The Barn at the End of the Lane
At the southeast end of the Grand Teton National Park, you'll find a dirt road known as Mormon Row. Named for the Mormon Pioneers that settled the area in the 19th century, it is the home of some very well known buildings. Mormon Row is a photographer's dream. These wonderfully aged buildings, with the Grand Teton Range in the background, are beautifully impressive and take on varied hues at different times of the day. I personally long to take up permanent residence every time I am there.
The Moulton barns are two of the most photographed buildings in the Western US. Since these barns are the most accessible, nearly everyone I know who has been to this area has a photo of them. Those two are pictured below.
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The lesser known Thomas Murphy barn can be found at the Northern most end of Mormon Row. The road to this barn and surrounding buildings has been closed to motorists for years. To get to the Murphy Barn one must go by foot. Although not a long walk , this frequently deters visitors from venturing out to see this very unique barn. If the walk does not deter you, the fact that there is often a large herd of bison surrounding the barn probably will. At times it seems as if the bison are, in some strange way, actually protecting the sanctity of the area. The final deterrent to venturing down to the end lane, which can be quite unsettling, is knowing that when you finally reach it you will find a sign that reminds you that you are now in grizzly country. Still, on a beautiful day when the bison have wandered on and you have bear spray in hand, the walk out to this majestic barn is well worth it.
The Murphy barn has always intrigued me. A close inspection reveals a rather unusual number of doors - some large, some small, some odd shaped or oddly placed. They never cease to amaze me as I speculate the purpose of each and every door. As a photographer, I can imagine a great Christmas photo of a wonderfully large family peaking out through all the doors. Is that why so many? Did each family member have their own door? Is the Murphy barn some sort of metaphorical visual for "Murphy's Law"? Truth is I'd probably be disappointed if I were to learn the real reason for all the doors. Sometimes one's imagination is much more amusing and colorful than reality. A photographer once said that "a picture is a secret about a secret". The Thomas Moulton barn doors are a delightfully splendid secret indeed.
For me, this barn reminds me of the many doors of our lives. Some that when opened brought us great joy - others that bring us unhappiness and yet still leave no regrets. Some that we opened that should have remained closed. Others that probably should have been opened but sadly we never did. Some we close but leave unlocked in the hope of a return. This barn may offer us a whole new lesson for life's doors - when one door closes, or doesn't work out, just cut a new one.
I'm always a bit sad if I find bison guarding the Murphy barn or if I actually can venture out to it I'm sad when it's time to leave. The other barns on Mormon Row are wonderful and charming, but this barn has an elusive story that never fails to heighten my imagination, senses, and emotions. This barn leaves you with a sense of ownership, and like the bison, a desire to protect this beautiful earth we call home. Barns and places like this are the reason I love being a photographer.
Maybe that's all too deep. After all, it's just a barn. But if you ever get the chance, look beyond the other more popular buildings of Mormon Row and visit the barn at the end of the lane when no bison are in sight. Take your bear spray and imagination with you and it will surely not disappoint. And take your camera..... you'll want a keepsake of this very special place.