Beautifully insignificant. That’s how I felt craning my neck upwards to see the peaks of the mountains while walking along a rocky trail through Grand Teton National Park.
Towards the end of our trip around the state of Wyoming, we hiked 12 miles in the Tetons. We started the day off with breakfast next to Jackson Lake and had a lesson about the geological history of the Tetons. The Tetons are relatively young mountains (around 13 million years old) compared to other topography we’ve observed throughout the state. Their youth gives them their characteristic jaggedness compared to older, smoother mountains.
After heading out to the trailhead, we started our out-and-back hike. The 6 mile ascent was lined with a diverse landscape, from dense forests speckled with delicious huckleberries to barren slopes of broken, uneven rock that took some precision to stay balanced on. Clear, cold streams ran perpendicular to the trail throughout the hike, supplying a refreshing splash on the face to cool off from the high-altitude heat.
The top of our ascent was marked by Holly Lake, which was my highlight of the day. We stopped for a swim, and the cold water of the alpine lake provided me with just enough energy to start the 6 mile descent.
During the hike I pondered about the variety of wildflowers we saw. Even at the high altitudes of the Tetons, there was lush, colorful vegetation nearly everywhere. I would have hypothesized that, generally speaking, it’s harder for plants to grow at high altitudes with such diversity, but I assume that the proximity to water due to the streams and lakes throughout the park help combat those potential limiting factors of flower growth.
Surprisingly, the descent felt harder than the ascent. I decided to run for a portion of it since I haven’t had the opportunity to trail run, one of my favorite hobbies, out here too much. Towards the last couple miles, I started to feel the mileage in my feet. It made the end of the hike a bit of a challenge, but I felt grateful for the incredible landscape surrounding me and the capabilities of my own body.