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Roadrip: Two Fears A Former Nemesis, and the Tetons
I used to work seasonally for an agency that rhymes with Sark Pervis. Good and bad times were had by all, but now, luckily for me I live in Bozeman. Some of my friends have yet to see the light, and I visited such a one last week in the Tetons. It was an excellent trip, fraught with overcoming fears both founded and unfounded, as well as a meeting with an inanimate nemesis.
The trip began with a rather shaky start. Having once experienced true whiteout driving between Yellowstone and Montana, I now have the healthy respect for winter driving in the mountains that I should not have had to learn the hard way. So, when I noticed in the weather forecast that snow was predicted throughout the day of my intended travel, basically along the entire route, I took a moment to re-evaluate my plans. Ultimately, it was not the adult urge to overcome fears that resulted in driving my SUV into the foreboding snowy canyons, but rather the fact that my visitee is on the very short list of people for whom I would drive through a whiteout. It turned out to be a two birds, one stone scenario, and although there were some questionable stretches of driving, I can already feel the grip of overwhelming fear losing its hold on the part of my brain responsible for winter travel. Probably the most unnerving point was when a sheet of ice that had formed on my bumper during a fit of freezing rain detached and smashed into the windshield. Fun times. Shortly after this morsel of excitement, the driving conditions drastically improved, and I arrived in the area of the Idaho/Wyoming border, whereupon I was confronted with my old nemesis, Teton Pass.
Have you ever driven up and down Teton Pass in the snow on top of ice? Have you watched a family member in the rearview mirror struggle to maintain control of his vehicle as crazed lunatics pass him at high speeds on said pass in the snow on top of ice? If no, suffice it to say that I did not enjoy the ride, and consider my fear to be rational. I had never felt a particular love of this bit of road, and after it was such a gratuitous jerk, it became one of my avowed enemies. On a related note, an experience that I do recommend is the keeping of inanimate enemies. It can be quite entertaining.
Any who, this time, once I could see past the fog of anxiety, my eyes were greeted with an entirely different pass than the icy death chute of memory. The road was mercifully dry and caused me a minimum of palpitations. In fact, I was feeling so good, that by the time I reached the apex, I actually stopped for pictures, as the views are breathtaking. A nice cowboy, perhaps sensing my strange sense of triumph, or perhaps taking pity on a lone traveler, took a picture of me grinning like a fearless fool. Take that, nemesis.
In relatively short order, I arrived at my friend’s apartment in Grand Teton National Park, and after a quick lunch we ventured out into a beautiful day. The first stop was my beloved National Museum of Wildlife Art in Jackson, where we took in the new exhibition, watched elk move about through a telescope peering down upon the valley, and visited my favorite permanent collection in the place featuring works by Carl Rungius.
From there, we went on an excellent drive through the National Elk Refuge, and headed back to the park for an inordinately fun wine tasting at Dornan’s. This brings me to fear number two-interacting with new people. There is no reason why this should be an inherently stressful situation, but my reticence to look or sound like a total dork generally keeps me pretty quiet, and initially I am usually labeled as shy or perhaps overly polite, which I hate. Imagine my delight when I was able to at least temporarily befriend not only one, but two new people at this event. Huzzah! Plus, there was some really great wine. Lacking the vocabulary or palate to do justice to descriptions I will say that they were all in their own grapey-ways, very nice. Except for one, which tasted like plastic.
The next day we enjoyed a hike and picnic on the outskirts of Jackson along Cache Creek. Being April, there was some sliding on ice and potholing along the trail, but it was a picturesque walk through pine trees along a creek carving its way through the receding snow. Next on the agenda was a drive through the park in the area of Gros Ventre. I kid you not; we saw no less than six moose in the span of an hour. It was a truly incredible day, and once again, I couldn’t help but think how wonderful it is that these resources are within day-trip distance of Bozeman.
The drive home yielded no tragedies or triumphs, but was lovely nonetheless.
After visiting the west at the age of fourteen, Jamie Balke has been coming up with progressively more elaborate schemes to never leave.