The Quiet Loop

This trail feels forgotten. We're certainly the first on it today. The spiderwebs attest to that. How long has it been since someone else walked this way?

The trail is nearly overgrown in spots. Long sections, both in the forest and in the meadows, are nearly invisible. The five yards immediately ahead are a narrow band of dirt walled by vegetation that is knee-high at its shortest. Beyond that, where the track curves away, the path is hidden. The wildflowers have conspired to keep it a secret, locked away beneath the morning dew. Were I granted the view enjoyed by the red-breasted nuthatches, I'd see the route more clearly. Its undulations would be revealed in a thin, brown line bending through swathes of green and gold. But I am confined to this wingless view, six feet off the ground with limited visibility. It adds to the mystery of the morning.

This is a trail I've never walked in a corner of the park I've never visited. It seems that few have. Beyond the presence of the trail itself, there is little evidence of foot-traffic. Maybe this is just how it looks this time of year when the plants are full of summer vitality and the crowds throng to the feet of the mountains that can't be seen from this lakeshore. Maybe in other seasons there are more humans that walk this lonely path through forest and field. I can't be sure, because what I see today is a blissfully and beautifully neglected trail.

This hike is a patient exercise, largely "viewless" by most standards. Even the one view that lies down the trail will be occluded by the smoke that fills Jackson Hole today. We have no glimpses of glaciers or snow high on the peaks, no sweeping vistas across the sagebrush. We are hemmed in by the woods, the lake, and the ridges that impound this water. This place is secluded, cloistered away from the congestion that plagues the must-see spots somewhere beyond the mass of earth that blocks my view and tethers my mind to the visible extent of the world: this trail, this lake.

Vapor is rising from the water. Two trumpeter swans move with grace across the surface, calmly patrolling this peaceful scene. Peace abounds here, broken only by the occasional chatter of squirrels in the trees overhead, undoubtedly complaining that it was actually our presence that disturbed the tranquility. Peace is worth seeking, just as precious as the emotions stirred by a picture-perfect overlook or the pride conferred by the climbing of some high marvel. It is particularly valuable in mid-summer when visitation to the parks is highest and the roads and trails overflow with pilgrims en route to the places they've heard to be the most wonderful to behold.

In general, those places are, indeed, wonderful to behold. But there are wonders beyond the guidebooks, there is beauty away from the interpretive signs, visitor centers, and pavement. Go where no one goes, to places you've never heard anyone gush about. Go where the views are bad and the trees are thick, where you wouldn't see an elk unless it was right by the trail and the bears have plenty of cover to wait til you've passed by and remain undisturbed. Get out to the places where the trail seems like it might fade away tomorrow, where the people you pass along the way are few but friendly. Find the lonelier spots on the map and circle them.

I can confirm that out there, out here, is a wonderful place to be.

Chaney

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Naturalist, Photographer, Cartographer