After leaving Colorado, I drove to Jackson to pick up Anne, who flew there to join me for the remainder of my almost-three-week road trip. We spent several days in Grand Tetons National Park, which exceeded my expectations, in terms of both hiking and sheer beauty, then drove through Yellowstone and headed home.
August 16 – Drive to Jackson
Sage and I were on the road by 7:00 a.m., her first car ride since we arrived in Fort Collins. During the first couple hours, I finished listening to “Slavery by Another Name”, the book I’m “reading” for my political book club. While sometimes painfully repetitive, this book opened my eyes to the fact that slavery in America didn’t fully end until WW II. This is the history that should be taught in school.
Taking Nancy’s advice, I drove the slightly longer, scenic route up Highway 287 through Wyoming. An excellent choice, especially along the Wind River. Making my typical stops – gas, bathroom, fetch with Sage, snacks, and a few quick photos – I would have reached Jackson around 4:00. Instead I drove through that tourist-filled town an hour later, after stopping at multiple viewpoints overlooking the craggy peaks of the Tetons. I had to drag myself away so I could get to Victor, Idaho by 5:00 to drop off Sage at the Hairball Hotel, where she is being boarded for the first time with a stranger. I nervously left her there for two nights so we can hike inside the national park. I had enough time for a quick stop at the Visitor Center in Jackson before picking Anne up from the airport shortly after 6:00.
We ate a mediocre dinner, including a shared buffalo burger, at the Mangy Moose next door to our mediocre lodging, the hostel in Teton Village. The salad with grilled watermelon was flooded with so much dressing that it was inedible. Fortunately, our waitress replaced it with one with dressing on the side, a big improvement, though still odd.
August 17 – Jenny Lake
After an uncomfortable night on a worn-out mattress, we drive north to Jenny Lake and took a boat shuttle to the opposite shore. There we took a beautiful hike up past a spot called Inspiration Point (I think every park has one of them) into appropriately named Cascade Canyon. Given the altitude, above 7000‘, we didn’t go too far, keeping our hike to 6-7 miles round trip.
Back in Teton Village, we took the Bridger Gondola (free after 5:00 pm) up to the top. The Deck was closing when we arrived, so we ate indoors at the pricier Piste Mountain Bistro. We enjoyed a small meal, especially the wine and the view.
August 18 – Sunrise and Hiking
We left our room at 5:30 am so we could reach the historic Moulton Barn before sunrise. This structure, all that remains of a homestead built in the early 1900’, provides a nice foreground for the mountain range behind. On our way, in the dim pre-dawn light, we saw an elk with the largest rack of antlers I’ve ever seen. And while we waited for the sun to reach the peaks we were entertained by buffalo blocking cars on the road.
Afterwards, we ate a chilly outdoor breakfast at Dornans, then took another perfect hike selected by Anne: the Bradly and Taggart Lakes loop. With an early start we initially had the trail to ourselves, keeping one hand on our bear spray just in case we surprised one. The nice dirt trail, with gentle inclines and declines, provided great views of the jagged peaks and took us to the shore of two lakes.
We were done before noon and drove up to Coulter Bay for a bit of souvenir shopping and lunch at Jackson Lodge. My trout was good. Afterwards we drove over the Teton Pass to pick up Sage. She was playing fetch when we arrived and seemed happy. We ate dinner in Teton Village at the Alpenhof Bistro; the apple strudel we split for dessert was one of the best I’ve ever eaten.
Aug 19 – Red Hills
We got a leisurely start this morning, sleeping in and going out to breakfast; we split a yummy crepe at Alpenhof. We ate on the deck so Sage could join us, almost staying warm at the only sunny table. We needed to hike outside the park since dogs aren’t allowed on trails in National Parks, so we searched online and found a short hike in the Red Hills, east of the park. After a dozen miles on a dirt road, we came up empty handed. There were red hills, but no trailheads. Another couple came along looking for the same trail and they couldn’t find it either. We ended up taking a short walk along the base of the hills and heading back to the park.
We got disappointing takeout food from Signal Lodge, intending to eat overlooking Jackson Lake. However, the only picnic tables were in the direct sun so we ate on a bench in the shade with trash cans blocking our view. Anne had a headache, so we headed back to the hostel. She rested in our dark room while I hung out at a picnic table near the hostel sorting photos with Sage loungeing beside me on the lawn. Several people stopped by to pet her and compliment her good behavior.
Aug 20 – Yellowstone
Another early rising, this time to catch sunrise at Oxbow Bend on our way to Yellowstone. It was not as colorful as we’d hoped, but peaceful with a bit of mist rising and the sound of unseen cranes whooping. In the distance I could see dots of buffalo, or perhaps elk.
We essentially spent the rest of the day driving through Yellowstone, a park too big to fully see in a day. We had originally planned to spend more time here, but the dog sitter I had booked through Rover cancelled and I was unable to find another with short notice.
Old Faithful was erupting high in the sky as we drove up, so I missed photographing a geyser. The bright blue Grand Prismatic Spring was amazing. I first saw it from above, after walking a fairly long distance to a viewpoint south of it. We then waited for a turn in the parking lot near the spring and examined it up close from a boardwalk. It was other worldly. A slight overcast was keeping the temperature reasonable, so we could leave Sage in the car for short periods of time.
We ate a picnic lunch at Canyon Village then visited Artist Point with a lovely view of the Lower Falls in Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. Anne’s headache was increasing so she skipped the next couple stops and we made calls to shorten our trip, cutting out the two days we had planned for Sun Valley, Idaho.
We made two more stops on our way through the park: Tower Falls, which I found disappointing after the beauty of Lower Falls, and the Mammoth Hot Springs Terraces, another unearthly spot. By the time we reached our hotel in West Yellowstone, a huge improvement over the hostel in the Tetons, Anne’s headache had abated. We played fetch with Sage, losing a ball to a tree, enjoyed a glass, or two, of red wine, and had a pleasant outdoor meal on a deck next to a singer/guitarist. An enjoyable ending to a long day.
Aug 21 – Drive to Winnemucca
It was a long car day with a stop in Twin Falls, for a nice lunch on a deck overlooking the gorge cut by the same Snake River that runs through the Tetons. We nearly finished a long audio book: The Perfect Storm. The author did an impressive job tying together a compelling story with great information about weather, deep sea fishing, maritime rescue and other topics. Though I dozed briefly through one stretch of technical detail, overall the book was fascinating. As with every leg of my trip, we encountered road work delays along the way.
Once a supply center for the Central Pacific Railroad, Winnemucca, is now a stopping point on I-80, hours from anywhere. It was in the high 90’s when we arrived so I kept Sage’s fetch time short, after which I had the worst meal of my trip at a place called the Toasted Tavern.
Aug 22 – Drive Home with a Hiking Break
We had breakfast at a casino then drove half-way home, to Truckee. There we drove up through Tahoe Donner to the Glacier Way Trailhead and enjoyed a short, four-mile hike along the Donner Lake Rim Trail overlooking Donner Lake and the neighboring mountains. We picnicked at the car, with the usual for this trip – gluten-free crackers, hummus, cheese, and olives – then continued on our way encountering more traffic than I’ve seen in weeks. Fortunately, we were going opposite the commute. After putting more than 3000 miles on my car, I’m sad to say that California has the worst roads. The temperature reached 101oF (38oC) as we drove through the Sacramento Valley, the hottest spot on my trip
I dropped Anne in Marin and reached home in late afternoon. My older son, Alex, came by with groceries and fixed me dinner. A nice surprise.