Well, I’ve come through the mountains and emerged in the Midwest. Aside from a little altitude sickness (and a lot of itching) the drive into Denver was magnificent. I-70 turned into a small winding highway, as it passed through the mountains. I think I have now been to all the wealthiest skiing locations in the country: Jackson Hole, Tahoe, Park City, and now Vale. Am I missing anything?
Denver was a bigger city than I expected. As you come down through the mountains it stretches out in all directions in front of you. After being in rural areas in the West for so long, it was a little bizarre to see a city with suburbs again. I spent the night at Abby’s apartment. It was great to catch up but that was really the highlight of my time in Colorado.
Most of the rest of the time was spent trying to figure out what had bitten me up in Salt Lake City and trying to make sure whatever it is was out of my car. Scabies? Bedbugs? Fleas? Spiders? None was or is pleasant. I had a bit of a breakdown as I washed all of my clothes, vacuumed out the car, and decluttered. I can’t say that I have happy memories of driving around in circles, lost in Boulder. I’m just praying that anything that possibly hitchhiked with me from Salt Lake is now dead. And I’m happy to report that the itching has since subsided and no more bites have been found… Let’s cross our fingers, shall we, that this is the end of it
Things have been on an upswing since moving on to St. Louis. The drive proved to me that I’m back in the Midwest. From Denver east it was all fields, fields, and more fields. Considering Denver is the mile high city, I was a little confused as to how we dropped down out of the mountains. It wasn’t like I was driving steadily downhill. Instead, everything just flattened out. Maybe it’s just super gradual?
I arrived here just in time to head out to Busch Stadium for the Cardinals game. Pujols got a home run and the cards won in the bottom of the 9th. Yes, I know it doesn’t count anymore, but it was still fun to go to a game. It’s been a relaxing few days with the Shenkers. I’m here through Rosh Hashana and then I start my way back to Maine and NY.
I have to say… after all the mess with the bites, I’m looking forward to being in one place again. It’s certainly been one hell of a ride.
9/22/08 OK. Utah might just be the coolest state (to visit.)
Despite being completely bitten up by some yet unknown insect, (My arms, neck, and back are covered in little tiny very very itchy bites), I’ve had an amazing couple days. Utah just keeps changing on me. Everywhere I go I see something different.
Zion was lush with high high sandstone cliffs. They were created by 3000 ft high sand dunes millions of years ago. The valley was carved out by what is now (it might be bigger in other seasons…) a small stream called the Virgin River. Parts of the park are lush with green trees, dripping water, and hanging gardens. The cliffs tower above you, casting shadows on each other and the ground.
I woke up early on Sunday for my horse back ride. When I got to the park, I could still see the moon in the sky. There were only 3 of us (including the guide) on the ride, and everyone was quite familiar with horses, so just enjoyed eachothers company and the scenery as we crossed the Virgin River and climbed up through the valley. Lovely to be back on a horse and experience the park that way.
Then I set up camp and headed back out to hike the Narrows. If anyone has a chance to go to Zion, do not miss this hike. The full thing is 16 miles but I only had a few hours so I joined the crowd in taking the easy way out. Tons of people hike the riverside walk, which winds next to the river. Sandstone cliffs tower on either side of you. After a mile, the space between the cliffs gets so narrow that the walk ends. From then on, if you want to continue you have to enter the river. I picked up a walking stick, felt grateful for my chacos (most people were either barefoot or getting their shoes soaked.), and plunged in. It was so much fun. There were people swimming. It was tempting but I had my camera in my bag so I kept on walking. For a while there, I led the pack of a couple german hipsters wearing their vans and chucks in the water. Next time, I’m hiking the whole thing. This time, I probably didn’t even go a mile before my stomach started grumbling, and I realized time was getting way from me.
I camped that night. Hooked up my laptop and watched True Love before I went to sleep (yes, this is how I camp), then woke up early this morning to drive the 5 hours to Arches. The drive took me up over mountains and through the desert. It was incredible. Bizarre rock formations on either side of the highway and into the distance. Everything looked flat but really there were continuous peaks and valleys. (I could tell from the car straining it’s engine and make it’s way up and down the highway.) And then you get off the highway, drive for a while, and there’s a small unassuming sign that says “arches national park.” Well, arches was amazing. You climb high up onto the top of the canyon and there is glowing red rock formations everywhere you look. The mountains are in the distance; in front of them are miles and miles of canyons and desert.
