Grand Teton National Park. Epic Road Trip. Day 14: The day we got leeches.
*This post may contain affiliate links. You can check out my full disclosure here*
This was our last day in Grand Teton National Park and we really wanted to make it count. It was memorable for sure. It included driving forever to a trail, not being able to find parking, some serious stomach distress (where no bathrooms exist), and scraping leeches out of abby toes #winning. The day also included a gorgeous hike, a black bear sighting, and some amazing views. It wasn’t all bad.
The plan for the morning was a hike to Phelps Lake, but we forgot our map so getting there proved challenging.
Seriously. DO NOT forget your map!!! These are so sturdy, trust me you won’t regret it!Grand Teton National Park (National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map)
On the way there we got to hang out with 30 other people on the side of the road and watch a black bear eating some berries. Seeing bears in the wild never gets old, and if it starts to I think that would be very sad. I always try to take pictures of the bears, but they are never great. As Jake puts it, it might as well be a picture of bigfoot.
We had a vague idea of where to go, but could not find the trailhead to save our lives. So we are driving on these winding and sometimes unpaved roads, and my stomach and intestines were not having it. Which was really convenient because there are generally so many quality bathroom facilities in the middle of nowhere. It was moderately stressful to say the least. Why do my insides hate me?
We stumbled upon the Rockefeller Preserve Center by accident. We were trying in vain to figure out where the trailhead parking was, but things were getting dire so I basically forced Jake to turn down a random road in search of salvation. Fortunately the preserve center had both bathrooms and a parking lot. Unfortunately the parking lot was full, and the toilets were composting toilets. I have nothing against composting toilets in theory, but these toilets had a significant breeze coming up through. It was very surprising to say the least. Once we finally got a parking spot we discovered that we were actually at the trailhead. Happy accident. Also I did not have an accident in the minivan. Happy.
So we hike off into the prairie, not really sure what to expect at this point. Close to the beginning of the trail there was a small waterfall that you could walk right up to. Both kids were simultaneously in love with and terrified of it at first. They grew to love it by the time we returned though.
After 17 requests for snacks (and about 1/4 mile) the trail winds up into the forest. The trail to the lake was mostly uphill, and the mile to the lake seemed like it took 7 hours. At least for me, the holder of snacks. It was worth it though because it was an absolutely beautiful hike.
We made it to the lake eventually and it was amazing. Basically all of these mountain lakes are amazing.
There were a few other groups there enjoying the lake, so we didn’t think anything of stripping off our shoes and walking right into the clear cold water. Abby even woke up from her nap in the carrier to get out and play.
Suddenly my mom jumps out of the water claiming something touched her. We all regarded this mild freak out with skepticism. Until we saw THIS.
So naturally we pulled it out with a stick and debated vigorously what it was. The whole time my dad is going “it’s a leech. it’s a leech” and we were like nah. Oh. Maybe. Oh. OMG. It’s a leech.
Cue mom panic. My kids are playing in that water! We grabbed them out and everyone liberally wiped down with baby wipes. The whole time me and Jake are cleaning up the kids we hadn’t even looked at our own feet yet. If that’s not love I don’t know what is. Abby had several small leeches or worms of some variety in between all her toes. It was like she stepped right into a huge pile of awful. I’m still recovering emotionally from that one.
We opted not to linger. We also warned the other family sitting there with us and then watched them promptly wade right in. Ummm…. ok.
We opted to take a longer trail on the way out, and it was so beautiful. It would have even bordered on relaxing if Olivia hadn’t been so tired. She needed many many snacks, and her and my dad got involved in a game of rock climbing/stealing. I’m not totally clear on the details but I do know that game was a huge motivator to keep moving. Grandpa for the win.
On the drive back towards Colter Bay, we ended up in a moose related traffic jam. You know those tourists who get too close to animals, and you are like “who is this crazy person who doesn’t know the rules?”. Meet my mom. In her defense, it was cool. It was a momma moose and her calf just drinking from the river by the side of the road. Pretty soon after we pulled over on the road, a park ranger pulled up and started yelling at everyone to move on and get back in their cars. Apparently this particular momma was pretty agitated that day, and was a legit safety risk. That is how my mom got yelled at by the park ranger.
So she goes running back towards my dad’s car, but he is GONE. The ranger made him keep driving and my mom is just in the road like WTF. I get a text from Molly: Get Mom. So we had to pick up my mom and stuff her in between the car seats. These are priceless memories people.
We had just a little time before dinner, so we drove up to the Signal Mountain Overlook on the way back to Colter Bay. Oh the views here too! We also got the chance to see a big bull elk grazing right next to the road on the drive up. Very cool. I kind of hate driving 2 lane mountain roads with no guard rails, but it’s totally worth it at the top. Mountain views are even better when you are reasonably confident your children won’t walk right past the guard rails though. Mom anxiety kills. I made Abby stay in the carrier for my own sanity and she was pretty pissed.
After heading down the mountain the plan was to grab some food and cook dinner by the water and watch the sunset. We did end up getting there eventually, but with several fewer members of the family. While were were shopping for groceries Olivia was stricken with whatever intestinal revolt I experienced earlier, so her and Jake made a hasty retreat to our cabin. My mom ended up needing a rest break as well, so she didn’t head over until after we had made dinner. Last day in the Tetons and they were dropping like flies I tell you.
Even though it was a group of tired, hungry scragglers, we had a delicious ravioli dinner and the sunset behind the mountains was one of my favorite parts of the trip.
Bye Tetons! Don’t worry, I’ll be back someday!
More adventures in the Tetons!