Performer: Neil Young
Songwriter: Neil Young
Original Release: Comes a Time
Definitive Version: Live Rust, 1979
The first stop for my dad and I on our Western sojourn in 1982, after our delay in Denver, was Rocky Mountain National Park. It was my first experience with the reality that you can be cold in August. We went from shorts and T-shirts at the start of the day to longs and wool shirts (and still being cold) at the park and then back to shorts almost immediately again after getting down below 8,000 feet.
Beyond the peak was a mini-glacier on one side of the road that melted into a bubbling creek on the other side. We stopped for a photo op. I have a picture of me throwing a snowball in my shorts with no shirt on: The juxtaposition of appearing warm (and it was warm) surrounded by snow showed an early appreciation of irony. Anyway, the water in the creek was frigid, crystal clear and good.
My dad was a Boy Scout, and as I mentioned, I was a failed one. But I did learn how to camp out. To keep expenses down, we took sleeping bags and a tent, so we camped out a couple of times along the way. The first time was on our way to the Tetons, out in the middle of absolutely nowhere. Dad pulled off the two-lane highway amid a bunch of scrub brush and we set up a tent.
It was great, except that when you’re out in the middle of nowhere, you don’t have anything to protect you from the wind. And it was howling that night, making the tent flap and fold (but never collapse). Eventually Dad gave up the ghost and slept in the car. I stayed behind and eventually did get to sleep. I suppose we probably got about the same amount of sleep, which is to say next to nothing.
The next morning was cloudy and chilly when we broke camp early. Dad has always been a very early riser, although I wasn’t getting much sleep that day anyway, as I said. What I remember most about that was how on the other side of a nearby barb wire fence were several antelope playing (as antelope do) whilst checking us out from a safe distance. That was the first time I’d ever seen a zoo animal that wasn’t actually at a zoo.
We again took our time going along, and it was late afternoon when we made it to the Tetons. I still have never seen anything like it—even in Alaska—and I would argue that pictures don’t really do them justice. What makes them so spectacular is Jackson Hole, the huge valley that butts up against the mountains, with the Snake River cutting through the middle. It’s extremely flat, and it appears that the mountains are rising right out of the grass. There are no foothills to speak of before you get to the mountains—unlike with the Rockies in Denver—and it makes them appear much taller than they are.
We stayed in a cabin at Jackson Lodge that had two beds and a shower, both of which were very welcome. After we got cleaned up for the first time in three days, we went over to the Lodge itself for dinner. They sat us at the window overlooking Jackson Lake with the sun setting on The Grand Teton. We each had fresh rainbow trout and cold Coors, and it remains to this day one of the best dinners of my life.
We stayed there two nights. The first day, Dad got up at the crack of dawn to take about a zillion pictures of the mountains and buffalo roaming (as buffalo do). I caught up on some of my sleep. We spent the day hiking around Jenny Lake and then going in to Jackson. I noted with some glee that that was where they filmed Any Which Way You Can, a cheesy Clint Eastwood movie that we saw on the flight out and recognized several of the filming sites.
The next day, we headed out early to get to Yellowstone, and that’s where we’ll wrap this up until the next episode of our exciting adventure.