As Labor Day weekend approached, I had a mild panic attack. Not over anything serious. Just another one of those moments where you realize, “Oh crap, I am in the real world now.” What prompted such a reaction? The fact that a three day weekend was coming up. Normally, that wouldn’t be a big deal. But now that I have a real person job with two weeks paid vacation, and a week and a half of the two weeks already spoken for (wedding in India and a conference). After 17 years of month long winter breaks and two month summers, this new year round commitment thing scared the crap out of me. And convinced me that my long weekends could not be spent doing anything that I could do on any normal weekend. So where to go? A nice twelve hour journey to Wyoming of course. I had always wanted to go to Grand Teton and Yellowstone, so this was the perfect opportunity. Never mind the solo drive and the 40% chance of rain. My mind was set. Or at least it was at noon on Friday when I finally booked my rooms at the very last minute. Friday night saw me spend the night in Salt Lake City. The next morning had another scary moment. I turned on the ignition to my car, and saw a check engine light. This was eerily reminiscent to my last attempt to go out to Yellowstone three years ago, where my plans were derailed by a faulty alternator that ended with me spending Memorial Day weekend in Salt Lake City. Luckily, my deja vu moment ended there, since all I had to do was inflate my tires (which improved my gas mileage by 25%!). On the way there I got to stop at a number of nifty view points, some of which were parts of the Oregon Trail. It took me back to playing that game on old-school computers in Elementary School. I kept looking for a place to ford the river…
Got into Jackson mid-afternoon on Saturday, checked into my motel, and drove to Grand Teton. It was totally worth the solo drive. Scenery was great. The only bad thing was that the lighting at that time of day was terrible for photography. But I did the best I could. Not that my photography skills are worth writing home about.
I will admit, I did not stay out as long as I could have. I high-tailed it back to Jackson just in time to see the kick-off of the Alabama-Michigan game. It was worth coming back early to see. I woke up the next morning and drove to Yellowstone. It was overcast, but seeing the mountains peek through the clouds with the sun shining on them was a pretty amazing site.
Got into the park and stopped at Grant Village to get recommendations for what to see. The park ranger looked at me as if I had spouted blasphemy when I told him of my desire to see as much of Yellowstone as possible in a day. He gave me recommendations, but warned me to stay on the southern route. There was no way I could possibly do both routes in one day. I thought to myself: Challenge accepted. I spent a rather silly amount of time in the car that day in order to get through both loops, but I made it, even with a quick dalliance into Montana just to say that I made it there. Despite traffic jams caused by bison and numerous side-trips to waterfalls and geysers, I did it all in one day. Was it enough? Of course not. I think I could easily spend a month in Yellowstone and never get bored. But it was definitely worth the trip! Also saw elk for the first time in the wild. I even saw Old Faithful blow five minutes after getting there. Lucky timing.
The drive back wasn’t too shabby either.
The next day, I woke up bright and early, not to drive back, but to go up to Teton again to see them in their sunlit glory. No overcast sky this time, although there had apparently been a fire the night before judging from the smell and the haze. Still beautiful though.
Of course, I couldn’t head straight back home. Since Great Bear Lake was only half a hour out of the way, I had to stop there. I had never seen that color water outside of the topics before.
The drive back included another one of those gorgeous western sunsets and rain that evaporated before it ever made it to the ground. And thus ended by Jolly Jaunt North.