Hard to believe that we’ve been settled in the Tetons at Colter Bay for over two weeks! It’s been a whirlwind of activity getting set up in our camping spot for the summer and training for our jobs at the Jenny Lake Store.
My last post entertained the benefits of stopping off at a local county fairground campground for a night. It was an idyllic evening set among the historic fairgrounds. This was to be our last glimpse of good weather for the rest of our trip across country. We were heading into Iowa and Nebraska – and we always have trouble getting through the bread basket of the country without some imminent weather-related threats coming our way.
The night after our stay at the Fulton County Fairgrounds, we were stuck at a truck stop on the western side of Iowa due to severe weather just ahead of us. Facing possible high winds, severe storms, hail and tornado warnings, we spent the night there along with many other trucks and RVer’s sitting just to the east of the enormous weather system. The next morning, we witnessed some of the effects of the storm – two overturned tractor trailers and an overturned fifth-wheel RV less than 50 miles from where we spent the night. I would say we made the right decision to sit out the storm in the relative safety of the rest area.
Back on the road, we entered Nebraska and started our long journey across this plains state. I started tracking the weather ahead of us about mid-day, and was alarmed to see a serious winter storm descending upon eastern Wyoming and right in our path. This storm was not on my radar earlier, and we had to make some decisions. We were on track to arrive in the Tetons a couple of days ahead of schedule – and we were looking forward to having this extra time to settle in and get acclimated. I enlisted the help of the Storm weather app to determine where we would be able to stop for the night, and I settled on Sidney, NE. Again, we were situated right on the eastern flank of the storm, and at this lower elevation, it meant we would experience rain only.
This was a monster storm, and it was estimated that parts of south-eastern Wyoming could see up to 2 feet of snow. The duration of the slow-moving storm meant we were stuck in Sidney for three nights and two days. Interstate 80 through much of Wyoming was closed for a couple of days until the storm subsided. Oh boy! We were lucky that we chose to stay at the Cabela’s RV Park in Sidney. It was relatively inexpensive for an electric only site, and we took the opportunity to do some chores. With a Walmart just down the road, we stocked up on food. The campground had a nice laundry facility, so that job was accomplished. And, the WIFI was awesome so we streamed some movies!
Finally, by Saturday morning the road was clear to continue to Jackson. We rose just before sunup and started our long day’s journey to the Tetons. Our initial destination was the Gros Ventre Campground in the southern end of the Grand Teton National Park. We had made the decision to reside here for the summer thinking it would be a little less crowded, and closer to Jackson. After an almost 12-hour drive, we arrived early evening and sought the campground manager who we were supposed to check in with to get our site. Now, I’m the first one to admit that first impressions are often not reliable but I took an immediate disliking to this guy. He showed us to the site and it was an instant disappointment.
After a very tiring day’s drive, my heart sank. Jim could see the look on my face, and knew what was coming! Our site was a mess, it was located adjacent to a campground loop restroom and our trailer would be practically sitting on top of the septic tanks. To top it off, he said the water hookup did not work at the site and we would have to run a hose all the way to the restroom and hook up to a dirty, non-potable hose that he had jury-rigged with a faucet on the end. I was trying my best to contain my anger. He unlocked the closet door, dragged the old, filthy hose out, and threw it on the ground. Oh, visions of Whitefish, Montana danced in my head!! (if you’ll recall, we had water issues with that site assignment as well as management problems!!)
When we were initially asked about where we might prefer to reside – Colter Bay Employee Campground or Gros Ventre – we were undecided and my contact (and manager) at the Grand Teton Lodge Company had reserved both places for us. We could decide when we arrived, she said. But, a week before our departure, she indicated she was getting pressure from other managers to give up our spot at Colter Bay since they were running out of spaces for employees with RV’s. So, we reluctantly said we would stay at Gros Ventre – sight unseen. She mentioned that we would have a choice of two or three open spots there. With that ammunition, I asked this campground manager to show us the other two sites that were available to us. His amused expression at my request was enough for me to solidify my displeasure with him. He stated that this was the only site available to us – the others were reserved for his own campground employees. Case closed.
He left, and we deliberated. We were a day early, and had the entire next day before starting work to figure out a solution. We weighed our options. If we stayed here, we would need to purchase a longer potable water hose and figure out a way to connect to the restroom closet water without the old hose. We would endure restroom lights glaring in our windows at night, campground traffic in and out of the restrooms all night, and potential smell from the bathrooms permeating our air space. I was hard-pressed to come up with any positives – except closer to Jackson for grocery supplies.
