Backroads to Jackson, Wyoming!

We were back on the move today, leaving lovely Signal Mountain Resort website to move some miles south to Jackson, just a few miles outside of the park.  We are staying at the Marriott Springhill Suites website which is almost in the centre of town, a couple of blocks from the town square.   We really enjoyed the Signal Mountain Lodge – much nicer than any of the Yellowstone ones.  Better room, better food, better vibe.

Anyway, coffee loaded we headed on a circular driving tour aiming to get to Jackson about 2pm.  So we headed north from Signal Mountain and turned at Oxbow Bend onto WY191 and headed south that way.  We stopped at the Bend to take some pictures.  Great reflections in the water.  Absolutely stunning views all the way along.  The grassy, sage bush studded plain, then trees and then the massive line of the Tetons running all the way.  We could see the glaciers clearly today.

We saw plenty of elk and buffalo along the way, but today we were hoping for some moose.  We were going to drive the back roads in that hope: Antelope Flats Road and Gros Ventre Road all the way to Jackson.

We turned onto Antelope Flats Road and approached the area called Mormon Row which has a picturesque and interesting history.  The Homestead Act of 1862 promised 160 acres to anyone who built homes on the land and worked to improve the land. After five years of living here and working the land, the settler owned the land free and clear.  What a good idea, only in a country in a time that had almost unlimited land.  Still, the space is mindblowing to the average Brit.

Mormon families moved here and started homesteading the land in the 1890s in hopes of making a new life. 27 homesteads were established with the families making the best of the land they could, under the challenging weather and harsh environment for farming.
The dwellings here on Mormon Row today are what is left of the original 27 homesteads. These 6 homesteads were added to the National Register of Historic Places in the 1990s, and are preserved for their historical and cultural significance.

We were so lucky because there were very few people there and we got the chance to see the homesteads and the barns undisturbed. As we were leaving two massive coaches of Chinese tourists turned up and that would have not been the same experience at all.  I loved the barns and the way they looked in that great empty plain with the Tetons beyond.  It must have been a very hard existence but with moments of sublime joy in the surroundings I would think.  Just looking up and seeing that splendour would make you contemplate infinity I would think.

We continued along Gros Ventre road taking it to Lower Slide Lake which was very beautiful.  As we were coming back, we came across two bighorn sheep in the road grazing.  We stopped to watch them ( there were no other cars) and then a camper van came along and they ran off.  Luckily they ran towards us along the slope on our side of the road so I managed some more closeup pictures of them.  Funny looking beasts.  Quite a grumpy stare.  Quite devilish.  Not nice fluffy sheep by a long way….  Anyway, very pleased to see them.  We had seen some early in our trip but have been looking for them ever since with no success.

We continued slowly on, making many stops to enjoy the views and stretch our legs.  We did come across a big group of cars by the road and could see people on the far side of a field looking at something.  It was apparently a moose down by the river, but we were not dressed for scrambling across rough ground today – there was no path, we would have had to fight through the sage bush and I had open sandals on and shorts.  Next time, Mr Moose!

We lunched beside the Snake River at the bottom of the Moose Wilson Road.   The river was flowing pretty fast.   There was no one else around.  A nice facility though with toilets, good bike tracks and boat launching as well as hiking.  One thing that really struck us was that there was a rack of loaner life jackets for watercraft users.  A rack of about 10 of them just hanging there.  A tribute to the honesty of American people.  It would be impossible to have such a thing in the UK, I’m sorry to say.  They’d either be stolen, or vandalised within days.  No doubt about it.

We knew that we couldn’t drive the whole length of the Moose Wilson Road (an alternate backroads route into the south of GTNP) m because the northern section had been closed due to intense bear activity.  We decided to drive as far as we could reasoning it would be very quiet and we might see something interesting.  Well, it was quiet.  Parts of the road were extremely potholed, a bit surprising in a park entry/exit road.  But then the road into Swiftcurrent in Glacier NP was very bad too.  These were boneshaking!  Still, a very pretty road up through Granitre Canyon and through the woods.  You could see the whole area would be full of wildlife.  But, we didn’t see any!!!!  Best to come back early or at dusk.

We went into Jackson itself and checked into the Springfield Suites.  Very nice indeed.  Different again from the Residence Inn and the Towneplace Suites.  How Marriott has all these subtly different brands must be a challenge to the marketing department.  Anyway, we have a very large, modern room with 2 queen beds, a sofa bed, desk, kitchenette and an enormous bathroom.  There’s a swimming pool and hot tub, laundry facilities (YES!!), gym, bar/restaurant.  We have unpacked a bit as we are here for 3 nights.

Needed to top up the shopping.  No Walmart in Jackson (far too lowscale LOL) so we had to shop in Albertsons.   Very nice stuff – more like Waitrose – but boy you notice it at checkout.  I would say we spent 1.5 times what it would have cost in Walmart.

We’re eating in our suite tonight.  Rotisserie chicken and some sides.  Quite tired today after lots of walking in the last couple of days.


  1. Under the Homestead Act, the pioneer had to build a house at least 12′ x 14′. When you drive across Wyoming today, you’ll see many of these old, abandoned cabins, often now without roofs. Ranchers leave them standing as a reminder of their ancestors. If you walked out into the sagebrush, I think you’d find that many of these dilapidated cabins are 12′ x 14′. We have a friend who has a ranch near Pavillion in the center of Wyoming whose ancestors settled the land in the late 1800s. The original deed for those 160 acres hangs in his living room. It’s signed by Grover Cleveland, who was the US president at that time.

  2. Just started reading your wonderful blog, haven’t read this day’s entry, yet. Thanks for posting a link on the TripAdvisor Road Trip forum. I am nodding my head about familiar places and dreaming of visiting the unfamiliar ones.

    I hated that a guide could not commit to giving you a tour of Little Big Horn. I recently visited the Rock Island Arsenal Museum and saw where they had matched shell casings to captured Indian rifles in their collection by the unique firing pin markings.

    I downloaded “The Oregon Trail: Sketches of Prairie and Rocky-Mountain Life” by Francis Parkman, looks like it will be a good read. Thanks for posting, I am looking forward to weeks of good reading here.

  3. We have neighboring ranchers whose ancestors came across the country in covered wagons – and buried children along the way. Sometimes, children buried their parents.

    It’s estimated that up to 10% of the Pioneers died on the Trail; that’s a grave, on average, every 300 feet from Missouri to Oregon.
    There are many places along Route 220 where you can stop your car and walk a short distance into the sage and see the deep wagon ruts made by 100,000 covered wagons moving west. Route 220 will also take you past Independence Rock, which is a giant rock just off the south side of the road.

    Charles Kuralt at Independence Rock:

    • Incredible. We went to see wagon ruts and also where pioneers carved their names and dates into the cliff at Guerney and Register Cliff, Wyoming. Incredible to see the ruts made in STONE. I have also in the past seen them on the Natchez Trace much further east.