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TETONS

CLaunch: Colter Bay Marina. Can park a truck/trailer for three days at a time.The loading dock is offset from the ramp; a pain in windy weather. The slips have no electricity or water.

CNearby campsites: Colter Bay has an excellent campground, including hookups for RV's if you wish.

CComments: Without a doubt, one of the most scenic spots in North America, and you can visit the Park on your boat!

CJACKSON LAKE

INTRODUCTION

-----Humans have an extraordinary feeling of superiority. Perhaps that is natural, since we have the highest level of intelligence (as we define it) of all the animals on Earth. We like to refer to other critters as the 'lower' animals. We enjoy sitting at the lofty top of the (self-created and self-defined) pyramid of life. Most of us in North America live in cities, insulated from the 'hardships' of the natural world - and we consider ourselves fortunate to have this protective 'cushion' of civilization surrounding us.

------If you are content with this wonderful creation of security we have made, so be it. But, it is an illusion. Let me explain.

------Scientists have a natural aversion to laws. Laws are strict and virtually unchangeable. They are what is. That will ruffle the dander of any true scientist. We are trained to doubt - to disbelieve. We simply do not accept - that is our training, and for most it is our fundamental nature. I've known some scientists who have been able to draw a distinction between their personal and professional lives - but very few. It is deeply ingrained into us to doubt - to challenge - to disbelieve. We require testing of every idea; repetition of 'the facts' before we 'accept' an idea - and, the best scientists, still retain a skeptical attitude. For any given situation, we create and carry in our heads what we fondly call "multiple working hypotheses." Or, translated simply, many different constructs we consider possible to explain an object or an idea (see Flaming Rocks for more on this subject).

------As hesitant as scientists are to accept a 'law,' physicists speak of three fundatmental Laws of Thermodynamics. Note, they even capitalize these Laws. Most will accept these as the basis of virtually all their observations and, at least the physicists I have known, will constantly return to these Laws to underline their observations of the world around them. Let's think of them, in a simplified 'translation' so we can apply them (perhaps, if we wish) to our lives.

------The First Law states, "everything tends towards disorder." Any of us with teenage kids in our experience recognize the verity of this law. But, think of it more widely - like the new car you bought five years ago; or that neat latest-model computer that's now three years old; or your own body (a friend says aging is simply "crumble, crumble" and she's right). So these cities, highways, supermarkets, etc. we surround ourselves with and that develop a sense of security for us and our lives will, according to the First Law of Thermodynamics, inevitably crumble. Shelley described this beautifully in Ozymandias:

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: "Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown
And wrinkled lip and sneer of cold command
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear:
`My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings:
Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!'
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare,
The lone and level sands stretch far away
.

- Percy Bysshe Shelley

------The Second Law is a little discouraging: "the more we try to order things, the more chaos we create around us." So, we build a nice orderly city - and create a mess around the periphery. The teenager cleans up his/her room, but don't look in the closet. So the illusion of order and security we build for humankind creates a mess around the outside. This is what folks who are concerned about global warming, or chemical waste, or dying oceans are trying to tell us - "There are nasty consequences" they constantly remind us. And we should understand, that this is predicted by the Second Law.

------The Third Law is even more disheartening: "you can't do anything to prevent the First and Second laws, no matter how hard you try - that's the nature of things." So, go ahead, get upset over that teenager's room. It is inevitable that it will tend toward being a mess. The more he/she cleans it up, the bigger the mess around it. And there's nothing you (or your teenager) can do about it - thats the 'nature of things.'

------So, what does this have to do with Jackson Lake? We think, everything. Our seemingly orderly 'normal' lives, usually in a town or city, with a seemingly orderly house full of orderly things to make our lives easier, are not really so orderly. Our jobs, children, parents, friends, health, finances ... you name it ... are tending toward disorder, creating chaos around the periphery, and there's nothing we can do about it. So, accept it and live with it - don't struggle desperately to try to do any more than adjust your lives and accept these Laws of Physics. And the Tetons? Well, the mountains and the rocks comprising them, are physical things and they also follow those Laws - BUT - they operate on a diffferent time scale than we do. Our total personal experience might be four score and ten. For us, it is only what happens to (and around us), in that brief instant of time when we live, that matters. The mountains represent the millions of years - we, at best, share a few tens with them, and everything and everyone else.

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-----Perhaps, if we wish to feel 'orderliness' - the peace that pervades and overcomes the natural disorder of our lives (and the massive disorder our 'technological' culture has surrounded us with - [darn, my computer just crashed!]) - we need to spend some time with, what to us, is timeless - the rocks, the mountains, the shore, the sea, the seasons, the sunrise and sunset ...

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-----This is why we come to the Tetons, and there's no better place to feel 'humbled' by time, rock, and nature. There's no better way than on a boat, drifting gently on the anchor as you sip your morning coffee, watching the sun light up the peaks, and hearing a bull elk squeal back in the dark recesses of the forest - like I am doing right now - in this instant of frozen time, where it all 'seems right.'

