Summer of 1993
Chapter 12--More Adventures
Yellowstone is larger than Yellowstone National
Park. In this case, I do not mean that it encases more than the land
that have spurned metaphors like "Price is Yellowstone." What I mean
is that Yellowstone as an ecosystem includes much more than the boundaries
of Yellowstone National Park. It also includes Grand Teton National
Park and the five national forests bordering the park. When Yellowstone
was established in 1872, the borders of the park were set arbitrarily.
Over the years, when people noticed that the Yellowstone ecosystem was
much larger, attempts were made to change the borders. The borders
of the area have changed only slightly, however, since the park was established.
It is too bad.
Outside of the park boundaries are astounding
lands worthy of national park status. If one has driven the scenic
Beartooth Highway out the Northeast Entrance of the park, most people will
readily testify to its mindboggling beauty. To the east of Yellowstone,
the Absaroka Range itself is gorgeous, but also has hot springs of note.
The Shoshone River which flows through the range, afterall, was once called
the Stinkingwater. To the west of Yellowstone, a 1959 earthquake
created Quake Lake. The land near this lake is very beautiful, and
the change of the landscape creating this lake is a testament to the changing
processes of the land.
The real reason, however, that the entire land
should be more protected than it is is the natural wildlife whose range
is the Yellowstone Ecosystem. Today, there are problems in Montana
with bison leaving the park in the winter. The fear is that bison
will spread a disease called brucellosis into the cattle population.
Before 1872, there was no boundary over which the bison were not supposed
to pass. Bears, elk, wolves, moose, coyotes, and many other creatures
make use of land inside and outside of the park. The fact that the
park boundaries are fixed where they are create very difficult political
questions where there should have been none.
The point I am making in this is not political.
The point that I am making is that few people stop to think that Yellowstone,
vast though it is, is really more vast. We disjoint the region in
our consciousness. Before I went to Yellowstone, for instance, I
had heard of Grand Teton National Park. I knew that the park was
in Wyoming. When I looked at a map before traveling west, I was shocked
to discover that it was in the same general area as Yellowstone National
Park. Furthermore, I knew this country had a large national forest
system. I did not know how much national forest land surrounded Yellowstone
National Park. I did not think of the region as one. Even people
traveling through have trouble doing so. In speaking to people who
have been to the region, I have asked, "So, did you go to the Tetons after
visiting Yellowstone?" Some reply, "No, where are they?" In
other words, there is a conscious separation of Yellowstone from Grand
Teton National Park and from the national forests. Even within Yellowstone,
there is a tendency among many tourists to identify Old Faithful as the
entire park. Perhaps, one hundred times, I was asked while working
in Grant Village, "How do you get to Yellowstone?" What they meant
was, "How do you get to Old Faithful?" It happened several times
a week. So, if many people visiting the region think of Yellowstone
as one place in Yellowstone, it is easy to imagine that few think of Yellowstone
as an entire ecosystem.
I surely did not think this way when coming to
Yellowstone. Soon, however, I refused to think of Grand Teton as
a different national park. It, too, was Yellowstone. The forests
were Yellowstone, too. My adventures in wonderland began when I entered
the East Entrance. That summer they did not end until I was almost
in Cody, Wyoming, many miles east of that same entrance.
Yet, all the same, as unified as the region is
by its web of life, the land in one area looks nothing like it does in
another. Early in the summer, I could witness that fact in a single
glimpse from Mt. Washburn. As I saw more and more, the point only
became more true.
Jay Clayton made sure I saw Yellowstone in the
form of Grand Teton National Park.
Mr. Clayton, as his high school art students
in Hillsboro, Missouri, referred to him, was a man in his late forties
who had been making a practice of coming to Yellowstone for many years.
In some ways, he was what one would expect of a tidy teacher. His
dorm room was immaculate. He carried with him on the trail not only
the bare necessities but a great many other novel items as well.
My point is is that he was organized and prepared. Jay had hiked
several hundred miles in the Yellowstone region and kept a map in his room
highlighting all the trails he had been on. His love was Yellowstone,
to explore its wonders, to photograph its beauty. His politics was
Democratic, and it was so because of a single issue--the National Park
Service. He may or may not have agreed with Dick Gephardt, his congressman
in his district in Missouri, or Bill Clinton, but if he agreed with their
policies toward the Parks and Yellowstone, he would not hesitate to vote
for that person.
