At nine months old, Susan Bishop made her first trip to Grand Teton National Park. The family traveled from Casper, Wyoming on Fourth of July weekend. “My earliest memory of the Park was my mother bathing me in a washtub and me feeding the squirrels,” laughed Bishop. More than sixty years later, Bishop has made an annual trip to return to this special place every Fourth of July weekend.
In the late forties and early fifties the family would stay at the once active Kimmel Kabins, by Cottonwood Creek south of Jenny Lake. “We heard they were building Jackson Lake Lodge,” said Bishop. “We were driving down the road and actually saw it under construction and the next year we stayed here.”
The family would get two cabins and because they were set a bit away, it felt like their private escape. They would continue to stay at Jackson Lake Lodge, because of the facilities. “You can stay at the whole complex and get whatever you need. That was another nice thing when Jackson Lake Lodge came into the park. There were no real eating places in the park. When we stayed over in the Kimmel Kabins, in addition to not having plumbing, they didn’t have any place to really eat so you had to drive into Jackson almost every night for a meal.”
The magnificent view from the cabins also draws Bishop back. “Colter Bay is very nice, Jenny Lake is very nice, but none of them can you wake up in the morning and see the mountains like this. This morning I woke up early and it’s like a whole nature study to see how the atmosphere changes in two or three hours and you can do that all from your own bed.”
After so many years, Bishop’s most memorable spot remains Leigh Lake. “I’m actually named for Leigh Lake. My middle name is Leigh,” said Bishop. “My parents also honeymooned there so it’s always been a big part of our family.”
Bishop remembers wading into Leigh Lake and String Lake as a child, trying to catch tadpoles in hopes that they would grow into frogs. “I think we only got one frog out of it,” laughed Bishop.
“When my dad was alive we always would go fishing,” said Bishop. The trip was built around lake fishing and the family would go with the same guide. “Since he passed away we don’t do that activity any longer. With my husband we always look forward to playing a round of golf at the Jackson Hole Golf & Tennis Club and we always try to hike around Leigh Lake.
“The brilliance of the Lodge was the way it was situated,” said Bishop. “That you walk up the stairway and you see this magnificent panorama of the Tetons. That has been constant and every year when you come it’s like a ‘Gee whiz, awe’ type of thing, no matter how many years we have been coming.”
There have been a few changes since the Lodge opened in 1955. “When the Lodge was first built, there was quite a large bar and it was where the gift shop was now. It had very much of a western theme. People wore cowboy clothes and came in their boots and jeans. In the dining room we saw them paint the murals. I think where the bar is now used to be a meeting room or something like that. The counters have always remained the same in the Pioneer. This year they remodeled the cabins and that has been a tremendous improvement.
Bishop adds that the demographic of visitors to the Park has changed. “It used to be more of a regional type destination and you’d come up and see a lot of people from your home town of Casper and around and now it’s becoming much more of an international grouping.”
One thing that hasn’t changed is the family unit vacationing here. “It sorts of renews your faith in the family, because you see them having fun and being together.
Another constant is the amount of electronic communication. “There’s no TV’s, no radios and originally there were no telephones in the rooms. It’s really a nice time to say I’m away from all of that.”
“For our family the reason we come is tradition. My grandparents were pioneers in Wyoming and they vacationed up here. We have pictures of my father as a young man bringing his mother and sisters up here. It has been a tradition for our family to come up. One reason is because of the proximity. When my parents were growing up, a drive was a big deal; a 200 mile driving trip was a very big deal. It was always a nice, affordable getaway for the family for years. For me, it’s a matter of coming to rejuvenate, to get back in touch with my roots and bring out good memories.” Bishop even spent part of the summer of 1972 working in the gift shop.
“Our family is very much into historic preservation as well as nature preservation. I think what is so important is as we grow as a country is that we realize there are very few opportunities to keep our country beautiful, almost every time we come to the park I think of the brilliance of the Rockefeller family for seeing this sight and saying this should be kept pristine so that all generations present and future can enjoy it. That mentally in our lives is so important and I think it is so important that we as each generation make that happen and continue to keep it, because there are never going to be more mountains like this and the pleasures and the people that come and see this landscape—it’s tremendous and once you’ve been here it stays apart of you. I think that’s true of all the national parks. That’s one of the wonderful things about our country. That we have set these sites aside and said ok lets keep them that way and I strongly hope our government keeps that mentality.”
The family plans to continue staying at Jackson Lake Lodge after 54 years. “My husband and I were just talking, ‘Should we make reservations for next year?’ and I said ‘Yes, we should.’ It’s a tradition we will try and continue and keep going as long as we possibly can.”
From Katie’s Corner