The Perfect Campsite I Almost Didn’t Find
I’m hesitant to even tell you about this spot. Like a secret powder stash, a camp spot that nears perfection is a find you want to keep all to yourself. Regardless of how often you are able to visit, it’s your hope that somehow it remains clear of other humans, just waiting for your return. Selfish, yes; but this is how the outdoor crowd plays.
But there is a battle. Adventure journalists also have a longing to tell the story of the places they visit and connect others with those places. We want people to explore, to enjoy, to take photos and to share with us their experiences in those places. And the truth is, we like to make a living; this helps us adventure more. Thus, the divulging wins out — nearly every time.
(Unless you tell us the locale is “off the record.” Then we are powerless to share.)
Of Yellowstone and Teton, the two national parks within Wyoming, Teton is my preference; except for the tourist herd that flocks to Jenny Lake, this park is the quieter and more visually dramatic sister. So, after a long day of hiking and photography, that is where I found myself settling into the evening, along the shores of Jackson Lake in a campground called Lizard Creek.
Located on Fonda Point, the campground a fair number of sites — but all are far from equal. While a good portion are lakeside, their views were obstructed by the abundant mixed evergreens that keep each site feeling private and secluded. My hiking partner and I had nearly settled on a neighboring spot when the heavens parted and showed us the way: Tucked in the midst of the forest is campsite #39, a walk-in site that obscures itself until you walk behind the spruce and fir barricade and realize all its glory.
It’s been a few years since I was back, but the perfection I felt as I first strolled into the site is as clear as day. A warm scent rose up with each step on the springing needle-covered floor and I was struck at the cavernous feel of the towering trees. They funneled my vision straight to the shore of Jackson Lake, on which the site sat, without a single thing blocking the peaceful view.
In quiet reverence, we constructed our tent on the soft ground. Without much else to do besides explore and cook dinner, we took the more exciting option first and proceeded down the length of our site. It fell over a short decline at the edge of the firs and dropped our feet onto gravelly sand.
We stood in awe. What was simply a peaceful view from further back had turned into one of the most incredible views I’d ever seen from a public campground. Glossy ripples paraded against the shore as the entirety of the massive lake spread out before us. On the opposite side, the 7,000’+ profile of Harem Hill rose up from this body of water, surrounded by other summits peeking into the scene.
“Never tell anyone about this spot,” I whispered. My campmate nodded. It was more of an acknowledgement of our luck rather than a bonding promise (hence my not being held to a “off-the-record” standard). Heck, it’s not as though we were the only ones who had ever camped there, and afterwards we readily shared the coordinates of the spot with friends and families headed in that direction. But in that moment of early July, in a place just north of the ever-popular Colter Bay campground, we felt we had the place to ourselves.
That night, after dinner was cleared and food was stored in one of the bear lockers, we fell into home-spun shenanigans. With no neighbors next to us and no light pollution due to the lack of nearby civilization, we took out the DSLR and began painting pictures with our headlamps. It was a charade-type game played via in conjunction with the camera’s slow exposures and entertained us enormously. The campground darkened, the night deepened, and two girls’ laughter grew louder with each frame captured.
Our fit of giggles quieted around eleven p.m. We wandered down to the lake and peered up, observing the stars. They reminded me of an oreo milkshake in reverse; there were that many visible bits of the cosmos spun across the dark canvas.
I would have stayed out in the open air, tucked underneath the heavy sky, but the narrow strip of beach likely would have rolled me into the cold water sometime in the night. We gathered up the camera and headlamps and fell asleep with just the thick fir blanket below our tent and sleeping bags.
Two mornings later, I returned for a final view of the lake from our seemingly private beach. I perched myself on a rock or a log — I forget which at this point — and dug my toes into the tiny pebbles that made up the shoreline. The weekend had been one of solitude at the campsite, with a surprising lack of humans encroaching into our view. Watching the sun catch the crests of water as they moved across Jackson Lake, I vowed not to forget and sat there working hard to imprint the vision in my memory.
The impression remained, waiting for this chance to be shared. I invite you all, whole-heartedly, to find this miniscule sliver of utopia in the northernmost reach of Teton National Park and soak in a bit of its perfection.