Today was mostly a driving day. It started out early, before 7, but with a fabulous latte made by Alan, which made it great from the start. We hung out for a bit at Alan and Sue’s house so that I could work a little more on that puzzle, while Mark tried to get some photos of the hummingbirds at the feeders around the house. He got a couple of great ones! We then took off shortly before 9, and Mark drove 460 miles from Fort Collins to Jackson, WY. We really just stopped to get gas, have a picnic lunch near the North Platte River, and for a couple of bathroom stops. The landscape across Wyoming is interesting, of course, with all the bluffs and and interesting formations, but after a while it got a bit monotonous with just the vast areas of sage brush and no settlements whatsoever (which also means that I slept through part of our drive). Ever the statistics nerds, we looked it up and did find that although it is not the least densely populated state (Montana beats Wyoming), it is the least populated state in the contiguous US. It sure felt like it!
The landscape got more interesting when we started to see the Wind River Range to our left–it has snow-covered peaks and is almost inaccessible by major roadway, so people who want to hike there clearly stay all the way out where we were driving (HW 191) and then somehow get themselves to their hiking and fishing destinations into the mountains. The highest peak in Wyoming is there, and we found out that it’s remote enough that a 4-6 day hiking trip on foot is required! Soon afterward, the Grand Tetons were starting to show up on our right, and as we got near the National Forest area that comes before Jackson and the Grand Teton National Park, we had some spectacular views. We came over one hill as it was getting very cloudy and we could see the rain come down like curtains to the left and the right of us, but straight ahead, partially snow-covered peaks were gleaming in the sunshine. It was a pretty special site for someone who has never been in this area at all, like me!
We arrived in Jackson and initially decided to drive straight into Grand Tetons National Park and find out more about possible accommodations in the park. But the only lodge available was out of our price range, so we backtracked (always Plan B) to Jackson and found a motel north of town that was a bit more reasonable. We checked in and then drove right into town to find something to eat. Jackson is like Estes in many ways–a packed, overpriced tourist town full of knickknacks and most interesting where it least tries to be interesting–in the corners where the older cabins or vacation homes from the 1950s or earlier are still extant, or where the cheesy old motel signs from those days have been allowed to get a bit rundown. We did, however, get an excellent recommendation for a bar/restaurant near the Snow King Mountain ski lift, past some construction sites, where it was a little quieter and where we had perfectly fine pizza on the deck, watching the ski lift going around and around on summer duty, taking people up (and down, for most customers) for the view from the top. After dinner, we walked back to the car, stopping to reserve spots on a whitewater rafting adventure tomorrow morning for the early bird rate (including breakfast — which is very appealing!) and again avoided stormy weather just in time. From our hotel room, which faces straight east, we could see areas bathed in bright pre-sunset sunshine while the rest of the sloping hills were dark with overhanging rain clouds. Hopefully, we’ll be lucky with the weather tomorrow!