By the time I arrived at arches it was late afternoon so I only had chance to get in one hike. It wasn’t that long a hike (2 milesish each way) but I was so proud of myself because I totally pushed through my fear of heights. For most of the hike, you’re scrambling and walking over slick rock, sometimes with drop offs on either side. There were a couple moments when I paused, thinking I couldn’t go on, but then I sat down, thought about it and plunged through. Totally worth it. I saw three arches, each delicate and different. The views of and through them to the valley and the rock formations and the mountains in the distance were unreal. Not bad. By the end of the hike, rain clouds had swept over the sky and I only made a few more stops before heading to Moab for dinner.
And that was my day. It’s been pretty fantastic. Denver tomorrow.
Written 9/20/08 I’m writing from a Super 8 Motel in Hurricane (pronounced hurricun), Utah. I was hoping to camp tonight but everything was solidly full so this seemed my only option. Tomorrow morning I have to leave by 6:45am to get to Zion in time to do a half day horse riding trip. I’ll try to camp again tomorrow night.
I’ve spent the past few days in Salt Lake City, visiting Steph and her husband Adam. We spent the first day wandering around down town, visiting the public library (a very cool use of public space. There are shops and galleries and cafes all in the library building.) the geneology library, and temple square, and then up to the Avenues for ice cream. And, I got a crash course in using the moutains to figure out directions. The big mountains are in the East, right Steph? Salt Lake City is a clean well-laid out city. Really nice to visit and the mountains surrounding are pretty amazing.
The next day, we went up to Snowbird to check out the mountain. The leaves were all changing so amongst the rock there were patches of red and orange and yellow. We tried to buy a day pass to go on the tram and alpine slide and zip line but were informed that only the tram was open. Oh well. Up we went. It’s a beautiful view of the mountains and valley from the top…. Except that it was hailing. Not even snowing, just sharp pieces of hail hitting us in the face. We couldn’t stop laughing. We could see the sun shining on the valley down below, while up on the mountain it felt like mid winter.
Later that evening we went up to Park City. Steph had read in the paper that there was a large figure skating competition happening in the Ice Rink. Well, after lots and lots of wrong turns we got there but it wasn’t exactly a major competition. We were expecting Olympians but got local kids. The only other people watching were parents. I was there with Steph and Adam and Kelly (Steph’s sister). We probably weren’t on our best behavior as we each picked our favorite to win and laughed at the poor kids that kept falling over and over again. It was, shall we say, an interesting competition.
Park City is a cute town with lots of shops and restaurants nestled against the ski mountains. Apparently you can ski from the main mountain straight onto Main Street. We got dinner and walked around, checked out a ski movie that wasn’t starting anywhere near on time and then went home to play a few hours of Mexican Train Dominoes (yes, I brought my set with me.) Today, we woke up and made pancakes for breakfast and I got back on the road. After my last 9 hour drive, this 5 hour one through mountains and valleys seemed short.
Zion National Park tomorrow and then on to Arches. I might stop in at Canyonlands as well. Then Denver for the night before making it to St. Louis in time for Rosh Hashana. The trip is just flying by. It’s been wonderful and still is but I’m looking forward to seeing the east coast again.
Well it’s been a very full past few days. On Sunday, I met Lizbeth (mum’s friend) in Sonoma and got a peak at what it looks like to live in California wine country. We went to a Kathmandu Festival, full of happy people basking in the sun, listening to music and watching Nepalese dancing. That night I slept at Lizbeth’s house in Santa Rosa. It was a beautiful drive out there with the sun low in the sky and wineries surrounding us.
The next morning I headed out to Tahoe. I got very lost in Napa but made it there by midday. Tahoe was incredible. It was the first place I’ve been that I could see myself living (maybe not forever, but for a year or two? Sure.) The lake is blue and teal like the Caribbean. The Sierra Nevadas are rocky and desert like. Different from any of the other mountains I've seen yet. My first day in Tahoe I did a hike way up into the mountains (it kicked my ass. The book had said it was a “moderate” hike. I hate to imagine what they consider “strenuous”). The trees had this crazy patterned bark, and I could see for ages on both sides into more mountains and lakes. I couldn’t stop taking pictures. Everything was dusty (apparently it hasn’t rained all summer, which is pretty normal for Tahoe. They get almost all their precipitation from the masses of snow in the winter) and I ended up absolutely filthy. I ran most of the way back down the hike and could look behind and see the sand I kicked up still rising into the sky. On Day 2 I did a hike around the south western side of the lake. It probably totaled about 5 miles and it was unreal. I was up on a cliff next to the lake and just followed it around coves and rocks and forest. The weather was perfect and I clambered down some rocks at one point to take a dip.
