Adventures in the Parks: Grand Teton National Park (#1)
We are excited to start a new blog series called "Adventures in the Parks." There are 62 National Parks, over 400 National Park Sites, and over 10,000 State Parks in the United States for us to explore. And once we adventure in all of those, there are over 3,500 more National Parks throughout the world! For each park we visit we'll give you some fun facts about the park and insight into our personal adventures in the park. We'll also share with you some of our favorite art and artists that are connected with the park, including any work that Colter has done.
We hope you'll be able to get out and visit these parks, too! We are firm believers that being outside is good for your body, mind and soul. But if that's not going to happen right now (we totally get it... with two girls, getting anywhere takes twice as long as before!) you are more than welcome to join with us in enjoying the beauty, adventure and inspiration of the parks through this blog.
Five Fun Facts about Grand Teton National Park:
1. John Colter: First American Mountain Man
The first American Mountain Man was John Colter. (Yes, what are the odds, it's spelled the same way! We were excited to see "Colter's Parking" on our way to Teton National Park.) Colter started on the 1806 Lewis and Clark exhibition, but left them to explore on his own. A rock with his name carved into it was found in Idaho, and means that it is possible that John Colter traveled through the Teton Pass. So, Grand Teton National Park was probably home to our first ever Mountain Man!
2. "Teewinot" is the Shoshone Name
The Shoshone Tribe of Native Americans called the Teton Mountain Range "Teewinot," which means "many pinnacles." It is easy to see why this name stuck when you see the incredible peaks visible from miles away. Native Americans lived on and loved this land long before any mountain men arrived to "discover" it.
3. The Babies of the Rockies
The Teton Mountain Range is the youngest mountain range in the Rocky Mountains. Like all youngsters, the Tetons are still growing! They are the babies of the family at only 6 million years old!
4. Preservation Despite Politics
Grand Teton National Park is living proof of the good that can come from living your values regardless what other people say. John D. Rockefeller visited the area, recognized its beauty, and wanted to have it preserved. So, over the next few years he bought 35,000 acres of its land to donate to the government. Despite the controversy that this (and other aspects of creating Grand Teton National Park) caused, President Calvin Coolidge made it a National Park on February 26, 1929.
5. Threatened Animals
There are 61 species of mammals and 300 species of birds that live within Grand Teton National Park, most of which are thriving. There are a few species, though, that are considered "threatened" on the endangered species list. These include the grizzly bear, the Canada lynx, the yellow-bellied cuckoo and the western glacier stonefly. Visiting Grand Teton National Park can be an awesome opportunity to spot wildlife and recommit to protecting these endangered species.
Our Adventures in Grand Teton National Park:
When I asked Colter what his main impression was from our trip to the Tetons he said, "Big mountains... I want to paint big mountains!" Needless to say, in our short time in the Tetons, we couldn't get enough of them. I don't know if you have ever tried to blitz through a National Park. It just doesn't work. We visited Grand Teton National Park while it was still closed to overnight stays, so we decided to just drive out as soon as our girls got up in the morning, and head back that same evening. With such a short timeframe we decided that we would just try to find one or two hikes and be intentional about enjoying the little moments throughout the day. Here are some of our highlights.
The Murie Ranch
Just before officially entering the park, our little family of four (Colter and I with our two girls two and under) stopped at a visitor's center. (Ok, we were a little bit underprepared and didn't realize we hadn't actually made it into the park yet. But with baby Ema super upset about the long drive, we were all anxious to get out of the car as soon as possible!) Fortunately for us, we found the perfect 2 year old friendly pre-lunch hike! We walked along a simple one-mile trail, with Ema in a front pouch and Mini trailing behind, stopping regularly to check out the bugs and use her water bottle to give the grass a nice drink. We had some fun wildlife sightings, too. By "we" I actually mean Colter, because he was the one who saw a fox run across the path in front of him.
