Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Driving South

Yesterday morning I said farewell for now to Yellowstone. I hugged final goodbyes to Grant Village hiking buddies, finished cramming my belongings into and onto my car, and then headed south past familiar trailheads, through dense stands of matchstick–thin lodgepole pines twenty–three years young from the fires of 1988. My car breezed in and out of thick drifting fog banks along the Lewis River as it shredded its path (the car or the river?) through Lewis Canyon across and down the rim of the Yellowstone caldera. Down, down, down I drove for mile after mile, dropping in elevation, out of one national park and into another, through radiant amber waves of elegant aspen trees piercingly interspersed amid the softer hues of high–country evergreens. I saw only one lone deer dart into the roadway and back into the fog–shrouded pines in Yellowstone, one scraggly moose in a sunny meadow encircled by cars, cameras and people with tripods in Grand Teton. Shrubby willows yellowed by waning autumn sunlight were snugly hugging the banks of the sinuous Snake River. The Episcopal thrift store in Jackson is a few items richer after my quick end–of–summer drop–off, while the shelves of the Wine Loft are one 12–count Grand Teton Brewing Company sampler poorer. 

Autumn day in Grand Teton National Park with new bike path

My plan was to follow US highway 89 through western Wyoming – you could drive this road all the way from the Canadian to the Mexican border if you desire – and pick up Interstate 80 at Evanston. So I followed those steep contours of amber aspen and then golden cottonwood south through the sun–filled canyons of the Snake River, avalanche chutes draping the mountainside crevasses with hues of deep green and yellow golden rust. By the time I was hungry it was hours later. I had left the Snake River behind at Alpine and soon reached the busy ranching country of Star Valley. I stopped at the cheese factory in Thayne for a mid–day patty–melt lunch, decent enough because it included honestly homemade french fries, the kind not found frozen in a bag, along with my own special bottle of fry sauce, that penultimate Utah (and apparently western Wyoming) dining staple. 

Somewhere south of Smoot, highway 89 crosses the Salt River Pass. From this divide, water flows either north into the Snake River and ultimately to the Pacific Ocean or south into the Bear River and the Great Salt Lake, where it has no surface outlet to any sea. 

View northward from Salt River Pass

At Geneva ID (population negligible) the road sign for US 89 indicated I was on my way to Salt Lake City via Logan UT. This was definitely not the route I wanted to pursue since avoidance of all things involving Interstate 15 was high on my list. I stopped to check my map (yes, a real paper map, courtesy of WY department of transportation, not a gps unit!) and noticed that Wyoming state road 89 would take me in the general direction of Evanston. Aha! So I turned my rig around, waved goodbye to Geneva in my rear view mirror, and stumbled upon my next retirement villa somewhere in the Idaho–Wyoming hinterlands. 

My next retirement villa

I left highway 89 (US or state) at Sage Creek Junction, UT, where I saw lots of sage but no creek, and continued south across open sage–covered rolling hills in the valley west of the Bear River Divide. Utah state highway 16 morphed into Wyoming state highway 89 for my final few miles into Evanston, where I proceeded to get totally turned around even though I could distinctly see the Interstate 80 superhighway through my bug-splattered windshield. 

The Park City outlet stores beckoned like a siren in Greek mythology, but rush–hour traffic proved to be my downfall. Whimpering “I know they’re here somewhere!” did me no good, so I re-entered the interstate and the steep, twisting grade down Parley’s Canyon, cars flying past me as I crept along at 55 mph in the outside lane. 

A scant twenty more miles down the road and I found myself in Salt Lake City and the Avenues Hostel, my home away from home for the next few nights. Cheap, safe, and clean, that’s all I need for now. I’ll visit with my nephew and see some sights of the city. Cheers!

1 comment:

  1. A gorgeous drive and glad you didn't get snow. Predicted here for Thurs. I really don't feel ready for winter, but am ready for end of season 10-16. Are you still planning a visit?