It’s hard to believe that I’m already in the midst of my third week here in Ashton. The journey to this current time started over 2,000 miles ago in a small suburb outside of Boston with my Brother and a blue Subaru Forrester complete with a freshly stickered roof box. Just four days prior I had said goodbye to all my senior friends graduating from St. Lawrence University before heading home with a fully packed car, dreams of western mountains, and imaginations of the journey ahead.
My name is Elliot. I am a rising senior at St. Lawrence, studying math and computer science. My searches for a summer internship led me to the Henry’s Fork Foundation because I wanted to combine my technical skills with my passions for the outdoors. I am an avid snowboarder, rock climber, and hiker. This year I guided rock climbing trips in Joshua Tree National Park, the Adirondacks in New York, and the White Mountains of New Hampshire. My powder pursuits brought me to the Chic-Choc Mountains of the Gaspee Peninsula in Canada and many weekend trips to Jay Peak, Vermont.
Packed into my car were everything I needed for the summer, including far more outdoors gear than clothing. After hugs and best wishes from our mother, my brother and I began our journey west. Day 1 was spent charging west on I-90. Time was measured in tanks of gas, sips of coffee, and albums played over the car stereo. 18 hours later we pulled into a gas station parking lot in Wisconsin for some much needed rest. With the back seats folded down, a couple sleeping pads, a mattress topper, pillows, and a sleeping bag it was a cozy place to be.
On our second day we zoomed farther west across flat roads and empty highways. We decided to listen to John Mayer’s discography, a long time favorite artist of my brother. John has attained a mastery of the guitar and much of the day was spent windows down, volume at max, with John Mayer’s solos echoing out. That evening we pulled into the Badlands National Park of South Dakota for a night of stargazing, guitar playing, and chatter late into the night before spending another night in the Subaru.
The next morning we took a lazy start to the day. Our long pushes of driving the first two days enabled us to slow down once we reached the west and wanted to explore. We spent the morning taking in views of the Badlands, playing guitar, and hanging out at scenic pull-offs.
Heading across South Dakota we stopped at Wall Drug, a giant tourist trap that we soon sped away from, drove by Mt. Rushmore, and watched the land go from flat and empty to rolling and mountainous. We drove over a mountain pass in the Black Hills before stopping to camp. My 6’3” brother was delighted to stretch his legs out at night in a tent instead of the trunk of a car.
Our fourth day on the road brought us into Wyoming. We drove to the Beartooth Pass to experience some late May snowboarding, but as I put my boots and snow gear on I realized that my bindings were being shipped to Idaho as they had broken when I was in Canada and had to be replaced. Undeterred, we enjoyed the extensive views of Wyoming and Montana from the top of the pass, stared at the fifteen foot snowbanks on the side of the highway, and eyed the hundreds of skiers and snowboarders with jealousy as they hitchhiked and rode the spring snow. We settled in for the night at a gorgeous campsite just outside of Yellowstone National Park.
Our final day on the road brought us through Montana and into Yellowstone National Park. Driving through the park we saw loads of wildlife, spurting geysers, beautiful wide-open plains, and roaring rivers. That evening we finally arrived in Ashton. I spent the rest of the week settling into working for Henry’s Fork Foundation, gaining knowledge about the company that will eventually be used during my project this summer of developing an android application.
Each weekend and day off I have had I have driven over to Jackson, WY where a number of alumni and friends from my school are living. Due to the incredible snow year there is still a fair amount of snow in the Teton Pass and I’ve taken advantage of this to get some late season turns in on my snowboard, now complete with new bindings.
This past weekend I met up with three of my past ski partners and we spent the time camping in Curtis Canyon Campground. A winding road leads up into the hills just outside of Jackson, eventually entering forest service lands where one can pitch a tent anywhere they please. Beautiful views of the Tetons abound and because the campsite faces directly west the sunsets are incredible.
On our first day we headed up to the Teton Pass to enjoy winters finest leftover snow and build a jump at the bottom. The soft, slushy snow was very forgiving and we hurled ourselves of our freshly built jump time and time again, trying tricks from backflips and 360s to more strangely named nosebutter 3s, flat 3s, and rodeos.
Our thirst for air not quite quenched, we hiked into Phelps Lake in Teton National Park the next day. Despite chilly and cloudy conditions, eventually the sun broke through and we wasted no time getting into the frigid, glacial runoff lake.
Life in Ashton so far has been exciting, from my work in the office and the field to the wonderful adventures all around to be had in the Tetons and numerous other mountain ranges right nearby. One of the biggest goals I have set for myself this summer is an unguided climb of Grand Teton. I’m far from in physical shape to accomplish this currently, but hopefully by the end of the summer I’ll feel up to the challenge.
Images (left side from top to bottom): 1. View of the sun setting over the Tetons from Curtis Canyon campground. 2.Dropping in from the top of the Teton Pass. 3. My friend Caleb starting a backflip into Phelps Lake. 4. Me and my brother in the Badlands.
(right side from top to bottom): 1. My brother Jay playing guitar in the Badlands. 2. Me playing guitar along the Henry's Fork in Ashton. 3. Me launching a backflip off of the jump in the Teton Pass.