Light your pine-scented candle and join us on our journey up and down the 300,000 acres of Grand Teton National Park.
The mountain views and wildlife are truly extraordinary, starting with the tallest mountain, Grand Teton, snow-covered and bordered by glaciers. This is our sunrise view.
Are we obsessed with these mountains? Perhaps. We’ve already spent two days driving and hiking along the Teton range enjoying these vistas. Each view seems better than the last. The mountains don’t change, but with changes in lighting and perspective, they provide new delights at every turn.
We owe a great note of thanks to John D. Rockefeller, Jr. and other conservationists who fought to preserve this natural beauty by designating it national protected lands in the 1930s. And, of course, thanks to the modern-day rangers and other workers who make it a joy to visit day-in, day-out.
We found the viewing point where Ansel Adams took his famous black and white photo along the Snake River .
The course of the river has changed and the trees have grown up and now block the view of the river. Ansel Adams version from the 1940s:
This is what happens when you Anselize the modern-day color version above.
Another favorite is Mount Moran. Notice the glaciers near the top.
When we asked a park ranger how many glaciers Grand Teton NP has, she said, “About 12.” She explained that the melting is happening so quickly that they are never sure when one might just disappear overnight.
We’re finding the rangers to be both informative and entertaining. Our friend, Paul Scolieri, stayed with a ranger while traveling this way a week or so ago. The ranger observed that people visiting the park at this time of year are newlyweds or nearly deads. We found both. Newlyweds:
The nearly dead (but young at heart):
Actually one hiker coming down the mountain told us we had about an hour-and-a-half hike up the hill. We asked if it was difficult. He said, “Well, I’m 87. If I can do it, you whipper-snappers can too.” (paraphrased slightly). He was decidedly NOT nearly dead.
We also saw lots of Chinese tourists. Michael is practicing, “Ni de Ying wen bi wo de Putonghua hao.” (Your English is better than my Chinese.) We can’t always understand their response but the body language generally says, “Just what do you think you’re saying??”
Our photos don’t do justice to the experience. The yellow aspen leaves move like golden medallions in a mesmerizing mobile.
And the Christmas-on-every-path scent is simply delightful.
We’re finding wildlife. Whenever we see a line of cars stopped along the roadside we know there’s an animal someplace in sight. We don’t have quite the cameras that the wildlife paparazzi use, but we got a few snapshots.
Bigger game: Elk
No bear yet, but we have plenty of warnings to watch for them. Andrew at the Jackson Lake General Store said, “I wouldn’t tell anyone NOT to buy bear spray.” Michael said he didn’t need bear spray since I serve that function. It’s the old joke: You don’t have to be able to outrun a bear, just outrun the person with you.
On one mountaintop sunset quest we were just about ready to head back to town when a moose walked right in front of the car. We figure he was the John Muir of moose, on a lone exploration of the wilderness. The night was a bit too dark for a good photo, but we have this magical moment on the Kodachrome of our memory (a quote from George Chigas).
Yesterday we were talking to a county worker checking the Jackson Lake reservoir level and asked what he thought about all this “nature.” His last job was in the Grand Canyon with temperatures of 125F, so Grand Teton with a couple months of -20F is better, and as he said, “It beats working in a cubicle.” As we gazed at the view of the mountains, he reached into his pocket for a camera. We thought he was joining us in capturing the beauty, but he was just doing his job, ensuring the reservoir level left room for spring runoff. Already thinking ahead.
Most people don’t take pictures of their workplaces. While he was working on the reservoir, his “office” view was this:
We stumbled upon Jenny Lake Lodge and stopped for lunch, fresh brook trout caught by our waiter, Montry. He was pulling my leg about catching the fish that morning, but it was delicious. Today we met the cutest fly fisher ever, Emmalee Flynn, who goes to school in Montana.
She’s helping her parents, Trisha and Brian, celebrate their 25th anniversary here in the Tetons and Yellowstone. Congrats! Coincidentally, they live in New England, very near the bay where we went oystering a few weeks ago.
We met Jordan, another who didn’t fit the newlywed or nearly dead categories, visiting the park with his friends from Denver. Who would ever imagine that someone else would have the same excellent taste as Nancy in outerwear?
Each person we’ve met, either visiting or working here, has been nicer than the last. Pam and Ron, the retired couple at the Jenny Lake Lodge front desk come from Tennessee each year to live in a small cabin and work. Why? “Because we didn’t do it when we were in college.”
We’ve decided we’re going to try to work here next year. Live in the park for next to nothing and have access to all this beauty.
Some of our last views today were from a 10,450-foot elevation at the top of Rendezvous Mountain at Jackson Hole ski area.
This one was NOT a hike to the top.
It was windy, but warm enough in the sun to make first angel tracks in the mountaintop snow. Pretty soon there will be skiers galore on this mountain.
Some will even ski down this couloir, the narrow opening between the rocks. It will fill in with snow of course, as much as 400 inches, but it’s still too steep for our taste. Right, Kathy?
At over 4,000 feet of vertical drop, Jackson Hole is one of the country’s biggest ski hills. What a view!
We ended the day with another spectacular view from the ground. Just can’t get enough.
Tomorrow it’s on to Yellowstone where Michael promises All Wildlife, All the Time!