And of course, it was great to see Jess and Drew. They seem really happy and were wonderful hosts. They have little house about a block away from the lake. After being there for only two days, I understand why they wanted to move back. It seems like a pretty kick ass life out there, especially if you’re a skier.
Today, I left Tahoe and wound my way through the mountains and desert of Nevada. It was my first day in a long time doing that much driving and it hurt. My body was sore from hiking, and sitting in a car all day didn’t help. Every time I got out to use the bathroom, I felt like a creaky old woman. By the time I hit Elko on the Eastern side of Nevada I was ready for the drive to be over. And then I got over the mountains…
I was totally unprepared for the salt flats of Utah. Almost immediately after climbing the last mountain pass, the land opens up. It’s white and flat, and in every direction there are huge mountains in the distance. The beginning of Pirates of the Carribean 3 is filmed here. It is a no man’s land like no other and heart wrenchingly beautiful. I drove through almost 100 miles of salt flats with the sun setting behind the mountains in front and on the side of me. At one point, I drove through a sand storm, with the salt billowing up over me, making it virtually impossible to see (don’t worry; it didn’t last more than a few minutes.) Eventually the great salt lake appeared on one side of me, the water spilling out in all directions. Everything is so white and flat that the lake looks like it almost sits on top of the land. And then I was in Salt Lake city, nestled by mountains and getting lost arriving at Steph and Adams.
And now I’m here. We went out for yummy Italian food for dinner. Tomorrow Steph is getting out of work early and we’ll go explore the city. I think I’ll take a run or something in the morning to try and stretch those sore sore legs of mine.
Wish you could all see this here with me. I’m on my way back to you! (well, most of you). I haven't gotten a chance to post the latest photos to flickr yet, but I will soon.
We woke up early the next day and met Kevin (the guy with the balloon) in Willetts. I’m not going to write much about going up other than that I felt like I was Charlie in the Great Glass Elevator. The coolest moment was when all of a sudden I realized that we weren’t on the ground anymore. It was like the ground moves away from you; all of a sudden, you're up! Like in Peter Pan. I thought happy thoughts and up I went. For about an hour we flew over Willetts. It’s a hick town, but the people were nice and they all waved and shouted hello and took photos as we passed over their houses. It was a blast. Afterwards we had a glass of crappy champagne and toasted to ballooning past and present. I'm ready to go again.
We were told we were 4 1/2 hour from San Fran, but I thought there was no way that was true. SF was only 130 miles away. We stopped along the way for lunch and made it there in closer to 2 hours. For the past two nights, Darcy's friends have been putting us up in their gorgeous apartment in Oakland. Yesterday, we walked around SF and I got to see Fisherman's Wharf and the sea lions (coolest thing ever... there are hundreds of them that all come and hang out and bark and crawl and lie all over each other. Apparently they started appearing on these docks after the earthquake. Scientists don't know why.), and the golden gate bridge, and alcatraz, and ghiradelli square. Last night we went out dancing and today I am meeting up with mum's friend in Sonoma. Tomorrow, I head over to Tahoe.
I can't believe that I'm already on my way back east again.