Jay knew that Reuben and I had no transportation
and similar days off. He suggested that the three of us drive down
through the Tetons to Jackson to tour. Both of us were very eager
for the opportunity, and we both agreed.
My first impression of Grand Teton Nation Park?
Well, I wish I could say that it was this overwhelming cataclysmic event,
but the fact was that it was cloudy. The mountains were completely
invisible. The Grand Teton itself rises from a base of just over
6,000 feet to over 13,700 feet without the sign of a foothill. It
is no great feat, then, for its peak to be covered in clouds. However,
not only could we not see the peaks, the clouds were so low that we could
not see the bases. The fog was not great enough to impede our driving,
but it was a little disappointing all the same. However, Jackson
lay ahead, and this was our principle journey anyhow.
South of the Tetons is the famous resort town
of Jackson, Wyoming, but it is much better known to tourists and Americans
as Jackson Hole. What I soon learned about the name "Jackson Hole"
was that it referred to the fur trapping days. The area where a particular
trapper trapped was called his "hole." This particular area was Jackson's
hole, specifically the fur trapper David Jackson, one of the founders of
the Rocky Mountain Fur Company. The name Jackson Hole was catchy,
and the name for the area stuck. It certainly helped Jackson, Wyoming,
stand out from the other Jacksons in the country, but locals typically
called it "Jackson" rather than "Jackson Hole." So, it was often
a sure sign of whether you were dealing with a local or a tourist by what
they called the town.
The town itself is surrounded by small green
mountains. Principally, as one drives in from the north, a mountain
on the south of town stands out because of the evidence of ski slopes.
Jackson maintains its tourist industry year round, and several other ski
resorts are in the area. The mountains hem in Jackson but leave enough
space for a fairly sizable community by Wyoming's standards. The
permanent population was listed at about 5,000, but it seems that it had
to have been more. It is unmistakably a tourist town. Every
business is in a western style, specifically with a brown wooden look to
it. Even K-Mart has a brown wooden outside. It has all the
conveniences of a regular town but with none of the appearance or feel.
I enjoyed my first impression of Jackson, although
it was a feeling that would dwindle gradually throughout the years as my
values changed. I had grown up valuing urban environments and had
found that the worst times in my life had been in rural or small town environments.
I liked what cities had to offer. Jim Savstrom challenged me on that
that summer. He asked me what a city had to offer. I told him
that I liked the culture, the museums, the sporting events, the convenience.
I may love Yellowstone, but I informed him that I had to live in the city.
Jim suggested to me that he believed that Yellowstone had more to offer,
and that what the city had to offer we either rarely take advantage of,
cannot afford to take advantage of, or are of fleeting significance.
I cannot say that he convinced me that summer, but another seed was sewn.
In any event, Jackson charmed me. Its art and photography stores,
its restaurants, its bookstores, its convenience seemed all that I really
wanted. Besides, I was impressed with some of its unique charm.
Jackson was unique in somewhat peculiar ways.
As you drove to the town's center, the first thing one notices are the
arches made from elk antlers. Each corner of the town square contains
an arch plenty large enough for people to walk through made entirely of
elk antlers. I had heard of such things, but it was quite an interesting
site to behold. Around the square's perimeter, across the street,
was a boardwalk of businesses of every kind, from the Million Dollar Cowboy
Bar, to a leather store, to an art studio, to an ice cream shop, to a drug
store. Generally, a horse would lead a wagon of people on short rides
around the square. In the square, it was a different sort of story.
Many young people, primarily teenagers, sat in small groups in the square.
They were sometimes playing hackeysack, sometimes playing music, usually
smoking marijuana--right in the town square! They looked and dressed
like hippies, but it seemed to me what I called hippioid. I had great
respect for hippies, especially since my parents took part in protesting
against the Vietnam War. However, this seemed to me, from what I
could gather, nothing but hippy-appearance. It did not look like
a culture that a conservatively dressed person like myself would fit in
at all. Nevertheless, the cultural diversity apparent in Jackson
fascinated me, and I was glad to be a part of it.
