Last days in the West

Trip Start Apr 28, 2009
Trip End Jul 03, 2009

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Flag of United States  , Wyoming
Saturday, June 20, 2009

Friday, June 19th
Grand Tetons, Wyoming

We are camped with a breathtaking view of the Tetons. It is every bit as beautiful as we remembered from our visit 12 years ago with Sarah. But back to Idaho.....

We spent a whole day driving along the Lochsa River (Route 12) in Idaho - a narrow valley, very many windy miles long, a rushing river, steep mountains on either side. Stopped for a 45 minute hike across a suspension bridge and up the other side. Finally over Lolo Pass into Montana, with views of Lolo Peak, and down into the Bitteroot Valley. Camped at "Squaredance Campground" (they have nightly square dancing, but it was pretty poorly attended and we didn't participate....) - we did go into Missoula and poke around - we had corresponded last minute with my nephew Zach, who had lived there in college and after, and he headed us to a good neighborhood and restaurant, which we enjoyed (the Old Port) - sat on the terrace, warm and sunny. He also told us about a good place to hike, and the next day we did a 3 mile (round trip) hike to Blodgett Canyon Overlook - an easy path really up through an area regenerating after a bad fire - tons of wild flowers and new lodgepole pine growth. The overlook into Blodgett Canyon was awesome - a little Yosemite, Zach called it, and it was. Clouds and light showers set in while we were up there, but we had raincoats with us. Harder rain held off until the car. The ride up a narrow bumpy dirt road to the trailhead above the Bitteroot Valley took almost as long as the hike itself. Beautiful views. We'll be back.

The valley as we drove south provided all kinds of views - broad and flat with mountains on both sides, gradually narrowing to where it climbs up to a pass, the Continental Divide (just touched it, crossed, and crossed back,) and back into Idaho. Down into the North and East Forks of the Salmon River Valley. Again, rushing rivers (lots of rain recently), people setting out for rafting trips all along, and after a bit arrived at my cousin Molly's and her husband Gerry's in Carmen, a tiny town in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by mountains and green fields. Their spacious vertical-log house, terrier Callie, cockatiel B.B., Gerry's coffee bean roasting, dinner, conversation, and an indoor guestroom provided welcome hospitality. Lots of catching up.

Next day, which was yesterday, we headed out late (11) further south for miles and miles along the Salmon River. Mountain views, narrow canyons, areas of broad green and further south, broad high desert. Across lava fields, with distant extinct volcanoes. Through Idaho Falls and into Wyoming from the back of the Tetons. Held up for a half hour of construction delay, rewarded with two rainbows (we had been through a heavy shower.)

Arrived late at the National Park campground outside Jackson (I love Jackson, touristy as it is.) We had really liked it here last time and are glad to be back. Today we just did all the tourist-in-the-park stuff - visitors center, overlooks. walks, historic sites. The sun and clouds are providing a beautiful backdrop to these spectacular mountains that rise straight out of the flat flat basin (or park or "hole") - just paused to watch a young elk walk right by the camper (we are parked by a lake) - went back to a historic general store (in the park) to see if they still had the wonderful knives we bought one of years ago - it became "the good knife" in our kitchen and is all worn out. We had bought it here. Of course they no longer have them. But we had a nice chat with the guy who works in the store.

So here's the scoop. We loved the Bitteroots and northern Idaho, all of it. We'd come back to either one and we will. We think the National Parks, although beautiful and must-sees in your life, are very crowded and you get much the same scenery with no crowds in the other places. Of course if you get out hiking or whatever in the National Parks, they are a much better experience - but still, Idaho, wow. Amazing place.

After we leave here tomorrow, we are really on our way home. We had hoped to see Sarah and Kaleb and Tom en route home, in southern Wyoming or Colorado again, but they are all down in Telluride for a long weekend of bluegrass festival, so it isn't going to work out for that. We are thinking about swinging south through Kansas City, to see some old friends and cement John's presence in Kansas and Missouri, as the last 2 of the lower 48 for him (he has actually been in both, asleep in the car at age 15, but he thinks that hardly counts...) then back up north to see family (both sides) in Michigan and NY state, and friends in western PA. Think of holding the end of a rope and snapping it to make it move in sort of big waves - that is the route that is shaping up for the next 2 weeks. We feel like the exploration part of the trip is winding down. It is an odd feeling. What a time....

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rorytira on

getting closer to home...
as 4th of July gets closer and the rest of us firm up plans for the holiday weekend, that can only mean you're almost home... I sense a little bittersweetness at the end of this last entry.

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