Teton Valley is a unique place to live. It’s a small mountain town at 6200 feet in the southeastern corner of Idaho. We have a view of the backside of the Tetons, not the front (the French fur trappers thought they looked like breasts from this side, thus the name).
There are small town politics here, and small town gossip. The valley is divided about fifty-fifty between those that are Mormon and those that are not. The LDS is also prevalent in the form of Jon Huntsman, who has built a resort community here and also lends his name to the local high school football field. It’s a really nice field. The kids needed it.
But forget about socio-economic oddness, and cultural chasms, which are plentiful here (don’t get me started on second homeowners… we need them, but do they care about this community?). It’s the winter that pushes this valley’s unique value over the top. It’s long. It’s beautiful. It’s long. It’s an otherworldly landscape, like you landed on a snow blanketed moon somewhere. It’s really long too. Everyone wants to visit, but only the locals stay. Did I mention that it’s long?
I feel that you cannot really love Teton Valley unless you leave it. This must be done at least once a year, and the best time to beat feet is either during the melt or immediately after.
This year, we fretted over the price of gas. We decided that if we did get a chance to leave, Lucy would have to stay home. I like having her, so that kind of blew. And then, we finally pulled the trigger and laid out the plan. We would head to Arizona. It was my first time going to AZ – and would be the first time both of us would see the Grand Canyon. This was going to be good.
With stops first in Utah to camp, then in Henderson, Nevada to visit friends, we made it to the Phoenix area on our third day of travel. By then, I was so relieved to have left Teton Valley that I didn’t care about getting snowed on at the Utah campsite. I didn’t care that we drove through cities that had all the stuff. We weren’t going to stop for that stuff, even though we have none of it in Teton Valley (I do regret not stopping at In ‘n Out Burger. It’s been a dream of mine for a long time to eat there). The fact of the matter was that we were not in Teton Valley. We were away from home, and the feeling was euphoric.
Just outside of Phoenix, we visited with Tim’s parents for a couple of days. We drove through Seguaro National Park. Warner Bros. had it right when they made the Coyote-Roadrunner cartoons. Cactus, cactus, rock. Rock, cactus, cactus, rock, rock. And these cacti were like nothing I had ever seen before. Sentinels of the desert, they don’t even grow their first “arm” until they are around 70 years old. As I absorbed this view of prickly plant life, I suddenly wanted to hug a pine tree.
We moved on to Sedona after that. Red cliff faces dominated our peripheral. We hiked like crazy, trying to absorb the energy and the landscape all at once. It was memorable in so many ways. We wallowed in time on our vacation clock, trying hard not to notice that it was ticking down. I wondered what the weather was like in Teton Valley. In Sedona, it was sheer perfection at 74 degrees, with a bright blue sky blanketing our every move.
In Sedona, you are made aware of its unique quality almost immediately. Sedona is home to one of the vortex sites on our dear planet, and this can be easily proven by the merchants that abound, calling themselves “healers” in one way or another. From healing yoga to healing palm reading, the place is rife with those that wish to tap into the vortex – on your behalf, of course. I would have loved to have had my palm read, but was flat broke and also traveling with devout Catholics. I didn’t know if dabbling in mysticism would turn them off, so I dropped the idea.
But here’s the thing: Sedona offers its own kind of vibe and mysticism that you can tap into on your own, without consulting a spiritual vendor. Just being outside did the trick for me. We also stayed in a very comfortable condo and slept in a king sized bed. That helped my spirituality tremendously.
Driving north from Sedona to the Grand Canyon, I was sorry to leave. Our vacation was becoming shorter and would soon be a memory. We would be returning to Teton Valley, and I wasn’t ready. But along the way, I had found a lot to disagree with in the outside world. There was all of this traffic, see? Everyone is in such a hurry. I remember going to the grocery and actually having two separate people cut us off with their carts in order to get into the store first. Must everything be a race? I craved my valley. We have only one traffic intersection with stoplights there. It somewhat spoils you.
We camped at a near empty Grand Canyon tent site. It was maybe 1/3 full. Two campsites over, a party of eight with two Great Danes seemed happy and easy going… they were from Jackson Hole. Even when you drive hundreds of miles away, you can’t escape it.
And perhaps that is why leaving makes you love this place more. A break from it only means you have found your fondness for it again. All you can do is return.