We parked the car and begin browsing through
stores. Because Jay was an art teacher, he had a special interest
in the art and photography studios. This interested me as well, but
Reuben had little interest in such things. Sometimes, he came in
the store with us, but he sometimes wandered and did his own thing.
His favorite place, not surprisingly, was a toy store a couple blocks east
of the town square. On the other hand, I had a great time watching
Jay appraise art.
Jay, indeed, was great at appraising art.
He taught me a few things about certain Indian handcrafts called cochina
dolls (a probable misspelling). We approached a couple of Indian
rugs. To me, both looked like a pile of crap. To Jay, only
one of them did. He looked at the one rug, without looking at the
tag, and said, "This rug is overpriced if it is a dime over $3500."
We looked at it, and it was $3500! I asked him about the other rug.
He said that it was horrible and not worth much. Indeed, it was less
than $200. They both looked the same to me, but I did not know what
people valued in rugs. Sometimes, values turn out to be amazing things,
as I would learn in the summer of 1998. (One may, in fact, notice
that the beginning of this chapter was written before the summer of 1998
existed!) The whole issue of values in Indian art turn sometimes
on some unfortunately racist criteria. However, let us not move there,
We spent the entire day window shopping.
Dinner was an interesting experience. We had had Mexican food for
lunch, and we were in the mood for Italian food that evening. However,
Reuben did not have much money, so we were looking for a place that was
relatively inexpensive. The first Italian place we happened upon
was called Anthony's. However, when we saw that the meals were about
$10 a plate, we decided to look elsewhere. The phonebook listed only
one other place. It was called Nani's, and few people working in
Jackson knew where it was. Eventually we happened on what looked
something like a house right next to a motel. We entered and found
ourselves sitting down in what felt like a house. The restaurant
was very small and had no menus. The menu for the day was written
on a markerboard, and nothing on that menu did we recognize. Apparently,
this was real Italian food. Furthermore, there were two kinds of
drinks we could have. Either we could have water or we could have
wine. Moreso, no meal on the menu was under $16! We had sought
to find something inexpensive, but we found something extravagant.
Yet, we did not dare leave. What is not coming across in my narration
was that this place felt and looked different. A family of Italians
worked in the kitchen. The restaurant had Mediterranean decoration
reminiscent of my Greek heritage. Much of my childhood was spent
at my grandparents', or yia-yia and papou as we call them, and it felt
like I was sitting in their kitchen. The feeling was wonderful.
As for Reuben, Jay and I were intent on eating here and assured him that
we would cover his bill. The food was wonderful, spectacularly so.
We were so happy with our experience that we left a $17 tip on a $50 bill!
Our way back from Jackson gave me my first glimpse
of the Tetons, at least the bottom three-fourths of them. The clouds
had lifted enough to see most of the mountains. What can I say except
that I was irrepressibly impressed. Here I could see what a complete
freak of nature this was. The land I was on showed no sign of elevation.
It was a flat plain. In fact, I was at the banks of Jenny Lake.
On the other side of this lake, mountains rise thousands of feet immediately
from the edge of the lake. It is astonishing. The reason for
this I would learn was that the Teton Range was on a fault line.
The earth was pushing together forming the Teton Range.
Yet, as awesome as this was, I could not possibly
comprehend just how awesome these mountains are because of the cloudcover.
Nevertheless, I was making the most of it. I did not know if I would
ever see these mountains again. For all I knew, this was it, and
I told Jay as much. In response, he smugly said, "You'll be back."
"But, Jay, I don't know if I'll ever have a chance
to come back."
"You'll be back."
"Jay, I'd like to come back, but I really cannot
say for sure."
"You'll be back."
And, somehow, some way, I knew he was probably
Jay took Reuben and I to the Tetons at least
three more times. On one occasion, Jay was simply attending a climbing
school in Jackson, and so he left me in Jackson to roam the town. On another
occasion, Jay took Reuben and I to Teton Village, a resort area near the
Tetons. Until now, this has been my only visit to Teton Village,
home to another of the area's famous ski resorts. However, the trip
was interesting because there was an Indian arts and crafts festival with
live music. Various Indian tribes from the Lakota to the Apache were
represented in small booths selling various arts and crafts. It is
often hard to tell what Indian art originates in the twentieth century
popular Indian culture and what actually is traditional. I had not
a clue, although I was aware of the probability that traditional culture
may have been less than two generations old! In any event, my overall
impression of the affair was one of great and peaceful joy. As Indians
beat drums in the setting of the mountains, I was there to witness culture
I could never partake of in Ohio. It was marvelous to see and a reminder
of the cruel history of the American West.
