My Park, My Story tells the stories of people who are passionate about Grand Teton National Park and are committed to protecting it for the enjoyment of future generations. In this edition, Foundation Board Member Tom Saylak shares his family’s decades-long connection to Grand Teton.
“Jackson Hole and the Tetons are the most important thing in the world to our family, and Grand Teton National Park has been the most influential element in our lives.” Although he was only two years old, Tom Saylak’s first trip to the Tetons was one that shaped his family’s identity and passion for decades to come.
Tom was born in Delaware. His family’s neighbors and close friends met at the Bar BC Dude Ranch in Grand Teton National Park. The two fell in love, got married, and eventually settled on the east coast. They often shared stories of the Tetons with Tom’s parents, who loved western movies but had never been to the region themselves.
When Tom was two and his older brother was five, their parents rented a camper and tent and headed West. They visited many national parks, but Jackson Hole and Grand Teton were by far the highlight of the trip. “I spent my second birthday at Jenny Lake. I’ve only missed two summers in Jackson Hole since then and I just turned sixty.”
The Saylaks returned almost every year after that and, in 1969, Tom’s parents bought a three-acre lot just south of Moose on Meadow Road. They built a log cabin over the next few years and it was finished by the time Tom was a senior in high school. After graduation, he and his friend drove a U-Haul full of furniture across the country and spent the summer in the park. Tom and his family spent many summers in Moose, and many of the friendships forged with those Meadow Road families still remain so important in their lives
Tom married Laurie, who also grew up camping in the Tetons. Their daughter Genevieve ‘s love for the park was cemented by her summers at Teton Valley Ranch Camp culminating in hiking the Teton Crest Trail. Thankfully her wonderful husband Greg experienced the Tetons growing up and loves the park, too.
Among their favorite Grand Teton traditions are hikes all over the park, boating on Jackson Lake, picnicking in the high meadow on Blacktail Butte, canoeing on the Oxbow, playing music with the neighborhood Moose Droppings Band, and the annual Dad-Daughter hike of the Cascade-Paintbrush Canyon Loop.
Their love of this place is deep, which is why Tom joined Grand Teton National Park Foundation’s board of directors nine years ago. His dedication to our mission to preserve and protect Grand Teton has had a tremendous impact on our organization—both the park and Foundation have benefited greatly from his leadership and expertise. Tom recently termed off of our board and he will be greatly missed. Thank you, Tom!