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------ Oh, sure, I know that this too is an illusion. A massive earthquake could rip the earth in front of my eyes (and has, many times in the geologic past - that's what lifted those mountains); or a sudden blast of wind could rip our anchor free and dash us and our boat 'home' to smithereens against the rocky shore (that's what ripped out the trees lying sundered on the shoreline); or a grizzly could leap off shore and, with water under our keel only a few feet deep, stride out with water up to his knees, rip our boat and us to pieces; or .... or ... But we don't worry about those things - we have the 'advantage' that our time is but a blink, and those events are unlikely in this brief instant. It is far more probable that the power will go out at home, or the water heater spring a leak, or the roof start to leak, or cars collide, or ... or ...

-"I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived." Henry David Thoreau

GEOLOGY

-----Most mountains, in one context or another, are the result of plate movement. A dentist or perhaps a busboy would also be concerned about plate movement. However, to a geologist, a plate is a fragment of the Earth's crust. We divide the surface of Earth into a number of plates, each with distinct boundaries where they bang into each other, rub sideways along their edges, slide under each other, or pull apart from each other. The uplifted Himalayas are the result of plates colliding headon; the San Andreas Fault is a plate boundary where two plates are sliding past each other; and the East African Rift Valleys (or the Atlantic Ocean) are the result of plates moving apart. The geology of each of these boundaries will be different, as a result of the different pressures in each case.

-----In our discussion of the geology of Yellowstone National Park, we introduced the idea that there are hot spots in the mantle, underlying the crust, that bow up the crust and may result in massive volcanic events. In the case of the Yellowstone hot spot, a huge sequence of massive volcanic eruptions resulted. We stated that the hot spot appears geographically stable, and that the North American Plate is sliding westerly over the hot spot - thus creating the apparent 'movement' of the crustal volcanic center to the east.

-----Now for a regional context. In the photo below, note first the Rocky Mountains. This mountainous area is the result of the collision of the slow drift of the North American plate to the west against a Pacific sea-floor plate (Farallon Plate) beginning about 80 m.y. ago, about the end of the dinosaur age. The pressure of impact wrinkled and cracked the continent into uplifted mountains.

-----To the west lies the Basin and Range Province. This area is mostly Nevada. When the Farallon Plate moved totally under the North American Plate, about 30 m.y. ago, the light-weight components of the Farallon melted and moved upward through the more dense mantle. This upward pressure, and the lack of compression formerly supplied by the colliding plates, caused the crust of the entire region to be bowed upward. The upbowed rocks were forced apart in an east/west direction. They cracked and broke into a series of north-south mountain ranges that have been described as resembling a fleet of ships, anchored against a north wind. And then there's the track of the hot spot. Stretching of the crust in this area almost doubled the distance between Reno and Salt Lake City (more than 200 miles).

-----The Snake River Plain, underlain by lavas extruded by the hot spot, is evidence of the movement of our Plate over that hot spot, and can be seen clearly even from space.

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-----The Snake River Plain is the result of the eastward 'movement' of that hot spot -- the one now underlying Yellowstone. Remember, that hot spot bowed and is still uplifting a mound in the Earth's crust. Think of it as a ship, with a rounded bow, plowing easterly through the sea. The 'waves' from that massive bow are slanting back into a huge 'wake' on each side of the ship - in this case, the crust is 'bent' and broken by the 'waves' from off the easterly plowing hot spot mound. The Tetons are the result of that crustal pressure from the 'moving' hot spot -- they are a fractured, faulted, uplifted block of rock - a huge lithic frozen 'bow wave'.

Note the Track of the Hot Spot (the Bow of the Lithic Ship) Trending Northeasterly, and the Black Bow Waves of Faults.

The Tetons are Off the Starboard Bow, in the Center of the Photo

-----About thirteen million years ago the crust was upbowed and stretched by the motion of the Yellowstone Hot Spot to the north, and the Teton fault ruptured the crust dropping down to the east and shoved up to the west.

Don't Bother with the Details - Simply Note that the Purple Beds, Deeply Buried Ancient Rock to Right are the Stuff of the Teton Mountains - Also Note the Arrow along the Teton Fault Showing the Downdropped Snake River Region to the East

-----This massive mountain uplift exposes some of the oldest 'basement' rock of the continent in one of its youngest mountain ranges. The uplifted bedrock is rock so old that it formed before there were any critters or plants on the land or in the sea. It has been buried for so long that it has been baked by heat and pressure into hard crystalline rock -- the stuff we call metamorphic (meta - changed; morph - form) rock. Through the antiquity of surviving more than 2.5 billion years, the metamorphics (generally dark-colored) have been intruded by lighter molten stuff that has hardened into tough light-colored granite. Later, a little more than 1 billion years ago, black molten rock intruded through fractures into the granitic rock. This type of intrusion is called a dike, and is best exposed on the face of Mt. Moran.

