We have been living in Grand Teton National Park now for a couple of days. I like it. We have some great neighbors, lots of hiking and swimming options, and good mountain views in every direction at every time. The town of Jackson (better known as Jackson Hole) is just a short drive away and that is where we went last night to fill up the tank, eat some Thai, and get new wedding bands.
After a couple of false starts that included a very handy salesperson who tried pushing 70s disco era stuff, we found our rings. Sterling silver, they did not fit us exactly right but after some hammering they were ours. We celebrated with some Thai food.
All was well at the restaurant until the gun shots started. First it was one pop (maybe a car backfiring?), then a few more, and then finally a steady barrage of bangs that appeared to be occurring less than fifty yards from where we were dining. No one else at the place seemed to mind so we did not panic. Later I found out it was the nightly shoot out staged on Maine Street twice a day. Funny, some people drive all the way to Wyoming to escape their urban woes. Those same people then ooh and ah over a recreated shooting. Maybe the nightly news should take Jackson’s cue and, instead of merely telling the news, use actors to recreate the daily mayhem. It still might be depressing, but at least it would be more entertaining.
Before heading into town we made some friends and I picked up a nemesis. I will tell you about the friends first. A few sites down from us live Mike and Nicole who hail from Pomona, IL (the heart of one of my favorite places in the world, Southern Illinois). Father and daughter they are the advance team for an adventure oriented co-ed youth group that plans on camping a couple of weeks in the Tetons (co-ed teens camping together for an extended period of time, what could go wrong?). Mike has been here before and knows the park well. He also knows quite a bit about camping in general and has the easy going knowledgeable manner that makes for a great neighbor. His daughter is headed to Chicago in the fall with her husband with a theatre background and a desire to make it in the big city. As cool and friendly as her father we hope she makes it big (and ultimately invites Corey, Henna, and I to NYC to watch her perform on SNL). Mike and Nicole shared a few huckleberries with us and, more importantly, shared where they picked them. Henna was enthralled and the hunt was on.
On the way to the huckleberry patch I met my foe. She was walking alongside a trail with her young son and seemed sweet enough at first. We asked her directions to the String Lake Picnic Ground area (an essential first step in our search for the elusive berry). Her response, “you don’t want to go there.” I did want to go there. “Well, you can swim right here, I mean it is the same lake. Over there it is just crowds.” I felt a little defensive and told her about the huckleberries. She did not respond to my excuse (and does anyone really need an excuse to go to a popular tourist destination?) but instead added “I mean some people like that sort of thing especially if you have never been here before.” “I like huckleberries,” was my response. She again ignored my reason for searching out what to her must seem like the worst excesses of a National Park loving society. What got me going was how defensive and competitive I became. I suppressed it well, but in my head I was listing all the hikes, roads, and parks we have been just this summer where people were few and the views many. But the thing is there is always someone who can trump us. Mike for example has out camped and hiked us many, many times over. Later on the trail we bumped into a family living out of a tent for a month (like us) but (unlike us) have three small children with the youngest about a year old. We also have met people cycling, hitchhiking, and walking the same terrain we have driven. And all the people just mentioned have grace. They live the way they do not to gloat but to more fully enjoy life. “Love the life you live, live the life you love” is on every e-mail Corey sends out. That should be enough.