d12 :: SALMON ID :: Oct 12
By the time we woke up (9 am) the hotel parking lot was empty, as all the hunters had apparently left at sunrise. We proceeded to eat granola, and pack a day bag with swim suits, towels and lunch for a trip to Goldbug Hot Springs. Goldbug is 22 mi South of Salmon on rt-93 (mi post 282). The Goldbug trailhead is at the end of a side-road off rt-93; then to the springs a moderate 2 mi hike into National Forest Service, save the first ¼ mi on private ranch land. The morning was cool (40s F) and we stripped layers as we hiked up a sagebush-covered ravine past a roaring luke-warm stream. The final ½ mi of the hike was a rock scramble up a mountain, passing pine stands and dense vegetation fed by the springs. When we arrived, there were already 2 other groups of locals soaking in a 98 F pool on the right bank of an icy mountain stream with a 105 F pool free on the left bank. We headed towards the hot pool that was dammed by rocks to contain a bubbling stream of water that fed into the pool just 3 ft up-stream. Moss, algae, and maybe bacterial mats grew along the hot spring source, but the soaking pools were crystal clear. The water temp was too hot for extended soaking so we cooled off in the chilly stream every 10 min or so. As the locals were leaving, we headed over to say “hi” and check out their pool, which was actually a series of two dammed pools set amid large boulders. The pools were 2-3 ft deep with fine gravel beds, and we found ourselves walking on our hands to navigate the space. The water temp was about as close to bath water as one could imagine. There was a gushing (5-10 gal/sec) hot waterfall dropping 4-ft into the upstream edge of the main pool, hidden behind a few boulders. The hot spring water in the waterfall was well mixed with the cold stream, so the effect was a massive shower-head that gave a perfect back massage! We soaked for about 2 hr until our skin wrinkled, then headed 2 mi back to the trailhead to start our drive to Wyoming.
The drive south on rt-93, past Challis, ID, and the Lost River Range was breathtaking. In the Lost River Range valley we passed the largest mountain in ID (Borah Peak 12,662 ft), which was only slightly larger than the rest of the surrounding snow covered peaks on either side of the valley—a space that felt vaguely pre-historic in proportions. A lone homesteader lived in anonymity in the center of this massive valley in a thimble sized home. As we passed Borah Peak, we reminisced over other large peaks we had passed in Oregon (Mt. Hood 11,239 ft), Washington (Mt Raineir 14,410 ft), California earlier that Summer (Mt Whitney 14,494 ft).
We ended our drive at dusk West of Yellowstone National Park in the Eastern corner of Idaho. We camped among patches of snow on a high meadow in the nearly empty Henry’s Lake State Park—just a few days shy of the end of the camping season.
d13 :: WEST YELLOWSTONE ID :: Oct 13
Driving into Yellowstone National Park, we immediately saw cars pulled over gawking at a group of mule deer. I wanted to pull over and photograph those people as a Gary Larson-esque satire, but Wendy hadn’t seen the park before so we pushed on to the hot springs. With a kind of giddy excitement we traversed the high plains with geysers, bubblers, clay pots, and aquamarine pools all steaming on this cold, damp morning.
This was the easiest national park to experience from a car, which lessened the experience for us, but I could see being important for handicapped visitors, elderly, and others bound to their cars or car-culture. In one parking lot, steam emerged from a crack in the asphalt to belching sulfur-smelling gas on parked cars. Of course there was a cone over the crack, as a warning of the dangers of encroaching nature.
Due to drizzly weather we camped out and made pasta under the awning of a closed-for-the-season lodge by Old Faithful. Apparently, a crowd had been forming to watch the geyser, but I couldn’t be bothered as the onions needed to be browned for our tomato sauce. While cooking several camera-happy Asian tourists asked to take my picture with Oyster and the good eats— I guess they thought we were authentic! Yellowstone wasn’t as amazing as the PR companies make it sound, and so after lunch we continued south to the Grand Tetons.
We pulled off the road to switch drivers by Lake Jackson, and were amazed at how the mountains could rise 6,000 ft from the valley floor to the peak of Grand Teton (13,771 ft). As described in a visually-eponymous visitors center (designed by BCJ), plate tectonics and a fault-line drove the mountains upwards and the valley down, then retreating glacial activity left lakes beside the mountain range. Weathering washed soil free from the peaks to reveal sharp granite faces that were now snow-covered.
We drove South to Jackson for espressos then 6 mi more to Wilson for the night, staying with Anna’s friend Emily. We learned more about the life in Wyoming, the Tetons, hunting etiquette, and fishing stories from Emily and her roommate and fly-fishing guide Dan over split pea soup and cornbread. They gave us great recommendations for hiking and camping, advice we used over the next couple of days.
d14 :: WILSON WY :: Oct 14
We started the day by taking Oyster and Emily’s boyfriends dog Otis for a hike on the Snake River levy. Otis was a 7 yr old, stocky yellow English Lab trained as a bird hunting dog, and an excellent stick fetcher. The two O’s had a great time romping in the brush and along the river, so we left them together on a couch by the fireplace while Wendy and I took a 6 mi afternoon hike in the Grand Tetons National Park around Taggart and Bradley Lakes. We had a rare close-up encounter with a moose that crossed our path, which was my first encounter with these huge vegetarian ungulates. Further on we saw big moose tracks in the snow, along with deer and dog (which is illegal in the park). Although most of the day was cloudy and drizzly, the clouds parted a few times and created amazing rainbows close enough to touch. ROY-G-BIV!, Wendy reminded me as I tried to name the colors I saw.
