Road Trip 2/4

Let’s just jump right back into it..

Day 4:

The sun peeked through the treetops and slowly began to warm the forest. That’s one of the best parts about camping.. You wake with the sunrise, whether you like it or not. The tent gets all sticky and humid and there’s no escaping the sun beating on your face so you get up and start

enjoying the morning. For me, this is making a coffee, climbing into my hammock and writing. I could spend hours doing just this but it’s still early in the trip and we have things to SEE. We took down camp and continued our adventure through BigHorn National Forest.

I was super excited because I had finally picked THE BEST hike in the forest. There was just one slight issue.. Remember all that peacefulness I felt by being disconnected from the world? Well, the entire forest presented that same zero cell phone service. For the life of us we couldn’t find the trailhead. This is a total rookie mistake as AllTrails Pro provides downloadable trails AND Google Maps allows you to download a section of a map offline as well. So you should do that but for us we just continued random turn after random turn. We landed ourselves at a campground surrounding a beautiful lake. Why not try asking for directions right? While we were receiving a few recommendations on a local hike, a camper came up and told us that there was a moose down by the lake. We hadn’t seen a moose yet during this trip so the excitement was overwhelming. I got nervous, we had to hurry to the lake. We already missed out on THE BEST hike, we couldn’t miss out on another opportunity. So I whipped the minivan into reverse and attempted to hightail it out of there. While doing so, I might have gently grazed (smashed into) a rock. Sorry Rhonda but also sorry Mom.. My Mom hasn’t noticed the new beauty mark yet but I guess this is the true test if she actually reads my blogs :-)

It’s safe to say Rhonda had a rough day. We had a six hour drive through the nothingness of Wyoming. The speed limit is 80mph and between the speed and the heat there were some not so promising noises appearing at times. We did make a stop at this abandoned basketball court. Want to talk about a surreal backdrop?! This was one of the coolest courts I’ve ever seen.

I, of course, had a basketball packed because why not? So we shot around and again enjoyed the absolute nothingness of Wyoming. It was the perfect pit stop, that was until Rhonda didn’t start. Hehe.. We sat there for a good 15 minutes and with relentless effort, Trent finally got it started. Thank you GOD!

The rest of the drive was flawless. **Unpopular opinion** I thoroughly enjoyed driving through Wyoming. It seemed that the land and views changed every 20 miles. Never a sign of human life but I thought there was beauty in the emptiness. As we approached Jackson Hole, Trent got to see his first REAL mountains, The Teton Range. There was something special about the way the granite peaks slowly began taking over the skyline. Jackson Hole is a tourist city with shops and restaurants at every corner. We walked the streets until right around dusk, then the real fun began. We punched in our coordinates and began our way to our camping area. The fun thing about punching in coordinates is you have not the slightest clue where it will take you. We were 100% reliant on our camping App at this point. This time it took us on the roughest switchbacks up the side of a mountain. OKAY COOL. The sun set and we were still in the mix of climbing the mountain. So now I’m navigating this unknown location on narrow, rough, twisting turning roads in the dark. What could go wrong?! I tried playing it cool but I was white knuckling the steering wheel as I hugged the side of the mountain. I figured a few more potential scratches were better than the alternative of driving over the ledge of the mountain.

We passed campsite after campsite and one after another, they were all taken. My playing it cool was slowly fading as I grew more and more nervous that we weren’t going to find a site. Finally, I pulled off into this small lot with multiple vehicles clearly already claiming the area. Without saying a word I put the van in park and turned off the lights. I wanted to stay as discreet as possible so setting up camp didn’t seem to be in the cards. We committed to enjoying the comfort of the Rhonda Inn. No one seemed to be bothered by our entrance so we decided to enjoy the darkness of the night and star gaze. Another perk of the nothingness of Wyoming is the night sky. The sky was jet black with an incomprehensible number of stars lighting up the sky. Without a cloud in the sky we were able to catch a few shooting stars. I know you aren’t supposed to share your wish but as I watched the first star fall from the sky, I closed my eyes and wished to not die on the way back down the mountain in the morning.

Day 5:

What a great campsite we found! The darkness of the night hid our surroundings but when I woke up in the morning I was greeted by the breathtaking view of the Tetons. We had climbed the mountain that sat parallel to The Tetons, giving us a front row seat of the mountain range. This was unique as we were planning on hiking in and through the Tetons but this gave us a bird's eye view of the remarkable mountain range.

The drive down the mountain was uneventful. Maybe it was because of my wish on the shooting star or maybe it had a little something to do with the fact it was daytime and I could actually see the potholes and edge of the cliff. Either way.. Success. We bummed around Jackson for the morning grabbing a coffee and waited in anticipation for Moo’s Gourmet Ice Cream to open. This of course being the best ice cream stop in all of Wyoming. Remember how COVID was starting to disappear on this trip? Well, I quickly was reminded it still exists. Moo’s was closed because one of their employees got COVID and the rest of them were in quarantine. I felt a little sad but then again I knew I would be back to Jackson someday.