Half way done, it's been amazing. Still miss and love you all. Tamara
The next morning we woke up early and realized we were in a beautiful location. We were on the ocean by a lighthouse and cows and sheep lounged in the valley below. By the time we left the park a couple hours later, however, the mist had covered everything again. It was a grey and cold day to drive into California. We sped through the southern tip of the coast, not able or wanting to see much, until we hit the information center for the Red Woods. The ranger was helpful and told us about a drive through some of the last remaining old growth forest. It was on an old untouched stagecoach road so there weren’t any trailers or RVs driving through (plenty of other people, though.) The drive was well worth it. We entered the park and were passing through trees and I was thinking, “this is nice… I wonder if these are redwoods…” and then all of a sudden we hit them and I just knew it. They are dark with twisting bark that ascends into the sky. I could hear John Steinbeck’s voice in my head saying how the trees silence you. And they do. They are majestic and amazing. We stopped to do a small walk and at the end of it, I overheard this guy say, “Dude. They’re just so immensely big.” I busted out laughing; it was too true. The rest of the day was spent driving down 101, weaving through forest and making our way south. We were aiming to camp somewhere near the town of Willets. Darcy’s friend’s friend was flying his hot air balloon near Willetts and on a whim, we had decided to ask him if he could take us up. Well, he agreed! We still couldn’t believe it as we tried to decide whether to take route 1 to the coast or camp at the closest state park 50 miles north of the city. We were debating whether we wanted to drive 30 miles through the mountains or 50 miles through towns at 5:30 the next morning. Neither sounded appealing but we decided on the coast. 15 minutes into the drive we realized this was a bad bad idea. Inland, it had been warm and sunny. In the mountains, the cold mist from southern Oregon reappeared. And then my gas light went on. I knew I was low; we were going to stop before we headed onto route 1 but gas there was at 4.89/gallon and that just seemed unreasonable. Well now, my gas light was on and I was winding around and around and up and down mountains using maximum amounts of petrol. I was freaking out, the weather was getting colder, and the road was getting windier and windier with the drop offs increasing. Darcy was trying to assure me that the car would be fine and there’d be gas once we reached the coast miles away. Well, we reached the coast and it was beautiful but completely barren. We were on the side of a large cliff with fields of sheep and a huge ocean and one or two houses dotting the distance. It felt a bit like what I imagine Ireland to look like. Finally, we came to a small small town that had a center store with a gas pump. 5.35/gallon. 5 gallons was 30 bucks. It was insane but worth it for peace of mind. By the time, we got to the only town around, Fort Bragg, we were realizing that there wasn’t a campsite anywhere close by and even if there was it would be freezing cold. The man at the gas station encouraged us to head back over the mountain pass and camp at the KOA site in Willetts. Which we did.
After a little convincing the guys decided to continue on with us to the coast. We hit up Astoria first. It’s a quiet town, filled with movie history. Goonies was filmed there as was kindergarten cop. Walking up to see the goonies’ house, we could hear the sea lions barking up a storm down below.
Maggie had given me a list of things not to miss in Oregon and Canon Beach was first on her list. Goonies was also filmed there (it’s where they come out of the cave) and it’s stunningly beautiful. Long big beach with rocks and boulders emerging from the sea. The clouds were streaming across the sky as we walked part of the length of the beach, dipping our feet into the cold water (which we later learned was filled with dangerous bacteria. Oops.) It was a good introduction to Oregon beaches. They are pretty incredible. We camped that night at a site by the ocean. It was freezing cold but worth it to watch the sun set behind the water. Someone had built a driftwood hut on the beach so we all huddled in that. Hotdogs and corn and potatoes for dinner.
The boys left us the next day and Darcy and I continued down the coast, stopping by the beach to eat our lunch and then at the Yaquima lighthouse to get a tour. We climbed up a hill with gorgeous views of the ocean and then up again into the lighthouse. I had never seen the inside of a lighthouse before. The stream of light is created by hundreds of pieces of glass reflecting a single source of light. The glass at this lighthouse was from the 19th century and just stunningly beautiful. Then back down the hill and to the car and we were off to the Dunes. At one point we had considered camping at Dunes State Park but our timing was off and it was all for the better: the wind was cold and it didn’t seem appealing to have that blowing around our tent once the sun went down. So instead, we just stopped to do a hike. There is something incredibly fun about running down a sand dune (even if you fall on your face around half way down). The hike went down the dunes, through some brush and trees and over to the beach. There were only a few other people out on the hike and we had the beach to ourselves. Darcy made a sand angel and we just walked around for a bit before making out way back.
Now I’ll backtrack a bit and tell you that this was the day that we realized our camping road trip was going a bit too well. Everything was going right for us. In fact, I hesitate to even type it now because I worry I’ll somehow jinx it for the rest of my trip. Our weather was perfect, our campsites exactly what we were hoping for, it was looking like we were going to go on a hot air balloon ride (yes, you read correctly), and our friends had come out to meet us without need of convincing. Well, Darcy and I had decided that this night we were going to camp but we weren’t going to make a campfire. Instead, we’d drive until latish and then get takeout somewhere. At the beginning of the trip when we talked about doing this, Darcy had mentioned getting take out thai food. The idea had stayed with us but was seeming unlikely as we were in the middle of nowhere in small town Oregon.
