Sunday in the Park |

Sunday in the Park

The day after my fabulous wildlife sighting in Yellowstone, it rained like crazy in Teton Village, so I put on my fat socks and broke out a novel. And finished it. And started another. And took a bubbly bath in the middle of the day. (Which may be a bit of over-sharing, but really, who does this on a Wednesday, in the real world, if you’re healthy.)

I wrote a few letters. I watched the rain come down on the Tetons, sideways, and thought of things and people and places that were somehow tied to the water-soaked days past. Unscheduled time can do that. Free your head. Feed your head.

By dinnertime I had spent enough time on my own with my own cooking in my wonderful but self-contained unit. The restaurant in the Hotel Terra had just opened a few weeks before and I had been told to sample the nouvelle-cuisine Italian menu. And so I did. Should you ever be in that neck of the National Park woods, go there, eat, be merry. Actual selections had new twists, with a knowledgeable, friendly, hip staff. Café Osteria is a smart tasty treat. I could eat the white sardine appetizer every night.

I slept well. So well that in the morning I woke up early and ready to tackle the park again.

The drive through Grand Teton Park produced elk and eagles. I stopped this time at the Jackson Lake Lodge for a spot of tea and to view the once lodge of the Rockefellers, now a public space. The views were so wow, so amazingly wow, I bought more film on the spot. And yes, I have small digital camera that shoots nice pictures, but I’m an old Nikon girl. I like fussing with the speed and the lens and the depth of field.

Once in Yellowstone, I took the road most traveled and headed up to Old Faithful. I arrived just in time to watch the geyser erupt. And here there were actually maybe a hundred people (still not the thousand that will gather come July and August), and I marveled at Mother Nature shooting off steam on a predictable basis, every ten minutes or so. Which gave me pause. If the earth somehow knows to do this on regular, predictable basis, why don’t we? Wouldn’t the world be a better place if we all let off steam every ten minutes or so?

After a seated lunch in the dining room at Old Faithful Inn, I had a few options keep driving up to the north end of the park go over to the west entrance or drive up a ways and then east, back over to Canyon Village. I drove up for a ways and my decision was, in part, decided for me. The road to the north was under construction. Ditto the road to the west. I started along a high mountain pass back over to Canyon Village. And way high, along a skinny two-lane stretch with no absolutely no room for reasonable pullouts, at least two dozen cars were in the shoulder areas, off road, including some park service cars.

The folks with the foot-long lens were again focused. I rolled down my window (doesn’t that sound archaic? No one actually, physically, rolls down a window anymore, do they? We all push a button). I asked the game-warden-looking woman what the incident was? She said three wolves had taken down an elk earlier and kept returning to the carcass. I was welcome to pull off the road, to the best of my ability and join them. And so I did. I took some shots of the raven feast going on there on the snowy ridge and I waited for the three wolves to come huffing and puffing down the paved road. It all seemed rather unlikely and a little silly so I got back in my car and drove to the visitor center.

The downed-elk story had a double twist. Turns out further down the road, at Fishing Bridge (another campground), a mama grizzly had taken down an elk as well. Only this was in full view of a group of visiting non-English-speaking tourists who were, allegedly, horrified that the park had allowed this carnage in full view, complete with screams from the elk. The older sales clerk was telling me all this in a slightly apologetic tone. I said, gosh, it all felt rather Circle of Life to me. She smiled and said not everyone comes into the park understanding that.

By now, I should add, the snow had started in again. Cold, hard, pellet snow. Hitting the car windows with a sound. I decided to start my drive back to my lodgings, at least three hours away. About two miles down the road, there was an outcropping of cars again. I pulled over and a young preteen girl in a bubble-gum-pink parka said excitedly to me, "Two grizzlies!" And she pointed to the mountain. My camera lens only saw the snow and an evergreen. A guy with gianormous binoculars claimed to have seen the rear of one of the animals heading over the mountain. It gave a whole new meaning to the expression bear butt. But honestly, I saw nothing. An hour later I stopped at the Lake Lodge to stretch my legs and to see if the place still looked like a back lot for "The Shining." And though it is painted buttercup yellow, there is something mysterious, always, about that place.

I drove on "home" and on my turn-off, back to my hotel, I spotted a moose with velvet antlers down by the river. I thanked him for his appearance and as quietly as possible I snapped a few photos and headed back.

The days followed those patterns of "read more novels and see more critters." And I was able to, finally, after thirty years of going up there, to be there on a Sunday and attend services in the tiny Chapel of the Transfiguration. After the Italian Episcopal priest from New Jersey who had retired to Florida gave his moving sermon, I wandered out of the parking lot to the river. There, an eagle flew overhead, and two baby moose posed for pictures. I took the little boat ride over to the falls at Jenny Lake and I hiked up to see the water running fast and high. A mama moose lumbered along my favorite road "home" that night and I was grateful for her runway ridge walk.

There are other stories, sure, that involve humans, but on this trip anyway, they are less interesting. It was a week of my life that allowed pause. And that, I remembered, was an important life lesson to respect, if not in predictable ten-minute cycles, at least every Sunday, in whatever Park I find myself

Teri Orr is the director of the Park City Performing Arts Foundation that provides programming for the George S. and Delores Dore Eccles Center for the Performing Arts and the Big Stars Bright Nights Summer Concert Series at Deer Valley. She is also a former editor of The Park Record.

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