I recently read an article that referred to social media as a way to live ‘a perfectly curated life.’ Hmmm, is that what we’re doing with this blog? Featuring the perfect? Sweeping everything else under the proverbial analog rug?
Not really. We’re genuinely having great fun. Some days are outrageous – we climb mountains, see unbelievable views, swim in crystal clear lakes. We do tend to emphasize these in our posts, though some days are ordinary and we do laundry and go grocery shopping, while other days have hiccups like flat tires and roads suggested by GPS that turn into singletrack. It’s all part of the great adventure.
We’ve known Nancy and David since… May. Yes – this May, this year, on this trip. We were introduced to them by our friends Mark and Linda at our Lake Powell rendezvous and it seems like we’ve been friends for years. Or, as Nancy suggested, perhaps we knew each other in another life…
Having skirted the worst of the smoke, we entered the North Cascades National Park from the west, up wind from the nearest wildfires. Although the air quality was improved – it smelled like a 24/7 campfire but it didn’t hurt to breathe – the skies were still smoky and views obscured. Oh, and add to the wildfires a record breaking epic heat wave torturing the Pacific Northwest. We’d figure out how to turn this into an adventure…
We left Glacier intending to head west toward North Cascades National Park. We meandered through western Montana, following the Clark Fork Valley through pretty pine forests, reaching Lake Pend D’Oreille in Idaho. The pine forests gave way to rolling hills and eventually those amber waves of grain (the wheat belt of eastern Washington). Cresting a hill, we got our first view of the Columbia River Valley in the form of Lake Roosevelt, behind the Grand Coulee Dam. Following the river, which retains a certain natural beauty despite having been heavily engineered for power generation and irrigation, we passed through miles of fruit orchards surrounded by green hills and more sagebrush.
Stan and Cyndee were driving their new truck camper from Vermont to Big Sky, Montana. We were on our way from Yellowstone to Glacier National Park. The paths would cross, but the timing was off and it appeared we wouldn’t get to meet up (does this sound familiar?). Then the sun set, Jupiter aligned with Mars, schedules changed just a teeny bit, and we found ourselves a window of opportunity. We held over an extra day at a free campground overlooking the Yellowstone River, conveniently close to an air-conditioned museum on that scorching day in Columbus, Montana, then took a short detour to the south to meet our friends as they arrived at their destination.
The land which comprises Yellowstone National Park is iconic. In 1806, most people dismissed the accounts of its rugged beauty and curious boiling mud and steaming rivers by John Colter, an early explorer and former member of the Lewis and Clark expedition, thinking he was delirious. Given his reputation for exaggeration, Jim Bridger’s 1856 reports of a river flowing past yellow walls were also dismissed. Ultimately, photographs by William Henry Jackson and paintings by Thomas Moran in 1871 created a buzz and were the catalysts for the US Congress to set aside public lands for protection and public pleasure in the 19th century. Yellowstone was subsequently established as the first National Park in 1872. Great lodges, large, elegant and full service (for the day – no internet back then, though desks with letter writing supplies were scattered throughout the common areas) were soon built to attract vacationers from the populated east coast who were increasingly attracted to western adventures made easier by rail travel. Yellowstone is one of the largest National Parks in the US and more than 4 million people visit every year, which this year included these two Vermonters.
Jackson Hole is the (aptly named) broad, flat valley between the Gros Ventre Range and Teton Mountain Range. To enter from any direction is to ‘drop’ into the hole. The 13,000-foot Teton Range dominates the view from anywhere in the hole which can only mean one thing… Lots of Teton Range photos!
We met Harry and Karen (from NY) and Geoff and Pat (from CT), nearly 30 years ago, in NJ. With shared passions for biking, hiking and skiing, it didn’t take long for us to become fast friends. At the time, Pat and Geoff lived near us in CT and they are still close by even though we migrated northward, so we get together with some regularity. Less so for Harry and Karen. We were sad when they told us after 5 years that they were moving to Boise ID. But no worries – we’ll just continue having outrageous ski and bike vacations together! We have fond memories of meet-ups for adventures in Sun Valley, Alta/Snowbird/Solitude, Breckenridge, Whistler/Blackcomb and more. Then came kids (mostly theirs), injuries (mostly ours), jobs with lots of travel (pretty much all of us), and all of a sudden 19 years had gone by without an adventure together… Gotta fix that!
On my 1983 cross-country bike trip, I wanted to get to Yellowstone NP from western Colorado. There were several route options. For no other reason than there was a green splotch on the map, I opted to head toward Flaming Gorge. Naively thinking I was past the Rockies and large mountain passes, I was unprepared for the pass over the Uintas. I pulled into a campground at Flaming Gorge well past dark, thoroughly beyond exhausted, set up my tent and fell asleep. There are no words to describe the emotion when I woke early in the morning and crawled out of my tent about 30 feet from the rim of the 1,700 foot deep, 4,000 foot wide Red Canyon. I stayed all day. I vowed to go back.