which the panorama above was taken, as well as the two pictures below).

A short distance down the road, the Medicine Bow Peak Overlook had good views over the peak and Bellamy Lake nestling below it.

Medicine Bow Peak and Bellamy Lake
Medicine Bow Peak and Bellamy Lake
From here, we also took a short trail of about a mile which looped round the abandoned Red Mask Mine and a miner’s cabin. Built in the 1920s, the mine was thought to contain rich veins of copper, gold and silver but only traces were ever found.

Descending a little further, we parked at Lake Marie, named after Mrs Mary (Marie) Bellamy who led the successful suffrage drive which led to the 19th amendment allowing women to vote. She was also the first woman elected to the Wyoming Legislature in 1910. Wyoming women’s history rocks!

Lake Marie
Lake Marie
A trail led off from Lake Marie passing Mirror Lake, Lookout Lake and several smaller lakes – and now I can’t remember which is which! So I have helpfully labelled all the photos in the next gallery Lakes Trail. Breath-taking views – in more ways than one….

The trail wasn’t difficult as it climbed gently uphill, but I found myself short of breath and (even) slower than usual. The air is much thinner when you’re at 10,000 feet before you even start walking and it took us a few days to acclimatise.

Eventually, we reached a saddle with a junction of trails.

We could, of course, have continued upwards and onwards to the summit of Medicine Bow Peak and back to Lake Marie along the ridge – um, not likely! We returned by the same 2.4 mile route we had come. At least it was now mostly downhill and easier to breathe.

The next day, we left Laramie and headed for Rock Springs.

Laramie, Wyoming

Landing in Denver, Colorado, added another state to my US tally. The next morning, we picked up our hire car and set off on our three-week road-trip: first stop, Laramie, Wyoming, which immediately added my second new state. As we crossed the state line, we spotted a beautiful modern visitor centre which turned out to be one of the best I’ve ever visited. Not only did I get the chance to consign John to jail, about which he doesn’t look too happy, but I was also able to indulge my interest in women’s history.

Women of Wyoming were the first in America to be granted the right to vote – in 1869 – well before this became part of the US Constitution in 1920. When we got to Laramie, we discovered that the first woman to exercise that right, 70-year old Louisa Swain, did so there in 1870. The town is proud of this and commemorates Louisa with a statue and an entry in its sidewalk map.

The building behind Louisa is Wyoming Women’s History house which we tried in vain to visit on the morning we left Laramie. The leaflet we picked up at the visitor centre said it opened at 10am, but the notice on the door said 11am and we didn’t have time to wait. Almost three weeks later, we passed through Laramie again  – only to find that the museum had closed for the season at the end of August, and by this time it was September. Foiled again!

However, we enjoyed walking round the town which was colourful and aromatic – check out the wall growing herbs. Also, if you enlarge the picture with the yellow awning you will see that it is a microbrewery called The Library. Along the awning it says “Don’t lie to your Mom. Tell her you’re at The Library”. A sense of humour too!

We stayed in a comfortable B&B called the Mad Carpenter Inn – when you see the pictures you’ll understand the name. Lawrence and Danny Rue were wonderful hosts and the breakfasts were delicious. Our room was a separate little cottage called The Dollhouse (seen with our hire-car outside it), which was great for my jetlag because I could go downstairs to sit and read without disturbing John. The stained glass panel is in the bedroom ceiling. If you ever go to Laramie, stay there!

Even better, I discovered that Laramie has an entirely vegetarian restaurant, Sweet Melissa. I hardly ever get to choose from the whole menu and, fortunately, John liked it as much as I did so we ate there both nights of our stay – and went back for lunch the day we passed through later in our trip.

Sweet Melissa
Sweet Melissa

Finally, Laramie is near great hiking trails which I’ll tell you more about in my next post. We left wishing we had more time there, but we said that nearly everywhere we went. The next question was always – what would we have cut out to compensate? To that we never had an answer. There’s always something to go back for!

Travels with #WoolleyLamb

In August / September we took a US road trip during which I added four new states to my tally – Colorado, Wyoming, Idaho and Montana. One of those was unexpected. We also gained a new travelling companion – meet Woolley Lamb! Our first night was spent near Denver International Airport in Woolley’s Classic Suites (highly recommended) where we met Woolley. Staff suggest you take him with you, then post photos of where he’s been. While his friends played about pretending they were at the Olympics…

… Woolley came with us to:

The Snowy Range, WY:

The Wind River Range, WY:

Grand Teton National Park, WY, where he needed a bit of help not to blow away:

Mesa Nature Trail, ID:

Yellowstone National Park, WY:

Woolley Lamb

The Montana State Line. This is claimed to be the highest State welcome sign in the US – and it marks the 45th Parallel too, so we were exactly half way between the North Pole and the Equator:


Rocky Mountain National Park, CO:

Mile High City – Denver, CO, where, on the thirteenth step of the State Capitol, Woolley was exactly one mile above sea-level:

What now? I have been frantically sorting through hundreds of photographs and a huge pile of  information leaflets so that I can blog about our road-trip. Woolley, on the other hand, has been relaxing in a corner of the sofa.

