The scenery is average for this region – firs, pines and farmland on rolling hills and low mountains. Then we clear a pass, and the jagged towering Tetons appear, standing tall over open empty fields of scrubby brush, flowers and weeds. Even this is an illusion caused by their sheer scale, and the misleading landscape. Taking the eastern road north, we know there is the deep-cut Snake River, lakes and an alpine forest between us and the base of these mountains. Once, they were capped in white all year long, but thanks to global warming, the glaciers have retreated to the shade under the northern side of these peaks.
Geologists believe that the original cataclysm that made these mountains rise gave them a height of 30,000 feet – now a mere 7,000 feet remain, ground down by ice, and the valley below filled in with glacial till. The ground is a uniform gravelly material, unfit for growing much of anything. A closer look at most stops reveal that these flower-filled fields of green are a patchwork with the dull grey sediments laced in between the spindly grasses and stumpy lupins.