When I was a young Boy Scout we would go to summer camp each year at the base of the Teton Mountains. These majestic peaks rise above the valley floor without foothills, making for a dramatic contrast to the forest below. We would sit around campfires and tell Indian legends about these mountains, known as the Teewinot, “many pinnacles”, to the Shoshone who lived in the area.
When we visited Grand Teton National Park this week I learned the origin of the modern name. French explorers visiting the area in the early 1800s called them les trois tétons (the three breasts). We scouts never learned that from our leaders around those campfires! I have to admit I thought it was pretty funny that it was French explorers who came up with that name.
As with all national parks we visit, the kids worked on and completed the Junior Ranger program. We use the Junior Ranger programs as part of their school curriculum as we homeschool while we travel. These programs help them learn about the history, geology, and ecology of the parks.
On this trip, we learned how to tell the difference between a black and grizzly bear and what to do if we encounter one. We also learned about other kinds of wildlife in the park and even saw a herd of bison and lots of pronghorns. And we learned how the Teton Range was formed six million years ago. It is a very young mountain range.
We spent the day driving the loop around the park, stopping at Jenny Lake and along the banks of the Snake River. We also stopped at the Mormon Row, which has historic buildings from some of the first families to settle in the valley east of the Tetons known as Jackson Hole. We took this snapshot of the famous Moulton Barn, a mecca for photographers.