The other trip to the Tetons was the most memorable
for me that summer. Jay wanted to take a day hike through Cascade
Canyon, to Lake Solitude, and through Paintbrush Divide. All that
meant to me was that I was going to be hiking in the Tetons, an opportunity
that seemed unimaginable.
Reuben, as always, accompanied us that day, but
he had no intention of making an 18 to 20 mile day hike. The boy
was far too out-of-shape to consider such things, and he loved to fish
more, anyhow. So while Jay and I hiked, Reuben fished. So,
most of my memories of the day are with Jay, hiking in the Tetons.
Most of the time a traveler through Grand Teton
National Park only sees the mountains a distance from the road. No
one should travel to Grand Teton National Park thinking that they will
be driving in the mountains. The road through the park is relatively
flat, and it is that very flatness which make the Tetons such an awesome
spectacle arising from nothing. Throughout much of the park, the
final separation between the tourist and the mountains are bodies of water,
notably Jackson Lake and Jenny Lake. It is possible to reach the
mountains themselves without crossing a large body of water; however, it
was not practical for Jay and I to do so. Cascade Canyon's trail
begins on the far side of Jenny Lake. So, to get across, we took
a ferry across the lake.
The day was cloudless. The triangular peaks
of the Tetons were radiant, majestic, and powerful. On another day,
I had managed to see a double full rainbow in front of the Grand Teton.
Although I had no such luck this morning, somehow the mountain shown all
the more brightly. Besides, it did not have to compete with a double
rainbow. As the ferry approached the far shore, gradually the mountains
began to look more real, more like mountains. From a distance, the
Tetons can look surreal. They arise out of nothing, and they are
somehow distant despite the fact that they tower over you. They are
untouchable all the same. The ferry's approach gave me a completely
new outlook on the Tetons. They could be touched, and yet they were
no less mythic in dimension. They towered all the more. The
steepness was overwhelming. Here is where land conquers sky, where
heaven is touched.
When we landed with the many tourists who came
ashore with us, the most overpowering thing about the mountains was the
smell. The evergreen smell was overwhelmingly fresh. I can
never forget how my nose reacted each time I have been here. The
land itself was overwhelmingly green, and the sound of rushing water was
very loud. I may have used this word too many times, but it was truly
The first object of our hike was Hidden Falls.
Hidden Falls really is hidden. Although the roaring water signals
something, there is no visible sign of the falls until you are nearly upon
it. Then, suddenly, you see this great cascade of the mountains.
Hidden Falls, is more of a very steep cascade than a waterfall. However,
it is not anything short of impressive. The water rushes violently
over many rocky precipices, falling maybe 200 feet. The forest hides
its gem in the way that popular culture has generally kept us ignorant
of such wonders. I am glad they did because the surprise was all
the greater. I realize that by sharing this autobiography I may be
destroying a great many surprises, and you will have to forgive me for
it. My only defense is that love does not depend upon surprise, upon
the euphoria of discovery. It depends upon our devotion to it.
Nevertheless, I doubt I detract from your euphoria. It is not as
if you will understand what I am talking about, anyhow. You will
mistake my narration as hyperbole, and only we who know it realize what
an understatement it truly is.
The trail quickly climbs from Hidden Falls.
We made a several hundred foot climb over the next half-mile to a mile.
It was not very difficult for me because it was early in the hike.
Nevertheless, I was glad to find out that the climbing would not last forever.
The climb ended at a place called Inspiration Point. True to its
name, the point presented a gorgeous view of Jenny Lake and the Snake River
valley beyond. I took a picture; however, Jay would not. The
sun was facing us, and he warned that a picture probably would not do the
slightest bit of justice to the landscape. However, facing Mt. Owen
behind us, we took some pictures. Mr. art teacher and photographer
managed to take a very poor picture of me. Or, should I say that
he took an excellent picture of one of his fingers. I could not possibly
guess that Jay's finger had played a role in my day. Yet, as I tell
it now, how could I avoid it? The facts always go beyond our immediate
perception, and it is not always true that time dims the past. If
we know how to collect those facts, know how to remember, we paint a better
picture of yesterday than we could have that day. Jay's finger is
amusing to me, a symbol of a great day.
