Wyoming: Where the Feds, the Wills, and the Buffalo Roam
We were an invasion, of sorts—fifteen members of one family bedding down in various high-end units at the Jackson Lake Lodge in Wyoming. The youngest was 16 months and the oldest 92.
All but Rob and I managed to hike miles around nearby Jenny Lake, while some fished from a boat on Jackson Lake—unfortunately, no bites--and others went river-rafting. Evenings we alternately filled the counters at the Pioneer Grill, or overflowed a Lodge barbecue, or brought pizzas into our one large and elegant suite.
Over the years, Rob and I have spent many vacation days at the Jackson Lake Lodge, though never with a group this large. Thus we knew enough to reserve room 911, with its wrap-around windows and a breathtaking view of the majestic Tetons. One glimpse of white-dotted Moran Peak and its sister peaks made the rest of the view disappear.
Still, it was moments with kids, grandkids, and great-grandkids that turned the trip into something of a miracle. Four-year-old Analise (from one family) tending to 16-month-old Eva (from another.) Analise seemed to feel it her duty to keep Eva entertained, which she did with chatter, games, and mutual kisses. At times Analise ran errands for Rob and me, at the barbecue fetching napkins or glasses of lemonade.
Moving up in age were eight-year-old Corbin who valiantly tried to find fishing worms for Rob—(at a dollar a worm), since worms are now outlawed in all local stores. He found only one, which eliminated Rob’s hoped-for dam fishing. Thirteen-year-old Malena had many a report on her twin-sister, Marley “She reads all the time but she has no memory, because she turns around and reads the same book the next day,” seemingly unaware that both of them are virtually straight-A students.
With adult grandkids Jamie, Dane, and friend Zhanina, we played endless games of Boggle, and with public-defender grandchild Christy, we did the impossible Saturday New York Times crossword. (She and Rob mostly left me in the dust.)
Dane became a hero on the river raft trip when, during the rapids, Lauren’s brand new hat flew off , and Dane saw what happened and athletically snagged it out of the passing current.
Tracy (and others), returned from several long hikes with tales of much-too-close mother bears complete with cubs, and reports of stupid tourists who couldn’t seem to follow the yelled instructions from several lady rangers; instead, they did everything wrong. They approached when they shouldn’t, and took off running when that merely incited the bears. Meanwhile, videographer Dane stood off to one side and snapped photos.
The other guys, Paul, Dan, and Mike, did lots of hauling of food supplies, luggage, and whatever any of us needed.
I distinguished myself by reacting so badly to the high altitude’s lack of oxygen that I nearly fainted, inspiring Tracy’s Paul to run for a doctor, and return with a canister of oxygen. From then on, nurse Lauren watched out for me, prescribing lots of water, slow walking, and multiple whiffs of oxygen. I was okay sitting down, but sooner or later the day requires that you do some walking.
One night, Lauren’s Analise refused to go to bed. Instead, as Lauren reported back to us with a laugh, she screamed at her mother, “I hate you! I hate you! I hope you get a sunburn. I hope it gets really red. I’m not going to tell you about the mother moose. And I’m not going to tell you about the baby moose!” We realized that, being only four, she’d quickly run out of insults.
Later someone asked Marley, in the next door unit, if she’d heard Analise. “Oh yes,” Marley texted back. “She was loud. Really loud!”
Rob and I (now non hikers), instead gathered interesting tales from some of the energetic food serving crew, and one in particular, an older fellow named “Teak.” I asked him about his unusual name, and he told us a story—how his mother had named him Tk, and how, when first employed at the lodge, the gate guard had asked, “What’s your real name?” and he said, “You’ve got my passport, there it is.” Up at the lodge, he said, “I was pleased when I finally acquired a real name. They called me Tonly Konly. Only later did I learn that the gate guard had written, ‘T only, and k only.’” With that he re-named himself “Teak.”
In further conversations Teak said, “You see that clear plastic water glass you’re using? And the straw? In six months they’ll both be dirt.”
“They’re plastic, both made of corn. Totally biodegradable.”
Rob said, “Wait ‘til the world hears about this.”
Our last day at lunch I quizzed the handsome stranger sitting next to me at the food counter, and he admitted he was the official photographer for the large, rather famous assemblage of Feds, due to arrive the day after we left. And true to form, back home again, we saw many a shot of the world-famous men and women, nicely assembled outdoors in full view of the magnificent Tetons.
Bob and I kept asking ourselves, “I wonder who later slept in our room . . . ” as clearly someone from the Fed-group must have done. It was pretty logical. After all, we’d occupied the best unit in the Lodge.