National Parks Trip: Moose Village

Food. At a certain point, even a single-minded national park nut like Elizabeth needs to take a break from rampaging through her itinerary to stop and eat some food. On August 15, we made it well past noon before succumbing to the siren song of food. With such a diverse range of diets in our midst, finding a good option to satisfy them all was going to be nearly impossible. To give ourselves the best shot, Elizabeth and I had selected the famous restaurant at Dornan’s. It was just on the other side of the river from the Menor’s Ferry district, with a webcam that looked west past the district to the distant mountain range. Over the hours upon hours of fretting over the coming weather conditions I’d spent over the summer, the webcam’s link was almost always somewhere on my Chrome tabs. Elizabeth and I had pretty much agreed that if we had a visibility level where we could actually see the mountains from Dornan’s, we’d take that as good enough. (This apparently was a “careful what you wish for” situation, because by midday the Tetons had receded to little more than a hazy silhouette). Meanwhile, Dornan’s had a famous chuckwagon, which I was keen to try, as well as a pizza bar, both options advertised as with a view. I was surprised to see the village so open and dusty when we got there; it really had the wooden structure vibe of a western cowboy town.

After some frenzied arguing over which restaurant to eat at, and where to eat in the restaurant, we finally settled on the downstairs part of the pizza parlor. This lunch occurred right at the tense early-middle stages of the Delta variant covid wave in the United States, so I was leery all week of eating indoors. Obviously post-vaccine everyone felt a little differently, but that was the joy of post-vaccine variants. I sucked it up and everyone (sans Michael and Irene, who still had Tucker with them and elected to eat outside at the chuckwagon with him) crowded around a rustic wooden table with pizzas named after Teton peaks and pitchers of beer. I don’t exactly recall what was on my pizza, but I know I shared it with my mom so it couldn’t have been too crazy. I also don’t recall what beer Taylor and I settled on, but I’m sure it was refreshing. The conversation was lively and loud. Those of us who had been kayaking recounted what we had seen out on the lake, while my Dad and Alex recounted their trip up to the top of Signal Mountain. It was a boisterous scene all framed by Dornan’s own specially printed napkins that showed the mountain range out the window.

Incredibly, the day was already sliding toward mid-afternoon by the time everyone departed the restaurant. There wasn’t even really time to go gift shopping the in the meager Moose Village, since Elizabeth needed her stamp in her national park’s passbook. Back across the river one final time, I was lucky enough to find a parking spot directly in the front of the Moose Visitor’s Center. Elizabeth got a look in her eye as we walked in that said something along the lines of: “I’m about to spend $300.” And she didn’t, to her credit, but she clearly wanted to!

The visitor’s center was pretty cute – smaller than I anticipated for the flagship center of the one of the most famous national parks in the world, but larger than just about any others you can think of, and quite open and rustic. There were displays showing the wildlife of the park, including the pikas we’d seen on the way up to Delta Lake the day before (a detail I forgot to mention in that post, whoops!). There were displays showing the various biospheres of the park based on elevation. There was even a horizontal 3-D elevation map of the entire park laid out! I guess Alex and Kris had already been here, and Alex may have even been another time, so my family departed before Elizabeth and Terri had finished their shopping and park ranger schmoozing. In fact, Elizabeth schmoozed a park ranger enough to ask where the best backcountry campsites were, just in case we came back for backpacking the in the future. Just in case.

After she had found us matching Grand Teton shirts, and a magnet, and helped me find a pin, and helped Pam get a bunch of somethings, and we’d gotten our stamps, Elizabeth was ready to move on. The Moose Visitor’s Center was probably the best one we’d visited all trip, and also the one we would end up spending the most time at. But now, it was time to get my photography skills ready to go once more at another scenic set of buildings: Mormon Row.

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