However, he needn’t get too comfortable! We have plans for him – maybe he will meet some of his Scottish cousins on a country walk and we can send the pictures back to the hotel. In the meantime, blogging proper on our trip begins next week.

Hope to see you then!

The Chandelier of Lost Earrings

Installing the chandelier
Installing the chandelier

This striking sculpture by Lauren Sagar and Sharon Campbell is made from over 3,000 single earrings donated by owners who have lost the other half of the pair. The women who contributed items to the project also shared, via letters, the stories attached to them and these have become part of the artwork’s legacy. It’s on display at Glasgow Women’s Library until the end of the year. I love it!

Do you end up with a collection of lost earrings, and what do you do with them if so? I know I do – but never enough to create my own sculpture. I have discovered, however, that some charities collect odd earrings and pieces of broken jewellery and can make money recycling them. If you’re in the UK, here are two:

Alzheimer’s Society

Friends of the Earth

Right – I’m off to have a rummage in my jewellery box!

Inveraray and Auchindrain

Loch Fyne at Inverary
Loch Fyne at Inverary

Inveraray is an 18th century planned town which housed the Duke of Argyll’s estate workers. On a cold, July “summer” day, we had a quick stroll around before lunch, but it wasn’t our ultimate destination. By Loch Fyne is the war memorial and the puffer Vital Spark, which brings back memories of the TV programme Para Handy based on Neil Munro’s stories.

The main street is extremely elegant. These are views from different sides of the central building. If you enlarge the pictures, you can see the bell here:

And the clock on the other side. The George Hotel on the left is where we had lunch – and very good it was too.

Our destination was Auchindrain (pronounced Aach-anDRYan) a few miles along the road. Now an outdoor museum, this is a survival of the old farming townships that mostly disappeared after the Highland Clearances. Unusually, this one was still occupied until 1967 so many of the original buildings are intact. You could view them outside –

– and inside. I would not like to have lived here!

At one point, we found ourselves followed by a cat who was quite persistent in tracking us down and demanding strokes. Then, she suddenly disappeared. Looking back, we spotted that she had attached herself to another group. Feline fickleness! There was one occupied house on site (much newer than the others) and when we passed behind it we noticed a cat-flap in the back door, so the mystery of where she came from was solved.

From the museum carpark, a six-mile circular trail led off down one side of the River Leacainn to the village of Furnace on Loch Fyne and back up the other side. We hadn’t known this existed, but decided to go for it. Here are some highlights.

The High Bridge and Miller’s Falls.

More bridges and nice views.

The village of Furnace which, unsurprisingly, has an old iron furnace dating from 1755.

Uphill from there is Bridge Terrace, built at the beginning of the 20th century to house workers in the nearby quarry, and towards the end of the walk is the Wolf Stone. Some say that the last wolf in Argyll – or maybe even Scotland – was shot here as it stood baying at the moon.

We’d packed a lot into the day and still had an hour and a half’s drive home, but this is one of the beauties of the Scottish summer. We might complain about the weather, but it does stay light very late and allows you to walk well into the evening.

Linked to Jo’s Monday Walks.

Newhailes and Inveresk

Front view

Newhailes, then called Whitehill, was built around 1686 and extended in the 18th century by the Dalrymple family who added a library wing and the ‘Great Apartment’. In 1997, it passed into the care of the National Trust for Scotland. I can report that the interiors are magnificent (you can imagine me swooning over a whole library wing) but access is by guided tour and no photography is allowed, so I can’t show you. However, before our tour we followed the very pleasant trail round the grounds, and I can certainly show you that.

The Trust is busy restoring the landscape, but even in its current state you can still get an impression of how it might have looked to 18th-century visitors. The first curiosities we came across were the Shell Grotto and the remains of a Tea House, both dating from the mid-1700s.

We skirted the Cow Park (where I am standing) and the Sheep Park (where John is standing) which are divided by the Ladies’ Walk. This is the artificially raised path to the right of the other picture. It’s very overgrown now so you walk alongside it, but its original purpose was to elevate ladies in both body and mind, with views back to the house one way and out to the skyline of Arthur’s Seat and the Pentland Hills the other.

This is the view of the house from the back:

From here, we moved round to the front to meet the guide for our tour.

Our day wasn’t finished yet, because close to Newhailes is another NTS site, Inveresk Lodge Garden. We had another lovely stroll here, although by this time it was raining. That’s a day out in Scotland for you! Beautiful sunshine in the morning and cold and wet in the afternoon. Musn’t grumble – it accounts for the lush greenness. Enjoy!