Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Day 6-7-8: Greybull, WY to Worthington, MN to Chicago, IL to Grove City, PA with many stops along the way!

Hello from Grove City, Pennsylvania, where my mother and father do dwell.  We’ve had a good three days booking it across the country with such stops as...

Big Horn National Forest:  this is the forest we had planned to drive through in the dark.  We're so glad we didn't!  It was an amazing drive with breathtaking views that rival Yellowstone and the Tetons.

Mount Rushmore:  definitely worth the 1.5 hour total round-trip off of 90 to visit such an historical and famous monument, but we were not expecting it to be such an outpost of  unabashed tourism. And $11 to park?  No thanks, National Park Service.  We’ll admire the view from here.

The World’s Only Corn Palace in Mitchell, SD:  Worth all ten minutes spent one evening to view this beauty.  Built in 1892 to showcase South Dakota’s rich soil and encourage settlement in the area, this multi-purpose facility is home to such sporting teams as the Mitchell High School Kernels!! The fa├žade is decorated with corn and other organic material every year to the tune of about $130,000.

Plus, Chicago to visit Uncle Bruce and Aunt Ruth (not pictured, boo!), Indianapolis for lunch with D. Paul and Debby, and dinner (and soccer practice!) with the Hawthorne’s in Mt. Vernon. 

Simon the Subaru delivered us to Grove City around 9:30 ET.  Total mileage:

Thanks, all, for following our journey!  I’ll be taking a break to get settled in NYC, but will probably start posting my urban adventures and musings on my Masters degree readings (Desert Fathers!  Julian of Norwich!  Thomas a Kempis!) sometime next month!

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Day 5: Wacky, Wonderful Yellowstone!

Sorry this post is a bit late—we were having so much fun in Yellowstone that we lost track of time, left a little late, and then tried to book it to Sheridan, WY.  It seemed feasible on the map, until we realized that the last two hours of the drive took us through Big Horn National Forest—gorgeous, but replete with hair pin turns to and from a 9,000 or so foot summit, with falling rocks and loose livestock on the road.  A bit much in the pitch dark with no cell reception.   Prudence prevailed, which for the two of us is something of a miracle!!  Long story short, we got in late last night, and started early today to make up the time.  

But back to Yellowstone.  Um, it’s awesome!!!  And very, very strange—geysers, hot springs, mud pots, fumaroles—all geologic wonders that make you feel like you are on the moon.  Or in Star Wars.   Plus beautiful canyons, gorgeous waterfalls, pristine forests and idyllic prairies.   We were drunk on beauty by the end of the day. 

Most serendipitous moment:  less than an hour out of Jackson, without being camera ready, we see two young, male elk beside the road on top of the next rise.  While heading toward them, they take off running—parallel to the road.  We watch for almost a full minute as they sprinted along side our cars, cross the road in front of us and ran into the woods.

Anyway, enjoy the pics!  The first few are from my morning run in Jackson—got up early (for me) and was able to catch some of the quiet beauty of the Teton Valley.  

Teton Valley at Sunrise

On the drive to Yellowstone-- fun for tourists...

...bad for traffic!!

My favorite!  The Grand Prismatic Spring-- so colorful!

What you're looking at right there is called a 'bacterial mat'!

Fountain Geyser?  Not sure...saw so many.  Still, cool!

Charlie Brown's Christmas tree's summer vacation.

Gibbon Falls!

Lot and lots of Lodgepole pines lie around Yellowstone like detritus.  I thought this one was groovy.

Roaring Mountain!  You drive along a beautiful mountain road, turn your head, and here's this sulfuric monster!

Speaking of sulfuric monsters...Mammoth Hot Springs!
So weird and cool how it layers up like this.
Um, just in case you were wondering, that's why they call it Yellowstone.
View of Lower Falls in the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone.  Beautiful end to the day!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Day 4: A Day of Loveliness in Jackson and Grand Teton National Park

After yesterday’s early start and long day’s journey into almost night, we treat ourselves to a wee bit of a sleep in, and a long, relaxing morning in Jackson.  Coffee is savored, laundry is processed, I even sit in a park and journal for a bit.   Lovely.  

