Turpin Meadow sits alongside the Buffalo Fork River in the Bridger-Teton Wilderness area. It’s a jumping off point for some amazing hikes. It’s not large for an alpine meadow, perhaps covering less than a square mile in total. It’s at just under 7,000 feet in elevation. Tall grasses in the summer give the meadow an unassuming look as you drive past it on the dirt road leading to the parking area. To be honest, if you are standing just outside the meadow, it’s almost a letdown. I’ve been in some spectacular meadows and this one seemed…meh.
As I began to cross it however, I realized just how wrong I was. At my feet was an amazing carpet of ground cover, so beautiful, so colorful, and so elegant it nearly took my breath away. Pinks, purples, lavenders, greens, and golds – all just out of sight thanks to the tall grasses. It was as though someone intentionally camouflaged a fine European garden. The plants could only be seen by being directly over them. And they were slightly different than the flowers I normally experience in the higher elevation meadows. Maybe it’s the soil, the proximity to the river, the particular elevation, I don’t know. I’m a terrible botanist. Whatever the reason, the result was a landscape that could only be appreciated by focusing on the details. That is until you turn around.
At the far end of the meadow, I spun to take a final look across the grasses before starting the grueling 1,200 foot climb up the Clear Creek Trail. I was almost shocked by the amazing vista that had snuck up behind me. In the center of this mind-blowing view was the Teton mountain range, and Mount Moran, the only peak in the range named for an artist, was smack in the middle. And suddenly I recognized the parallel between the work I create and the way I observe the landscape. One should take in the vista, but not miss the opportunity to look closely at the ground.