We woke up early so that we could catch the morning wildlife on the drive North from Jackson Hole to Grand Teton National Park. The skies were grey, the weather was chill, and the clouds hung low over the mountains, giving us only fleeting glimpses of sunlit glaciers. Once we reached our campsite at Colter Bay, we put on our hiking gear, and headed out to the Heritage Point Trailhead. Kyle told us it was a long hike, but flat, no elevation change. No problem.
Just five minutes into our hike, we spotted our first wildlife. A bald eagle, perched in a dead tree, right next to the lake. We walked slowly on the trail until we were right under it. It didn't seem too bothered, but just kept a keen eye on us. He was a beauty. There was one beautiful large feather sticking out of it's wing, and we waited patiently, hoping that he would pluck it out and drop it down to us. We didn't get the feather, but we considered the eagle our blessing for safe passage into the wilderness.
We walked through the forests, spotting grouse, hearing jackrabbits thump warning on the forest floor, and everyone and a while saying, "I'm a bear! I'm a bear!", so as not to take any bear by surprise. We passed a beaver lodge in a small lake, and watched the beavers frolic about, smacking their thick tails on the surface of the water. The clouds still hung low, and from the open meadows, we could just see the base of the mountains.
Three and a half miles into the hike, we came to a crossroads. We could either walk one and a half more miles to Heritage Point, on the lake, with the supposed most stunning view of the Grand Tetons, or, Nicole could walk Mary Lou back to the trailhead. Nicole wouldn't even take that as an option, and told her mother she would make it to the Point.
After five miles, and a short nap in a suddenly sunny, green meadow, we reached Heritage Point. It was as if the clouds parted just for us. As we walked onto the rocky beach, the whole panoramic of the Grand Tetons stretched before us, snow glowing silver in the sunlight, and reflecting in the lake. Spectacular.
"The majesty of the peaks within the Grand Teton National Park has always left wide-eyed onlookers searching for ways to best describe them. Native tribes had numerous names for the jagged spires, from the The Three Brothers to the evocative Hoary Headed Fathers, the seemingly age-old peaks commonly dusted in silvery snow. The Shoshone knew them as the Teewinot ("many pinnacles"), while the early white explorers called the range The Pilot Knobs, sky-high lighthouses used to navigate the surrounding wilderness. The designation the stuck, Les Trois Tetons (literally "The Three Breasts"), was bestowed in to 1830's by imaginative, if sex-starved, French-Canadian fur-trappers."
They were breathtaking. We sat on the beach, each on our own little rock bed, and watched the clouds pour towards us over the highest peaks. Although the complete range was visible most of the time, the highest peak, Grand Teton was always cloaked in grey clouds. It was as if Grand Teton, at 13,770 ft, created it's own weather for the purpose of remaining shrouded in mystery. Just as we would think it was about to show itself, the clouds would form behind and quickly wrap themselves around the peak.
The shadows of passing clouds animated the peaks, showing the glaciers flowing and avalanches racing down. We sat in awe for quite some time, until we got up to take the obligatory family photos. We made sure everyone was rested, and ready to embark on the 5 miles back. Mary Lou was already complaining, but we were encouraging, telling her to 'suck it up and enjoy it'. Kyle tried to keep her entertained by playing hide and go seek behind very skinny trees.
Kyle and Laura also did a great job 'herding' Mary Lou and Nicole to maintain a good pace. Nicole would wait for Mary Lou to catch a breath, and they would lag behind. So, Laura would stride along ahead, while Kyle came around to bring up the rear and keep the train moving along. By mile 8, though, we were all pretty tired, and sat on some logs to drink water, eat trail mix and peel off some layers. We kept looking back at Grand Teton, but never got a clear view, even as we reached back to the trailhead.
We found the eagle still perched in the dead tree, five hours later, keeping guard over the path, ensuring that we had made it out. We gave him a wave as we walked our sore feet back to the campsite.