At the end of the trail we came to a small village of wood cabins. Because of the current Covid-19 situation, none of the houses were actually open to walk through, but we had a great time learning about them. The Murie family were avid conservationists and were instrumental in advocating for protecting the American wilderness. They helped to create the official definition of "wilderness" as "a place untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor and does not remain." Olaus Murie was an avid artist, sketching and painting the surrounding Teton landscape for science.
Finding this little hike was a gem for our family, because of the connection with art, conservation and community. I am currently a Public Health master's student and am convinced of the healing and empowering effect of creating and maintaining meaningful relationships. In the case of the Murie family, the relationships that they built with hundreds (if not thousands) of individuals over the course of their lives was instrumental in healing our American landscapes, and empowering individuals and organizations to be committed to conserving our animals and their habitats. Their choice to create a community of conservation advocates is an example to me of the impact that living your values can have on the preservation of the goodness around you.
On a similar note, Colter and I really appreciated the use of traditional art techniques to contribute to scientific knowledge. So often we view the arts and the sciences separately, convinced that adding to the value of one will diminish the value of the other. Visiting the Murie Ranch was a clear reminder that the two are not mutually exclusive. In fact, I truly believe that they were meant to work together to form a more holistic view of our world. As Colter develops as an artist, one of the most consistent questions he faces is whether to pursue representational or abstract work. As he has experimented with mediums, styles and subjects, it has become clear to him that he wants to depict the world as it is, and not in an abstracted form. In part, this preference for representational work is a token of his gratitude to a Perfect Creator who designed this earth using both a perfect understanding of science and the touch of a Master Artist.
The second (and last) hike we did during this trip to Teton National Park was an unanticipated adventure. After making the return trip from the Murie Ranch we stopped for a quick picnic lunch outside of the Visitor's Center, then hopped back in the car to explore. It was at this point that we realized that we had not yet officially entered the park yet! After proudly presenting our Season Pass (which we purchased literally right before all the parks temporarily closed, so this was our first time using it!) we drove slowly, parallel to the South, Middle and Grand Teton mountain peaks, soaking up their beauty, and stopping occasionally for Colter to take reference photos. Instead of choosing a specific location where we wanted to go, we decided we would pick random turns and see where we ended up.
After various turns, we saw a sign pointing to Jenny Lake, and were pretty sure that would be a fun spot for a family adventure. After driving past a sign that said, "Don't Feed the Foxes" we knew we were in the right place for us! (Have I mentioned before Colter's obsession with foxes, and his insistence that we will someday own a fox?) We jumped out of the car, and despite a slight drizzle set out along the path.
We followed the path, slowly walking along the edge of Jenny Lake and enjoying the scenery. It wasn't long, though, before we realized that we were heading to some unknown destination. People kept passing us and making comments to us about how brave we were to do this hike with our girls. We finally stopped one mom with her son and asked her where exactly the trail ended. She told us about the Hidden Falls at the end of the trail and strongly recommended us to not try to make it to the top. Of course, this was not the right thing to say to Colter, who immediately decided that we would definitely make it to the Falls. We picked up the pace, kept both girls in their packs, and thoroughly enjoyed the scenery all the way up to Hidden Falls. Part of the hike took us along the lake, while other portions had us in the middle of a forest trail. Every bit of it was stunning.
In my mind, possibly even more amazing than the scenery was the variety of people we encountered along the path. We didn't take time to meet many of them because of social distancing standards, but I was amazed to see men, women, and kids from all walks of life and from different ethnic backgrounds. With the country (and world) in an upheaval about race and equity, I was reminded of how nature and the outdoors treat us all with equality. As we reached the Falls, the cold spray of water was not partial to any one group of people. The rain that started pouring on us as we made the return trip didn't discriminate. The rocks that Mini tripped on as she sprinted down the path didn't specifically choose her as a target. This was a beautiful, subtle reminder to me of the pattern we have been given by nature for how to see and treat each person we meet.