Cascade Canyon begins where the trail levels
off. The Canyon carves a trail between the group of mountains that
contain the Grand Teton, which was on our left proceeding from Inspiration
Point and a group to the right called the Cathedral Group. The trail
is remarkably flat, considering it runs right through the Teton Range.
The mountains rose very steeply, and it was not uncommon to see great cascades
and waterfalls falling down the sides. People training for a climbing
school were on some of the slopes to our right. To our left, the
Grand Teton was invisible, cut from view by Mt. Owen, a very similar mountain.
It amazed me how a mountain that was 13,700 feet could be hidden from view
by a smaller mountain. My eyes often searched for it to appear.
Jay was great fun to hike with although he was
clearly much slower than I was. It did not matter to me because I
was in no particular hurry. What interested me the most was watching
him decide what to photograph. He had a tripod, and a nice camera,
but he was especially picky about what would make good photos. We
would pass one corner or another, and I was amazed at each new thing.
Once in awhile, he would agree with me so much that he would stop and take
As we walked along the trail, some hikers came
past us saying that there was a bear less than a mile away right near the
trail. Jay was extremely excited, but I wanted no part of a bear.
Jay dearly wanted to see a bear, although he was well aware of the dangers,
but I began making a great deal of noise so as to scare any possible bear
away. I especially did not want to get between a mother bear and
her cubs. However, considering that tourist after tourist along our
path continued to talk about the bear, I was thinking that we had too good
of a chance of seeing it. We hiked and hiked and hiked, but we never
saw the bear. For that, I was happy, and Jay was not so happy.
However, I like to think that my voice scared it away, although it could
have been my body odor. Who knows?
One thing greatly disappointed me about the Tetons.
There was far too much tourist traffic in these mountains, and far too
much horse manure. You look at these mountains from a distance, and
you don't always stop to realize that the trails are teaming with people
and horses. The trails I had been on in Yellowstone had been less
crowded, and my idea of hiking through backcountry did not generally suggest
to me that I would be spending it with a lot of other people. We
had a person who worked at the cashier's office at Grant named Jack, and
he was from Michigan. Generally, he came across as a very crass man.
This is what I enjoyed about him, actually. It was told by a colleague
of mine that he went up to the ranger's station in the Tetons and asked
the ranger, "Are there any trails in this park that aren't covered in horseshit?"
To which the ranger kindly reported that there were not. "That's
what I thought," said Jack leaving in disgust.
However, the beauty was not something too many
tourists could destroy, at least this afternoon. Nothing in my wildest
dreams compared with what I was witnessing that day. Some of you
have grown up in mountainous states, but we have nothing remotely close
in Ohio. Many people in the East talk about taking trips to the mountains,
but they mean the Appalachians, which are not even fit to be foothills
in stature to these mountains. Whatever one thinks about the aesthetics
of these eastern pretenders, they cannot possibly give one the sense of
the mountains that these Tetons gave me that day. I did not know
that land could rise so sharply for so far, that it could rise so high
at points that I was not easily able to tell where it ended. I did
not know that water could flow so quickly, that an odor could be divine,
that a rock could be so big. Indeed, there were some of the largest
granite boulders that I have ever seen littering our trail.
Finally, Grand Teton appeared. What more
can I say.
The trail began to climb again and began to veer
to the south. Looking back at Grand Teton, it was possible to see
the mountain by itself, a glorious triangle whose base was a beautiful
curve of green whose peak curved ever so regally. I was also able
to see the Grand's power. A cloudless day began to look ominous.
Clouds began forming over the Grand itself, and the sky was beginning to
turn black. I had never seen the land make weather before, and here
it was, unmistakable before the eyes. You could see clouds forming
at the very peak, and it began to look scary.
As we approached Lake Solitude, I began to hike
much faster than Jay. I sensed something special, and I always tend
to hike very fast when I sense a pinnacle of some sort. Jay may have
fallen a quarter-mile behind me. For, while the Grand Teton was behind
me, it was no less spectacular in front of me. Mountains hemmed me
in in all directions covered hopelessly in snow. The sky was now
very gray, and everything had the look of winter. At the end of this
was a tiny lake, Lake Solitude, still partially frozen although it was
August 2! The lake was tiny but was large enough to have an island
with a small tree on it. As I said, the lake was surrounded by mountains
on every side with no easy outlet except where we had just passed.
