Monday, April 15, 2013

Magic Mountains. The Tetons.

The Grand Tetons

Morgantown, WV.  4/15/13:   The word "awesome" has become trite in today's conversation.  But imagine coming up the road and around a hill and having the view above burst into view.  Unannounced.  That is awesome..a "Holy Cow" moment so powerful that the National Park service built a pull-over spot at the top of the bend so people wouldn't just slam on the brakes, stop in the middle of the road and stare.


  The earliest explorers..fur traders, adventurers, fortune seekers..thought it was amazing, too.  Those mountains were visible to them from miles and miles  away, serving as a milepost or trail marker.  Far from civilization..and women..they wistfully named them "The Grand Tetons."  You decide why.

   I call the picture on the right "Ansel's View," a copy of a photograph made by Ansel Adams as he toured the National Parks System.  His was black and white and better than mine, of course, but that's where he stood to take it..I searched it out.  You can see the Snake River curling through Jackson Hole, the valley that spreads miles-wide at the foot of the range.


  Ironically, few settled in Jackson Hole--it became a meeting ground for the Mountain Men and there were isolated ranchers..but for some reason, there were no large settlements.  There is something spiritual about the place; it makes your heart lift and soar.  Maybe it's best to just "let it be."

  We almost lost it.  

  While on a visit to nearby Yellowstone with his family in 1926,  John D. Rockefeller, Jr. toured the valley and fell in love with what he saw, but he was greatly disturbed by the casual dog stands, souvenir shops, junk that seemed to be taking over the valley.  Rockefeller quietly bought it..all of it..and turned it over to the nation to preserve.  It very nearly started a range war, led in part by old time western actor--and Jackson Hole rancher--Wallace Beery.  But it didn't, and what we've got today is a wonder.

  The park is huge.  That picture at the top is a composite of six shots.  In all, the photograph covers about 40 miles of Teton Front Range.  The tallest peak..the real "Grand Teton" 13-thousand 700 feet and change above sea level.  It's no wonder the frontiersmen considered it a beacon. With snow on the top and sunshine around it, it glows.  

  The shot on the right is of Mount Moran, a few miles north of Grand Teton.  When we arrived on our last visit, everything was fogged in.  The mist had just begun to rise and there was a strong wind from the west when we saw Moran as you see it there.  Never leave your car without your camera.  Light and weather can change in a moment and then a shot like that is lost forever.


  The ranchers who lived in the valley were a sturdy bunch.  Check the view below from Cunningham's Cabin, a ranch preserved as an exhibit.  All this is beautiful now, but can you imagine living there in the winter time?
From Cunningham's Cabin
Home Sweet Home,  Grazing Included

  When we last visited Teton in 2011..we planned for it and reserved one of the cabins at Colter Bay.  These are real ranch cabins like Cunningham's that were retrieved  from places around the valley and renovated as guest houses.  It was a great decision on our part.  Four wonderful days right in the middle of things.  Very comfortable, too (right).

     And to top it off, I got me a bear.  He was eating berries by the road and I took his picture.  So did a lot of other people, but I kept them out of the shot.  And, yes, that's a telephoto shot from waaay back.  I had no idea where his Mama was and I didn't want to find out.   Words of caution: give them lots of room--they are neither cuddly nor lovable, they don't particularly like you, and they can outrun you.

   Speaking from a practical standpoint--the Visitors Centers are terrific, so start there.  There are all kinds of accommodations, like our cabin to upscale hotels to camping if you are so inclined. Food in the park is really good for the most part--contractors provide it and the hotels.  You must reserve ahead, though--you'll probably be out of luck if you just walk in, hoping to get a place to stay.  Check the National Park Service's website.

    Of all the places we traveled, I'd have to put Teton at the head of the Favorites List.  We loved being there.  We loved sharing it together.  We loved going back.  

  And I say without hesitation that I will do it again.  

  And again.

  Just wonderful.