This was the second time we've done this paddling trip. Both times were great, but today was without the thick wildfire smoke that we had last year, and the views were exponentially more stunning.
Today, like yesterday's paddling on the Snake River, was a reprise of paddling we did last August.
I was dressed and ready to go at 7:00 a.m. But Linda, sitting in her recliner wrapped up in her Snuggie gripping her mug of hot tea with both hands, simply rolled her eyes up at me and said "You'd better find something to do".
So, I took the hint and found something to do for about an hour. A little after 8:00, she was ready and we drove into Grand Teton National Park. It was a beautiful morning with blue skies behind the mountains. So we made several stops for photos.
The first was at the Jackson Lake Dam.
Zoomed in a little with Mt. Moran on the far right and Grand Teton on the far left.
The next stop was at the Moran View turnout.
This time we had wildflowers in the foreground rather than water.
As we drove toward the Jenny Lake area, the mountains got closer.
We needed to get to the lake before it got crowded so I took these last two shots on the fly.
Rather than going to the main visitor area at Jenny Lake (south), we turned off at the String Lake sign. We were once again going to do the String Lake/Leigh Lake combination.
To our surprise, there wasn't a single vehicle in the String Lake Canoe Launch parking lot ... and it was about 9:00. We parked and inflated our Sea Eagle SE370 at the shoreline of the shallow lake.
In minutes, we were off. There wasn't a soul on the lake and not a ripple on the surface.
String Lake is a few inches to a few feet deep. There may be one or two places where it might be over your head, but most of the lake would probably be knee to waist deep.
We could see the bottom the whole way, and there were several large fish.
Ah yes, again, to be completely redundant, this is why we came back.
Okay, so let's take a look at a couple of comparison shots from this year and August of last year.
Today, looking behind us.
And last year's photo from just about the same spot.
Okay, okay. You get the picture. It was smokey last time we were here, so we came back and we're so glad we did.
Soon, we approached the end of String Lake ...
where there is a sign on the right, just before the little bridge you can see in the photo above. That's where you take out and portage the boat.
Last year I estimated it might be an easy 75 - 100 yards on an easy path to portage the boat. This year it felt more like 50 yards - it's a pretty easy portage.
These are the steps at Leigh Lake where most folks just let go of their boat at the top and let it slide down to the water.
Leigh Lake is also crystal clear, but it is huge with lots of deeper water.
Right at the put-in is a long island. The photo above is to the right of the island. But we went left through the narrower channel behind the island.
Again, we were the only ones on the lake. There are several wonderful boat-in campsites, but they were all empty as well.
We paddled along the left shoreline, until we cleared the final point. This was another of the many views I couldn't wait to see.
Unfortunately, right about that time, the clouds started rolling in. So we lost our blue sky background the rest of the time on the lakes.
Rather than paddle into the base of Mt. Moran like we did last year, we stayed out toward the middle of the lake. We headed over to the second island, a place we stopped for a rest last year. As we approached, we were surprised to see an Elk cow on the island.
I just couldn't get a good shot of her. I have one to prove we saw what we saw, but it's not worth posting.
Linda tried to figure out what the swimming lady Elk was thinking that made her want to be on the island. I suggested "solitude", but I don't think she had to swim to get that.
We floated for a little while admiring the beauty and listening to the honks of the geese. Then we paddled in for a closer look at a male Common Merganser.
There were several of them on the lake, but this was as close as we could get.
As the sky grayed up, the mountains got darker and then the surface of the lake turned granite-colored to match the mountains.
It never looked like rain, so we continued to paddle around the perimeter of the lake. Eventually, just like last year, Linda assumed her favorite boating position.
Classic Linda photo.
As we headed back, we finally started to see other boats on Leigh Lake. But the lake is so large, there could be a hundred boats and there would be plenty of room for everyone.
We portaged back over to String Lake. There were a few boats heading in the opposite direction, but it was peaceful.
Then we turned another corner and there were hordes of people - it looked like a few school buses may have dropped all the teens they had. Because String Lake is so shallow, it doesn't take much to warm it up. So it's a popular swimming and "just playing around in the water" spot in the summer.
Still, if you go early, the String Lake/Leigh Lake combination is a wonderful, quiet, wilderness experience that can often be hard to find in National Parks on a simple day trip.
And with that, we headed home. That completes this short trip to Grand Teton National Park, and we got what we came for - clear skies, and beautiful mountain photos.