Carl + Jane | Grand Teton Wedding Elopement

Written by and Photography by Charla in Celebrations, Travel

This is the final in the series “Four Days in Yellowstone“.

After what seemed like an endless drive, we turned off the main two-lane highway onto a dusty road in the middle of nowhere. We nearly missed the sign that said “Schwabacher Landing”, the place where Carl had planned for us to visit all along. We left our car in the dusty parking lot and trudged past an artist painting the mountains, a dad and his kids with fishing poles, and a few other tourists smiling at our eyebrow-raising group: Charla and I dressed in black, Carl in a black tuxedo and Jane in a creamy white wedding dress that brushed pebbles, brambles and stiff grass along the dirt path as Carl led us down a hiking trail to just. the. right. spot.

Around a bend emerged the tall, razor-sharp peaks of the Grand Tetons, their snow-capped peaks matching the color and texture of Jane’s dress and we caught our breath. I felt a lump in my throat, not the for the last time. “This is the spot!”, Carl said.

The local county clerk, marriage license and ceremony papers in hand, gathered us together. Five human beings, millions of mosquitoes who left us alone, the mountains, and no one else. I felt my pocket to see if two rings were still in it.


Exactly one year ago we found ourselves on a plane to Yellowstone National Park to take part in the wedding of our friends Carl and Jane. Having survived the teeth-chattering turbulent descent into Salt Lake City, we pressed on to Cody, Wyoming, and began living an experience that turned into the series “Four Days in Yellowstone” here at So There’s That. With life and projects taking over the rest of our summer and subsequent year, the unfinished Four Days in Yellowstone series sat quietly on our blog as other posts piled up.

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One year later, and with our own engagement just getting started, I thought it would be a great time to revisit the main reason we went to Yellowstone: a wedding! In fact, it was more of an elopement, and refreshingly so. It was just Carl and Jane, Charla, her camera, and me. No extensive planning, no need to write one check after another, no vendors, no event location walk-throughs, no cake tastings. No drama.

“I could do an elopement,” said Charla at the time as we looked across Yellowstone’s expansive beauty. “No reception, no huge guest list, no drama.” An elopement might be great, I thought. And yet, I said that if we really ever eloped, my mom would tear my arms and legs off. So in the interest of self-preservation, I opted for just enjoying this event all on its own.

The Grand Teton National Park sits in Wyoming’s top left corner, just below Yellowstone National Park. Together the two parks along with other popular visitor spots like Jackson Hole (or just “Jackson”, we’re still not sure) are a powerful magnet for skiers, hikers, backpackers, campers, families and tourists from around the world.

Grand Teton and Yellowstone are Carl’s own personal shangri-la, having camped there with his parents and his sister Karen for years as a kid. He has been known to go to Yellowstone in the dead of winter, freezing cold, barely able to move outside his hotel room. He just can’t help it. He returns refreshed and renewed every time. We all need a shangri-la like that.

After the brief ceremony, we paused for the silent applause of the Teton mountain peaks, took pictures, and decamped for the Teton Mountain Lodge. The four of us walked past smiling onlookers, past another wedding party, past another picture window view of the mountains, and walked into the bar before dinner.

The afternoon sun lingered with a warm glow as it drooped toward the mountains. We sat at our bar table and watched the mountains, the sky, the other bar patrons. A cut-glass lamp dangled above us.

“Karen always loved rainbows,” Carl said. “They were a favorite part of nature for her.” Karen passed away many years ago while she was in college in Oregon. The family never again camped in Yellowstone. “When my dad and I drove to Oregon for her, we saw rainbows along the highway.”

We wiped tears and sat in silence. The setting sun sliced across the room and illuminated the cut-glass lamp above us. Just like a prism, the cut glass split the sun’s rays into a full rainbow of colors, and that rainbow splashed on top of Jane’s wedding dress, across her lap.


 

The next day was time for us to return home. I woke up early – too early – and opened the 4:00am drapes. The black sky was turning dark blue, then lightening grudgingly to purple. The Teton mountains, snow-capped in July, shimmered blue-ice and lightened to burgundy, then lavender, then pink. I watched in silence, and the minutes stopped ticking by.

We said our goodbyes to Carl and Jane at the tiny, two-gate airport in Cody, Wyoming. We were heading home to our family and they were spending a few more days in Yellowstone. Our flight lifted off toward Salt Lake City and we hoped that the landing wouldn’t be as bumpy this time.

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