Continuing on from Jackson Hole; the next page from my travel journal.
“I feel much better today. Bourbon hot toddies beat SA’s Med Lemon hands down. 😉 We awoke to a crisp cold morning and after posting my blog, and showering and dressing warmly of course, we went for breakfast, which turned out to be a wonderful buffet with so much choice it was really difficult. I settled for healthy home-made muesli, blackberries, strawberries, grapefruit, oranges and yoghurt. Then I decided on the not so healthy delicious French toast and huge rashers of crispy bacon done to perfection. Looking at the weather station on TV over breakfast, we saw a 70% chance of snow and zero degrees in Jackson for the day.
We had to take the Dodge Durango back to the rental place, as the power outlet for our GPS was faulty. They gave us an even bigger vehicle, a Chevy Suburban which is the preferred car used in America for the presidential protection unit. The car hire place was called “Adventure Rentals” and there was a whole row of quad bikes, snow-mobiles and motorbikes including a couple of Harleys in the lot outside. Sadly, not my style. I prefer to be inside when it’s freezing cold.
We were planning to do 350 kms today and set off into the great white yonder. The sky and everything around was white and looked very uninviting as we set off. Just out of town, we passed signs like “Watch for migrating wild life” and “Bear aware.” There was nothing in sight though, except for snow and fir trees, until hubby saw in his mirror some flashing blue and red lights and realised that we were being signalled to pull over. We did so, and a young fresh-faced kid in a Highway patrol uniform, driving a black Ford Explorer, gave us the 3rd degree. He wanted to know everything about us; where we were from, where we were headed and why, drivers licence, rental papers, when we’d arrived and how long we were staying. He then said , “You were going real quick, “ and disappeared back to his car with all our papers. According to him, we were doing 70mph in a 55 limit. I was so glad that hubby didn’t quip as he is wont to do, and say something like, “We’re from South Africa and nobody cares how fast you drive there.” He eventually came back and gave us a written warning. I didn’t like to ask if I could take a photo of him for my blog. This kid had no sense of humour whatsoever. Hubby heaved a sigh of relief, belatedly found the cruise control on the car, and we set off again. We passed a couple of signs saying “Frequent heavy drifting” and “Low visibility.” This did not bode well.
Along the route, we saw several big ranches, with names like “Moose Head Ranch, Lava Creek Ranch, Dude Ranch, Elk Ranch,” and a resort called “Hatchet Resort.” All these place had beautiful horses grazing in the fields alongside the road. As we got to higher ground, there was far more snow, and the roads had deteriorated somewhat. There was steady sleet making visibility more difficult and I couldn’t help feeling that this was becoming more of an adventure than a holiday trip. As we drove down an avenue of snow covered fir trees, I asked hubby, “What if we’re caught in a blizzard and freeze to death?” He replied, “Well, at least we’ll die together.” Is that romantic or what?!! I wasn’t comforted.
There were very few vehicles on the road except for huge trucks which are called rigs here. I was reminded of the TV programme on DSTV called “Ice Road Truckers.” This thought did nothing for my peace of mind. As we came into Togwatee Pass, at an altitude of 9658 feet, the temperature went down to -10C and the road was covered in a layer of compacted snow and ice. Hubby casually remarked, “I must remember not to touch the brake to slow down.” Horrors! I was too scared to take a photo through the windscreen and too busy holding thumbs anyway. A very apt song was playing on my iPod, “Just another Winter’s Tale,” by Mike Batt. We stopped in a lay-by to take a couple of pics, and I noticed Hubby was taking the opportunity for a quick pee. Lucky him! There was no way I was going to squat down with my butt in the snow, so I had to hold mine in.
Finally after about 10kms, we came out of the pass and the road started to clear. I breathed a sigh of relief. That last stretch was so scary. As we approached Dubois, the temperature rose to 0 C and we saw signs of civilisation again. We stopped at The Village Cafe for lunch and I headed straight for “The Cowgirl’s Rest Room.” Everything on the menu was battered and fried, so I ordered a Caesar salad which turned out to be a heap of lettuce with 6 croutons, a few pieces of tomato, a teaspoon of grated cheese and a huge tub of creamy dressing. The hot chocolate was great though, and Hubby just had a coffee. This place was about as rural as they come.
On the road again, we passed through some scrubby farm lands and saw a couple of apiaries with guys in protective clothing tending them. We stopped at a supermarket in Riverton, a decent sized town. When I opened the car door, the wind blew it wide, and collected the map off the dashboard, forcing me to chase it across the car park. Even the river is called “Wind River.” The faces of the people in the store, showed that they had come through many brutal winters. We passed through Shoshoni, a place of dilapidated houses, abandoned motels and trailer parks. Coming into “Hot Springs Country,” we passed through some dramatic scenery and awesome rock formations caused by glacial activity centuries ago, and even drove through 3 short tunnels hewn out of the rock.
Finally, we arrived at Thermopolis which has the world’s largest mineral hot springs, and after checking into The Best Western Hotel, venturing out to survey the scenery, we spied a herd of bison. Check out this load of Bull! 😉 Here’s the HUGE alpha male surveying his family.
There’s a boardwalk over the terraces which are formations of lime and gypsum in a composition known as Travertine which has been deposited by the water from the hot springs over 1000’s of years. We walked over the swinging bridge first built in 1916, to view these terraces from the other side of the “Big Horn” river.
Then it was off to the one of the indoor hot springs to sample the mineral waters.
The jacuzzi was about 39C and those hot jets on my back were just what I needed after a day in the car. There were a few other people there too, mostly locals. We swam around a bit in the larger cooler pool, and hubby went down the foefie slide a couple of times too. I stayed in the water until my fingers started to get really wizened, and then regretfully decided it was time to leave. I felt very relaxed and quite tired afterwards, but I’m sure it did me the world of good.
Tomorrow morning (Friday), we’re off to Mount Rushmore about 550 kms from here. Looking forward to seeing more interesting places along the way.”
Hope you will join me. 😉 Have a great day everyone.