The Grand Teton Park was established in 1929 by President Calvin Coolidge and stretched for the entire range of the Tetons, a forty mile north to south series of peaks created by earthquakes some 10 million years ago.
Even decades, and now centuries ago the creation of a national park was no easy task. There were environmental barriers to overcome, there was opposition from land owners, there was the cost to the government, and there was most importantly a purpose that had to be conveyed about the validity of such an endeavor. Many people were involved in the creation of the Teton National Park, but perhaps none more than the Rockefeller family who first came to the Tetons in the 1920’s, and were so moved by the beauty of the area that they immediately became advocates for the preservation of that magnificent range. It wasn’t an easy task, and many people were involved, and 90 years ago last summer it became a reality.
The visitor center for the Rockefeller Preserve is also the trailhead for one of the many great hikes to be had in the Tetons. This one leads to Phelps Lake, home to numerous trails. The hike we took was a 9 mile loop around the lake with moderate elevation changes, non stop views of the Tetons and an unbelievable view of the entire lake from an overlook in Death Canyon. We traversed meadows of wildflowers, forests of fir, spruce and lodgepole pine and wetlands where obvious traces of moose were to be found. Always present was the sense that a bear was nearby, especially since there were numerous fresh scat sightings.
Phelps Lake is just one of many hikes to be had in the immediate area of Jenny Lake where we were working. The Jenny Lake Loop is a 7.5 mile round trip hike that navigates around the entire lake with some elevation changes. Off shoots of this trail includes a hike to Hidden Falls, from where one can make a little more strenuous of a climb to Inspiration Point with a magnificent view of Jenny Lake, and then on to Cascade Canyon which meanders through meadows to the forks. There you choose whether to go left to Hurricane Pass, or right to Lake Solitude, either of which involve strenuous hiking and difficult elevation gains. But the rewards are worth it. Cascade Canyon, as the name implies lies between the Cathedral Group (Teewinot Mountain, Mount Owen and the Grand Teton) on the one side, and St John group to the other which includes Symmetry Spire, Rock of ages and more that extend pass Paintbrush Canyon to Mount Woodring and others.
Just a couple of the day hikes to be had. Others just as pretty include Leigh and String Lakes, Lupine Meadows, Amphitheater Lake, Garnet Canyon, Taggert and Bradley Lakes, Death Canyon and Granite Canyon. The difficulty of these hikes is commensurate with their names. To the north towards Colter Bay you’ll find Heron Pond and Swan Lake Loop, Hermitage Point, Two Ocean Lake and Emma Matilda Lake, each breathtaking in its own right.
Some of the wildlife found in the area. Not to be overlooked is the grizzly and black bear population, a large segment of marmots, beavers and muskrats that might swim by as you hike a stream, ospreys and bald eagles can be spotted as they perch overlooking the Snake River, sharing space with blue herons who fly over pools of Trumpeter Swans and Canadian Geese. This is their park, their habitat, and the mantra is to pack it in, pack it out and leave it as you found it.
The area inspires awe, a nod to whatever created this slice of beauty and an urge at times to just sit and meditate, to relax and take in this never ending panorama. And there are a couple of places where one can just do that. The Chapel of the Sacred Heart sits on a spit overlooking Jackson Lake and in addition to the serenity offers masses on Sundays at 5pm.
Down near Menor’s Ferry you find the Chapel of he Transfiguration, an Episcopalian Church whose altar is framed by the omnipresent Grand Teton. A magical place.
The Snake River courses through this land, separating the Tetons to the west from the Gros Ventre Range to the east. This is where on any given day you can find any of the wildlife that frequents the Tetons. It’s a slow moving body of water around here, only picking up at Deadman’s Bar and developing further downstream into Class Four and Five waters. It is along this stretch of the water where Ansel Adams took that iconic photo and that I poorly tried to replicate, although in the 70 years since he took his the trees have grown somewhat.
But one of the most popular photo-op spots along the Snake lies about a mile south of Jackson Lake, a very slow meandering part of the river where paddle boarders share the water with grazing deer, elk and moose, swans and geese, muskrats, marmots and beavers, ospreys and bald eagles and if you are lucky a rare grey wolf. All this framed by Mt Moran to the west. Pretty nice setting. We only got to do half of what we wanted to do last year and so we are returning to spend another summer working at The Store at Jenny Lake and to try to take in more of this great National Park.
Readers of my blog know of my love of cooking. My background, rather my life, has been a journey to most corners of the world. I love the food of every region and I love to cook whatever cuisine beckons me at the moment. Fusion is really cool, mixing the dark flavors of asian cuisine perhaps with a euro twist – like vadouvan – a sweet spice developed by a Frenchman and used in Indian curries. I confess that I love steak – with a salad and good red wine. And when I can blend a good old fashioned steak au poivre with an asian twist to it why then I have in front of me a perfect slice of heaven. Include the requisite pommes frites, that salad and red wine and some good political discussion and you have the perfect storm. This recipe came from an American born in Ohio of Chinese parents who is a foremost authority in the cuisine of “East Meets West”. Ming Tsai gets it.