Early April in Grand Teton National Park is drastically different from the warm spring days of the south. Even the river valleys of Idaho are witnessing the first blossoms of the year while the iconic peaks, and terraced valleys of the national park are still accented with feet of snow in the shaded areas and pockets of snow most everywhere else. However, the sagebrush plains on the upper terraces east of the peaks are a stark contrast to the winter wonderland in the background. These fields are bursting with life of all sizes. Moose actively graze and lounge in the shallow cover, foxes roam eagerly looking for the abundant field mice, ground squirrels, and groundhogs, all manner of birds fly just over head or graze among the recently exposed plants, elk herds migrate towards the hills, and deer actively move in the waxing and waning hours of the day.
The majesty of the Tetons is accentuated by the sparkling ice shining in the morning sun and the variety of animals roaming in the fields below. The peace found here in the quiet moments throughout the day cannot be overstated. Keep in mind, the park is gearing up for the busy summer season with roads beginning to open up. The park roads will officially open in May but already people are flocking to the park to fit in a few more winter activities, or to get their bikes out onto the thawed roads. With that in mind, it is important to understand that finding a quiet spot where someone else won't wander is unlikely; however, that doesn't mean you can't find those indescribable moments where the world falls silent, peace descends, and the beauty of what lies before you takes your breath away.
I took this most recent trip to the Tetons in an effort to escape and take a break from life. In a overwhelming moment of frustration, I realized that this Easter weekend offered a unique opportunity to bask in God's creations and find a little more meaning in the rugged landscape. I packed up and headed out for a couple of days. I chose to explore the mountains and fields to the east of the the Tetons, following Gros Ventre (pronounced "gra vont") road through Kelly, and into the hills. There, in those quiet hills and fields I was surprised to find dozens of moose, herds of elk, and many more animals I previously mentioned. The streams and rivers glistened in the sun and few people roamed the area. I did take a couple drives north to find roads I had yet to explore, but the amount of people and cars on the main highway and park roads deterred further exploration there and in the park. I returned to the Gros Ventre Canyon to stay the night out of park boundaries. As a geology student, I was fascinated to find, in abundance, exposed clays, silts, and sands in the hill sides, with gorgeous rippled and cross-bedded structures. The Gros Ventre landslide was an ominous sight to behold. The slide, which occurred just over 100 years ago, dammed the river creating slide lake to the north. Swamped trees still poke through the ice, reminders of the violent past. This massive slide is one of the biggest natural earth-moving events in documented U.S. history. The slide scars can be seen in the western mountain face for miles.
Modern and pioneer settlements/ranches dot the landscape. Admire the workmanship of our ancestors as you walk through preserved sections of century-old ranches and associated structures. Gaze upon the views, during which time were untouched, unaltered, and wild. Imagine the life they lived, the gorgeous summers and harsh winters. Remarkably, these people were not the first to brave the rough terrain. Native American tribes have called this landscape, home, for millennia. Pause to feel the wind and hear the sounds of life thriving beneath these commanding peaks. I have found that my worries and pain, accumulated through daily living, are relieved from me in the presence of the mountains. I find healing and peace in the face of such strength and fortitude. What has been endured by the mountains and the people and animals that have called these mountains, home, is far greater than what I will endure in my short life-time, and yet, all have persevered; examples of patience, growth, endurance, and determination.
I am grateful for the unique and kind people I met on this trip. The mutual respect and care given by many so that others can enjoy the park is much appreciated. I hope that we will be able to continue to preserve this gorgeous landscape for generations to come so that our children's children can learn from and be edified by it all.
Time marches on, life struggles and thrives. Peaks and valleys exist, reminders that for every light-filled vista there is a dark canyon that must be passed through. To have it all together means perfection and completion -- wholeness. The immense forces that create such stunning and rugged landscapes literally tear and break rock apart, but that continuing trial is what defines true beauty and majesty. When you feel torn apart, broken down, exhausted, and winded, look to the mountains, to their creation and creator, look to the trees, the plants, the animals that inhabit this land, see their struggle for life and find hope. Hope that all of this is worth the pain, that healing can happen, that growth is occurring, that this is all worth it, and you can do this! Don't give up or give in, learn to take breaks, not to quit. You are chemically made of the same material that mountain is, you are capable and can succeed. Keep on keeping on.
Pictures from this past weekend, enjoy!!