The Grand Tetons… Mountains Close to Perfection

Photo of Gran Tetons by photographer Curtis Mekemson
If I were in charge of making mountains, I would use the Grand Tetons as a model. A blogging friend of mine told me that the first time she saw them, she started crying. They inspire that kind of awe.

Just before we reached Yellowstone NP on our four month trip around the US last fall, we drove through Grand Tetons National Park. I’ll be featuring photos Peggy and I took of the Grand Tetons and the Absaroka Range today.

As Peggy and I drove across the 9,658 feet (2,943 m) Togwotee Pass, we were excited. We were in the Rocky Mountains and had just crossed over the Continental Divide. We were back in the West! Rivers would now be flowing into the Pacific Ocean. Soon we would get our first views of the Grand Tetons— not that there was anything shabby about the scenery on pass. 

Photo of Togwotee Pass by Peggy Mekemson.
As we passed over the Continental Divide at Togwotee Pass, our excitement grew. This area receives over 25 feet of snow a year, a figure that can climb as high as 50, which I suspect it has this year.
Photo of Aspens near Togwotee Pass by Curt Mekemson.
It was in October and the aspens near the pass were displaying their fall colors.
Photo of The Absaroka Range and aspens taken by Peggy Mekemson.
The Absaroka Range, which can be seen from the pass, provided a backdrop for this grove. The range serves as the eastern boundary to Yellowstone NP.
Photo of The Absaroka Range by Curt Mekemson.
My father once painted a picture of the Absaroka Range.
Photo of Herb Mekemson by Glen Fishback
Professional photographer Glen Fishback took this photo of my dad painting the Absaroka Range in the 1980s. Pop, as we knew him, had wandered around the country with his sister, Eleanor, a few years earlier. I took this photo through glass so I couldn’t capture it as well as I would have liked to. Glen used my dad as a model and this photo ended up in a national photography magazine.
Photo by Peggy Mekemson.
A final Highway 26 road shot of the Absaroka Range. The Grand Tetons were waiting.

The Grand Tetons are a baby range, relatively speaking, less than 10 million years old. Compare that with the Rockies at 50-80 million years or the Appalachians at over 300 million. That’s what gives them their rugged, good looks. Erosion hasn’t had time to wear away their jagged peaks. Earthquakes along the Teton fault on the east side of the range are responsible for their height. Plate tectonic movement, which is stretching the region in an east west direction, is responsible for the earthquakes. When the tension becomes too great, an earthquake takes place, usually of 7 to 7.5 magnitude, i.e. big. Seesaw-like, the mountains rise and the valley next to it falls along the 40 mile fault, with each earthquake averaging around 10 feet of up and down movement. It is estimated that the mountain range has risen some 26,000 feet with 6,000 feet showing above the floor and 20,000 buried under it. Geologists estimate that the last major quakes were about 5,900, 8,000, and 10,000 years ago.

Photo of Tetons by Photographer Curt Mekemson
The Tetons were looming above a dark conifer forest in our first views with a hint of the colors to come.
Photo of Grand Tetons by Peggy Mekemson.
Aspens were soon adding larger splashes of color. The high peak in the center is Grand Teton, after which the range is named. It has an elevation of 13, 775 feet.
Photo of Mt. Moran by photographer Curt Mekemson
Mt. Moran dominates the northern section of the Tetons and rises 12,605 feet above sea level. The orange colored leaves are from cottonwoods.
Photo of Jenny Lake and Grand Tetons by photographer Peggy Mekemson
Our road ran next to Jenny Lake and provided some great views of the Tetons.
Ducks were busily eating on the lake.
Photo of Grand Teton National Park by Peggy Mekemson.
The only photo we took of the park that didn’t feature the mountains.
Photo of Mt. Moran by photographer Curt Mekemson.
A final photo of Mt. Moran from Jenny Lake. Next Monday’s post will be on the German town of Breisach along the Rhine River.

19 thoughts on “The Grand Tetons… Mountains Close to Perfection

  1. The mountains are gorgeous all on their own, but my favorite photos are those that combine the water, the ducks, and the mountains. That’s a fine portrait of your father, too. It definitely has a Norman Rockwell quality to it. I’d say the shot through the glass didn’t negate its quality at all.

    • Ha, I’ve always been a fan of ducks, lakes, trees, bushes, grass and mountains as well, Linda! An elk or a beaver would have been nice too. As for the photo, it is a treasure of ours. I had to crop it substantially to get around the glass reflection problem. The Norman Rockwell look has been commented on many times, mainly by folks like us who grew up on the Saturday Evening Post.

  2. I’ve seen the photo in person, and I didn’t notice at that time that your Pop had his cell phone in his breast pocket. I’ll bet none of his friends and family realized what a trend-setter he would be. Heh heh. “Baby mountains” are my favourite, since they are jaggedy and sharp enough to cut your finger on them. These scenes are just gorgeous, and as you have implied, in my opinion it’s the mountains that add the most to the scenes. ❤

    • It does look like it, doesn’t it. It was probably a notepad and a pencil. I looked to make sure it wasn’t his pipe tobacco. It was never far away.
      I keep telling myself, I’ll backpack in the Tetons, Crystal. I’d best get to it. Grin.

  3. Aaah. The Tetons. They still make me cry. 🙂 I can’t wait to get back there (2024) with a visit to Yellowstone and Glacier! I love the deep green evergreen, the yellow aspens and cottonwood, and those beautiful blue peaks. Great photos. Now, I’m off to check out the Nile!

  4. Dear Curt
    thanks a lot for sharing your fine pictures and your explanations.
    Your father’s photo is great. We suppose you love it.
    Next time you’ll blog about Breisach, a little town we know quite well as one of Master’s publishers has his summer house there.
    Wishing you all the best
    The Fab Four of Cley
    🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

    • Finished my post on Breisach yesterday and scheduled it for Monday, a beautiful town with a little quirkiness thrown in. BTW, my WP hasn’t been letting me get into your site lately, as well as a few other blogs I follow. One of my goals over the next few days is to make it behave. 🙂 –Curt

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