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Grand Teton National Park

“There are no foothills to the Tetons. They rise suddenly in rugged majesty from the rock strewn plain…the soft light floods the great expanse of the valley, the winding silvery river and the resplendent deeply carved mountain walls.”

– Lieutenant Gustavus Cheney Doane, Leader of a small exploring party, 1876

One of my first stops in my transition from “suit” to “executive in transition” (per daughter #1) or “early retiree” (per daughter #2) or “unemployed” (per then wife) was a trip to Grand Teton National Park for a photography workshop. I fell in love with the place and, with that in mind, the Tetons are the banner image for the blog.

I was excited about revisiting after over 4 years.

[Nomad Note: Thanks for your patience – have had virtually no internet so have had to tee up the updates until now – launching 5 posts into the blogshpere today – thanks for following along – take care.]

Grand Teton is one of my favorite National Parks for a lot of reasons-the history of the place; the rugged landscape; the animals. I also like how approachable it all is from a very nice town-Jackson. You got to love time in the mountains followed by a dinner at Snake River Grill!!

But–it is really about the scenery!! Grand Teton National Park is one of the most recognizable mountain landscapes in the world. Iconic images (aka-”mature subjects”) seem to be everywhere you turn. It is a spectacular landscape with incredible mountains, beautiful lakes and an extraordinary variety of wildlife. The jagged Teton Range overlooks the valley floor covered with sage. The Snake River flows south through the park and provides an amazing waterway in the national park. It’s no wonder the park attracts nearly four million visitors per year.

“The grand lift of the Tetons is more than a mechanistic fold and faulting of the Earth’s crust; it becomes a primal gesture of the Earth beneath a greater sky”

– Ansel Adams

“The Tetons have loomed up grandly against the sky. From this point it is perhaps
the finest pictorial range in the United States or even North America.”

– Thomas Moran, while painting the Tetons from the Idaho side, 1879

Initially, I set up camp over Teton Pass in Victor, Idaho so I could scout out camp and boondocking possibilities in/near the NP. The boondocking spots didn’t pan out but I confirmed that the Park’s Gros Ventre campground could, in fact, hold the Bunkhouse. It would be dry camping – no hookups – but the location couldn’t be better for my stay here.

Next stop was the visitor center – I was on a special mission 🙂

When I came out to Grand Teton for the photography workshop years ago, I arrived mid-week and enjoyed a long conversation with “Steve” – a Park volunteer. When Steve asked what I did, I told him I had just fired myself – his response: “Good for you…that’s what my wife and I did too at 50…”

Like me, Steve and Sara had made a big mid-life change – for the better! They acquired an RV and for 5 years had been coming to Grand Teton to spend the season in the Park as volunteers. It had everything they loved – beautiful natural scenery, the wildlife, fishing and hiking, and fine folks. I told Steve he was living my dream and that I hoped one day to be back through here in an RV as well.

Well, here I am 🙂 And, guess what – Steve and Sara are still here too – celebrating their 10th anniversary as Park volunteers – not sure who was more thrilled with reconnecting – Steve or Steve !! We sat down and shared stories from the last few years. A great start to the visit.

I walked around town for a bit as well – the elk antler arches are still here too!!

But my plan was not to spend time as the typical tourist looking to score a T-shirt – nope – plan was to fish, hike, kayak, climb and photograph the scenery and wildlife. And, in addition to reconnecting with Steve, I would also get a chance to reconnect with one of my best friends growing up – small world – Brian and his son Corey would be in the Park while I was here – time to have a beer and grill some dinner together and catch up…outstanding !!

Unfortunately, the photography was not going to happen in the manner I had planned– that’s smoke you see as haze in the moose image. Yup – the West is burning and Idaho fires were filling the Park with smoke and unseasonably warm weather was keeping the wildlife hidden in the timber and up in cooler elevations.

By weeks end, the smoke had become so bad that there would be no grand vistas despite the promise of the tour guide…”With no foothills to get in the way, you’ll have a close-up, unimpeded view of magnificent, jagged, snowcapped peaks”…smoke reduced visibility to nearly zero at times…really felt bad for the folks who wouldn’t get to see the staggering beauty of the place

So, maybe it wasn’t going to be productive photography time, but as a guy who likes to have options – simply meant more time to hike, climb, and kayak and fish – no worries here….

More on all of it coming up…

Take care …see you down the road

2 Comments Post a comment
  1. Brian S #

    Hi Stephen,
    Thanks for your hospitality, it was great catching up with you and I wish you well on your travels. As you mentioned, photographing some of the iconic images was out of the question but we did to get some great animal shots including close-ups of moose and beaver. We had better luck in Yellowstone and as Corey said, “you can’t see it all in one trip through”. Thanks for the photo tips and location suggestions, they were a big help. Safe travels and I’m sure we will connect on the road again.
    Brian

    August 19, 2012
    • Stephen #

      B
      It was great seeing you and meeting Corey. Sounds like you two had a super trip – too bad about the smoke – but sounds like you got into the wildlife – and, you’re right – you cannot do this region in one trip – you’ll have to come back 🙂 take care

      August 19, 2012

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