GET OUT: Ode to Delta

By on August 25, 2015

Fostering appreciation for a Teton gem via forced participation

Caption: At one time in her youth, the author had to be cajoled to reach vistas like this. (Photo: Elizabeth Koutrelakos)

Caption: At one time in her youth, the author had to be cajoled to reach vistas like this. (Photo: Elizabeth Koutrelakos)

Jackson Hole, Wyoming – I was 10 years old the first time I laid eyes on Delta Lake. Cal Ripken had just broken the record for most consecutive games played, baseball season was in full swing and my mother banished me to a summer in the Tetons.  The trail itself seemed slightly miserable to someone of my stature. Short, tired legs and steep long switchbacks were a recipe for disaster.

The last time my parents forced me to go on the Trail of Doom, also known as the Amphitheatre-Surprise Lake trail, I ran away. After getting back to the house, I hightailed it down the highway. I told the cop who picked me up what terrible parents I had, how they forced me into a life of slavery and subjected me to carry my own food and hike absurdly long distances. He promptly returned me to my mom, who was also unsupportive of my complaints.

The next time we journeyed as a family to this dreaded trailhead, I pleaded with them, begging them to find some shorter way up. “Isn’t there another thing to see up here?” I was open to anything that cut down on the distance and amount of time I spent amongst the hordes of flies and mosquitoes. My mother had something up her sleeve, I just wasn’t sure what.

After passing the three-mile junction, we continued toward Amphitheatre Lake, but went off one of the switchbacks onto a small social trail. I felt excited, thinking we were almost done hiking. We wrapped around the ridge until we got to a boulder field. The large swath of rocks was a mystery to me and boulder hopping felt like a nice break from the dredges of a hot trail.

The field of rocks, though slightly intimidating, was soon over. As we crested the hump, a milky blue pool of water soon filled my line of sight. My mother informed me that we had reached our destination, also known as Delta Lake.  We soaked in the views of Mount Owen and the Teton Glacier as we munched on some cheese and crackers. I settled in for an afternoon nap while my father decided to “find” a way to Amphitheatre and Surprise lakes. He disappeared long enough for my mom to start worrying. Something started falling above the grassy ledges above us, and it sounded big. In the midst of concern for my father’s life and the prospect of having to return to the switchbacks, I heard someone singing from above. It was the man who had helped me come into the world. His melodic voice was singing the tune “Free Falling” and no one was laughing except for him. Apparently he had slipped on the grassy ledges, saving himself from the rocks below by grabbing onto a small tree.

Looking back at this period of my life, I now know a couple of very important things. First of all, my parents weren’t trying to torture me, per se. It was more of strange version of nature boot camp in an attempt to make me like hiking. Secondly, Amphitheatre and Surprise Lakes can possibly be reached via Delta Lake, but careful route finding is necessary.

In recent years, it seems quite apparent that the amount of people venturing to this lake has increased exponentially. The small social path that we could barely make out is now a wide eroding corridor of mountain wanderer traffic. The once grassy knolls alongside the lake have also been trampled into brown patches, and a significant amount of new age snacks such as goos and Shotblock wrappers also seems to be growing.

It is great that people are getting out to see this place more. It’s hard to turn down epic views of Mount Owen and a real live glacier that is melting fast, but still existent in some form of reality. I can see myself setting records into my old age for consecutive times I’ve ventured to places like this. Perhaps other families are also subjecting their children to such measures in hopes that their youngsters will someday appreciate the surrounding beauty. PJH

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