Bears outnumbering me in Colter Bay Campground was a possibility that occurred to me as I drove from Jackson to Colter Bay Village. I arrived on opening day of the campground. I drove by this campground several days earlier and saw a bear. I stayed in this campground when I was eight years old when my parents brought my family out to the Tetons in 1965. Now I’ve returned over fifty years later. I remember going down to Jackson Lake from the campground, but not much more. The campground is right next to Jackson Lake with the majestic Tetons rising dramatically behind the lake. Within a week, this campground will sell out for the rest of the summer.
I also remember from 50 years ago taking a boat across Jenny Lake to Inspiration Point. I remember seeing a man and woman together at Inspiration Point and decided right then I would come back to the Tetons someday with a kind woman. Well now I am back, but I am alone.
The day after arriving in the campground, I drove to Yellowstone. The road just opened that day, and I saw why. Snow piled high from varying from two feet to 15 feet lined both sides of the road for 30 miles. Arriving at Old Faithful, even the small off-season crowds were too much for me. In a few weeks, tens of thousands of people will mob Yellowstone each day. About three million people visit Yellowstone every year. While waiting for Old Faithful to erupt, I walked around Geyser Hill. The two square mile area has one-quarter of all the geysers in the world.
Then I drove to Grand Prismatic Hot Spring. Grand Prismatic Hot Spring is the largest Hot Spring in the United States and third largest in the world. The spring is 300 feet in diameter and 150 feet deep, with a temperature of 160 degrees. Grand Prismatic Hot Spring is stunning for all the colors from the inner turquoise pool to the rings of green, red, orange, and as the name implies, all the colors visible when a prism refracts white light into all the colors of the light spectrum.
Once again at Grand Prismatic Hot Spring there were too many people there for me. I was lucky to find a place to park. I had to use a spot reserved for a bus. In famous places in the United States like the Grand Canyons and Yellowstone, I noticed there are more foreigners than Americans. I don’t know if that says something about foreigners or Americans, probably both. I can tell you the tourists that come on bus tours overwhelm the places when they pile out of the buses. Mostly shamed out of existence years ago, some selfie sticks are still around. Selfie sticks and tour buses seem to go together. That is all I have to say about that.
I’m now back at the campground through the weekend. The coldest temperatures of the trip will be this weekend with the temperature plunging down into mid twenties.
While hiking alone around the lakeside trail next to the campground, I became concerned about bears. Then I saw a family hiking together and was glad to see other people. There has never been a bear attack where there are six or more people. The family was trying to take a photo, so I offered to take it for them. I asked them where they were from. They said Columbus Ohio. I told them I grew up in Pittsburgh PA. For some reason, the mother asked me if I ever heard of Grove City College. Her question astonished me. I told I was a graduate of Grove City College in 1979. She graduated in 1984, so we never met there. GCC is a very small college with only 2000 students. I thought wow, synchronicity again. We talked for a while and they headed off. I decided to head the way they went and take the long way home. While I did see beautiful lake shore views of the Tetons, much of the trail was still covered with snow and other parts of the trail were under a few inches of water. I figured this would be a good test to see if my new hiking shoes really were water-proof which they were. Near the end of the hike, I turned around and saw a bear warning sign. The sign said; Don’t hike alone, bring bear spray, make lots of noise, don’t run from bears, and there is no guarantee of safety from bears. I started to panic. Then I realized the sign was to warn people walking in the opposite direction to the dangers from where I had just come. I was just a few hundred yards from the trail head. I picked up my slow pace and scampered back up into the parking lot.
Now each morning I wake up wishing I was home. Each successive morning I linger longer in bed. Usually the thought of coffee, toast, muffins, and croissants entices me to finally get out of bed. Then I get going and excited about the day and feel like I don’t want to ever to go home.
I keep feeling there is something I missed on the trip. Of course, this is not a rational thought. America is so vast. One could spend a life time traveling around America and still not see the entire country.
I’ve learned once again to truly enjoy seeing these beautiful places you have to share them with another person. I’ve seen incredible vistas on this trip, but without a person to share them with, the experiences are somewhat hollow. I’m ready to start heading home now. I still have 2500 miles to get home, and have already driven 5000 miles. I’ll head east across America’s heartland. Although the scenery is not as splendid as what I’ve seen the last few weeks, the Great Plains is still a beautiful part of America.
“The world’s big and I want to have a good look at it before it gets dark” – John Muir