While we were discussing our situation, I walked over to where (the campground manager) had dumped the hose with attached faucet and noticed that he had dropped it right in the middle of a pile of moose droppings! That did it! I took pictures of our water hookup laying amid the feces with my phone camera and composed an email with attached photo to our manager with my concerns. I was reasonably sure this would get her attention as I was prepared to report (the campground manager), and the situation as a health hazard. It did. She responded almost immediately that she would pull some strings and get us a spot at Colter Bay. (We later learned that one of the couples they had hired for our job last year, quit immediately after being given the same exact spot!) So, I guess she did not want that to happen again!
It was kind of unfortunate because Gros Ventre Campground had some redeeming qualities. But, it was obvious to me that the management there was not up to our standards, and the campground appearance reflected this. I’m always amazed that companies continue to hire on sub-standard people. But, that’s part of the seasonal aspect of this type of work. They are always short-staffed and often take whoever they can secure. I now understand some of the negative reviews I’ve seen online regarding Gros Ventre CG. Something a change in management might solve? Perhaps – but I will reserve final judgement for another time.
Anyway, we moved to Colter Bay and our spot is just fine! The sites are a bit close, but our site has pines all around us – so we have a good screen from our neighbor to the south, and at present, the site to our north is unoccupied. The water, electric and sewer hookups all work, we have decent WiFi and, as it turns out, our fellow employees are good neighbors. The campground is quiet, and everyone is respectful of each other’s space. And, the best part is that we have access to the waterfront on Jackson Lake!
Our first day of work for the Grand Teton Lodge Company consisted of a half-day of orientation, followed by issuance of our uniforms and completion of all payroll paperwork. Orientations can be somewhat painful, but we found it informative and tolerable. We learned that, as employees, we could take advantage of a plethora of discounts on many activities and merchandise – an added perk!
Lunchtree Hill – honoring John D. Rockerfeller and his contribution to the establishment of Grand Teton National Park
We’ve spent the last two weeks immersed in our jobs at the Jenny Lake Store learning the ropes. We work with a total of five couples sharing responsibilities for 4 different shifts – including opening and closing shifts with accompanying procedures. The guys handle the grocery/food side of the store while the women are responsible for the retail gift area. I was fortunate to draw responsibility for managing all the camp and sporting goods equipment. I have lee-way to organize and rearrange merchandise as I see fit. Recently, I just inventoried and reorganized our binocular display case and thoroughly enjoyed that!
We are both responsible for manning the cash register throughout the day, and thankfully for Jim, it is an easy POS software system. He has grasped the computer responsibilities admirably. I attribute his Amazon experience to helping him attain more confidence with computers! It is shaping up to be a pretty good summer. We like our co-workers and I think we have a good team – John and Sharon from Massachusetts, Rick and Gloria from California, Tammy and Mike from Ohio, and Bill and Sandy from Texas.
While training, we had an irregular schedule and our day’s off were not consecutive for the last two weeks. But, we still managed to get in some sight-seeing and hiking. For our first hike of the season, we opted for a lower elevation hike to a couple of glacial lakes in the southern end of the park. There is still a bit of snow pack in the higher elevations. Our 5-mile roundtrip hike to Taggart and Bradley Lakes was just perfect to get us acclimated!
After a rewarding hike, we headed to Moose Junction to find something to eat. We landed at the famed Dornan’s Pizza and Pasta place – complete with astounding views of the Tetons. We feasted on fantastic pizza and local brew from their rooftop patio.
After Dornan’s, we headed home via the outer loop road (Rt. 191) because I wanted to stop in at the famous Schwabacher’s Landing area. I had read that this is a popular spot for photographer’s and I wanted to scope out the area for future photo ops. We arrived in early evening and walked the trail along the river. What a peaceful, serene place! You could bet the farm on the fact that I will be back here many times this summer!
Reluctantly, we left Schwabacher’s Landing for home, and stopped at the Oxbow Bend overlook for a quick picture.
On a subsequent day off, and wanting to beat the crowds later in the season, we took advantage of our employee discount (free) to ride the tram at Jackson Hole to the top of Rendezvous Mountain. It was a perfect day with temperatures in the 60’s at the top of the 10,000 plus summit!
We walked around the summit and along the ridge for a bit, and then treated ourselves to the renowned Corbet Cabin waffles! Yum! Yum! As I walked out of the cabin after eating, I caught a paraglider just taking off from the ridge – he actually jumped off backwards and away he went! I watched him glide all the way down. Must be a real thrill!
We have just completed our second week of work, and are looking forward to two days off. We have plans to take a Snake River raft trip and enjoy an evening dinner cruise on Jackson Lake. More to come on these adventures!