After the Dunes, we drove for a while winding our way south towards a possible campsite. We still had about an hour of driving but it didn’t look like we were going to go through any other towns so this was our chance to stop for takeout. We got to the gas station to ask for suggestions and Darcy says, “hey, is there a thai restaurant around here?” The guy looks a little incredulous so I butt in with, “or any other place we can get takeout for dinner?” And next thing I know, he’s saying, “actually, we have one thai place around the corner…” I busted out laughing. An hour later after driving through a gorgeous sunset, we entered the state park where we’d be camping. The moment we turned the corner fog just fell over everything. We were in the woods and we could see the mist descending into the trees. It was creepy enough and our day had gone so well that we were a little worried we had entered our horror movie. We couldn’t seen anything in the distance but we set up camp in a nice grove of trees. With the wind blowing and the mist descending around us, we filled the tent with blankets and watched Wedding Crashers on the laptop while chowing down on thai food. It actually turned into quite a nice night.
The next morning we shuffled things around in the car and loaded up Darcy’s bags. We were off to Mount St. Helens. Darcy’s friends, Nick and Brian, were going to meet us in Cougar by the southern entrance to the park. We drove back down the I-5 and off into the hills. At the Mount St. Helens Visitors Center we got our first good glimpse of the mountain. The volcano erupted in 1980 so it’s been 26 years. Most of the trees seemed new growth but honestly, I found it hard to tell. Everything was green and beautiful. Then we turned around and continued our way to Cougar. We wound through back roads until we hit a small town. We had found our destination; a sculpture of a cougar (!) stands outside of the local grocery store/gas station. Nick and Brian were already there waiting for us so we loaded up on beer and fire wood for camping that night and continued on to the ape caves, a lava tunnel created when the volcano erupted. Along the way, we passed hunters in full-on camo clothes and painted faces. It was making us a little nervous about camping that night so at the ape caves we asked the ranger whether we’d be safe. “Oh yes,” he says, “as long as you stay at a campsite.” “Great,” says Darcy and turns around. Then she turns back, “hey. What are they hunting?” “Around this time of year?” he answers, “just bear.” Great. Forget the hunters. Now we have to worry about bears. The ape caves were cold and long and dark. It was interesting at first but we only got half way before we decided to turn around and find our campsite. And of course, I scraped my foot up in the process. (Almost a week later, the scrape has only gotten worse. It’s hard to keep things clean while camping. I’m determined to take care of it from now on…).
We found a free campsite that night. It was called Miller Lake. There were only about 6 sites and it sat on a small clear lake, surrounded by mountains. We built a fire and watched the sun dip down. Next morning it was into the lake for a bath. Yes, it was cold (think Sebago in early June). Yes, we all went in.
It’s been a while folks… The past week I’ve been traveling down the west coast with my friend Darcy. Camping every night so internet access was non-existent.
Here’s the play by the play of the past week:
Back to Portland Last Saturday was Sue and Mark’s wedding. I’ve posted some photos on flickr. The wedding was wonderful- small, only about 60 people, and at a beautiful restaurant that once was the entryway for the Lewis and Clark Exposition back in 18something or other. The only people I really knew at the wedding were Sue and Mark and Tine but everyone made me feel at home and part of the family. People were so excited to meet me and talk to me and hear about what I was doing. It was fantastic. (And of course the wedding was beautiful too, you can see that in the photos probably better than I can explain it.) The weather was perfect and afterwards we all went over to Sue and Mark’s to continue the celebrations. They have a deck with a heating lamp (Mum and Dad, it might be something to look into), and the deck overlooks trees and hills, all the way into Portland. About 50 odd people made it back to Sue and Mark’s and we sat outside all night talking and drinking wine. And that was mostly what we did all weekend. Shmoozed with friends and stayed up late, sitting outside, talking and hanging out. Perfect. Oh, and we went to the Rose Garden, ate yummy sushi, and walking through downtown Portland. All must dos for anyone else visiting the city. By Sunday, my trip was over. It went too quickly. I was off to pick up Darcy in Seattle.
Well I made it all the way West. I’m in Portland, Oregon, staying with Sue, her future husband (to be married tomorrow) and our old friend, Tine. Sue and Tine were au pairs of mine when I was 5 and 6, respectively. Before last night, Sue and I hadn't seen each other for about 20 years.
