As my wife and I now begin the turn east from southern Oregon, our intended route would be influenced by visits to family/friends now. Crossing the arid plateau east of the Cascade Mountains, we would spend three nights reuniting with our old, South Florida neighbor, Tina, in Boise, Idaho. Enjoying relaxation time in the simple comforts of her home combined with playful attention to her loyal, Labrador Retriever, Molly, it had become apparent that homesickness had surfaced after two and one half months on the road. Unmotivated to sightsee in Boise on this quiet visit, we could have stayed longer in Boise for sure. The “downtime” here, however seemed to regenerate our enthusiasm to move on eastward to complete our long journey back to South Florida.
Choosing the high, arid plateau along the I-84 corridor across Southern Idaho now, we became acutely aware of magnificent valley ravines/river gorges cut deeply by the winding Snake River alongside our highway path. Stopping at Massacre Rock State Park for a two mile walk in cold and blustery weather conditions, we discovered an interesting path along the historic Oregon Trail to view wagon ruts and boulder inscriptions of westbound settlers from the mid -19th century homestead period.
More practically, this meandering river would lead our way to the rugged highlands of Grand Teton/Yellowstone National Park. Taking a shorter but steeper route over the snowy Teton pass, we would rejoin the Snake again at popular, Jackson, Wyoming. We would be fortunate to find a reasonably cost motel at the Antler Inn downtown before the summer rush of tourist arrival. We would also find the springtime weather suitable for two, full days of mountain country viewing.
On a quiet, Sunday morning, we would begin our latest tour with a short drive along the Snake River highway path to reach Grand Teton National Park. Sidetracking at the Moose Visitor Center for an obligatory ranger orientation, we were told that taking our intended walking path near Jenny Lake would be risky due to lingering snow and muddy conditions. We needed a practical Plan B option. With these steep mountains being cloudlessly viewable today, we thus opted to enjoy these nearby panoramas by driving leisurely the forty two mile loop road to traverse the entire National Park. How exciting it seemed to understand that the stark beauty of these faulted mountains and associated glacier formations had resulted from volcanic forces shifting the earth’s plates upwards and sideways over eons of time.
Yellowstone National Park marks the origin of the Snake River and would again serve as our main guideway as we made a brief visit to America’s first National Park the next day. Realizing that hordes of tourists would head directly to Old Faithful area, we selected the less visited West Thumb geyser and Yellowstone Lake regions as our primary destination today. Picture an inviting combination of pristine forestland serenity, spectacular lakeside vistas with a sprinkling of entertaining birdlife/wildlife. Undoubtedly, both of us had become mesmerized by the natural amenities here. Fittingly, we have decided to apply for part time work as a retired couple in this Yellowstone Lake region within the next two years.
The more that I experience the wildness of the American West, the more sensitive I become to the paradox of natural beauty and physical hardship experienced in traversing these spacious lands. Around each rising mountain pass or below each river canyon lies a myriad of curious wonders yet so much of these locations appear inaccessible to human contact. Nature thus has spoken loudly to us. Our natural ecosystems are here for us to enjoy yet human encroachment should not be allowed to wreck them.