This week the 19th International Symposium on Fluorine Chemistry and the 3rd International Symposium on Fluorous Technologies are taking place jointly at Jackson Lake Lodge in Grand Teton National Park in Wyoming. Imagine taking a premier collection of scientific presentations and holding them in a vacation setting, and that is what we have here. Some 300 of the world’s leading fluorine chemists are in attendance, representing 24 different countries. Besides great chemistry, what drew these scientists to the conference is the backdrop of the Grand Teton Mountain Range. The mountains are a constant presence, mesmerizing. People flock to the front of the lodge and just stand in the Rocky Mountain sunshine and rarified air and stare. It doesn’t matter if you have stared at the Tetons before; you can’t help coming back for more. Then there is the threat of wildlife at any moment—grizzly and black bears, moose, elk, pronghorn antelope, and wolves. Even on the first night of the conference a brown bat got into the lodge and swooped over people’s heads. Of course big animal sightings are rare and most people settle for watching squirrels and song birds. Then they look up at the Tetons again. Besides that, the conference organizers outdid themselves with arrangements for the accommodations, food and drink, and extracurricular programming. There have been Native American musicians: Calvin Standing Bear (flute, vocals) and James Torres (keyboard), who make up the group Red Tail Chasing Hawks, performed during conference sessions, including their popular song Fly, Eagle, Fly. And there have been displays of eagles and other birds of prey by the Rocky Mountain Raptor Program, which aids injured birds.
Another event was a western barbeque with a horse whispering demonstration. Made popular by a book and movie, horse whispering is a kindler, gentler way to break in horses for riding. It is a spiritual approach, as a cowboy demonstrated by taking a three-year old horse that had never been ridden before and in about 90 minutes was able to saddle and ride the horse. Initial skeptics went away in awe.
There are also rafting trips on the Snake River, dinner cruises on Jackson Lake, bus tours of nearby Yellowstone National Park, and more. Did I mention this is a set of chemistry conferences?