Grand Teton National Park
Aug 14, 2006
|Just 90 miles from our stop in Boulder, WY, is Jackson Hole, the home of the Grand Teton National Park and the site of an Escapee Rally based around the Grand Teton Music Festival. We arrived a few days early, as we wanted to renew our acquaintance with these special mountains. They have always been for us and for so many others a mystical place, a place to quietly rejoice in the splendor of God's creation, to re-center oneself, to recharge one's batteries.
The mountains soar abruptly from the valley of the Snake River 7,000 feet to the highest peak, at 13,770 feet, offering a testament to the power and complexity of nature. Earthquakes beginning 13 to 17 million years ago lifted the mountains and dropped the valley floor. Glaciers from early ice ages formed the landscape, and later glacial action provided finer sculpting. Wind and water have contributed their share as well. Even vegetation adds to the ever-changing nature of this area.
Jackson Hole looks much like it did years ago when we first visited, except for the proliferation of resort attractions, but most of that lies outside the Park. The National Park Service has done as good a job as possible preserving the experience, but they cannot do much about the constantly increasing numbers of us who come to visit and see and wonder. We come in our cars (at $25 per carload), we stop to take pictures, some of us harass the wildlife to the point that one seldom sees an animal.
The city of Jackson, south of the park, has followed the path of South Lake Tahoe, Sedona, AZ, and other resort areas, building massive hotel complexes, spas, restaurants and other wonders to make visiting more expensive. Roads are jammed and frequently under construction, making it difficult to get around. Is that bad? Not necessarily: the economy runs on money, people earn a living from jobs provided by tourism, and provision is made for more and more of us to be able to enjoy the mountains and to do so in relative comfort.
But one does long for quieter times.
What were we doing in Jackson? Our Escapees Club offered a rally (they call it a HOP, a Head Out Program) featuring the Grand Teton Music Festival. We like symphonic music, the price was reasonable, and we were going to be in the general area anyway, so we signed up. What we didn't realize was that the Music Festival is an eight-week celebration of music, attracting (by invitation only!) some of the very best musicians from around the nation and around the world. To be invited is to be recognized as being among the cream of the crop. The festival has been going for 45 years, and some of the individual musicians have been invited back for over 25 years. One bassoonist has been in the festival for 31 years.
This Escapee HOP was suggested by two couples, and the club's leadership honestly didn't expect it to happen, or if it did, it would attract maybe twenty of us. There were 81 of us there in 40 RVs, and there had been an extensive waiting list. I suspect the HOP will be repeated.
Our first musical experience was called a spotlight concert, featuring a single musician, Sharon Isbin, described as the pre-eminent guitarist of our time. She gives sold-out performances at the greatest concert halls, has 25 recordings in her catalog, and has been soloist with over 160 major orchestras. Despite our appreciation of her talent and virtuosity, we have to admit that classical guitar is not our favorite instrument.
The HOP's second musical outing was to the Bar J Chuckwagon dinner and show. The Bar J is a working cattle ranch in Jackson Hole (the city of Jackson is part of Jackson Hole, a much larger geographic area including the valley and lakes within Grand Teton National Park) presenting the dinner and show seven nights a week from Memorial Day through the end of September. The musicians include the two sons of the ranch's founder and three others, ostensibly the ranch's wranglers. They perform cowboy music from the early part of last century, ballads once sung around campfires on cattle drives, songs made famous by movie cowboys such as Gene Autry, and some of their own compositions. They sang well with their own accompaniment, they sang beautifully a capella, and have developed a resounding balance of harmony. Between numbers, the five engaged in down-home cornball humor, often at their own expense. We can honestly say that we have never enjoyed an evening of music so much!
The third event was a full symphony concert, the entire orchestra, playing to a full house. The program included Berlioz' Roman Carnival Overture, a delightful piece of music; Franz Liszt's Piano Concerto No. 1 with soloist William Wolfram (Bronze medallist in the Tchaikovsky Piano Competition in Moscow); and the major piece, Shostakovich's Symphony No. 10, reflecting the fear, terror and anger under Josef Stalin's domination in Russia.
At the beginning of the concert an announcement was made that the evening's performance was being recorded for broadcast over National Public Radio. All went well until the third movement of the symphony. We began to hear, roughly corresponding to the music, an unusual tympanic beat. It wasn't quite right, and many of us were stretching our necks to see which of the percussionists was out of rhythm. All four were quietly seated; none was making a sound. The irregular beat continued, and the conductor signaled for the orchestra to stop playing. He said out loud, "I didn't think we were playing the 1812!" An usher announced that the noise was coming from a fireworks display nearby. We later learned that someone was having a special birthday party at the resort hotel next door, and the fireworks were the highpoint of the celebration. It could not have been poorer timing: at least they could have done it during intermission so we could all enjoy them! It gave us all something to talk about at Sunday morning's farewell breakfast.
Music does not necessarily make good photos, so this segment's album is all scenery. We hope you are enjoying, as much as we are, this portion of ... Our Life on Wheels.