But with only one allotted day for The Grand Tetons, we rouse ourselves, pile in the car, and head out Highway 89 for an excursion to Jenny Lake, one of the most popular and accessible trail areas in the Park.  As usual, we go with no other plan than ‘get there and figure it out’, and as usual, our plan works perfectly!

We score a sweet parking space in an otherwise overcrowded, double-parked environ, and head to the Visitors Centre.  Marty goes into action and purchases a few supplies, including some great new hiking poles to assist her in her ascent today.  After consulting with a bright-eyed, 19 year-old Junior Ranger about the best route, we elect a boat ride across the lake, a 400 foot climb to Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point, with the return options of a leisurely trek back along the lake or another ride on the boat.

We have so much fun hiking to Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point, that we elect the ‘leisurely trek back’.  This is anything but leisurely.  The usual trail is closed for renovation, so we end up on a horse path going up, then down, then up, then down, etc., etc. along the side of the mountain overlooking the lake.  We estimate a round trip of at least 2,500 miles.    

Back at the Jenny Lake Visitor Centre, we hydrate with Gatorade, treat ourselves to ice cream, and then make our 25 mile per hour way out of the park.  After consulting our stomachs, we decide we need more than just ice cream to fortify us after such an exertion. 

So off we go to The Gun Barrel, for some real (alright, upscale) western fare: Bison Carpaccio, Spinach Salad, and Elk Chops.  Eat up y'all!

The scenic drive to the park.  That would be the Grandest of the Tetons in the distance.
Docking after our zippy boat ride across Jenny Lake

Marty, the climbing machine!!

Lovely but not so hidden Lower Hidden Falls...

I look at this and say, The Ents are REAL!!!

Not many flowers in August, but these plants have leaves that have obliged to turn red.

Joanna the Exhibitionist,  Part 294

Lake Jenny!  Or is it Jenny Lake?

It's almost as if the rocks cried out for a corsage...

More trees, more lake.

Craggy tree on top of the mountain.  Very Tim Burton, no?

The pass to the Inspiration Point, with the Tetons in the distance.
Time for some sustenance at The Gun Barrel!!  Seriously, it's worth it for the Taxidermy alone!!
Yum!  Elk is tasty and does NOT taste like chicken!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Day 3: Bend, OR to Jackson, WY

683 miles today.  12 hours in the car.  We stop only to purchase food, utilize bathrooms, change drivers, and once to make sure the bike rack is not about to lose its grip on my back hatch and fling my almost brand new racing bike into the windshield of the car behind me.  Or something like that.

The landscape today is rather boring. No offense Idaho, but why so dull?  Other than a few moments of lovely high desert this morning, the drive is flat, sage and beige for 10 solid hours, like this: 

But at approximately 6:30 PM Mountain, as if hearing some celestial cue, Mom tunes her iPod to The Mission soundtrack.  Then like magic, the landscape changes. Farmlands, shorn of summer wheat, nestle up against the protective shoulders of the Foothills.  We descend into a gorgeous river valley.  A huge hawk spirals over our heads.  Welcome, says Wyoming.   (We took pictures of all of this, but nothing really turns out when you're holding your iPad to the car window while hurtling down a freeway at 65-75 miles per hour.  Legally, of course.)

We wind our way over two separate mountain passes, the second of which contains grades so steep and winding that they require a 20 mph speed for all cars on the way DOWN.  It brings new (and literal) meaning to the word ‘breathtaking’ for us.  We are glad to get to the bottom…

…and on to Jackson, WY, our home base to explore Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks.  Yeehaw!!  We unload at the Antler Inn, two blocks from the Town Square, sprawl on our beds for about 20 minutes, congratulate ourselves on achieving our goal for the day while simultaneously asking why we did that to ourselves, and then go out and explore the town.  We’ll be here for two nights, and are ready to relax and enjoy!

Our motel, right in the heart of Jackson!
We take in the rustic beauty of the Town Square...elk antler arches!
And look!  There's the world famous Million Dollar Cowboy Bar, right across the street.
Let's have a look, shall we?
Mom sits like a lady on the saddle bar stools...
...while I have some trouble with mine!!

But I can brag that I played quite possibly the worst game of pool that the bar has ever seen.