It sounded too good to be true when we were told that my fourth grade class was going to Grand Teton National Park. At first, I thought they were talking about a field trip and then, holy cow! I learned it was going to be like a vacation—but we had no idea what to expect.
The day finally came and my classmates and I got on the big buses and NOT school buses—real buses. I think the adults were as excited as we were. A bunch of the teachers got to come and a lot of our parents, which was comforting for everyone because I didn’t know anyone who had ever been outside of our little town more than about 50 miles—and we were going to another state!
We learned a bunch about all of the national parks in school before we left, and knew that we would be celebrating the 100th anniversary of the national parks. We still really didn’t know what to expect and our teacher said, “Picture wildlife, mountains, rivers, trees and endless fresh air.” She told our class that President Obama and the First Lady, Michelle Obama, had this great idea for every fourth grader in the country and their family to be able get into national parks, for free, during this 100th year.
The bus ride was long, but when we got to Grand Teton National Park and pulled up to the Jackson Lake Lodge, we felt like we were in heaven. We loved our cottages—staying in a hotel was really special. It was so nice, and then we went to dinner at the lodge.
We were so hungry, and I think everyone almost fell over when we saw all the food! There was so much pizza, and lots of other good things, but the best was the ice cream bar! We could have any flavor we wanted and there were mountains of great things to put on top. We were sure that we were in heaven then.
It just kept getting better and better. The next day we had a delicious breakfast and then got to go on hikes with the Park Rangers. We saw all kinds of animals and a moose with her baby—that was the best thing ever. After that, the Park Rangers took all of us to the marina at Colter Bay and we got on two big boats that took us out on Jackson Lake to Elk Island. We had lunch there next to the biggest mountain I’ve ever seen, Mt. Moran—it was magnificent.
The rangers were so cool, too, and they taught us so much! We were all scared that there were grizzly bears that would sneak up on us, but the rangers explained all the safety rules and taught us about how to use bear spray (and to always take it with you on hikes). We learned about how Native Americans lived here and that was way cool because half of us are full-blooded Native Americans. I could just imagine my ancestors living here. We learned ways to take care of our environment, and the Park Rangers taught us names of trees and flowers and how the rocks got there. I never had so much fun learning.
Two days flew by and before we knew it, it was the last night there. Mr. David Vela, the Superintendent of Grand Teton National Park came to talk to us and we were SO surprised. It turned into a ceremony and we were all sworn in, one-by-one, as Junior Rangers. We got badges and made a promise to be stewards of all of the National Parks, and help other people learn what a gift we have as Americans. I have never felt so proud and I will never forget that night.
The next morning, it was time to say goodbye and even our parents and teachers were sad to leave. We couldn’t believe all that we got to do, and it was already time to go. It was better than anything I could have imagined and I hope everyone will get to go to Grand Teton someday.
Explore more activities and plan your visit with the Grand Teton Lodge Company.