Landing in Jackson Hole, Wyoming, it is impossible to miss the Grand Tetons. They are indeed grand and beckon onlookers to come take a peek. Day hikers can spend a few minutes or hours in the soft pine-needled woods that line the many lakes at the base of the mountains. These lakes are clear and clean, fed by the snow-topped peaks that turn into a chilly, white-watery flow in the many streams.
A friend of mine and I had planned and trained for four days of hiking and camping deep within the Tetons. After the first required climb to get a view, we grabbed our phones to take a picture of Phelps Lake. It was then I noticed the *no service* indicator. For a moment I started to move to higher ground so that I could instantly share my photos – but then I remembered what I had told people: I was going to hike, camp and unplug. I switched my phone to airplane mode and gazed out at the lake.
In our first two miles we saw a bear merrily chomping on blueberries in one of the thousands of acres of berry bushes. Armed with the required bear spray, I felt only slightly safe. Her focus on berry consumption and disinterest in us was much more comforting than my aim with a can of who-knows-what.
We hiked through fields of wildflowers, some sections taller than either of us and could hear the river from a mile or so away. Email, meeting agendas, strategic plans all faded from my mind, replaced with the sounds of nature. The fields and fields of flowers had a soft buzz to them provided by the kindly bees, heavy from all the nectar (so, in my mind, disinterested in my salty skin).
During our first night, I woke in my tent and looked at my watch: 3:45am. Had I heard a bear lurking? I peeked out of my tent, hand on the bear spray that stayed latched to my clothing and was greeted by a night sky that is only visible from such isolation. There were so many stars and they were so thick; it took me a moment to find Orion’s belt and the Dippers. My thought: log this visual so that you can access it when life gets back to normal. I imagined the picture downloading into a section of my brain where it would be whenever I needed it – when I was late to a meeting or struggling with a decision. The stream next to our campsite roared and lulled me back to sleep.
I could write many more pages about the peace and beauty and all I saw and felt during that trip, but I imagine you get it. My message – my suggestion to those reading – is to plan, protect and let downtime envelop you. Find the place where you forget about your day-to-day, where you are so enamored that only the current moment matters. Then, put that feeling, that visual, somewhere you can access it so that when life comes at you with all the wildness of a bear it will be the spray you need to neutralize the negatives and replace them with peace and wonder.
– Becky Sharpe, President & CEO