We returned to Emily’s house to pick up Oyster, say good-bye and thanks for a great stay. We headed an hr South on 191 and just after dusk camped along the Green River south of Bondurant WY. I boiled pork sausages and steamed kale and zuchinni, and as we ate the clouds broke to reveal a starry dome unspoiled by light pollution.
d15 :: BONDURANT WY :: Oct 15
We slept that night in the back of the car, and woke to find the sun creeping over a distant ridge. We pushed the bags out of the driver’s seat and descended the dirt road 100 m to the Green River where we ate breakfast. I made grits with caramelized onions and tomatoes on the side. Oyster found some deer bones (vertebrae and ribs) that kept him occupied as we sat in the sun until 10 am.
Another driving day, so not much going on. We dropped down Wyoming to I-80 and then headed west to Cheyenne in the Southeast corner of the state. We were hit by sweeping rain, which were visible as a grey blur below dark clouds on the horizon. Approaching Cheyenne there were wooden fences that acted as wind breaks. Wyoming is big and took all day to cross. Wed dropped into Fort Collins (the day of the infamous boy in a balloon from that town), and stayed that night and then next 2 in Boulder, CO with Erin, Chris, and their 18 mo old daughter Ellery.
d16 :: BOULDER CO :: Oct 16
Wendy and I took a 6 mi hike in Boulder to a local peak with their dog, Eli, and ours. We took our time because we weren’t acclimatized to the altitude, although we were only about a mile high. The weather was pleasant (55 F) and warm enough to hike in shorts and a t-shirt as long as we were moving. At the peak we had a great view of the town and Denver to the East and snow capped Rockies to the West. After signing the peak log-book we chatted with a crazy local with a pet parrot. Every city has them—why should Boulder be any different.. In San Francisco there is a man who trained a rat to stand on a cat to stand on a dog, and in Berkeley is home to numerous other proud parrot owner.
d17 :: BOULDER CO :: Oct 17
We visited Erin’s parents house West of Boulder in the mountains. They were renovating an existing house and were excited to give Wendy a tour. The exterior had patches of corten steel just beginning to rust, and hardy plank to reduce fire risks. The interior was gutted and steel supports were added to replace load bearing walls that were removed. The space was airy and inviting, with sweeping views from windows and a two story high ceiling above the kitchen area. I can’t wait to see what it looks like when it is finished!
After our late morning visit, we headed to the Saturday farmers market w/ Erin, Chris, and Ellery, and got to meet their friends at a semi-regular meeting spot. We ate some delicious Salvadorian pupusas and Vietnamese pot-stickers while talking with their friends. That afternoon, Chris and I went cycling up in the mountains for an hr or so. The roads were just sanded for snow and although the snow melted the sand remained and made our descent a little tricky.
d18 :: BOULDER CO:: Oct 18
We woke early, said goodbye to Erin, Chris, and Ellery and thanked them for their hospitality! We headed south towards Denver, where we got on I-70 East and drove about 9 hours until we reached Lawrence, Kansas.
At dusk we camped 6 mi West of town in Clinton State Park. The area of the SP we camped was closing for the season the next day, and the park itself only had a handful of people in it. We pitched a tent and left for dinner and a beer at the Free State Brewing Co on Massachusetts Ave downtown. The beer was awesome. We shared an Octoberfest and a Oatmeal Stout. The food was less amazing— I am used to locally sourced foods, which wasn’t on Free State’s radar. After dinner we drove gently on the old brick streets of Lawrence, cruising for WiFi.
d19 :: LAWRENCE KA :: Oct 19
Oh yes, another long driving day. We past Kansas City and crossed the whole state of Missouri. We arrived in St Louis around 4 pm and met our friend Brendan W. at his architecture studio on the Washington University campus. Brendan is entering an architecture competition to redesign a New Orleans grocery store and we got to see his plans.
After school we headed to a local pub with Brendan to meet a few Davidson College ultimate frisbee friends, Davoli and Martin, who also go to Wash U. I asked, and yes there is a local laundromat with the same name. Unlike Lawrence, this place did not brew their own beer but had a better selection, including a great cask ale and better than most bar food.
d20 :: ST LOUIS MO :: Oct 20
Ok, another long driving day—possibly our longest. There are more trucks than cars on the interstate this morning. I am surprised that there aren’t tolls on more interstates, especially those heavily used by commercial trucking operations to move freight. This trip has opened my eyes to the trucking industry after seeing many trucks traverse the West and Central US. I’ve also been collecting and reading trade magazines and newspapers at rest areas, like “Trucking 2000” a shameless advertising rag and a “The Trucker” a 60-page bi-monthly newspaper. The last October edition of “The Trucker” covered the American Trucking Association (ATA) Management Conf. and Expo in Las Vegas, NV, which selected that city because it was “as far from Washington, DC without being in California,” said the CEO of ATA. The tone of the rest of the newspaper was focused on trucking business and politics with a familiar right-leaning anti-Obama slant, with a corporate slant. There were a few articles on truck technology, maintenance, and health, which were all focused on efficiency and productivity and little else. Because it is free to readers, I wonder who pays for this newspaper? It definitely has an agenda.
We stopped for Thai food with cousin Kate in Knoxville which was great! After dinner, Wendy, fueled by Thai iced tea, drove over the Smoky Mountains to Asheville, NC in the dark.