Finally, we entered Grand Tetons National Park. Our first hike was to Phelps Lake which started at Deaths Canyon. It was a nice little climb up and the views overlooking Phelps Lake were spectacular. We started our descent down and began hiking the loop around the lake. The loop ran along the edge of the water, allowing us to marvel over the perfectly still water. While we were hiking the loop we saw our first bear! It was just a baby bear so I wasn’t as intimated as I probably should have been, especially because when there is a baby bear there is a HIGH chance there is a mama bear not too far away. Nonetheless, I could feel my adrenaline rising as I slowly made my way past the bear. Trent on the other hand made his way well down the trail already. He didn’t want to stick around and meet up with mama bear.

To keep the adrenaline rolling we decided to cliff jump. Naturally, I watched at least 10 people jump to assure that it was safe and then quickly I found myself next in line standing at the edge of the rock. The jumping rock stands about 25 feet high and I could feel my heart begin to beat faster and faster the longer I delayed my jump. Finally, I took a leap of faith (literally). Building up the courage, I counted down from 5 in my head. 5..4..3..2..1.. I ran, pushed off of the rock and jumped out as far as I could. It was an unparalleled feeling as I fell through the sky. It was only 25 feet high but it felt like I was falling forever. Finally, with my nose tightly plugged, I hit the water. Safe and sound. I jumped a few more times but mostly just to test my bravery. It never became less daunting as I peaked over the edge of the rock.

After our hike we played another game of, “Where are we going to sleep tonight?”. This time we found ourselves on a road that I believe had more potholes than road. Poor Rhonda. As we drove miles on this road and tested every ounce of the suspension system, I decided to pull into a clearly full campground. After putting on my most desperate face, we found ourselves with a $15 campsite in the overflow area of the campground. This obviously wasn’t a free stay but it was indeed cheaper than the alternative of flying home in the result of the van breaking down.

The campground was along the river and we were able to enjoy our dinner with another air dried meal but this time coupled with Wyoming's finest red wine. We played some more cribbage. We are starting to really get the hang of this whole “roughing” it thing at this point.

Day 6:

Today we didn’t wake with the sun, we woke with the good old fashioned iPhone alarm. The morning was still dark and the moon lit the sky. Today’s agenda was booked with a 17 mile hike and securing a campsite at Lake Jenny. We were half successful. We arrived at the campground at 6:18AM and were the 27th car in line (yes I counted). AT 6AM. The campsites max capacity was around 45 campsites but here’s the kicker.. Not all 45 campsites were going to be emptied, many people stayed multiple nights. AND check out is 10am so even if luck was on our side and 27 families left the campground, we would still have to wait another 4 hours to see if we even had a chance. So we decided with a 17 mile hike on the horizon, we’d just make breakfast and attempt to find a campsite later.

We were hiking Cascade Canyon to Lake Solitude. The hike provided everything, starting with a boat shuttle across Lake Jenny saving us a 2 mile hike around the lake to the trail head. There were two popular stops within short distance of the trailhead, Hidden Falls (1.1 miles) and Inspiration Point (1.8 miles). This made the hike a little crowded in the first few miles but after we got a few more miles in and entered the canyon, we were alone. Hiking through the canyon was incredible. We were submerged in nature, surrounded by nothing but mountains and trees and even the occasional waterfall. It’s an eerie feeling at times because you realize just how big this world is. I was tucked away in a SMALL piece of mountain range in the middle of Wyoming and it felt like each way I turned the views were endless. It would take weeks to be satisfied with the exploration of the Grand Tetons but seeing we only had one day, this was the best possible hike.

We arrived at the lake and the temperature dropped. The sun was still shining but the cold breeze dried our sweat. The far side of the lake still had snow surrounding it in places where the sun only hit briefly throughout the day. The lake water was chilled. We needed to filter the lake water to assure we had a sufficient amount for the hike back. As I dipped my hands into the water I could feel the chill enter my body. It was so cold, it reminded me when you sacrifice your gloveless hands to make a snowball in the winter time in Wisconsin. Because I’m a big baby with being cold, I quickly found myself in my hammock, wrapped up and enjoying my lunch with the most beautiful view. A nap at this point was almost inescapable. The hike had my legs exhausted and the hammock created the perfect little heat box. We napped for a few hours and then proceeded to enjoy the same breathtaking views on the way back.

Lake Jenny was peaceful, not a ripple in the water and I felt the need to be submerged into the water. In college we were taught the importance of ice baths. After a few sideways looks back and forward, the “I will if you do" look, we found ourselves swimming throughout the lake in the again CHILLED water but this time it was refreshing. We knew a shower probably wasn’t probable and our legs and joints thanked us.

And we thanked Steve. Recall that we didn’t have a place to sleep again.. I know this is becoming a theme of the trip but in our defense this time we had a plan, it just so happened to fall through. Anyways, Steve, the real MVP of the night. We again drove down some questionable washboard roads and discovered each campsite happily claimed by people who probably arrived early in the morning. With a bit of frustration and luck we pulled into a campsite that was clearly taken but we had to give Rhonda a break from the bumps. That’s where we met Steve. Noticing he was alone we boldly asked to join him for the night. He replied with, “As long as you’re not assholes, you are welcome”. I think we can handle that. Perfect, another night secured.

It was a great night. Steve was 24 and from Nashville and now living in Idaho. We cooked dinner together and then attempted some night fly fishing. (My dad would be so proud) We broke open a bottle of wine around the fire and watched as ALL the stars beamed in the night sky. I couldn’t even tell you where the nearest city was but again we were in nothing but darkness and the stars.

Day 7: