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THE TETONS BY MOONLIGHT

Transcript of 60 minute program

Bruce Reichert, Host:
Early Americans called them Teewinot, or pinnacles. Later French
fur trappers named them the Tetons. Today these jagged peaks
spear the skyline of Eastern Idaho.

In their shadow lies a year round playground.

It is a land of new adventures. It is a land that is changing.

Outdoor Idaho explores this outdoor wonderland in the shadow of
the Tetons.

Reichert:
They've been called the most spectacular mountains in all of
North America. Certainly the Tetons are among the most famous.

Hi, I'm Bruce Reichert.

Without a doubt, the Tetons dominate the landscape of Eastern
Idaho. Rising thousands of feet above the Snake River Plain, they
can't help but catch your eye.

But these distant glimpses give only a hint of the beauty that
lies in the shadow of the Tetons.

They are the youngest of our mountain ranges, formed less than
ten million years ago when the earth's crust pulled apart along a
massive fault line.

The east side of that fault dropped away abruptly, forming the
valley called Jackson Hole.

The west side rose skyward, creating the peaks we know as the
Tetons.

Over time, other faults within the mountain range pushed the
central peaks even higher, where they were attacked by wind and
water.

Ice, as thick as 3,000 feet in places, covered all but the
tallest peaks and massive glaciers carved depressions and huge
gorges in the bedrock.

Finally about 15 thousand years ago the ice began to melt. Plants
and animals, "biding their time," as naturalist John Muir put it,
followed the receding ice.

"Pine trees marched up the sun warmed moraines," Muir wrote.
"Young rivers roared in the abandoned channels of the glaciers.

The ground burst into bloom.
Life in every form, warming and sweetening and growing richer as
the years passed."

But it wasn't scenery that attracted early explorers, it was
money.

Early in the 1800's, fur trappers spread across the country
searching for beaver. They found plenty on the west side of the
Tetons in the valley they called Pierre's Hole.

While the trappers were focused on getting rich, they did pay
some attention to the scenery. Lonely Frenchmen compared the
mountains to the female anatomy. They called the peaks the Tres
Tetons, with the centerpiece the Grand Teton.

Long before those Frenchmen named the mountains, Native Americans
called them by another name, Teewinot, or pinnacles.

For centuries, early Americans crossed the mountains in search of
game.

Near one of those passes, the ground is littered with black,
volcanic rocks called ignumbrite, the raw material for primitive
tools.

Rob Young, Geologist:
Well, you definitely wouldn't find a rock like this in nature. It
has the conchoidal fracture, and it is, which means it is smooth
between these two ridges. And these ridges wouldn't form of
themselves either.

It was hit by some object. Probably a rock right about here, and
that broke off this entire flake.

Reichert:
Using antlers, early craftsmen chipped away at the rock, turning
the black flakes into crude but effective tools.

Young:
It's easy to flake. It's easy to shape into a tool that you need.
You can make projectile points out of this, that meaning,
arrowheads and spearpoints that are perfectly serviceable.

It holds a nice sharp edge. It does all the right things as far
as somebody who's looking for a cutting tool of some sort,
whether it be a knife or whether it be a piercing tool like an
arrowhead or a spearpoint, something along about that line.

This will do the job. The American Indian that came through knew
what he needed and also had the knowledge to extract it from the
rocks that were available here.

The area is really full of game, plenty of edible plants. There's
plenty of good water nearby.
It would be a good place. If I were to take myself back in that
time, I would choose this as one of the places, as long as I had
to go through here.

Reichert:
For many years, the land around the Tetons was simply a place to
pass through. It wasn't until the late 1800's that the first
permanent settlers put down roots.

They were a hearty folk, determined to carve out a life in the
shadow of the Tetons.

Hay, peas, clover, and other crops were planted. And cattle
roamed the once open meadows.

Towns popped up complete with all the trappings of life in the
bigger cities.

As the population grew, the demand for water increased, and the
thirsty valley cast its eyes on the Teton River.

Plans were drawn up to dam the river and divert the water for
irrigation.

Critics went to court to stop the dam. They called it a threat to
fish and wildlife and criticized the location, questioning the
wisdom of building in an area prone to earthquakes.

But for many in the valley, the dam and the water was essential.

Willis Walker, Farmer:
They figure a few fish were more important than having bread on
the table. What people who received benefit from the fishing up
there didn't amount to anything to what the value was for
irrigating crops.

Reichert:
The critics lost their case and construction began.

Soon problems with the site became apparent. The fractured rock
of the canyon wall absorbed water. Engineers decided to build a
grout curtain, essentially sealing the canyon wall in a layer of
concrete.

John Watson, Construction Engineer:
I know there were some areas in the grouting that we just simply
couldn't fill the holes up. And they just pumped thousands of
yards of grout into them but yet they couldn't fill them up.

Reichert:
Finally as the dam filled, it began to leak, setting the stage
for disaster.

Russ Brown, Environmentalist:
By damming the river, by trapping that energy for the period of
less than a year, in fact from October of 1975 to June 5 of 1976,
enough energy was collected to provide the equivalent of a 30
kiloton atomic bomb, greater than the original atomic bomb
exploded over Japan in the 1940's.

So we take a low energy resource and convert it into a bomb,
every time we build a dam. And we do it with simple technology.

Reichert:
On June 5, 1976, the bomb went off.

Announcer 1:
As I sit here and watch I can see it's caving, it's just coming
apart. What can I say. People down stream had better get out.

Announcer 2:
The dam's gone.

Announcer 3:
The whole thing has gone now?

Announcer 2:
The whole thing has gone. It rolled over about 5 minutes ago.
Tell people not to worry about cattle, clothes and things like
that. The river is moving too fast, it's too high. If they try
it's a lot of wasted effort, we're liable to lose people.

Reichert:
Within minutes, a 20 foot wall of water rushed downstream killing
11 people and 16,000 head of livestock.

More than 25,000 people were forced from their homes as the water
washed through the towns of Sugar City and Rexburg, and flooded
thousands of acres of farmland.

Clair Yost, Teton Valley Resident:
When I first saw the wall of the flood, it was, there wasn't any
water in it, it was all debris, trailer houses, and dead cows,
and lumber, and propane tanks rolling. And what was amazing was
seeing houses floating down Main Street in Rexburg. That was
definitely interesting.

Drove out in front of it for a while and as I went west out of
Rexburg I drove down to the Teton River and it was flowing at
normal stage and sat there on the bridge for a few minutes and it
started to rise a little bit, so I though I might leave. And so I
turned the truck around and drove about a quarter of a mile and
looked in my rear view mirror and saw a trailer house go across
the bridge I was just sitting on.

It was a pretty crazy time.

Reichert:
After the flood, there was talk of rebuilding the dam.

It never happened. And today the remains of the Teton Dam stand
as a reminder of the failed effort to tame the river.

Fifteen miles upstream, there is another reminder, a boat ramp
left high and dry when the reservoir drained.

A hundred feet below, the Teton River runs free.

Today it attracts whitewater enthusiasts, drawn by the novelty of
floating through a land that was once underwater.

They float through a deep canyon, scarred when the dam collapsed.

Gavin McPherson, River Guide:
When the dam was here, when the water got sucked out of the dam,
it just really eroded. I mean, it didn't take very long at all
for that water to leave. And the dam was filled long enough to,
you know, pretty much kill everything that was underneath it.

So that's a pretty interesting part of the float to see the old
walls of where the reservoir was. You can tell where the trees,
you know, you can see where the trees that are older than
basically 20 - 25 years.

So that's a pretty interesting part of the float is to see that
and all the wildlife that you can see on your way down through
there, moose, eagles, geese, otters, beaver, it's a pretty
interesting float.

Yost:
I've lived in the Teton Valley about 25 years and the first time
I was down this river was a week ago. I've been running river all
over the United States and around Idaho for a long time but,
right here in my backyard, I've never tested it until this last
week and I was quite impressed and really enjoyed the cliffs.
And, you know, it's kind of like hobbit land down here, it's
really rounded, a lava flow that probably came from the north
here and just some really interesting shapes. I've been in a lot
of canyons and I've never quite seen them like this.

Reichert:
And the Teton River has its share of whitewater.

In fact, the floating may be better today than before the dam was
built.

Yost:
My understanding in talking with friends, that there was, you
know, there was some good water down here, but I understand that
when the water rushed out of here, a lot of the rapids,
especially in the middle narrows were formed just because of the
banks falling in and as the water rushed out. Or, as the water
eroded the banks and they started to cave in, even before the dam
broke. And I think it's created a lot of the rapids that are up
there. I'm not an expert on that and I'm just guessing at that.
But I understand it was a lot easier run than it was today,
earlier before the dam.

Reichert:
The biggest whitewater is a Class IV rapid called The Chutes, a
50 foot drop that will make the most competent boater think
twice.

McPherson:
You've got to stay out of a few holes in there and just kind of
play it right and let the water push you, if you get in the right
line. It's basically setting up the right spot. Once you set up
then it's pretty easy. If you get in the wrong spot then you're
in trouble. Bad things can happen.

But, it's fun. That makes the whole float right there.

Yost:
There's spots especially in the Southwest that I've never really
got a chance to get into, that are filled, like Glen Canyon,
which is covered with Lake Powell now, you know. It's interesting
to see, you know, how important those dams are. They are
important to some people but it's also important to have these
free flowing rivers. It would sure be interesting if this dam
never went, there'd be people, jet skis, water boats, wind
surfers.

I kind of like the way it is right now, there's not hardly
anybody down here. It's pretty untouched.

Reichert:
Further upstream, the Teton River is slower, quieter, twisting
and turning its way through the valley.

Some say it's the best fishing in the area.

Mitch Prissel, Fisherman:
In this stretch, it's all native cuts, rainbows, and what they
call a cuttbow, obviously a crossbreed between the two. And
there's a few brookies and once in a while you'll hear someone
catching a brown trout.

But generally you're going to catch fish from about 10 inches all
the way to 27 inches when you're very, very lucky. But, you know,
later in the summertime, to catch an 18 or 20 inch cutthroat on
this river is not too uncommon. So it's a fish friendly river.

Even on a bad day you're going to come up with something.

I think it's the best in the world, that I've been.
A bad day here is when you see like two boats on the river before
you pull out. But it's still a great day of fishing. And the
thing I've noticed is you get spoiled by it. Just going up like
to the Big Hole River in Montana or to the Henry's Fork where
it's, you know, it's instead of dodging boulders in the river
you're dodging boats and fishermen wading.

That's your typical Teton River PMD, got to have tail, long,
upright tail. But it's a little murky yet, so nobody's seen it.

I mean, generally you don't float this long without catching a
fish.

It's supposed to be like 2,200 fish per mile on this river, I've
heard. Caddis and PMD are definitely predominant hatches. You can
use an Adams on this river all year long too. And then here in a
couple of weeks, let's say this year probably like by the end of
July or into August, I imagine we're going to have a fabulous
grasshopper too. And that goes for a while and that's probably
the best, that's my best time on the river.

It's just beautiful to be out here everyday on the water. This
entire river, up here in this valley, it's like every other bend
is a view of the Tetons. It's a little inspiration just to enjoy
it, days when you're not catching fish.

You can't beat that view.

Reichert:
To some, mountains are a thing of beauty. To others, they are
something to conquer. And the Tetons are no exception.

But these peaks remained unscaled until 1898, when a climber
named Billy Owen became the first to reach the top of the Grand
Teton.

Others followed, but one name is legendary in the Tetons, Paul
Petzoldt.

In 1924, the 16 year-old Petzoldt and a friend decided to climb
the Grand Teton.

They hitchhiked to Jackson, Wyoming, where the local sheriff
immediately tried to discourage them.

Paul Petzoldt, Mountaineer:
He come up and started, took George off to the side and told him
that everybody in town was talking about us. And they said that
they should save our lives and inform our parents to send us out
of there, hog tie us or something, keep us from going up the
Tetons.

Reichert:
The next morning, however, Petzoldt and his partner were on the
mountain. The climb nearly ended in disaster the first night in a
sudden storm.

Petzoldt:
In the morning we could barely move. We could hardly think. And I
say facetiously that the only reason we were still alive is
because hypothermia wasn't in the dictionary then.

Reichert:
Despite the odds, they reached the top.

When they returned to Jackson, they encountered the legendary
Billy Owen.

Petzoldt:
And it happened that Billy Owen was still there. And he came
running out there with the same run that he had, and he started
questioning us. And we told him about the name up there. And he
left a little metal pennant up there. It said Rocky Mountain Club
on it. And we told him that the lightning had hit it 20 times and
knocked little holes in the edges so it looked like a saw. And he
turned dramatically to the crowd and put his arms around us and
said, "These two young men have been to the very top of the Grand
Teton." So that changed my life right there.

Reichert:
His climbing career was launched.

In 1938 he made the first American attempt on K-2 in the
Himalayas.

Bad weather and limited supplies kept him from reaching the
summit, but Petzoldt had made it to 26,000 feet without oxygen,
an unheard of accomplishment.

During World War II the military tapped Petzoldt to train U.S.
servicemen to fight in the European mountains.

After the war, the Tetons called, and Petzoldt and partner Glen
Exum started a climbing school.

Petzoldt:
Somebody said that I climbed it 400 times. I think maybe that's
too many. I know one time I climbed it seven times in seven days,
because I was, everybody wanted me as a guide, so I just stayed
timberline and let Glen Exum or some of the people that were
training bring them up to me.

I'd say, "Bring up the victims, I'll take them on up to the top."

Reichert:
By now, thousands of people have climbed the Grand Teton.

But that does little to diminish the accomplishments of those
early climbers.

Dennis Dunn, Climber:
I can't imagine what they would be doing today, because if you
look at their routes that they established and especially Exum
and Petzoldt, old floppy boots and with hemp ropes tied around
their waist where the leader must not fall, and those climbs are
rated 5-8, 5-9 today, still. They're still major hard climbs.

Reichert:
Today's climbers are far better equipped and trained than their
predecessors, which makes the accomplishment of those climbing
pioneers even more incredible.

Dunn:
They led in an era when the protection was not as good. When the
clothing as not as good. The ropes would break your spine if you
fell and hit the end of one. They were amazing, amazing people.

Reichert:
Despite the improvements in gear, climbing in the Tetons is still
a challenge.

On the Grand Wall, climbers struggle to find hand and footholds
as they inch their way up the Z-crack, a 120 foot sheer rock
face.

Every few feet they pause.

Clinging to the cliff they jam metal wedges, called protection,
into cracks in the rock.

Dunn:
You clip your rope to them. If you fall, these then hold the fall
and will keep you from hitting the ground.

The longer you run this out, or the greater distance you are
above your protection, then the greater the fall you're going to
take, because if you climbed five feet above the last piece of
protection you have placed, and you fall you are going to take at
least a ten foot fall: five foot to the protection plus an
additional five feet below.

Reichert:
The climber gets further protection from his partner holding the
rope at the bottom.

Dunn:
The person on belay is holding the rope through a belay device,
or running the rope through a belay device which will then lock
if you fall and prevent you from hitting the ground.

He's your protection on the ground.
Spencer Blanding, Climber:
It's real important that I keep track, when he's climbing, that I
keep track of where he is at all times. I am constantly watching
him. I don't let my, I mean I, I always am keeping an eye on
where he is so that I know if I see that he is beginning to fall,
I can immediately lock things down and make sure that he's not
going to go anywhere.

Reichert:
Later, the person on belay climbs, retrieving the gear as they
make their way up the rock face.

Blanding:
I think just about anybody could that has an interest. It does
require some upper body strength. It is physical but it also is a
thinking type thing. You can't just be up on the rocks saying,
"If I am strong enough, I can physically grunt through this."
That's not always the case. Sometimes it is the person with a
little more finesse, a little more delicate touch who is able to
succeed in certain climbs.

Reichert:
But sometimes even finesse is not enough.

Blanding:
I ran into a spot where I just couldn't find a place to hold
onto, and so at that point I came down. That's part of learning.
That's part of the game. And next week I'll come back here, and
we'll do it again, and I'll find another way, and I'll make it
up. And that's no problem.

Reichert:
As in many sports, climbing sometimes favors the young.

Dunn:
Ryan's 15 years old but he'd been climbing now for two and a half
years. He climbs very well. He has read all of the material he
can read. He pays attention and he's cautious. He's not somebody
to run it out or to take chances.

And that's what you want in a good climbing partner, is someone
who is strong and knows their limits and is not afraid to say so.

Ryan Blanding, Climber:
I like how it challenges myself and I can always try stuff and
then if I can't do it, I can come back and try it again.

S. Blanding:
He's probably exceeded my level of climbing and it's probably
just because of his youth, the strength to weight ratio. He's in
a prime position to be a real good climber.

Reichert:
Despite all the changes in climbing, the basic premise is still
the same--it is the climber against the mountain.

Dunn:
You can't think about anything else, just what you're doing at
that moment. And the feeling of satisfaction of just being able
to do something new or to make a new move or to get up a route
that you've never been able to do before.

I like having to focus all of my mental energies and physical
energy towards the climb. Some people play chess and all their
mental energy goes there. For me, it's all my mental energies go
to the rock.

Reichert:
Early on a summer morning, the Teton County Fairgrounds is full
of activity.

Balloonists from around the country are in town for the annual
Teton Valley Balloon Festival.

Experienced pilots, aided by volunteers fill the balloons with
hot air and make other preparations to launch.

One last check and it's time to take off.

Suzanne Crosley, Balloon Pilot:
And we'll do a radio check. Celebration to celebration chase.

Well, we're off.

It's the most gorgeous place to fly. And a great backdrop against
the mountains. And then the people here are wonderful. I've never
met any cranky people here in this valley. We always have
wonderful flights.

I teach the first grade and a balloon came to our school, a Remax
balloon, and tethered out in our back field. And I got to take a
ride on this tethered balloon.

And up at the ends of those ropes I was saying, "Cut those ropes.
Let's do this for real." And then I got another chance to see
balloons when I was in a bicycle century race. And so then I
started crewing after that and I've been doing it ever since.

I love to fly and I love to fly the balloon, and I love to fly in
anything.

What a gorgeous morning.

We're looking down on all the different fields and the different
colors of green.

It's like a patchwork quilt out here in the valley.

I think we'll just go over the top of them and then we'll come
down lower.

I like contour flying, which is right down along the ground, and
you get as close as you can to the ground without touching it and
keep the balloon right there. That is really fun to do.

Get a little bit higher so we can get over the fences. Then we'll
get right down there on top of the grass again.

When I used to crew, and I used to get to ride I could never
understand a pilot skimming across the ground. I thought, "Get us
up high were we can see something. What fun is this being down on
the ground?" But as soon as I became a pilot that flying down
close is real fun.

It takes a little more skill.

I see some horses up ahead of us so I'm going to go up high
again, so that we won't be going right over the top of them.

We want to stay at least 500 feet above animals. The way animals
are built, they're looking down and when they hear big loud
noises up above them it can startle them. And especially if they
are in a tight enclosure like a corral. They sometimes can get
running and hurt themselves. So if we see animals, we're going to
try to be high enough that we're not going to scare them.

Interesting old machinery here. Sometimes I feel like I'm
eavesdropping or snooping or something.

Spying, yeah. You can't keep any secrets from balloons.

Well this is one of the most beautiful places in the worlds to
fly. All those Tetons over a backdrop and then a great valley to
fly in. This is God's country, I think.

Reichert:
In the winter, early settlers thought the Teton Valley was
anything but blessed.

Deep snow and below zero temperatures made life difficult.

As one pioneer put it, "There was little to do but wait for
spring."

But in the 1930's that changed when valley residents found a new
way to enjoy the winter.

About 100 of them built a ski run on a hillside near Victor.

Soon, people were coming from all over Eastern Idaho to ski.

Today the skiing attracts people from all over the world.
Grand Targhee, just across the border in Wyoming, boasts of more
than 500 inches of snow each year.

With a reputation for great powder skiing, Targhee is a popular
destination.

For some, the ski hill is just a little too crowded, so they find
their excitement elsewhere.

With deep snow and steep hills, the Tetons are perfect for
snowboarding.

And the backcountry is especially appealing.

Prissel:
It's beautiful. The snow, for the most part, when you're out in
the backcountry is going to be powder. Which at the mountain is
going to be tracked powder, or it's going to be packed powder, or
it's going to be, you know, hard surface snow.

I love open bowls, where you can fully take advantage of a
snowboard, where you can point it for a long distance and time
and carry a tremendous amount of speed and then maybe lay out a
big old surf style heelside turn. It's just the feeling of
flowing.

Just flowing with the hill, looking for any natural terrain
that's going to help me lean into the snow to flow, to flow down
the mountain.

Just to be in the rhythm.

Reichert:
With new equipment, snowboarders are finding even more untracked
powder.

Prissel:
This snowboard here is the best backcountry snowboard available.
It's called the Split Decision. It's designed and rides just like
a snowboard but it splits apart and is used to ski into locations
that you'd never find anywhere unless you are on a pair of cross
country skis or touring skis.

It's snowboard state, it is a normal snowboard. In two minutes
you can take this board apart and turn it into a pair of skis.

Misha Thompson, Snowboarder:
The access that it allows is incredible, for touring, for being
able to get in places that it's really, really difficult to
access with snowshoes.

I like to get away. I like to get in the trees. I like to get in
the mountains. You've heard of earning your turns. And your turns
feel a lot different if you've just broken a sweat getting there.
In the backcountry it's like every turn is precious and you
really enjoy it and that's nice.

Reichert:
With better equipment and clothing, valley residents no longer
have to just wait for spring to come, they're now able to enjoy
the Tetons year round.

Prissel:
There's something to do each season here. You've got the
mountains, you have the rivers, and you have one natural great
big playground.

Reichert:
Today, this Idaho playground is attracting more and more people.
Many of the newcomers are from just across the Wyoming border,
fleeing the high prices of Jackson Hole.

Geneo Knight, Teton County Commissioner:
What they're saying is that the billionaires are pushing the
millionaires out of Jackson. It's getting so expensive to live
there, people are coming over here. But nationwide, we're number
six in the nation. Idahowide, for the state, we're number one as
far as growth.

Reichert:
Each new business and home means greater demand for county
services. And as a result, higher taxes.

Knight:
I have a business in town, a restaurant. When I first started
here in 1989, my property taxes were under $500. Now they're over
$1,200. So all I can see is that it's going to keep going up to
provide these services.

It causes an inflation spiral, because as a businessman, if it
costs me more, I have to charge more. And if I have to charge
more, it's harder on people and everybody ends up charging more.

Reichert:
Farmers who can't charge more are stuck. So when a developer
offers money for the land, many sell out.

Mike Whitfield, Teton Regional Land Trust:
The prices for grain, and potatoes, and hay, and cattle, all the
farm commodities we grow here, are at almost record lows. And so
it's a real difficult time for farmers.

They've got a huge asset in their land value but it's really
difficult to make a living off of it. And there's a lot of
incentive to sell to developers.

Reichert:
Toni Hill is one landowner who is selling, but not to developers.
Instead, she's selling to the Teton Regional Land Trust, for a
small portion of what the property is worth.

Whitfield:
This is an area along Teton River that's probably the highest
land values in Teton Valley. There are properties along the river
that are selling around the neighborhood of 20 or 25,000 an acre.
And without the easement, there's potential for quite a few
homesites here.

Reichert:
Instead, the land will remain open to the public.

Toni Hill, Landowner:
We felt that so many people when they hear the big dollars they
can get for land in the Teton Basin that they'll sell and almost
always the new landowner, one of the very first things they do is
put up the no trespassing signs. And then one family and their
friends enjoy something instead of the whole community.

Reichert:
David Foster also worked with the land trust.

This section of Fox Creek was homesteaded by the Foster family.

Over the years, the property was split up among various
relatives, including some who wanted to sell to developers.

When Foster couldn't afford to buy the property on his own, the
land trust helped.

David Foster, Landowner:
There's some stipulations. Of course, first of all, there's an
easement on it forever. But it's two homesites and what it takes
to run cattle on it and operate. This way, I could afford to buy
it.

Whitfield:
This lower stretch of Fox Creek is important for wintering
trumpeter swans. It's really rich for fish and wildlife. It's one
of the more important spawning streams for cutthroat trout. It's
also, you know, another of the values is its use as grazing. So
in part, we're trying to maintain open space for fish and
wildlife and then with compatible use by livestock grazing.

I think it's a win-win solution. The landowner keeps his property
in the family and at the same time he's maintaining sustainable
cattle grazing here. And doing so in a manner that protects the
fish and wildlife habitat and actually will do some restoration
of habitat here.

Reichert:
Foster and Hill could have made far more money selling their land
to developers. But then, for them, money isn't everything.
Hill:
It's just a wonderful opportunity for me to give something back
to the community. And for my children, my children are fourth
generation that have been living in this valley, and for them to
always be able to bring their descendants, and children, and
friends here and not to have it taken away from them. To me
that's worth a lot.

Reichert:
To truly appreciate the Tetons, you must see them from the air.

Pilot Mike McCollister is lucky enough to do just that.

Every day a single engine plane tows his glider a thousand or so
feet above the ground.

Mike McCollister, Glider Pilot:
On the tow, I'm just flying formation on the tow plane, trying to
stay just the right height above him, and right behind him, and
keeping the tow rope taut.

You have to focus 100 percent on the tow. When you're learning
how to do this soaring, type of flying, learning how to do the
tow is one of the more demanding aspects of it.

I never really thought I could be a pilot. I though you had
somebody pretty special to do that. But I decided to take some
lessons and did all right and just kept at it. And come to find
out that anybody can fly really as long as you have average
intelligence and average coordination. Basically if you can drive
a car safely you can fly a plane.

Once we release, we just continue flying. The tow plane makes a
diving turn to the left. We make a slight climbing turn to the
right to get separation and we just keep flying.

Now we're soaring. We're gaining altitude. I found a column of
rising air and I'm in it, and trying to stay in it, and trying to
find the strongest part.

We're climbing at about 300 feet a minute right now. And now
we're 500 feet a minute.

There's a few things out there that can help us find lift,
soaring birds, certain kinds of clouds. Flying along certain
areas in the topography, along ridge lines. Looking for dust
devils on the ground which might indicate that thermal has kicked
off. There's a number of things but there's no guarantees.

Reichert:
If you're lucky enough to find some lifts, you gain an entirely
new perspective of the Tetons.

From thousands of feet above the ground, the mountains and
valleys seem compressed, and what is miles in the distance seems
to be within just a few feet.

McCollister:
People have no idea what this is like.

All the mountains, we're headed right toward the Grand right now,
Mount Owen, Middle Teton, South Teton, Cascade Canyon, Jackson
Lake, Jenny Lake, Ice Flow Lake, Wigwams, Teton Canyon, Lake
Solitude, Mount Moran. The list is endless.

Everybody that we take on this flight, they're just totally blown
away.

And there's no way you can really tell people what it is like.
It's just too good.

It's the most unbelievable experience that you can imagine,
soaring in the Tetons, up with the birds, using the natural
currents of air is just unbelievable. You get right in there. We
see the climbers, they wave to us, we wave to them. We see
beautiful mountain lakes, glaciers, canyons. Unbelievable. You've
got to soar the Tetons before you start pushing up daisies.
That's for sure.

Reichert:
While the east side of the Tetons with Jackson Hole and Grand
Teton National Park may be more famous, it is the view from this
side which inspired the early explorers. Today these mountains
attract a new breed drawn to the outdoor life lived in the shadow
of the Tetons.


Closed captioning: Kelly Roberts


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