Onward to Jackson

Aug 3, 2008

After four nights in Yellowstone, we hated to leave, but felt like we had done quite a bit so there weren’t too many regrets. The kids were more than happy to go back to the same diner as yesterday for breakfast and order the same cheese omelet, so we could get on the road by 8:30 or so. This gave us enough time to go north for a few miles, so Beth could get a few pictures of the wildflowers covering the hills just past the Village. As it turned out she also got to take pictures of a moose that was munching on the same wildflowers and causing his own traffic jam. There aren’t nearly as many moose in the park as there are elk or bison, so spotting one was an event, although we’d seen them before in Rocky Mountain National Park. We never did see any bears, though, which was a bit disappointing even though wildlife viewing isn’t one of my top priorities for these kinds of trips.

So we turned south and headed through a very smoky Hayden Valley this time, still with a lot of bison roaming around but not causing too much traffic. Just past the rapids nort of Fishing Bridge, we saw the remnants of the fire from the last few days, with not only burned trees (which you see everywhere in the park), but the burned grass and vegetation below them that indicates it to be a recent event. There was still a fire burning somewhere a bit further east, saw a few fire trucks along the way, but it didn’t slow things down for us. We turned off the great loop road and headed towards the South Entrance the Grand Tetons.

Since we had to get to Jackson by 1:30 and factor in lunch too, we only stopped briefly at Colter Bay visitor center at Grand Teton National Park, bought a few bookmarks but that was about it. We got to our destination by noon or so and were finally back in civilization and could go to Wendy’s for lunch, so we did. Still had some time to kill so we stopped at Staples and got a new iPod charger for Chloe since she forgot to bring hers and has been rationing her music for the last six days.

We didn’t tell the kids in advance that we were doing a rafting trip, it was kind of a last minute decision on our part after I was looking at the specifics of this part of the itinerary last weekend. I discovered then that most of the things I thought we would do in Idaho were closed on Sunday, such that there wasn’t much point in ending up in Pocatello as I had originally intended. Meanwhile the AAA travel book had several ads for different rafting companies in the Jackson area. Jackson hadn’t been part of the original plan since it wasn’t that far from Yellowstone, but as I checked out some of the tour operator websites I thought this would be a good contrast to all the nature stuff we would have been doing the last several days.

So as we were driving towards the place after lunch I said we were going to take a boat ride on the Snake River here, so now they knew why they’d been instructed to wear bathing suits this morning when getting dressed. We went with an outfit called Mad River Boat Trips, which offered an 8-mile whitewater trip in an inflatable raft big enough for 16 or 18 people. It turned out to be a blast, everyone had a great time, we were in the water maybe 2 hours, plus time to get shuttled there and back, such that we didn’t return to where we started until 5:15 or so. There were 12 people in our boat, all families, and the section of the river they focus on makes for a gradual succession of increasingly difficult rapids with plenty of smooth sections in between, so you’re not working too hard for any length of time, and the rapids were up to Class III, big enough to really feel the drops but not so much that it felt dangerous. The raft guide stands in the back with two giant oars doing the steering, approaching the rapids sections at the proper angle so that the boat goes straight into them. You still get drenched, but nobody went over the side or anything. It wasn’t cheap and not something I would do a lot, but it was well worth it.

We checked into the Painted Buffalo Inn back in Jackson (at last, tv and wi-fi again! What, they traded Manny?) and then went out to find food at the Cadillac Grille on the town square. The dinner took a while for some reason, and Justin was strung out from lack of sleep, but we managed to get back to the room by 8 and it still took him forever to get to sleep. Tomorrow is sort of an open ended day, the only real priority is to do some laundry so we don’t have to buy more clothes to make it through to the end of the trip.

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