The dream team is pairing up for this one:
Matt's point of view in black // Clo's point of view in pink
Photo : Clotilde Richalet Szuch
I offer apologies, though only slight, for this title. It was too good of a pun to pass up! For those who aren’t aware, the Grand Tetons was named by French speaking trappers in the early 19th century. It literally means “Big Nipples” (there are three large mountains with that appearance) in French and caused us no lack of inappropriate jokes and more than a few giggles. Differences in language and understanding have accounted for a great amount of funny moments in my life.
The night before we entered the Grand Tetons was a very special one. It was a very cold and clear night next to the Salt River, in the Gros Ventre (which means Big Belly, another gift of the French trappers) Wilderness area. There were no clouds and the sky was an inky black, though interspersed with uncountable stars. It was one of those rare nights when the stars are so bright the milky way forms a rainbow across the night sky. I was standing outside in the dark and marveling at the beauty when in the far distance a storm started throwing lightning bolts at the base of the milky way rainbow.
We truly live in a beautiful world. It baffles me why people can be so cruel, petty, mean or otherwise selfish. I take that back; it doesn’t baffle me so much as it frustrates me, as it is basically the people in the world trying to get through life the best they can. The clear majority of people are not trying to hurt others or be cruel, but they don’t realize what impact they have on others or the things that other people are going through. In many ways, for me these travels are a remarkable and refreshing way of having positive feelings of people reinforced. I do believe that most people really like and enjoy being positive, and it’s only in the throes of living their busy lives do they forget (or don’t care, or don’t have the luxury of being able to do something about it) about how they are impacting other people.
As I was following my routine the next morning of walking around outside, stretching and thinking while Clo was sleeping, a truck pulled up with a boat in tow. It was a local tour guide from Jackson Hole and a guy from San Diego who were going fishing for the day. What a small world! Soon enough I discovered Jerry (from SD) grew up not too far from where my father grew up, and hunted rabbits on the same hill my father and his brothers had scampered around as kids. He was leaving SD for much of the same reasons why my father hasn’t wanted to move back; too many people and too much pollution. I can identify with a lot of that.
The way that Clo and I will be traveling for the next few years allows us to spend a lot of time outside of the cities and in the countryside. While I do enjoy cities at times, I feel more relaxed, calm and at peace when I’m away from the congestion and rush of large amounts of people bent on hurrying around to wait in line somewhere. Our travels so far in the US have been very much in that vein; lots of trees, wide open spaces, mountains and not spending much time in populated areas. I’ve enjoyed it and it was one of the reasons why I was so excited to start exploring the Big Titties in person.
... I dont know, I am getting used to the smaller cities, the silence and the trees. But I was born and grew up in big cities and spend most of the last 12 years of my life in Paris. I like small, cosy, smoky appartements, I need noise to fall asleep, and the rush of people around me makes me feel alive. I kind of become claustrophobic when there are too many trees around, the silence gives me anxiety... So there are a few discordance with Matt on this. But I am open to everything and to new experiences (I think that's what this trip and our new way of life is all about) and it makes me discover another part of myself, that can adapt pretty quickly, and I like that.
After a day of relaxing in Jackson Hole and catching up on email and doing some grocery shopping, we spent the night at Signal Mountain Lodge (parking lot… with wifi from the truck!) and woke up the next morning very, very early. Like we set our alarm for 6am. I’m not sure how or why Clo agreed to this, but it was amazing! It was also pretty *)#$ing cold, because for the past couple of days we have been over 6000 feet (2000 meters). We took our time waking up, I splurged on some coffee and we drove a short distance to the trailhead for our planned hike to Lake Solitude.
I was really happy to do a long hike, It has been a while and the past few days were very relaxing; so a good day of trekking sounded awesome to me too!! And knowing that we had the clean and hot shower waiting for us at the lodge once we were done is priceless!! Shower and data, the key to motivation!! Always!!
We were both excited for this hike. Besides having the opportunity to see bears (I’ve seen in a few in the wild, but it’s been nearly 20 years), it was going to be a full day hike (nearly 20 miles, since we were doing it the long way) during off season in one of the more remote parts of the park. It began by walking alongside Leigh Lake for an hour or so. It was still before 9 and there was a thick fog providing a surreal blanket over the landscape. Sounds were muted, our vision was limited to a few hundred meters and it felt like we were meandering through a relaxing dream.
After a few hours we made our way out of the clouds and Grand Teton herself pounced on us as our vision cleared. I’m having a difficult time coming up with the appropriate words to describe how beautiful this hike was, so I’ll let Clo’s pictures tell the story. It was one of the best days of my life. Particularly at the mid-point of our hike, we had arrived at Lake Solitude and it was just Clo and I. We were eating lunch on a large rock with an old tree growing out of it. The sun was shining warmly and we were comfortable in our t-shirts. We were the only people in the world and this slice of paradise was all ours.
It was really beautiful up there, and so many different looking landscapes through the walk, and the weather changing so rapidly was modifying the mood of the trek hours after hours too. A great day, a great hike.
Three hours later we were exhausted and sweaty after cresting the pass and barely making it down the other side before the storm arrived. Behind us lightning was striking the pass and we were getting pelted by hailstones the size of small marbles. Thankfully the rest of the hike was all downhill but it did go on for hours and hours and hours… beautiful hours (the last few were without hail or rain) but it made for a very long day. We finished up by having a couple of beers and a wonderful hot shower, after which I fell asleep approximately 7 seconds after my head hit the pillow.
Those beers after a 12 hours trek were so good!! We even asked the lady of the supermarket if we could drink then inside her shop instead of going back to Wilbur. Thanks to her she said yes, deliciously fresh beer with warm feet: a little piece of heaven!
The next day, after sleeping in (even I slept in to nearly 9) we spent most of the morning hanging out in the lodge and then headed towards Yellowstone. Overall we spent two nights and a bit less than 48 hours in Yellowstone, but it was very much more like a “National Park lite” experience. Unfortunately, it was raining for about 85% of the time, hailing for 10% and the remaining 5% was overcast. We did have a very exciting two-hour long walk through the Norris Geyser Basin after watching Old Faithful erupt. The rest of our experience involved driving slowly to a point in the park, walking around for 5-30 minutes and then driving again.
Yellowstone was beautiful but we haven't been so lucky with the weather there... and I think the Grand Teton trek the day before ate our last resources. Good lesson to learn tho: take some rest after a crazy trek!! Don't keep on going to another park right away!!
I wish I knew more about geology, everything is fascinating there!
We did see a bunch of wildlife (except no bears!), including a group of bison in the field, elk, more bison, another elk, more bison, big horn sheep, even more bison and then finally a bunch of elk and bison. As you may have been able to tell, there were many bison and a lot of geysers. Or as it sounds in Clo’s accent (the only words she accents, for some reason), “bees on” and “jizzers”. It was fun, beautiful and I enjoyed myself, but I certainly enjoyed Grand Tetons more than Yellowstone.
Amazing wildlife, just like in western movies!!! Very glad we are leaving without seeing a bear tho!! Sorry Matt!!
The last couple of days of this leg of our travel involved a bunch of driving, many stops at Costco, a wonderful evening in Kalispell with my sister and buying a bunch of gas. Wilbur is very thirsty. It was nice to get back home to Walla Walla and sleep in our own bed, but I cannot wait until we leave again! Hopefully it won’t be too long before we get the solar panel mounts and drawers situated. Until then, dear readers, take care of yourself and those you love.