Category Archives: Teton Valley

A Fresh Look at Spring Grunge

Apparently, this takes me by surprise every year.

I’m out on a walk on a day sometime shortly after the warm spring winds begin to blow and the mud appears, and I think, “You know, most people think this is an ugly time of year, but if you pay attention, there’s a lot of prettiness.”

At the time, this strikes me as an original thought, worthy of a blog post, even.

Is it just me, or is it repeating itself in here?

Who can blame me, though? When you first look down an unplowed section of shadowed, dirty-ish snowbank, it’s not all that appealing. However, when you know that you are walking on top of four feet of most excellent igloo-building snow, there’s something cool and unique about that. For one thing, it makes you wonder: how do they build igloos, and what it’s like to call such a place “home”?

This is the sort of snow that I affiliate with the stirrings of maple sap, and this is also lovely.

The crust on the snow crystallizes, throwing off colors you can only see out of your peripheral vision (they disappear when you look at them directly) or through a polarized camera lens.

This is not only stunning; it’s downright psychedelic.

Of course, the big picture isn’t too bad, either.

Snowplow blades have created the illusion of multiple geological eras, which, depending on how long a winter it’s been, isn’t too far off the mark.

There’s a simple joy in hunting the sides of the roads, anticipating the first blade of really green grass amongst the dead. This is a small pleasure denied to those who live in chronically verdant locations.

By the way, I told Winston he could come on my “camera walk” only if he promised to stay out of the photos.
He agreed.

What dog? I don’t see a dog.
I believe in giving the benefit of doubt.

The runoff creates winking streams in the road. This one actually burbled.

And when else in the year can you see this kind of mud pattern in nature? Or all across your living room hardwood floor?

Even the mud itself can be beautiful.

This reminded me of the incredible hand-made fudge-ripple mocha ice cream we had in Key West last August. What else in my day was likely to remind me of that?

The wind and sun conspire to drill mysterious caverns and tunnels into the banks. How, exactly, does this work?

And where does that blue, green, and lavender come from? On the surface, it all looks very white.

Don’t stare at this too long… You’ll see a face, an armchair, and a sci-fi snow monster in quick succession, and then it gets weird.

Oh, Winston… for the love of all things shiny, will you MOVE, please?!

I think I was setting up the shot to make a point about repeating cumulus shapes in nature, but now I forget where I was going with this.


Found some!

Skijoring in Teton Valley

What is it that makes humans crave the experience of hanging on to a rope on friction-reducing platforms behind something that has at least one horse power?

I thought I was familiar with most expressions of this compulsion: water-skiing and wake-boarding, tow-surfing (or is that “surf-towing?” I mean the one where the hero on the jet-ski tows a long-haired lunatic seven stories up the side of a wall of water, so said loony can careen her way down and across the wave, Maverick-style), chuckwagon races (shorter ropes, but still…), and so on.

(Does anyone remember me making a New Year’s resolution to use more precise punctuation and fewer parentheses in my writing?
No? Good.).

We enjoyed the full spectator experience of skijoring on the last day of the first annual Great Snow Fest of Teton Valley. (Oddly, there are no skijoring photos in that link. Good thing we’re here.)

Skijoring is an up-close spectator/photographer sport.

It’s as close as I’ve come lately to having an excited beast with sharp hooves and wild roving eyes come charging at me as FAST and HARD as it can go, steered by a guy who’s NOT watching where he’s going, while I hunker down in a snowbank, right about horsey knee-level, so I can get a good angle on the shot.

(As part of my writer’s resolutions for 2012, I was also going to avoid excessively long sentences.)

While much of the standard equipment is about as straight up as it comes — horse, rope, skis, DNA that compels you to seek thrills, partnerships, and ponies — there were a couple of examples of the long-armed reach of Silicon Valley. This guy, for instance, with a live-streaming webcam on his helmet as he goes over the final jump.

Skijoring finish-line judging, also for instance. Of course there’s an app for that, Silly!

(I was also going to mix up predictable word order as a way of keeping my writing fresh.)

