Photos and story by Erin Nash
It’s nearly dusk as we march along the dusty trail through the thick underbrush and growing shadows of Granite Canyon.
As we round a sharp bend my backpacking buddy stops short, turns on her heels and nearly knocks me over in her attempt to back track. “Go back! Go back!” she whispers.
My heart races. I fumble for my bear spray canister, attached to the hip strap of my backpack. My partner’s eyes are as big as golf balls as she whispers in the kind of high-pitched voice reserved for talking to infants and kittens, “It’s a baby mooooooooose!”
This is Miranda Miller. She lives for these moments.
I met Miranda in the summer of 2016 when I quit my job, packed up my apartment in Bellingham, and drove to Wyoming to serve coffee to tourists in Grand Teton National Park.
Growing up in Plain, surrounded by the Cascade Range, I’ve always been drawn to the mountains.
I left home in 2008 to move to the “big city” of Seattle and eventually ended up in Bellingham because, well, MOUNTAINS.
I had only seen the Grand Tetons in photographs, but the idea of living at Jackson Lake Lodge, sitting at 6,772 feet above sea level, five miles from trail heads leading up to those beautiful peaks made my head spin and my heart sing. The mountains were calling, and I went for it.
I spent my early mornings slinging coffee in the grand lobby, with its floor to ceiling windows facing Jackson Lake and The Grand Tetons.
I loved watching tourists’ expressions when they saw the Tetons for the first time. If you’ve ever witnessed a child seeing a deer for the first time, or seen someone catch their first fish, or if you’ve ever seen a friend round that last bend on a brutal trail and take in the view, you know the look I’m talking about.
“Is this real life?” was a phrase I heard often.
When I wasn’t working I was going on adventures with Miranda all over Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks: hiking, camping, kayaking, trail running, horseback riding, fishing, climbing, chasing sunsets and hunting for the perfect wildlife photo opportunities.
I gained a new understanding of nature and respect for the wildlife inhabiting the parks. (And by respect I mean I was scared silly on a few occasions by both bear and moose.)
I grew a new appreciation for how hard I could push my body, sometimes hiking 20 miles a day during my weekend backpacking trips. I discovered a new love for our National Parks — truly one of the best ideas the United States has ever had, in my opinion.
There is something about being in nature, being in the mountains, that makes a soul happy.
Living in the Grand Tetons also gave me a new appreciation for home.
I discovered from talking with tourists and other seasonal workers that visiting Grand Teton National Park was many people’s first time seeing mountains. I quickly realized how lucky I am that I grew up surrounded by the wild beauty of the Northern Cascades.
And, inevitably, I started missing my hometown mountains.
So here I am. I’m back in the Wenatchee Valley, in the place that taught me to love mountains, more excited than ever to rediscover and explore the rugged Cascades.
My summer in the Tetons was an adventure of a lifetime. And I will forever be grateful that it led me back home.