It's October in Wyoming, and it will be snowing here soon. We're in Jackson Hole, one of my favorite ski areas in the country. I've been here several times in the winter and have been challenged by the incredible mogul skiing this resort offers. This time, however, my purpose is to explore the national parks with my family. With camera gear in tow, we hit the road and head to Grand Teton National Park. This should be fun!
This park, located in the northwestern part of the state, comprises a segment of the Greater Yellowstone ecosystem, one of the largest mid-latitude temperate ecological communities worldwide. Anthropologists have determined that human history can be traced back 11,000 years when hunter-gatherer Paleo-Indians arrived here in search of food. Discovered by white explorers in the first half of the 19th century, fur traders came here in pursuit of beavers to be used in the pelt trade. Having gained access to this area, eastern Shoshone natives were encountered for the first time. By 1929, the Grand Teton National Park was established in order to protect the exquisite peaks of the Teton Range.
If you travel the continent of North America, higher peaks can be found than Grand Teton; none, however, more dramatic than you'll discover in this geographic region. These mountains rise vertically up to 7,000 feet above the valley floor, with no foothills to impede the pristine views of their rocky slopes and deep canyons. Gorgeous peaks combine with numerous unadulterated lakes and wildlife. The roster includes grizzly and black bears, elk, moose, deer, bighorn sheep, bison and pronghorns, all making Grand Teton one of America's treasures.
Our first stop in the park turns out to be my favorite, Jenny Lake. Formed approximately 12,000 years ago by glaciers pushing rock debris, Cascade Canyon was carved out and encloses the lake. Named after a Shoshone Indian woman who married an Englishman, Jenny and her six children died of Smallpox in 1876.
We start our trek along the lake, that if completed, extends for 7.1 miles. I'm not able to gain the lake's circumference; however, due to a plethora of photographic opportunities along the way. Jenny Lake is 423 feet deep and is a major focal point within the park. I love seeing the exalted peaks together with their reflections as they dance upon the lake's smooth surface. Along the way, we encounter deer that appear to be relaxing while enjoying the dazzling scenery.
As I complete my trek along the lake, I come across three archaeologists working on a dig. Excavations of this type are apparently common, as these workers attempt to recover artifacts such as pointed pebble choppers, hammerstones and hearths. I'm struck by the amount of patience this work requires!
As we leave Jenny Lake, we encounter a male elk. October is an important time in the park for these animals as the breeding season (rut) has begun. The males actively bugle to signal their dominance and attract females. The sound they emit generally occurs in the early evenings. Not uncommonly, two dominant male elk can be seen locking antlers, as they vie for mating privileges with prospective females.
The afternoon is now winding down. We sit on a deck, have a beer and watch the sunset over the Grand Teton Range. I'm amazed at the combination of this area's natural beauty, flora and fauna that have existed continually in this habitat since prehistoric times. I will hopefully sleep well tonight as the next stop on our Itinerary is Yellowstone tomorrow.