Friday, October 2, 2009

Retroactive Travel Post - Day 11 - Utah

I'm beginning to not only wonder if I'll get through this travel blog, and if anyone really cares so long after the fact. It just goes to show you, it's best to blog about things while they are happening, because reheated news gets stale quickly. Also, as time passes, the details get increasingly blurry. Funny how that works.

On that note, here's more. We'd spent the night in a Yellowstone campground, which is your typical state park setting, with people all around you and wealth of RVs. In all fairness, despite the crowds, people don't bother you and keep to themselves. They respect what little space you have. Besides, they're too busy trying to get ESPN on their satellite TVs.

I woke up first as usual and set out to find firewood. We had some logs left over from Big Horn, but they weren't going to be enough, and though they sold firewood at the visitor's center, they didn't open for a couple of hours. I was told to pick up whatever dead wood I could find and use that, so I did. There was plenty of kindling all around, but not much in the way of large, long-burning logs. I wasn't in any position to complain, so I brought back a pretty good pile.

We got a good fire going and the had the usual breakfast of hot dogs and some fruit. The grounds were reasonably nice, though I learned something interesting. Yellowstone is a National Park, but the everyday operations are contracted out to a private company that bids for the job. Since they set prices and make the rules, they can charge you an arm and a leg for supplies, which they do. I ended paying about $1.00 for each piece of wood, and it was pine! The stuff is lying around everywhere and they are shamelessly extorting the general public for it. I was incensed, but when in Rome...

By the time we had packed up the car, I was pretty much over my Yellowstone experience. I've been told by a number of reliable sources that Yellowstone is best when you leave the populated places and head for more isolated grounds. That, however, requires serious camping gear and off-trail camping, which are not ready for... yet!

Even the drive out of Yellowstone was a chore (I know, I know, I'm being a whiny baby). The traffic was terrible, and they were doing road construction so it literally took us 45 minutes to get through a certain pass. Bummer. We were looking forward to the open road.

We passed through the Tetons, which are beautiful, though we didn't really have time to sit around and enjoy them because we had to get to Utah before dark. I'm told they are actually nicer than Yellowstone, but that's for another time.

When we'd finally exited the National Park, we were once again on the open road and heading into Jackson Hole, WY. Growing up skiing in California, I'd always heard about Jackson Hole, to the point where it took on an almost mythical aura, and here we were, driving through it. The town is tiny but kind of cool. Very hip, as well. You can see how the rich and famous like to go there, and they even have their own airport.

We stopped for gas (which also sold firewood) and were struck by how many of these towns we passed through were run by young Russians. We'd seen them before in towns like Burlington, Cape Cod, and even Martha's Vineyard, but we were all the way out west. You sort of wonder how they ended up where they did.

From Jackson Hole, we spent about ten minutes in Idaho before we entered Utah. One thing that really made an impression on me on our trip was how all these states all look the same. They are picturesque in a bleak sort of way, just thousands of miles of desert. There are pockets of green, especially as you get to the higher elevations, but for the most part, you could be in the Mojave Desert (that's in California, for those of you who don't know) and you wouldn't know the difference. It's very inhospitable, though I know some people are avid fans of desert climates.

Since we'd spent so much time getting out of Yellowstone and the Tetons, we didn't have loads of time and found a camp site near the border. It was actually a beautiful site that overlooked a reservoir, the name of which eludes me at the moment. I believe it was a state park, and it was clean but eerily vacant. And to make matters worse, the manager's husband was this strange fellow who latched onto us like velcro and wouldn't let go. A good example of paying the price for being nice. I chatted with him for a bit and bought some of his firewood (as opposed to what the park was offering) and then he wanted to move in with us.

Even then, it might not have been so bad if he didn't keep flying off the deep end about his religion and prophets and sin. It sort of reminded me of religious zealots who come knocking at your door and want to have bible study in your mud room. I'm all for freedom of religion and can respect people's faith, but much less so when they're trying to cram it down your throat.

I found this guy to be completely unprofessional and a little bit worrisome because he kept stopping by. It made out stay there anxious and tense, which is a shame because the site was beautiful. Also, I was convinced he pocketed our camp fees and undercut the park service by selling his own wood instead of theirs.

Either way, at some point the guy had to eat and sleep, and he finally went away. We built a nice fire using his garbage wood (why the heck did I buy it?), had a nice supper and went to sleep. I kept my ax handle nearby in case our new friend decided to pay us a late night visit, which he did not.
One final note, the campgrounds were full of deer and rabbits, which we got a huge kick out of. The deer walked right past our site. How cool is that?

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