We thoroughly enjoyed our hike to and from Hidden Falls, and for me it ended on a high note as we met a young couple who had stopped in Teton on their way home to California from Chicago where they had driven to visit their moms for Mother's Day. We had both passed and been passed by them on multiple occasions during the hike, so they had interacted with our girls a couple of times. They told us about their desire to have kids, but their worry that they wouldn't be able to adventure anymore. Let me just say, Colter and I totally get this. Our adventures used to much more spontaneous and much less equipment heavy. But, let's face it, with kids you need to bring the backpacks, the snacks, the diapers, the carseats, and the list goes on. But despite all of the added effort, the experience is so much more rewarding when you share it with the people you love. We got to share with them the joy of having our girls with us, and confidence that they will find ways to make outdoor adventures a priority in their lives, even after kids come into their family.
For me, these experiences in the Parks are about so much more than just taking in the beauty. It's about giving joy, adventure and a sense of accomplishment to others: my family, you, and anyone else who may need it. I hope sharing these adventures leaves you with a confidence that no matter where you're at in life right now, that the outdoors is accessible to you and can be a place of inspiration, peace and joy to you. It's not always easy to get out, but I'm confident that as you push yourself to spend time in the beauty of the outdoors, that you will experience a sense of accomplishment and fulfillment, and those feelings are amplified as you share that outdoor time with the people that you love.
Our Favorite Jackson Hole Artists:
The final "hoorah" of our Grand Teton National Park trip was a super quick visit to Astoria Gallery to get a better look at the paintings of some favorite artists. Between the many galleries in Jackson Hole and the National Museum of Wildlife Art on the edge of Jackson Hole there are a lot of amazing artists represented, so it's hard to pick a favorite few. Here are a few of our "must see's."
Josh Clare is probably Colter's current number one (or at least top three) role model in the world of art. You can find his work in Jackson's Astoria Gallery, (https://www.astoriafineart.com/artist/140/Josh-Clare). Colter was super excited to look at his work up close and couldn't get over how he was able to use thick paint with interesting brush strokes throughout each of his pieces. He admires Josh's command of paint to create forms and shapes.
Michael Malm is another family favorite for his backlit portraits. Last year Colter had the chance to submit art to a show that was juried by Michale Malm, and we were privileged to hear him speak at the opening. His journey of becoming a professional, full-time artist has inspired us in our journey to prioritize our focus on becoming a professional. You can find his work, both portraits and landscapes in the Trailside Gallery (trailsidegalleries.com/artists/michael-malm).
Nancy Glazier is another long-time May family favorite artist. Colter's mom worked as Nancy's housecleaner while she was pregnant with Colter. She frequently shares with us how Nancy would pay her to walk laps around the pond so that she would be in good shape to be able to heal quickly after her delivery. She is as kind as she is skilled in her craft. She has an incredible attention to detail that is obvious in her wildlife paintings. Her work can also be found at Trailside Gallery (trailsidegalleries.com/artists/nancy-glazier).
Nicholas Coleman is a favorite for his striking sunsets and vibrant water. One of my favorite pieces of his shows the golden sunset reflected into the river, turning the water into liquid gold. His pieces often depict western wildlife, such as moose and buffalo, or scenes with Native Americans or explorers. His work can also be found at the Trailside Gallery (trailsidegalleries.com/artists/nicholas-coleman). The Coleman family is full of master artists, all with similar western landscape styles. You can see a compilation of the family's work at colemanart.com.
One of our dreams is for Colter to someday be represented by a gallery in Jackson Hole. Right now we are working to learn from the masters that are currently there, appreciating the amazing work that they put into their craft so that we can all enjoy these gorgeous scenes. Although right now this dream seems far away, it is something we are committed to continue to work toward. Part of that process is creating and selling art that will help build Colter's portfolio. The Tetons have consistently been one of Colter's favorite subjects, and he has attempted to capture their majesty in multiple mediums. I am sure his journey of depicting scenes from Grand Teton National Park is far from over. Please enjoy Golden Tetons, and look forward to more Teton artwork in the future. Thank you again so much for your support and encouragement.