Here I stopped and reflected before Jay caught
up. It was cold, the weather was becoming miserable, and it was slightly
scary. Nevertheless, how could I not thank my great fortune, this
fortune beyond my wildest dreams. Here was another freak of nature,
another thing to the list of miracles. All I could do was to look
upon it and wait.
When Jay came, he was somewhat tired from the
fairly lengthy climb to the lake. It was clear that there was going
to be a thunderstorm back towards the trail we had come, a storm which
might hit us. Lightning was flashing from the Grand Teton, and all
was black. It was getting fairly late in the afternoon, and so Jay
and I had to make some decisions. We originally wanted to take Paintbrush
Divide back, but it was a lengthy and hard-looking trail up one of the
mountains surrounding Lake Solitude to a height of over 10,000 feet if
we were to do that. Realistically, we would have run out of time.
Realistically, we would have worn ourselves out trying, and realistically
the weather was too ominous. As it was, we were at 9,000 feet, and
the weather was extremely ominous. Going the other way meant going
at the heart of the storm, but we had no choice. Naturally, I had
not brought any rain gear, but we had to go that way and as quickly as
I never took rain gear on the trail and for no
good reason. I cannot give you one single reason that had me convinced,
and the dangerous thrill it gave me was even known to me to be foolish.
Sometimes, we do not always act in our own best interests, nor believe
that we are. It is a lie that we always do, and my insistence on
willfully acting against it in bizarre circumstances like this only confirmed
it. I had no rain jacket, and it seemed that I was about to regret
As we headed back, it did begin to sleet somewhat.
However, it was not heavy. Soon enough, the mountains made the weather
stop. What had looked like an endless storm passed away and left
me relatively dry. Lady luck had shined on me, as she had the entire
day. Before our day ended, our sky was as cloudless as it was when
we first began.
So, Jay and I walked and talked and talked and
there in the woods was a female moose! I noticed her first as we
started going around the bend which was to take us on the straight path
to Inspiration Point. We simply stumbled across a moose in backcountry,
and I stumbled to take a picture of it. The sky was still dark, and
the area was wooded. Therefore, my picture did not come out very
well, but it was exciting all the same. I was much happier to see
a moose than a bear! I had seen one moose earlier that summer when
Jay took us on a drive in the Tetons called Signal Mountain, but it is
always more special to see a moose on the trail. I often call such
moments, "National Geographic Moments," although I suspect they would not
pay for a photograph of mine in a million years.
We hiked back quickly, the last three miles of
which I hiked much faster than Jay. My feet ached, my legs ached,
and an old track injury was beginning to rear itself upon my groin.
Nevertheless, I was anxious to end this hike. The faster I hiked
the sooner I would be able to rest. I probably put on a mile over
Jay's pace because he was half an hour behind me in the end. We barely
made the last boat to launch for the evening. Thank goodness!
That would have given us another 2 or 3 miles of hiking! I was far
too sore to consider that.
At South Jenny Lake, we met up with Reuben.
Naturally, he had had absolutely no luck fishing. I cannot remember
what he said of his day, but I think he had a few little adventures that
did not seem the equal to ours. It is one of my great faults that
I sometimes do not make enough of an effort to relate to the experiences
of others. All of us hungry and tired, we went to Jackson and at
a Sizzler, which for easterners is the equivalent of Ponderosa or Bonanza.
It was much welcomed and helped fill my Grand Teton appetite. Of
course, Jay and I were malodorous beyond any sulfur hot spring, and Reuben
was Reuben. I hope we did not affect too many people's dining pleasure.
If you were in Jackson on August 2, 1993, at a Sizzler, sometime in the
early evening, you may now understand why your food tasted a little funny.
Ours, however, tasted great.
My little taste of Greater Yellowstone, especially
Grand Teton National Park, was "Grand" as well. It helped expand
my horizons by showing me a world where the horizon, in essence, was destroyed.
The mountains destroyed linear perspective, and added dimensions which
even a dreamer like myself was unable to imagine.
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