Just like the rest of life, the secret appears to be communication, partnership, and trust. This young man in the blue coat, for example, seems to place an almost inordinate amount of trust in the belief that should his partner on the skis fall on impact, he will have the presence of mind to LET GO OF THE ROPE, seein’ as how the other end is attached firmly to the saddle. Which is attached to an excited beast with sharp hooves, etc. (See above.)

Is it just my inner scuba instructor speaking, or does this orientation of anchored rope, delicate spines, beast at a full-gallop, and serious air not strike anyone as a bit risky?

There were emergency vehicles standing by, mind.

This young “no guts, no glory” competitor sailed “pour-spout over tea cozy” in an attempt at a full-rotation flip off the last jump, and landed it at about 342 degrees, rather than the more physics-friendly 360.

And this is the quintessential pose of a “freaked-out sports mom” trying really hard to find out if there’s a concussion without further injuring an already banged-up ego.

(Did I also mention that for 2012, I was going to make a diligent effort to avoid  “quotation marks for emphasis,” as it runs the risk of reading like Steve Martin “air quotes.”

Sigh… )

Dogs are welcome everywhere here, as long as they are sufficiently controlled.

Makes you wonder what kind of temper this little controlee has. He’s probably a sweetie, but we know for sure that the controller is a mountain climber. Who else here would have a rope, a carabiner, and know how to use them? That’s one sweet knot.

We love Teton Valley.

Yes, we do. My choices in footwear and overall fashion style fit in very well here.

The community is friendly and supportive, the sun shines in January, and the women are just as likely to be driving the heavy machinery–and watching where they’re going.

These events are fun. And besides, it’s always good to get out for bit of air.

P.S. How’s it going with YOUR resolutions?

P.P.S. Happy New Year!


Too bad nothing exciting ever happens around here.

Maybe we should get a TV.

Then we’d at least have something to watch.

All we get off the north porch are these ho-hum half-hour docu-dramas.

Although I must say, while the plot is a little predictable, there is a modest amount of entertainment to be derived from wondering just how wet you’re about to get…

… and how close the action might land.

Still, I find myself wondering if there are any decent new shows on these days.

Because, seriously… the only redeeming feature of having an entire rainbow humming from end to end in the field directly across the road is that it comes without commercial interruption.

Aurora Tetonealis

Stop me if you’ve seen this before.

We were sitting on the north porch last night, writing (me), reading (Rick), and gnawing on a bone the size of his head (Winston), when we heard the light shift.

Did you know that you can hear the crystalline sound of the Northern Lights? I only ask because it gives me a chance to say that I’m a Canadian who has lived far enough north of have actually heard them with my own ears. It’s kinda freaky, actually.

And yes, I know these weren’t Northern Lights, but they certainly had potential, light-wise speaking.

It started when the sun dipped below the horizon, and a sliver of fluorescent pink shot UP to lick the bottom of the clouds.

You have to run quickly for the camera when this kind of stuff starts shakin’ around here. Light happens fast.

It got weird…

… and weirder…

… and weirder.

And then the ballet started on the tops of the west mountains.

It was a contemporary number, with just enough Latin hip action that I think the Creative Director wove in some Zumba.

Even the mountains in the east blushed with the reflected light.

Have we mentioned lately how much we love living here?

Dinner at Chez Sordahl

If you ever get an email from us that says, “Hey, are you up for dinner tomorrow night? We’ve got some great pork tenderloin…” check your calendar and come on over. We’ll look forward to your company and try not to burn anything.

If, on the other hand, you get this same message from Chef Rick Sordahl and his talented and charming wife Dana, CLEAR YOUR CALENDAR AND SAY “YES!!!” BEFORE THEY CHANGE THEIR MINDS!

ç They create a lovely sweet energy together, are interesting and informed conversationalists, and share their toys well.  (After dinner we played their PS3 snowboard game: awesome graphics, and much easier on the knees than the real thing on a full belly.)

When you also know that Rick is the executive chef at Amangani (an enchanting Aman resort in Jackson Hole) and has an upcoming invitation to cook at the James Beard House in NYC, and really knows a good pork tenderloin when he sees one…

… well… you understand our enthusiasm. When Chef Rick cooks, people become lost for speech and must resort to banging the table in appreciation.

He once cooked and served duck breasts that our neighbor Scott had shot and cleaned that morning that was so good it gave me the sniffles.