The drive out here was long. The beginning was beautiful as I wound through National Forests in Montana and Idaho, driving up and down and around mountain passes. Especially in Montana, I drove slowly trying to take it all in. When I crossed over the border and left the mountains behind, I truly felt sad. I had good reason to, as well, as I soon found out. Eastern Washington state is a barren wasteland. I am sorry if anyone reading this is from there or loves it over there, but your state is brutal. The license plates all have these pretty mountains on it, but the majority of the state is brown and flat and never ending. After driving through it for hours, I got lost in the tri-cities, got help from a very nice lady at the Exxon Station (she even wrote down directions) and three hours later made it into Portland. About an hour or so outside Portland, Oregon blossoms into a green oasis. I got off the highway after Cascade Locks to see Multnomah Falls but really that was my only break. I think the trip was over 9 hours. As I said, it was LONG.
But it’s good to be here. Good to see everyone. I had a lovely time last night meeting Sue’s friends and hanging out talking until late. Today we headed into the city to see the rose gardens. They are incredible. More roses in one spot than I've ever seen. The park is up in the hills; it feels like you're in a tree fort overlooking downtown and Mount Hood. Just gorgeous.
Tonight we go to the rehearsal dinner and tomorrow is the wedding. On Sunday, I meet Darcy in Seattle and we drive down the coast. I've been getting suggestions of things to do right and left. It's going to be a fabulous next couple days.
I haven't done it yet but I will be adding photos to flickr soon. Multnomah Falls, the rose garden, and some more of Montana.
I think when I left off last I was spending the night in Cody Wyoming. Well, I woke up the next day to clear skies and sunshine. It was cold! But I set off on the road and saw what I was missing the night before. The road into Yellowstone from Cody is a scenic highway and it is just gorgeous. There are mountains and ranches and streams all around you as you wind your way towards the park. And then you get into the park. Yellowstone is the most beautiful place I have ever been. I say that with no exaggeration. There was snow on the mountains and even in some patches on the ground. The streams and rivers sparkled. Once I entered the park it was still 27 miles before I hit the nearest visitors center; the ranger at the entrance told me to look out for wildlife and Yellowstone Lake as I drove. Well... I had been driving for maybe 15 minutes when I saw something that looked like an elephant's butt walking down the road ahead of me. It was a bison. Unreal. I kind of felt like I was at the Bronx Zoo but living inside it. Like as if I had jumped the fences...
Yellowstone is a huge park. The ranger pointed out the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone and the Old Faithful area to me on the park and said, "you'll probably only have time to do these things." She was right. In all, I spent about 7 hours in Yellowstone, and I easily could have spent longer. Not only are the mountains and prairies and forests beautiful, but Yellowstone is a center of volcanic activity. Some of you know this, I'm sure, and I sort of did, but not really. There are geisers and hot springs and mudpools and tons of other stuff that I don't remember the name of all in the middle of this incredible scenery. Basically, you'll be driving down the road and see what looks like smoke coming out from between the trees. At first I thought it was a wildfire because there were signs for those all over the place, but it's not. It's steam. So that's what Old Faithful is. It's only one of the crazy number of volcanic pits around the area.
Knock on wood, I've had terrific luck this trip. I hadn't checked when Old Faithful would next be blasting, but I got there with 30 minutes to spare. The geiser is in a big lodge complex and there are tons of people that gather around to watch. I ended up hiking up into the woods to an observation point. There were only a few other people up there (all from the NY metro area, believe it or not) and we had a terrific view. By the time I got down it was 6:00 and I needed to get going.
I had decided to stay in Jackson because a friend of mine had a friend there who could possibly put me up, and she said it was a cool little town. Well, the friend thing fell through, and as I saw the sign that said 79 miles to Jackson I started to regret my motel reservation. For most of my travels 79 miles has felt like nothing because the speed limit is 75. In the park, however, the limit is 45 at most and half the time it's at 30. I had wind my way down through the rest of the park and then into the Grand Tetons before I got to Jackson. Turns out, the drive was thoroughly worth it. Not because of Jackson; I got in late and barely even saw the town. But because the Tetons were amazing. They are tall and spiky and white capped. The sun was setting as I drove through and the mountains glowed. And to top it off, there were elk on the side of the road. My camera was dying so I didn't get a particularly good shot, but I don't think I'll forget the drive.
By the time I got into Jackson, it was after 8pm so i got myself some mexican food for dinner and checked into my particularly crappy (and yet surprisingly expensive) Motel 6. To give you an idea, the floor by the door was wet. I was exhausted, though, so I crashed and woke up early this morning to move on.
