Bonus day in Jackson

Aug 4, 2008

Today was the nebulous day between the rafting trip yesterday and the fossil excavation tomorrow. The only goal was to get somewhere close to Fossil Butte National Monument by nightfall, which ends up being Montpelier, Idaho, unless you want to stay at a flophouse or double back a similar distance through the wasteland of southern Wyoming. Between Jackson and Montpelier is about 2 1/2 hours of US 89, and some lovely mountain scenery, and not much else. So we opted to spend the day in Jackson, as it turned out there was enough to do there to keep us occupied for a while.

The first order of business was laundry. Since the availability of laundry facilities at the Denver Marriott is dubious at best, we checked out of the Painted Buffalo Inn and made our way south of town to a laundromat we saw yesterday with the name of The Missing Sock that was too good to pass up. It was in a new building and had a two story ceiling with a laundry line of odd socks pinned up along the wall. Across the parking lot was a giant grocery store, so while the wash was going we picked up breakfast and lunch (although it was mid-morning by then) and ate the former while the clothes were drying. Beth got them all folded up and packed away, I got another $45 worth of gas in the minivan, and we were ready to do something more interesting, if less practical.

Since we’d had to kind of rush through Grand Teton National Park yesterday to make our schedule, we took some time to go back north into the park, this time on the inland route of Teton Park Road as far as Jackson Lake Junction. We tried to stop at South Jenny Lake, but the parking lot was mobbed on a Monday at lunchtime, so we kept going to the next area north of Jenny Lake at String Lake, which was still hopping but much less crowded. The people there were doing all manner of things, saddling up horses, picnics, swimming, kayaking, hiking, not all at the same time of course. We stuck with the picnicking, with the backdrop of the Tetons through the trees and the bugs. It would seem that the Grand Teton area, being much closer to civilization and much smaller than Yellowstone, is a popular place for all manner of recreation, and as a result is a bit more difficult to get back to nature, although maybe if you get out on a trail for a while you can find some solitude, that’s usually the case. String Lake isn’t even a big lake by Teton standards, but it’s big enough for all the activities described above, and with the mountains looming in the background just on the other side it makes for a spectacular view.

After lunch we drove up a little further to Signal Mountain Lodge, which had the requisite gift shop to browse around in. Then we drove out to the main road and back south to Jackson. Just north of town is the National Museum of Wildlife Art, which is in a dramatic building stuck into the side of a mountain and blending in with the landscape, with an elaborate deer sculpture out front at the road. Since it was only 3pm and we still had some time, we stopped there for 90 minutes or so and checked out the paintings. Beth was worried the museum would contain mostly shlocky western art, but in fact had some legitimate paintings, including a Rousseau and an O’Keefe, plus a collection of prints by Picasso, and a special exhibit of work of Robert Bateman, whom I’d never heard of but his wildlife paintings were pretty good. Beth particularly liked the more recent, political stuff.

It was evident from the map that we might as well stay in Jackson for dinner, since there was not much between there and Montpelier that could be counted on for sustenance, so we drove back into town and did a little shopping for t-shirts and hats, which like everything else in Jackson seem to be on the pricey side. In between shopping we had dinner at the Snake River Brewery, where I could sample a few of their beers and we could take advantage of happy hour appetizer specials, and then had a decent dinner of pasta or pizza.

Finishing up the shopping, it was 6:30 and time to hit the road. Most of US-89 is very scenic, and very empty. As we got within the last 7 or 8 miles of Montpelier we hit a major construction project where the road was down to one lane and we had to sit at a makeshift traffic light for several minutes, but it was ok because I could put the car in park and watch the episode of Gilligan’s Island that the kids were watching (the one with the gorilla throwing grenades, in case you’re wondering, which is not one of the better known ones). But we managed to get to the Super 8 here by 8:45 or so with no further items on the agenda, which was good.

If you look at the map, Montpelier, Idaho is nowhere near Denver, which is our destination tomorrow as the Worldcon starts on Wednesday. So don’t be alarmed if there’s no Tuesday entry until later, since we may get in too late to put in an update, and how much do you really want to hear about transversing southern Wyoming?

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