We started at the Craig Thomas Visitor Center. The entire west wall of the building is a bank of windows looking upon the Grand Tetons. It was extraordinary. The museum displays at the center were top-notch and especially good for kids. Visitors were encouraged to touch almost everything - animal pelts, casts of paw prints (to compare your own hand to that of, say, an elk or brown bear), and a great 3D relief model of the park.
Next, Pepper took me to the Chapel of the Transfiguration, a log-cabin style Episcopal church in the foothills of the mountains. It's a tiny chapel, built in 1925. Instead of a traditional altar, there is a clear glass window framing a spectacular view of the "Cathedral Group" - the highest peaks in the Teton Range. So, in a sense, this tiny chapel has a cathedral within it. It's an excellent example of the beauty that can be found in simplicity.
We wanted to go to Jenny Lake but between the crowds and the construction (er, "renewal project"), we couldn't get there. Instead, we drove a bit further to Jackson Lake, which was magnificent and virtually empty. Jackson Lake is much larger than Jenny Lake, and we had the place to ourselves. Pepper and I sat on a dock for what seemed like hours. Time just slowed down. The gentle lapping of the water against the dock, the light breeze... I haven't been that relaxed in ages. It crossed my mind to pitch a tent on that dock and sleep there - it was truly transcendent.
The best thing, though, was the bear. As we were leaving for the day, we noticed Park Rangers and several cars pulled off to the side of the road. Pepper pulled over in just the right spot, directly across the street from an adolescent black bear! He was rummaging around a hillside, eating flowers and berries. I could have watched him for hours. My camera was malfunctioning, though. The only snap I got that wasn't blurry is in the slideshow above.
On the way home, we passed a vast, flat prairie, which I think was the National Elk Reserve, but there a herd of bison. It was like a scene out of a movie! "Cue The Bison!"
I understand why bison are such an enduring symbol of the American West. They look so proud and rugged. Just like all your favorite heroes from the great westerns, you know they can kill you, but they exude a gentleness, as if they'll only use their strength in the cause of justice. I had the feeling that bison always stand up for the little guy, the runts of the litter, the vulnerable. Obviously I"m anthropomorphizing here, but they really are noble creatures that make for an imposing, yet beautiful group.