The Triple Crown of National Parks – Part One: 47 Seconds

[When a good friend decides to drive cross-country just to pick your butt up to see a few national parks, it deserves more than one post. This is a mini-series of posts detailing our trip to Grand Teton, Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks.

Part 1 of 3 begins with a little hike to a waterfall that sets the precedence for the whole trip and our nights in Grand Teton NP.]

47 seconds. That’s all the time it took for me to convince my good friend, Ginna Fox, to drop everything, get off of work for a week, and drive 30 hours from West Virginia to Wyoming.

Tuesday, July 11: “Hey, Ginna, I have Saturday, July 15, to July 20 off. Wanna come pick me up and we can head to Grand Tetons, Yellowstone and Glacier?”

“Jillian, you know me so well. Let me see if I can get off.”

Wednesday, July 12: “We’ll be there Saturday!”
Happy tears erupt from my eyes.

Thursday, July 13, 7:15 p.m: The journey commences.
Ginna posts, “The mountains (and Jillian Clemente) called, so I must go!”
How perfect.

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Saturday, July 15, 10:30 a.m: They’re here!

We do a little hike down to Valley Falls, which there’s also one in West Virginia. But this is the one that was in “A River Runs Through It.”

I’ve helped lead this little one mile hike down to the feeder of Little Granite Creek. I haven’t gotten tired of it at all, but I was getting lackadaisical in my wonder of it. I was getting complacent and used to it.

Ginna shook me up a little bit with her wide eyes by saying, “This is in your backyard. That’s incredible.”

Dang, it is. Thanks for the kick in the butt. I needed that reminder. All of God’s creation demands to be ogled at – why do we get used to it?

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Valley Falls, Bridger-Teton National Forest, Wyoming

This whole trip was centered around that idea. No, it’s not “just another lake” or “just another mountain” or “just another tourist.”

It’s a whole new body of water with its own populations of fishes and bugs and birds.

It’s a whole new ecosystem full of microclimates, snow, trees and mammals.

It’s a whole new family experiencing the grandness of the world together.

Saturday, 2 p.m: We’re off!
Purple mountains majesty indeed – the Grand Tetons lack foothills and shoot straight out of the ground. Every time I catch a glimpse of this range, my breath is literally stolen away.

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I definitely am not used to this view, even though I visit the park about once a week with participants. And this trip was the first time I saw the sun set behind the range, too, which was my last photo taken while the batteries in my camera were dying on the ride home.

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Saturday, 4 p.m: At the visitor center after its awesome 25-minute video detailing the ecosystem and history of the range, we hit the visitor center for stickers and…a passport cancellation?

“They’re so great, Jillian. You feel like a kid again.”

Almost all national parks and national historic sites have a visitor center with a passport “cancellation stamp” that goes in your passport. It says the date and place of the stamp for each of the 9 park regions in the country.

Well, after this trip, my Rocky Mountain region is almost filled from about every visitor center in Yellowstone, Grand Tetons and Glacier, but more on those adventures to come.

Saturday, 7 p.m: After the visitor center and a few stops for photos, we had to figure out where to camp. Most campgrounds out here are full by 9 a.m., but one lucky stop landed us a premier spot. One worker at the northern campground said that her tent was pitched in the John D. Rockefeller, Jr. Memorial Parkway off the road wagons used to use to travel to Idaho.

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Started the fire just fine with my Princess Ninja matches from Annie!

She was set to spend the night somewhere else and offered us the spot. And no, she wasn’t crazy and didn’t send bears to maul us at midnight. She was just so kind-hearted that we were tearing up with graciousness.

The kindness of people still amazes me. Maybe those sharp, pointed Grand Tetons are actually softening people’s hearts.

Sunday, July 16, Really Early: We saw an elk herd on our way up to Yellowstone NP in that very, very early morning fog. The elk made it worthwhile (and the nap later in the afternoon helped).

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Up next: Part 2 – Yellowstone NP!

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