Alfresco in the Tetons MAG

By Warren King, Essex, CT

I hadn’t showered for almost two weeks, but the odor from my body was neither putrid nor repulsive. Instead it was exactly what nature had intended; we’ll call it earthy. It wasn’t as though I couldn’t have showered; I wasn’t in a barren land, but I chose not to. I had spent the last 13 days exploring what was to me a foreign landscape, one of untainted natural beauty and a wealth of activities.

Photographs and other artistic renderings of the Grand Tetons fail to do this area justice. Even Ansel Adams’ greatest works fail to evoke the same emotions as the landscape itself. It is almost impossible to put into words the beauty. There were peaks reaching toward the heavens whose shadows would engulf the landscape; there were rivers scattered among the valleys, veins on this living landscape. There were nights like none I had ever seen, the stars shining so bright it made you think it was day. And there were days with skies as clear and undisrupted as the brooks that flowed beneath them. If I were to describe heaven I believe this would be it. Simply bearing witness to the beauty of a pristine environment brings me pleasure, and my trip to the Grand Tetons cemented my love for the outdoors.

Being away from the amenities of home forces you to find entertainment other than television. It is only when you are separated from a familiar environment that you realize what the world around you has to offer. Camping, for example, is an activity that brings me into the heart of the outdoors and far surpasses the pleasure of a new TV episode.

I like to consider myself a purist in that I believe camping, in a tent or under the stars, is the only true way to appreciate the environment you are calling home for the night. While I was in the Tetons, I saw hundreds of people RV-ing. With the recent splurge of advertisements idealizing RV trips as the new way to see the outdoors and bond with your family, it was not a surprise, but I fail to see the point. What is the difference between watching the Discovery Channel at home and roaring past great landscapes at a federally mandated 40 mph?

Hiking – a slow, arduous, and physically demanding activity – is perfectly summarized by Greg Anderson: “Focus on the journey, not the destination. Joy is found not in finishing an activity but in doing it.” Best of all, nature offers it to us free of charge.

When in the Tetons, I took the opportunity to hike in a land where around each turn lay something new and exciting. I looked to guide books only for suggested routes, never for the direction I should take at a fork in the path. I did not care if I ended up at Hidden Falls or Inspiration Point; as Anderson said, I did not focus on the destination.

On these hikes I was regaled by flora and fauna that were unknown to me. I would often stop to marvel at a seemingly ancient tree or a grazing bison. Of course Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point were breathtaking, unparalleled in beauty, but to me just as amazing as everything else. This is why I have such a love for hiking; although you may have a destination in mind, ultimately it does not matter whether you get there – as long as you enjoy everything along the way.

For 13 days I hiked, camped, and unwound in the splendor of the Tetons, thoroughly enjoying my surroundings and all they had to offer. For 13 days I escaped the worries of school, college applications, and even my next shower.

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