A few months ago I spent a weekend with Moe, a contra dance friend from the east coast. She is now a National Park Ranger stationed in Grand Teton National Park. I can’t think of a better way to explore a park than with your own personal ranger as guide.
Scheduled to arrive in Yellowstone to work in mid-April, I was surprised that the south road connecting the Grand Tetons to Yellowstone was still closed, so I had to drive all the way around the mountain range to enter the West entrance of the park. Not that I’m complaining, because the view was just spectacular.
Getting up close and personal with the Tetons this time around was a joy. Despite haze from the Berry Fire in the north part of the park, the views were gorgeous all the way around.
We hiked around Phelps Lake in the southern portion of the park, which is bordered by the Laurance S. Rockefeller Preserve. Originally a private dude ranch and vacation spot for the Rockefeller family, Laurance bequeathed the 1,106 acre preserve to the park. A Visitor Center was dedicated in 2008, featuring green building techniques and features a favorite meditation spot. Quotes from the Terry Tempest Williams poem adorn the walls.
Nature quiets the mind by engaging with an intelligence larger than our own.
The Scales of Nature will always seek equilibrium.
A feather can tip the balance.
At the trailhead we met a couple who had stopped to make a watercolor painting of Phelps Lake. On the trail we feasted on thimbleberries, watermelon berries and serviceberries.
A black bear was spotted near where we berried, shortly after we passed on. Phew! This female mule deer was spotted resting in the shade along our path, so we stopped for a rest as well.
Other highlights of our weekend were a 5 mile kayak trip on the Snake River below the dam. The Snake is the largest tributary of the Columbia River. The part we paddled down was serene and full of waterfowl and one muskrat.
A beaver dam several miles below yielded bubbles then a solitary beaver heading out for a sunset swim. Squealing occurred by a startled raccoon and ourselves when we met a few feet away on the grassy trail. Of course we drove south of the park gate to Mormon row to capture our own versions of the iconic photos.
Different than Yellowstone, I found Grand Teton National Park to be a visual treat at every juncture. Even though moose remained elusive, the wildlife and rugged beauty of this park made it one of my all-time favorites. So glad I had such a gracious guide!