The Black Dike Cutting Almost Vertically the Summit of Granitic Mt. Moran

-----The Tetons would be a ho-hum tilted block of rock (like so many hundreds of tilted blocks throughout Nevada, hardly known to anyone except local residents and geologists) except for one simple fact - they were carved into sharp peaks by ice. They rise high above deeply eroded valleys, also carved and shaped by ice. Yep - everyday, in-the-freezer ice.

-----So, lets talk a little about ice. It's a mineral - just like quartz or diamond. And just like many other minerals, it naturally forms into a regular crystal pattern - hexagonal, six-sided crystals (remember those photos of snowflakes you first saw when you were a kid?) But, unlike most minerals, it melts at a temperature so cool we wear gloves to hold a snowball. (Imagine the world if quartz [usually in the form of sand] melted at 32 degrees F - think of going to the beach next summer). And, it takes a lot of heat to melt ice. Raising the temperature from 31 to 32 degrees, necessary to melt ice, takes 80 times more added heat than going from 32 to 33 degrees (and vice-versa)! So, to change the nature of liquid water into crystalline ice or back from ice to water is a difficult undertaking (hence, ice in your cooler is slow melting and very effective at cooling the drinks). Thus, ice ages don't come easily or leave quickly. It isn't the result of a few warm (or cold years) -- it requires global climate change. But it has (and is) happening -- check out the diagrams below. The big one shows that climate has always been changing over the past 800,000 years and the little one on the right indicates we are just coming out of a period of increased cold (the Little Ice Age).

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These Last 800,000 Years and Detail of the Past 8.000 Years (Warm to Right in the Right Diagram)

-----Global climate has changed almost rhythmically between warm and cold through the millions of years before politicians 'discovered' (or tried to refute) global warming.

-----Glaciers form when more snow, over time, falls than melts. Hence ice piles up. When the 'pile' of ice gets big enough, it begins to flow outward in all directions. If confined to a valley along the side of a mountain, it moves down the valley. Moves? How? Well, first of all -- very slowly. Why? Because each crystal of ice, under the inexorable pressure of the pull of gravity, rearranges itself by melting, shifting a teeny bit, and refreezing. The sum total of millions of ice crystals in a glacier melting, shifting a tad, and refreezing amounts to movement downhill - yep, glacially slow!

-----But glaciers have another way of moving, that helps speed things along - a little. The humongous weight of ice in a glacier presses down on the basal contact of ice and underlying ground. This melts a thin skim of bottom ice into water and the glacier 'skids' on this slippery surface. The friction of skidding adds to the tiny bit of warming at the base of the glacier helping maintain the slippery water film. (The same method, by the way, is used by us to skate on ice - ever try to ice skate at 40 below zero? We have, and it ain't easy - that thin skim of water under the skates won't form - too cold - and the skates squeak instead of slide).

-----During the past two million years, global climate has been cold enough to allow snowfall to accumulate in southern Canada such that the weight of the huge mound of snow slowly turned the whole pile into ice, and then, like a huge blob of honey dropped on the land, it flowed outward in all directions. Unlike popular myth, the ice did not flow south across North America from the North Pole - ice flowed northerly to the polar regions, and southerly into our country, and outward in all directions.

----The lofty heights over the Yellowstone Hot Spot lifted the land high into the Ice Age air - while most of the northern part of the continent was under a massive continuous ice sheet, here in northwest Wyoming a great mass of ice developed on the lofty land raised by the hot spot. This local ice mass spread outward, downhill, in all directions.

- from Good and Pierce

---The ice mass not only covered Yellowstone but flowed southerly scouring out the deep trough at the base of the Tetons now occupied by Jackson Lake. The map below, looking like the track of a giant grizzly printed on the land, is the track of the ice mass that covered the Yellowstone Hot Spot. In the center of the blue ice, notice the darker blue of Lake Yellowstone, and far down at the bottom of the blue the darker blue of Jackson Lake.

- from Good and Pierce

The Track of the Yellowstone Ice Sheet

---So Jackson Lake was dug out by the Ice Sheet. However, the marvelous rugged mountain scenery of the Tetons is the result of Mountain-Valley glaciers sliding down the stream beds that flanked the Tetons. These glaciers scoured deep U-shaped valleys and gnawed into the tilted block of rock leaving spires of towering mountains.

- from Good and Pierce

 

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'Tetons', in the Grip of Ice (Our Photo Taken in the Palmer Peninsula of Antarctica); Tetons Today

-----Appreciating the beauty of the Tetons, it adds to our awe when we understand the great debt we owe to to the interaction of fire and ice.

THE LAUNCH AND ANCHORAGES

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Colter Bay; Deadman Cove

CRITTERS

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Hitchhiker On Our Bow and a Beggar

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Real and Imagined

THE ONES WHO CAME BEFORE

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SIMPLE BEAUTY

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The Quiet of Dusk and Quiet Aboard

(09-08)

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