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Monday, 6/25/01 - Discovering Jackson/Teton-Village

I had arrived last night at the KOA Teton-Village which was about five miles west of town off Highway 22. I only caught a glimpse of Jackson as I turned to get to the campground, but it seemed compact and surprisingly small. Guess I didn't realize that Jackson's population was only 4,700 - for some reason, I figured it was about the size of Bozeman or Santa Cruz, around 35,000 or so. Of course, during tourist seasons, it swells to much larger numbers. to jackson

What I had heard and had expected was beautiful scenery, and the last 20 miles into Jackson, through Hoback Junction, did not disappoint. The faded whitish brown colors of Highway 191 North turned into lush, deep greens and the highway's flattened lands and rolling hills became mountains of different shapes, sizes, textures and hues, all taking a stab at the sky. The Hoback River sparkled through rocks and wooded areas, running along the highway then beyond it and away. grand teton

Driving to the KOA brought me my first real glimpse of the Grand Tetons, but it wasn't until today, when I decided to ride my bike from the KOA to Teton Village, that I saw them "up close" or at least closer than before.

Teton Village is a resort nestled directly below a small mountain range hugging the Tetons. Small, of course, is a relative term, because although my camera cannot capture the enormity of these mountain ranges, they are so big that they immediately feel like you can reach out and touch them. But then you can drive and drive and drive, and they never seem to be any closer.

The valley here is lush and green, and as I rode my bike 9 miles from the KOA to Teton Village and back, I felt as if I had been transported into a perfect painting of a beautiful landscape. Yet everything appeared to be in eerily perfect detail, vibrant and real.

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Wildflowers sprinkled the grassy and sage-covered ground, and according to my "Plants of Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks" book, I was seeing everything from white common cowparsnip which looked like baby's breath to yellow salsify which is also known as goatsbeard and looks like dandelions right before they blow apart, but about twice the size.

There were also pink, lavender, purple and red wildflowers of various shapes and sizes, but I couldn't find them in my book to identify them. bike view

The greens of the nearby mountains run the color range from emerald to deep forest, with grassy ribbons cutting through the thick, dark trees - ski slopes during the winter. Beyond them, the sharp, rocky angles of the Tetons jut out and up into the sky, lightly streaked with snow.

I had thought that Bozeman was amazing, with 360 degrees of mountains. But here, the mountains are bigger, closer, and more of a strong, insistent presence. Very impressive.

Earlier in the day, I rented a car to have for the week while I attend writing workshops at the Jackson Hole Writers Conference I'm attending, so I had a chance to drive through town. jackson

The main road, Broadway, winds through a narrow valley holding the town in an embrace, with countless mountains reaching up and over the shops. Because of a city ordinance, there are no tall buildings and most every structure - including K Mart and Albertsons - are done up in brown wood and Western-style trim. Without imposing man-made structures, the mountains appear even larger and all-encompassing.

The rest of the afternoon and evening was spent reading and writing, including checking out a few little guidebooks I had recently purchased on short hikes through the Grand Tetons. I have new hiking boots that I bought during a trip to the mall in Cheyenne which I have to break in.

I like the West because it feels so much more open and conducive to being outdoors, riding a bike, hiking - there is nature all around, woods, rivers, rocks, paths. The space around me seems to have a voice, calling softly, urging me to explore.

For a long time, I've felt that I should live out West. As far back as 1990, I had a dream of buying a car, packing everything that could fit into it, and driving West, destination unknown. I wanted to spend time outdoors and spend time writing. I wanted to make up for all of the lost time where I didn't camp or hike as a child. The extent of my childhood outdoor adventures were family picnics when we used to drive through Spain, where I grew up.

Now, I'm discovering that I really do belong out here. What draws me to this vast, open land? How did I know that deep inside this city girl beat the heart of an outdoorswoman? My skin is browner (even using my super-duper sunscreens religiously), my hair is longer, my body leaner. And to think I almost road 10 miles on my bike, this time by myself. That just blows my mind.

I am loving the great outdoors.

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