Which is how I got to where I am now: sitting on a beautiful bed in a room in the Best Western overlooking Flathead Lake in Montana. I almost didn't come. I was so fed up with driving this morning that I called Robin to check if it was really worth it. She assured me it was so off I went, over mountain passes (my car was no way reaching the 70 mph speed limit; I was lucky if it got to 45 as I ascended the mountains ), through Idaho, and into Montana. The ride was beautiful. Mountains in the distance, ranches and farms in the foreground. At a scenic road stop break, I met some Jews from Yonkers. They daven at Young Israel of Yonkers, know Rabbi Sirner, and have some Jewish friends in Melbourne. Whaddya know?!
I got off the highway in Missoula and wound my way north, turned a corner and all of a sudden the mountains loomed larger. Not too much later I hit Flathead Lake. Picture Sebago but with mountains. It's gorgeous. The sign says "no swimming" but I'm tempted. I think I'll put a foot in at least to see how cold it is. For the same price as that Motel 6 in Jackson, I'm staying in a beautiful hotel with a lovely deck that overlooks the lake. It's nice to have some luxury!
Flickr is being a real pain and won't let me upload any more photos. (I've reached my limit; anyone know how to get around this? Please email advice. Should I pay for a pro account?) I'm finding it amazingly difficult to get photos up on the web...
http://www.flickr.com/photos/tamgh654/sets/72157607063780298/ So this is the flickr set. I'll keep adding to it as I travel. And will try to post it again so people remember to check it. It's too hard to keep adding lots of photos to the blog.
It's been an interesting 24 hours. I made it out from the badlands along a southern route, which was just fantastic. For anyone who might make it out that way, venture off the main route and drive out 44. You get see the badlands from a distance. You're driving through ranches and on one side of you, the badlands stretch out like an enormous wall. After spending the day walking and driving through the rocks, it's something quite different to see them as one enormous entity. I was driving, though, so have no photos. Sorry.
The roads I took were badly marked so I spent most of the 1 1/2 hr ride to Porcupine (where the powwow was) thinking I was lost. It's a different world out there. Ranches, ranches, and parkland. Every once and a while there was a house, and at one point traffic (me and one other car) slowed right down because we passed the single grocery store for miles.
I took the left turn into the powwow "parking lot" and realized I was going to be the only tourist around. It was filled with vans and cars parked every which way. I got to the back where there was some free space and was told by some guy that, "they said we could park anywhere it was mowed." So I did. The powwow was filled with locals. Everyone seemed to know eachother. There were stalls selling Indian Tacos, Nachos, icecream, "pop," etc etc. People brought lawnchairs and were sitting around chatting with their neighbors and watching the dancing. The ranger had told me that things would start sometime around 7. I got there a little after that, and the dancing didn't really get going until after 8. I certainly felt awkward at times not knowing anyone but the people watching fantastic. It was great to get to see a little more closely what life is like in SD. At around 9, I decided to make my way back. I get to my car and I'm parked in, so the man who helped me out before moved his car so I could pull out. It was pretty dark at this point and as I pull my car forward, I hear a horse whinney. No shit. All of a sudden, I realized that no only were cars parked in this parking lot, but horses were stabled. On my way up the drive getting out, I passed some kids urging their horses out as well.
I wish I could say the drive home was stress free but that ranger in the badlands misled. Not only was it pitch black, but i (possibly) hit and killed a bunny rabbit (not to mention the myriad of moths that splatted on my windshield), and then immediately after spotted a deer standing at the side of the road. Hitting a deer is one of my biggest fears (after hitting a moose). The ranger had assured me that there weren't many deer in these parts. There were. Not only did I see that one on the road, but I saw two others running through the area where my cabin was located. They were pretty, I guess.
Today, I woke up early to grey skies and set off for Wyoming. It spatterred rain continously and the thermometer read 46 at one point. And of course, the shiny newness of the scenery had worn off. 7 hours in, I was pretty sick of looking at brown ranches. In Montana, I got off the highway and saw real mountains for the first time. This was awesome. I turned the corner, sick of driving, and saw these massive black mountains hidden in the low slung clouds. I admit it, I cried. And I decided it was worth it to go into Yellowstone no matter the weather (at that point, I was actually considering just moving on to northern Montana...)
So now, I'm in Cody Wyoming (to get here I had to go north into Montana and then back south again into Wyoming.) People here were plaid flannel and cowboy hats. For real.