Part 1: From Seattle to Idaho
Total Distance: 2060 Miles
This post comes to you from Kirkland. Two days late. Better late than never though.
Part 1: Salt Lake City
I-15 has no views of the Great Salt Lake. –CeG <oBelIX>
The night had been spent at a motel in Fillmore in Utah. Yes, there is an obvious joke about Fillmore that I will desist from making and carry on. The breakfast was a welcome change, cornflakes with milk and sugar. Cold milk, warm milk with corn flakes induces sleep and sleep is best not induced before a long drive. The long drive today was targeted towards Seattle which at 982 miles looked daunting and I had the suspicion, well, not suspicion, more like a gut feeling that I’d end up spending the night somewhere in Washington, Oregon or Idaho, perhaps 300 odd miles from home. I was in a hurry to get going and I think it was 9:00 by the time I was on the road after having filled up with gas.
Driving through central Utah is similar to driving through Nevada, except that the land is not as flat. The hills are bigger. I was on I-15, a dual carriageway which was smooth. The going was steady, comfortable and I was eating up the miles, listening to the narrator continue to vilify Phaedrus. One of the things that happens on long drives is a slight disassociation from time. I have forgotten the specific part of the book I was listening to that morning.
As I approached SLC, Utah, the expressway widened to three lanes. Traffic increased. People going about life. The number of lanes widened to four. I pulled into a center lane and slowed down – driving the speed limit is advisable in cities. I hoped to see the Great Salt Lake from the road – I had no plans of stopping, there was a long way to go.
I’d thought about going to Grand Teton when leaving Arizona. It seemed like a very worthwhile detour to make and I had deferred the decision. The time had come though. The exit for US-89 North towards Wyoming was coming up. I was chitchatting on the phone, explaining the dilemma. My head said to carry on North on I-15. The heart said to take the exit. I took the exit and it was one of the best decisions ever.
Part 2: US-89
Epic is an understatement. –CeG <oBelIX>
Subway FTW. –CeG <oBelIX>
The first stretch of US-89 as it leaves I-15 goes over a bunch of hills. At the time, there were low hanging clouds, a wide road through the mountains and lots of locals selling fresh fruit. On a drive, especially alone, and for someone who does not have a particular penchant for fruit, it makes no sense to stop for some. This does not hold for Washington Cherries though – they are amazing and one should always stop for Washington Cherries. Wikipedia points out that US-89 here follows Dry Canyon and crosses Sardine Summita t 5900 feet though I do not remember seeing this sign. US-89 eventually enters Logan where there is a branch of the University of Utah. I picked up a subway (yes, I persist with calling a sandwich
from Subway a subway) and carried on, further into more mountains. Here, US-89 is the Logan Canyon Scenic Byway and it is very scenic indeed. There is a stream, a highway and mountains that have lush forests. There are several trailheads. I had the good fortune of heading North – I had an empty road ahead. The majority of the traffic was heading south, back to Salt Lake City after the long weekend. The highway climbs and climbs and finally summits Bear Mountain at 7900 feet. There is a rest stop here and it is a great place to stop and take a look at Bear Lake which is a pleasant surprise to find.
The road drops down into Bear Lake valley. It hits a bunch of cities, and I use the word city very loosely, all these cities have less than a thousand people and some are just a set of houses on the main highway itself. The first city is Garden City which is tiny. The highway turns North and crosses into Idaho and the cities of Paris and Montpelier. Wikipedia states that Montpelier was named after a town in Vermont but is mum on the topic of Paris, ID. There is not much of US-89 in Idaho, I did not realize how quickly I went from Idaho into Wyoming.
Entering Wyoming US-89 goes through a set of mountains (The Salt River Range) and the scenery is breathtaking. It continued to be overcast, typical Seattle weather. The road is twisty and turny and windy and hilly. It climbs up a summit called Geneva (no pun intended) at ~7000 feet. It was an exhilarating drive, I’d turned off the audiobook and at the summit there is a pullout with a bunch of placards that are fun to read.
The car at the top of the summit.