Sometimes it’s the food that makes one cry, and sometimes it’s the laughter.

And sometimes it’s just watching Dana and Rick move as a team in their home that brings a wee lump in your throat.

Their space is full of thoughtful, beautiful, yet accessible and friendly details.

Tableware, lighting, pottery, textiles…

… and a thousand other aesthetic choices that both evoke and invite creativity and spontaneous fun.

The pencil crayons on the counter beside the black truffle cheese plate should be your first clue.

There be magic there. This particular jus magic featured red wine, local huckleberries and secret chef stuff. (I’m not completely crisp on the secret chef stuff — I was kinda focused on the black truffle cheese at the time.)

The bulk of the magic, though, is in the unconscious emphasis Rick and Dana place on hospitality versus entertaining.

It’s the difference between entertaining to impress and hosting to embrace.

They are all about the embrace of hospitality.

Of course, what shows up on your dinner plate is always a once in a lifetime experience.

And when you step out into the cold winter air after a night like that and see a full moon like this coming up over the ridge of Darby Canyon, table banging gives way to a full-blown howl.

Thanks again, Rick and Dana… and Happy Birthday, Chef!

Robin Babies

Rick’s fabulous mother-in-law, Jane, says that in her latter years, my Granny Lever ate like a baby bird.

I always thought this was referring to the quantity of food she ate.

After watching this wholesome little family of Turdus migratorius in the eaves of our Teton Valley south porch go through feeding time, I now find myself confident that’s exactly what my mom meant.

Granny Lever never ate like this!

Besides the ruthless stomping underfoot of less successful siblings…

… there was a LOT of loud, demanding behavior exhibited…

… over dining fare that kept trying to crawl back over top of the parental unit’s head.

The hollering did not stop until the demands were met.

I never heard so much as a peep of gratitude. I thought I caught a muted burp of satisfaction from young Mr. Greedy Guts, although that could just as easily have been a hiccup of resignation from one of the two stompees on the left.

Once fed, though, the faint resemblance of baby birds to aged diners kicked in in a new way for me: nothing better to do than lay back for a quick nap and let someone else take out the garbage.

And now the Latin nomenclature is all falling into place…

On The Road To Teton Valley

Somehow it always starts with the drama of clouds painting “Look here! Look here!” highlights on the middle ground.

Quick! Get the camera!

By the time the [easyazon_link asin=”B001ENOZY4″ locale=”US” new_window=”default” nofollow=”default” tag=”rickandkathy-20″ add_to_cart=”default” cloaking=”default” localization=”default” popups=”default”]Nikon D90[/easyazon_link]is ridin’ high on the console between the seats, we’re sunk: once again, we realize the Road Trip Muse has bullied in and is insisting on some overdue personal attention.

She knows we’re suckers for the challenge of getting the shot at 80 mph, straining to get above the side rear view mirror, telephone poles, traffic lights, big honkin’ trucks that get in the way right at the last second…

… and she plays with our mutually eclectic sensibilities of what makes for an interesting image.

We’re a good team. Rick drives and occasionally hollers, “Get that one!” I bounce around in the front seat like Ruprecht the Monkey Girl, twisting myself into unnatural positions to try to get just the right angle.

Sometimes, The Source is just Rick, after 12 miles of outrageously bumpy and undulating road construction, quipping “Well, at least the road guys have a sense of humor.”

But sometimes, the Muse herself delivers a fly-by composition so intensely pure and correct that it if I miss it, I have failed to do my part in something important and irreplaceable.

It can be simply an image we wouldn’t normally see in our 9-5 Silicon Valley world.

Or it can be a surrealistically perfect moment that is usually only visible in other people’s lives. Or in slow motion in the movies. Or Napa.

But that’s what it’s like on the road to Teton Valley.

You get a plein air painter’s dream at sunset…

… followed by twilight in Targhee National Forest, 12 minutes from home, and the dreamscape collusion of your [easyazon_link asin=”B001ET5U92″ locale=”US” new_window=”default” nofollow=”default” tag=”rickandkathy-20″ add_to_cart=”default” cloaking=”default” localization=”default” popups=”default”]D90[/easyazon_link], the Muse, and the deer that decided to bound the other way.