Sunday, July 15, 2012

Show me your Tetons!

With the luxury of my nine month contract and Dave's current job ending a month before his new one starts, we thought it would be fun to take a vacation.  We went back and forth for a few months about what we should do, from visiting his brother in South Africa to a Eurotrip to driving to Vancouver Island and back, I even added Hawaii into the mix for a bit.  In the end, we didn't want to spend thousands of dollars on a vacation because both of our financial worlds have been turned upsidedown lately.  Between my car being stolen and me having to fork what is now up to $8000 out of pocket for my new (2004) Subaru, my summer school class being cancelled, today writing out my first rent check on my own for the full condo, and buying plane tickets to New York, my pocketbook is a lot less cushy than it was three months ago.  Dave on the other hand has been getting thousands of dollars worth of medical bills from a trip to the emergency room this past Christmas Eve.  Let's just say a grad student salary doesn't leave a lot of room for huge medical bills as well as $3000 New York apartment deposits.  So, we were limited to what we could comfortably do.

Before Dave and I started dating, but while we were sharing an office, he took a huge road trip with two of his three brothers.  They traveled all around the west and northwest, hitting major National Parks in the US and Canada.  He's seen just about everything, so it is hard to find something new for him to do that is within driving distance.  We found it, though.  Grant Teton National Park!  We packed up the 1980 VW Vanagon Westfalia, "The Westy," and started driving north on the 4th of July.  It was nearly 100 degrees outside and not only does the van not have air conditioning, but it is an air cooled van (the crappiest of the vans).  This means that when you believe the engine might be overheating, it can be beneficial to turn on the heat so that hot air has somewhere to go.  So, during our 8 hour drive, every 30 minutes we turned on the heat for 15 minutes.  Let's just say that it was not comfortable until well after the sun went down.  We went through Larimer, Wyoming, on I80 for a bit to Rock Springs, then north to Pinedale.  We pulled into Pinedale just as their 4th of July fireworks were getting going.  We found a park and enjoyed the show, which was fabulous!  (Our home town had cancelled their fireworks due to fire danger.)

Now it was dark out and we had to find a place to camp.  Rather than climb up a mountain to a real campgrounds, we found a crappy RV park in Pinedale (crappy, but with showers at least) and made walking tacos for dinner.  Dave had never had one, and I was convinced it would be a fun 4th of July treat, since it is a tradition in my home town taken from Walleye Weekend.  After 8 hours of driving, he wasn't all that amused by the surprise that he'd be eating dinner out of a Fritos bag.

Thursday, July 5-- The next morning we continued north to Jackson, Wyoming where we filled up with gas a lots of oil, then headed to Grand Teton National Park.  The arrival was less than spectacular.  Little did we know, despite my research ahead of time, that there was a 6,000 acre fire burning just east of the park called the Bear Cub Fire.  The winds must have been from that direction because we couldn't even see the mountains when we entered the park!  The park was also annoyingly confusing at first.  The places where you pay were well inside the park, so we had no map to know which way to go and had to find parking at the Moose visitors center to get a map to find out where to find camping.  This was my first taste of the crowds that were to come.

 We got our map, drove the fast way to the open campground, which took us far from the mountains we still couldn't see, and fought back fears that we wouldn't be able to hike in air quality like this.  We ended up at the Coulter Bay campground, the last loop, which put us in a thick pine forest, but just a short hike to Jackson Lake.  It was only mid afternoon, so we drove to the nearby Marina.  I explored for a bit while Dave took a nap to fight off a headache, then I lugged him out with me and we went for a wildlife hike near some lakes.  Thank you, Excedrin Migraine!

We saw some cranes, a pelican, and a bald eagle!  We also got rained on, but the rain was welcome, anything to clean the smoke out of the air! 

This elk ran right in front of our car!
We went for a drive to see some more wildlife.  It's funny how traffic jams in national parks are usually caused by something stupid like an elk.  Everyone wants to see!  We arrived on a traffic jam from two black bears, but couldn't actually see them.  I don't think anyone there could either.  The park service came out to get people to leave, so we moved on and went home where we made chili while it rained out.  The van has a little stove and sink, so it is so easy to cook real meals, even when it's cold and raining!

Friday, July 6-- The next morning we had a 12 mile, 3,000 foot elevation gain hike planned in the park, so we set our alarms to wake up early.  We ate coffee and cereal, got dressed, and just as we're ready to hit the road to the trailhead, the van wouldn't start!  And the adventure begins...


mithrandr said...

Part 2 better come soon

NavyGirl said...

Ooooo, I love a good cliffhanger! (As long as I already know that you guys made it home safely!)