The Salt River Valley
The road then goes into the valley and the town of Afton comes and goes. The only noticeable thing about this town was that there was a great big arch made of elkhorns. It was advertised as the largest Elkhorn arch in the world and I will take their word for it. The road is mostly flat after this as it follows a very agricultural valley. Zen at this time, I remember was talking completely about Greek philosophy. I was not very interested, having only heard the names of the principal characters involved, Plato, Aristotle, Socrates. I had stopped following the discussion around now because it got very detailed and into minutiae of Greek Philosophy which I will read someday. Greek Philosophy is not really high up on the list of things I need to read – it does however exist on that list.
Next stop on the road was the town of Alpine which when I got there I thought existed only as a Junction town between highways. Wikipedia however states that it is also the junction of three rivers and a popular ski resort. I stopped here for petrol and because there was a policeman who had been following me for quite some distance. The Snake River (the same one that runs through GTNP) flows here and there is a very high bridge that crosses the river. It is here I realized that the majority of the traffic on the road was either trucks (the GM/Chevrolet/Ford kind) or SUVs. There were far fewer sedans and far far fewer fast sedans. This surprised me given the roads out here are so much more conducive to driving such cars.
Part 3: Grand Teton National Park
Most other times, I would have blasted through the road from Alpine to Grand Teton (US-89). It shares many of the characteristics of US-89 as it enters Wyoming. Windy, Twisty, Turny etc etc. It is slightly better because there is a river running next to it and the river has very beautiful white water. The drive continues mile after mile after mile. The book at this point, and I remember this clearly because I was paying a lot of attention, talks about Phaedrus’ life, specifically the part where he challenges his Philosophy teacher. I liked the story of the character Phaedrus in the book (aka the narrator). I liked some of the ideas better, especially towards the earlier part of the book. It seems though that I do remember some parts of the book, I will append my earlier hypothesis, there is only so much that can be associated with certain times. When all my energy is focused on the drive I forget what was going on in the book. When I am less focused on the drive (in this case there was a police car two cars in front forcing everyone to go speed limit) I remember more of the book.
GTNP is superb. It is not GNP superb but comparable to ONP. It is the weather and my general mood that provides this bias. It was overcast and drizzling intermittently. Typical Seattle weather. The Tetons, this towering mountain range of several 10K feet mountains which are visible on every postcard, were shrouded by clouds. There were no people. I was not disappointed though. I drove into the park, the lady at the booth greeted me with a very polite smile which I returned and headed towards Jenny Lake. The leaflet had a hike called Inspiration Point which sounded interesting and it was in the Jenny Lake area. At around 6 pm, feeling generally very happy I pulled into the Jenny lake parking lot. The hike was 5 miles round trip and common sense suggested avoiding a two and a half hour walk with moderate elevation gain at nearly sundown on an overcast day after having driven over 400 miles. I took a smaller trail by the lake shore.
Jenny Lake, named after the wife of a settler dude, is beautiful (I will leave that there as a note to my future self – as an example of poor sentence construction – the settler dude completely takes away from the beauty of the lake). It’s big but not oceanic. It was not deep blue or turquoise but just a very calm peaceful blue-grey. The sun was far too shy for it to shine deep blue. It was very quiet, It was also crystal clear water. Cold. It reminded me of Lake Crescent. I had the lake to myself for a long time. Later on, a kayaker took his kayak into the center of the lake. He did nothing there. Just sat. It was such a moment.
The Tetons in the background
A Wyoming rainbow – when I walked back to the car after Jenny Lake.
Part 4: Jackson, WY
Jackson is a small (tourist?) town that borders GTNP on the South. It is expensive. It is also quaint. Again, my opinion is biased, I was in an incredible mood. I might have found it cheesey on another occasion. I stayed at a motel in downtown Jackson and walked down to Pinky G’s Pizza. I had a couple of glasses of liquor while I waited for my pizza. The pizza was decent, do not expect “Bar-Del-Corso” or “Tuttabella” out here. It was warm and had many toppings and was only the second non-subway-non-maggi meal I had had in 7 meals on the trip. This was a day, carpe-diemed.