My family and I just returned from our annual vacation in the Grand Teton National Park. Please don’t go there yourself because too many people are discovering that it is an awe-inspiring park and crowding up the place. Stay home and watch ‘Spencer’s Mountain’. You can see the mountains vicariously. This is a vacation started many, many years ago when our children were little and didn’t have children of their own. Thank God.
Anyway, at one point, my daughter and I were standing together looking at the Tetons and I murmured to her that these mountains were the most beautiful in the world. She, of course, in the manner of all daughter/mother conversations quickly pointed out that I hadn’t seen all of the mountains in the world and how could I justify my remark? Beyond slapping her silly, I said that they were beautiful to me and I didn’t need to see any further mountain ranges to compare them to.
Taken literally, my original remark sparked her response. She doesn’t have the life experience yet to know that what I said encompasses the history and memories of my adult lifetime. The time that I spent with her, her dad, and her brother going back twenty years in that national park. That when I say ‘beautiful mountains’, I’m saying that at looking at those mountains, I’m thinking of my beautiful memories those peaks invoke.
When I think back to the early days of taking the kids out fishing and coming back with this:
Shortly after this photo was taken, a busload of Asian tourists stopped for a photo opportunity. Before we could pack up our booty, a little Asian man asked to have his photo taken along side of my son who held all the fish. Then with the moxie of the ages, he asked, ‘could he hold the fish, and little boy stand out of camera range, ok?’ He wanted the picture to show that he caught all these fish himself. Yeah, right.
Or the very first time we rented a trailer and it came complete with bunk beds for the kids. (A little foreshadowing here: my daughter and son-in-law bought their first trailer last year. Complete with bunk beds for kids. Memories are a powerful force.)
Or the year the drought in the west disseminated reservoirs throughout the area and our little cove that we launched our boat and kept at the dock was nothing but a mud puddle.
Or the year that both my parents had died. We left for our beloved Tetons the day after I made the final arrangements for Dad; Mom was already gone. Dad did not want any service; just to scatter his ashes in the area he loved best. I know that most would say, ‘You went on vacation then?’. Yes, if you could call it a vacation. We went to grieve in one of the most comforting places we knew. I sat quietly on our boat, gazing at the mountain range and asked God all the questions stored in my heart. And here was where the healing began.
For two years President Clinton and his family vacationed there at the same time we did. That last time, as we were all fueling up to leave, about five black suburbans pulled into the gas station with us. Antennas galore, blacked out windows…the Secret Service had arrived. Within the day, the airplane carrying those agents and suburbans would crash, killing all aboard.
My son asked his girlfriend to marry him here. And the engagement photos were taken here.
You see, we celebrate our family here. Beginning with these two, my father and mother-in-law who began the tradition of ‘grown up’ vacations with their children and grandchildren.
We began traveling with them in 1990 and continued until 1998, with all but one vacation destination being in the Wyoming/Montana national park system. We have introduced this area to our son’s girlfriend who later became his wife. Our son-in-law grew up in Wyoming and considered the Jackson Hole area too tourist-y. That is until he came with us into the forest and experienced the family there at Colter Bay.
Now with twenty years behind us, we have three grandchildren (four if you count the one on the way) to introduce the beauty of the mountains to. You see, when we all arrived, my daughter turned to her husband and said, “this is my second home”. My son remarked to his wife and then father with this, “it’s like being home here.” All said privately and then shared with Bob and me.
Yes, it is like being home here.
PS. The masthead this month is of one mountain in the Teton range called Mt. Moran. Here is the full photo of this beautiful crag.