Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Wednesday, 15 August

This should catch us up. Yesterday we left Yellowstone and drove to neighboring Grand Teton National Park. Basically we drove through Grand Teton to Jackson, WY, south of it. Since we had not been able to get online for several days, Jean needed to do some business with her bank ASAP. We found WiFi in a Wendy's and combined lunch with business (does that make it a business lunch? can we deduct it from our taxes?).

The Tetons are generally considered to be among the most beautiful and dramatic landscapes in the world. Everyone raves about them; steep, rugged mountains with some snow still on them in August. Unfortunately, with several fires in Idaho, the smoky haze was so thick we could barely see them. But even as dim outlines they were astonishing. We only hoped we wouldn't have to buy a postcard to see their whole glory. Maybe tomorrow will be better.

After doing business in Jackson, we headed back to the park. Acting on advice from a couple of people, we headed to Gros Ventre campground. Jean has been trying for a year and a half to see a moose. We were told this campground was in prime moose habitat, and they are often seen near there. We didn't see any moose, but on the way there was a herd of bison right next to the road. We passed carefully, since there were a couple of bulls that looked like they were about to walk out in front of us. You don't want to mess with a bison; one of the rangers in Yellowstone told us of someone whose car was gored. Imagine that insurance claim. We also spotted eight elk in one of the fields. We checked in just before sunset and walked down to the river, but no sign moose (though lots of scat).

This morning we got up early (for us) and went back down to the river. Still no luck. So we headed off for Jenny's Lake, where the road goes closest to the mountains. If we were hoping for less smoke we were disappointed. It looked like even more than yesterday. Gene's thought was that getting as close as possible, we might be able to see through the haze better. The mountains were a little clearer closer in. We drove right by a turnout with a good view with the idea that we would get some breakfast first, then come back and try a picture. We got to the lodge only to find: a) they had stopped serving breakfast and hadn't started lunch yet, and b) the road was one-way from there and we couldn't go back.

So on we went, hungry and disappointed. There was a pull-off that put us right next to the lake with the mountains in the background. Gene took a couple of pictures which, with the magic of Photoshop, turned out reasonable, if not as glorious as a clear day would have been.

We also found a pull-off that had a nice view across a meadow.

On the way to lunch we spotted a lot of cars parked at the side of the road and a lot of people standing on a bridge over the Snake River. Sure enough, there was a large bull moose standing in a backwater. We joined the crowd and Jean got her moose sighting (and Gene got a picture). Gene said that he could no longer tease her that a moose was a mythical beast, when a bystander suggested mass hallucination, so he was saved.

Sometimes even a moose gets an itch

We then continued on to a place where we could get lunch (it being almost noon by then). 

So a day that started out with a number of disappointments turned out well after all.

Then we were off for Yakima. We spent most of the rest of the day in Idaho. After you drive out of the mountains the land is the same old flat country with mostly dry grass and sage brush, except here the sage was larger and thicker. There were some fields where there was irrigation. We might have been surrounded by mountains but who knew? The smoke was thick enough to cut visibility to about three miles.

We left the valley by way of a canyon and soon found ourselves following a large lake. It looked immense until we noticed that it was down at least 25 feet. It was a reservoir formed by damming the Snake River. After the dam we were in a smaller valley with rugged mountains to the west and more rounded ones to the east. We also seem to have gotten past the worst of the smoke.

Stopped for the night in Dillon, MT, glad to have wifi and showers. We did alright in campgrounds with no services, but full hookups are a real luxury.

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