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Yes…I did take the picture above.

Yellowstone has nothing on the Grand Tetons it seems…other than more bison and imminent volcano death. The Tetons, near Jackson Hole, Wyoming, are so far the most beautiful place that I have been in the lower-48.

We drove south out of Yellowstone and covered the short distance between Yellowstone National park and the Grand Tetons, it was private land and I would love to meet (and choke) the lucky bastards that get to live between these two incredible places.

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It was slightly depressing to think that we only had two days in this fabulous place…but that is the cost of keep the mad pace of this road trip which is turning out to be a huge sampling of what the West has to offer. I’m not too worried, I just keep making notes of places to come back to on motorcycle one day.

The lake was so clear that I could look down and see trout enjoying the freezing water. The air was the cleanest ever and smelled like warm sunshine on rotting leaves mingled with evergreen. I like the fact that other than the giant lake, which we paid to cross by ferry, this place is far less developed and touristy than Yellowstone. I guess there just aren’t enough sulfur belching pools and geysers to draw the crowds down here.

Plus, we couldn’t have timed our trip better. The tourist season is pretty well done and we hit the gap between camping season and ski season just right. Fortunately, Mother Nature didn’t get the memo and the weather is perfect…too cool for mozzies and flying biters, but enjoyable with a light jacket. It is hard to believe that in another two weeks, this entire place will be snowed in.

Dad and I left mom to shop in Jackson Hole and made our way across the expansive elk preserve back into the mountains. I had a map marked by one of the rangers the previous day with all the best trails for running into a bear. Yes, the ranger did look at me a little funny when he finally figured out that I wasn’t asking about bear areas to AVOID them.

Printed next to each trail description was a small warning box “WARNING — bear activity area. Hiking in groups of four or more is highly recommended.” Luckily, dad forgot his bear bells that day, saving me the time of sabotaging them, and so we picked a nice four-mile walk that had the warning.

Our trail was perfect, aside from a squirrel barking here and there, complete peace and silence encompassed the woods. We walked alongside an icy lake and the mountains just on the other side looked close enough to touch in the clear air. It was just cool enough to see your breath.

We walked on in silence for a short while and soon to our horror realized that our trail passed right through a tourist parking area and joined another trail which was paved. The sounds of leaves falling and squirrels were soon replaced by jingling bear bells (yes, I’m serious) and the squeak of stroller wheels making their way down paved paths.

I could have cried.

Suddenly we were swarmed with LL Bean models munching granola bars and taking swigs from expensive SIGG drinking bottles. Luckily, most had brought their ski-poles and hiking sticks, after all those perfectly flat asphalt paths can get treacherous.

I gritted my teeth until we found a side path leading down to Leigh Lake. The tourists trampled on, following the asphalt like well trained lemmings and we found ourselves standing at the edge of a gorgeous mountain lake. We were also alone. The mirror surface was so still you could barely tell the difference between the sky and the water, I had found Heaven on earth.

I will never forget the few minutes that we shared alone there, away from people, stress, and the outside world. I uttered a silent vow to return to that spot one day.

Interesting to note, on the path down to the lake, there was actually a metal armored box with drawers and a sign stating that you could leave your lunch in a drawer and collect it later to keep from attracting bears down by the lake.

There were that many bears in the area?!?! Of course, none were to be found today. I guess the father-son time made me soft, I resisted the urge to rifle through the drawers looking for something to eat (they didn’t lock) and we made our way back to town.

Life in the mountains is good.