National Parks: Grand Teton
The thing about the Tetons is that they are just there. I know that’s such a nondescript statement to make if you haven’t encountered them in person. When I say that the Tetons are just there, I mean that they seemingly come out of nowhere and then swallow up the entire world. Everything else fades away into the elsewhere of existence. A place far from your consciousness. Once you are in the presence of the Tetons, they are all that there is.
As you approach from the East, you wind through passes surrounded by rounded off peaks and rocks that I’m certain have names but that I’m sure many like myself would and have forgotten once the Tetons came into view. My friend Paul who was driving, kept asking if any of them were the Tetons and while I had never even seen what they looked like before, I knew we hadn’t encountered them yet (reminds me of the famous Supreme Court judge’s reply when ask to define pornography: “I just know it when I see it.”). When we finally created a ridge and began our descent into what we would later learn is the “Jackson Hole,” there was no longer any doubt that the Tetons lay in front of us.
Stunned silence, followed by my pronouncement (which was, absolutely, not needed) of, “those are the Tetons,” giving way to exclamations of excitement and adoration. It was as though I had never seen a real mountain before. That every other series of peaks that I had encountered were simply large rocks. Beautiful clear blue skies allowed the glorious springtime sun to illuminate the glacier and snow-covered range before us. They were more beautiful that any set of jewels I had ever laid eyes upon, and yet carried this weight of danger that somehow enhanced their glory all the more. Each peak appeared razor-sharp — as though they had just recently sliced through the mantle of the Earth with violence, demanding to be on display.
In my mind, I knew that there were lands on the other side, but that knowledge was drowned out by the finality that the range declared — this was the very end of the journey for all who travel this way. This wall of rock was the edge of the earth and we humans were constrained to stay on this side.
All thoughts of the day and journey prior, making our way through the Black Hills in the morning and the vast boring expanse of eastern and central Wyoming, disappeared as we made our way down the foothills and into the valley below — there was only the Tetons. I know there were other cars on the road. Wildlife upon its sides. River and trees. But my eyes never left the stunning sight dominating the western sky.
Captivation seems too small of a word to describe what was occurring — I was in love. This was no short-lived infatuation; this was a moment I knew would never leave me. Etched upon my soul as a new part of who I am.
I feel as though you may think of me as waxing too poetically about some tall rocks, but I promise you that for me: this is my truth.
Grand Tetons National Park is an experience that I will encourage everyone to seek out. Yes, nearby Yellowstone National Park gets all the fame and is what draws people to this part of the world, but for me, I feel as though it should be the other way around.
There is no bad place to be in the Park — no area that should be avoided, for all allow new angles from which to redefine beauty for your mind. From the tranquil Snake River winding through the Park along the range’s base, to the aspen and cottonwood forests, to the fields of wildflowers seemingly displayed as an offering to the mountains above, all give new and excellent angles to take it all in.
It’s been over a year since I first experienced Grand Teton National Park and I have been to more than a dozen Parks since, but no place has more dominated my imagination. Even as I plan other trips, I often find myself searching flights and looking up hotel prices in Jackson, Wyoming. As I continue this journey of sharing my travels with you, you’ll hear me speak with grandeur of other places that contain magic and wonder all their own, but know that my heart lies far from them, and far from here. My heart lies with the Tetons.