We’re halfway between Fort Collins, Colorado, and Island Park, Idaho, when we start to see the digital road signs. “YELLOWSTONE NATL PARK. ALL ENTRANCES CLOSED.” My husband and I look at each other and quietly ask, “What?!”
Our family’s nine-month-in-the-planning Yellowstone National Park trip just got canceled.
A quick browser search shows massive flooding, evacuations, and collapsed roads. We quickly make a plan and announce it to the kids: we can’t do Yellowstone, but our cabin isn’t in the park, and we’re still going to the area. And since we’re coming from the south, we’re going to make a slight detour to visit the Grand Teton National Park in Jackson, Wyoming.
A few hours later, we drive through Jackson, scoff at the price of gas, point out the museums, art galleries, restaurants, and ice cream shops all framed with dark wood and lettering reminiscent of the old west, and delight in how adorable it all is.
We leave the square behind us and take the requisite picture at the Grand Teton entrance sign, and after the bustle of picture-taking, I finally turn and look at the mountains. The mountains are rocky and snowy, but all in this valley is verdant and gentle. Our family decides this set of mountains and valley are the perfect combination of the green of the Smokies but still magnificent like the mountains in Rocky Mountain National Park. They are perfect. And they are close! In that simple moment of standing and gazing at the majesty of it all, I completely and irrevocably fall in love with this park.
We drive into the park without any idea of where to go until a park ranger gives us a map, and we scope out which route to take. It’s 5 p.m. by this time and not crowded, so we take a left at Moose Junction and visit Jenny Lake. We park, approach a wooded lookout, walk down the stone steps, and gaze upon this jewel. The lake spreads to the base with the mountain abutting it and glitters in the sun. It’s not placid: there are small waves, and the choppy water only makes it more splendid. Our two oldest children take turns photographing the water, the trees, and the leaves.
We take a short hike (our youngest is three and not an accomplished hiker) down a rocky path parallel to the road. We don’t walk far until we are compelled to stop again and gaze in wonder. This is why we came: to be enthralled.
On our drive in, we listened to Rich Mullins, “So much beauty around us for just two eyes to see.” That’s why we planned this trip and drove this far: to see, behold, and be overwhelmed. And when we needed it most, the Grand Teton National Park was there to dazzle us with its beauty.