Grand Tetons: The Camping Stop 5 years in the making that almost didn’t happen

My family and I are on day 16 of a cross country road trip after selling our house and most of our possessions. So far, we’ve had a very full 16 days. I’ll leave the details to another post, but there have been many both ups and downs. There’s a steep learning curve that comes when moving place-to-place, packing and unpacking regularly, and having little sense of regularity or groundedness.

Part of this trip has involved seeing some of the outdoor, natural wonders of the west before we head east and eventually down to Costa Rica. This has involved stops in Glacier and Yellowstone National Parks.

The third national park on our list was Grand Teton National Park. I didn’t previously know much about it, but there was this knowing that I wanted to come here. In fact, my attraction to this area began about five years ago when I was regularly using an online yoga platform called Yoga Today. All of their videos were filmed here with the Grand Tetons as the backdrop. That exposure created this longing inside of me to see this beautiful place. Despite this long-held desire to come here, I almost gave up on making it here.

Our camping time in Grand Teton National Park was to come directly after three nights of camping in Yellowstone. Yellowstone is a one-of-a-kind place with so much to see, and I’m extremely grateful for the opportunity to experience it. However, with so much to see, we spent many hours driving through the park to hit many of the spots.

By the afternoon of our second full day there, we were all spent. The emotions were flying high. The questioning of what it is we are doing set in. I was the one to come up with this scheme after my mom passed away. My family so graciously agreed to participate in this adventure. However, there are understandably many emotions that come with leaving the comforts of what you knew as home.

On our final afternoon in Yellowstone, I was in tears wondering if I made a mistake doing this trip. I was tired—literally tired, but also tired of feeling responsible for my family’s moments of frustration.

Do we call it quits on the camping and just head to a hotel? Do we hightail it to New York and end this road trip that we’re on? Do we say, “that was a nice try, but we’re not cut out for this type of adventure and move back to Corvallis?” All those things ran through my head as I wandered in the bear country woods trying to be alone for a bit to process this time.

After 23 minutes out there, I felt ready to go back to camp and take a nap. Everything feels better after a nap.

My family was gone. I assumed they had gone off to the river to play. When they returned, we were all in better sorts. The previous expressions of anger and frustration were very real, but they are not the only emotions experienced on such an adventure.

When you pull into a new camping area, it’s uncertain what you will find. You may or may not get a site. It may be a place infested with mosquitoes, which we find noticeably impacts our enjoyment of an area. It may not be a great site with a comfortable place to pitch your tent.

We left Yellowstone bright and early the following morning with hopes of claiming a spot at the highly coveted Jenny Lake Campground. We passed up any appealing sights and other camping sites along the way with hopes of getting a site there. Four hours later, we pull up to a sign that said ‘full’. What followed was backtracking in hopes of securing at least a site at one of the other campgrounds. We were greeted with the same sign at the next campground.

I asked at the gift shop for a map and the next closest place to camp. Colter Bay was our next stop. As we drove, the Grand Tetons seemed further and further away. I started to wonder if this was going to be a worthwhile camping event.

When we pulled up to the campground, our hopes were high, as we didn’t see that ‘full’ sign. The employee at the kiosk told me he had a site for us if I had money for him!

What followed was more tiredness as we set up camp. The kids were bickering, and John was slightly grumpy. Once camp was set up, I said we’re going to the lake. Just a short walk from our site was an amazing private rocky beach with a grand view of the majestic Grand Tetons. Not long after being there, Cedar and I realized this water required us to return back to camp for our swimsuits.

We played for what felt like hours, and then explored the village. All the frustration from the morning and previous day was forgotten. These were the moments we were after. The opportunity to just sit and play in these beautiful places we’ve been called to explore.

As we walked around town, I thought about the day before and my willingness to give up on coming to see this place I felt so attracted to. This place was so close, but it didn’t seem like getting here at any cost was worth it. My family and our relationships are more valuable to me than forcing something that seems not to be coming with ease.

We sat outside the general store, watching the asphalt being poured on the street and eating bagels. We were simply content in this place and time. We didn’t have anywhere to get to or anything to do.

These are the moments that I envisioned of creating with my family when started this journey—reconnecting with one another through the simplicity of life, and not being rushed or being pressured by the shoulds we and society place upon us.

It required some bumps to get to this place, but I think bumps come with the territory of restructuring. It can be uncomfortable at times. Sometimes we need to get a little uncomfortable to go after the visions we hold for ourselves and our lives.

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The Richardson-Meyers

Sometimes we need to take a leap to see how we’ll land. Our family of four is doing just that. We’re parting with our home and most of our possessions to find deeper connections with ourselves, each other, and nature. 
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