Thursday, July 30, 2009

Day 13: Mountains Gone Wild

Imagine, if you will, that you are an explorer struggling through harsh and unyielding wilderness and you suddenly come upon these magnificent mountains. Go on, you're the explorer who found them, so it's up to you to give them a name.

What do you choose? Do you use your first reaction upon seeing them - maybe the Majestic Mountains? Or if you're from some faraway place, do you try to name them after something from your homeland - say, the American Alps?

Perhaps you notice that the mountains look like something familiar, and you name them something like The Witches' Hats Mountains.

But, no, the people who discovered them didn't quite see witches' hats when they named them. These mountains are called the Grand Tetons, and no matter how much you try to avoid the topic, there simply isn't any way around it. Grands Tetons is French for "big tits."

That's right, there is a major mountain range and a US national park which is named "Big Tits National Park" to anyone who speaks even high school-level French. And this park is run by the same federal government that fined CBS millions for Janet Jackson's wardrobe malfunction when it revealed her grand teton.

I suppose if it were discovered today, they'd just call it Hooters and franchise the visitor centers. But enough about the name. Let me tell you about the mountains. They are awesome - and I mean that in its literal sense that you are in awe of the beauty and grandeur of these mountains. They tower over a plain, making them seem to loom up out of the ground to stand over the rest of the land.

Well, actually, that is exactly how they came to be. The mountains rose when the earth dropped along a fault line. One plate went up (the Teton side) and one went down (the Jackson side). Originally, the peaks were more than 30,000 feet above the ground below, but glaciers and erosion have knocked them back significantly.

But the process is not done. The mountains continue to rise and Jackson Hole and the plain below them continue to sink. In fact, scientists are pretty sure that Jackson is going to experience a significant earthquake some time in the future. That science lesson is courtesy of LK who pays attention to the videos at the visitor centers. And I pay attention to her.

The wander around the Tetons is beautiful and varied. There's a loop road that takes you to the side of Jenny Lake, with the mountains looming over this crystal clear lake.

There's a drive to the summit of Signal Mountain, which gives you two spectacular views. One is of the massive plain at the foot of the mountains through which the Snake River winds its way. And on the other side is Jackson Lake with panoramic views of the Tetons. Breathtaking stuff.

We've taken so many pictures it was hard to choose which to post, but I've picked some to give you a sense of this wonderful place. They're here. The last picture is for Peg. We came across a group of students from Miami University of Ohio taking part in some academic excursion. LK took a picture of the logo on one of their four vans.

We had enough time after touring the Tetons to wander into Yellowstone, which borders the BT National Park. Absolutely amazing stuff, but I will post that tomorrow and combine it with the other Yellowstone places we are going to visit tomorrow on our way to Montana.

So stay tuned. Old Faithful beckons.

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