Monday, August 24, 2009

6689.4 (587.9) Miles to Seattle, Washington

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Long, easy road today. Straight out I-90 from Butte across western Montana, over the Idaho panhandle, through eastern Washington, and over the Cascades down into Seattle. Nothing else to say about the long road, except that it really is nice to see some familiar roads, so I'll backtrack to yesterday.

Started yesterday finishing off Yellowstone's south loop. Saw some elk and hot springs, and then drove south to Grand Teton National Park. Here's a log of what I wrote as I drove through the park:

1:50 pm, on the shores of Jackson Lake:
It's raining on the Tetons. But the mountains are still an imposing sight, giant rocks doing all they can to burst through the clouds. It is almost as if they are breathing the lower clouds, creating them off the sharp points that make up the face. The chain sits on the opposite side of this lake formed by a damn just downstream. I'm sure on a clear day the mountains reflect on the water creating a double image blending earth, water, and sky into one spectacular vista. But I can only speculate. I'll just have to come back some time to find out.

2:50 pm, Mount Moran Scenic Turnout:
Closer to the mountains the peaks emerge from the clouds, standing guard over this valley. Trees rise partway up the rocky outposts, but then disappear in favor of solid rock to the jagged tops.

3:00 pm, Mountain View Turnout:
While the higher clouds sit above the Tetons, the lower clouds appear to either rest on or be trapped by the mountains. Geologically speaking, these mountains are young, and are still growing while the ground sinks futher away with each earthquake and erosion.

3:15 pm, turnout on the shores of Lake Jenny:
The mountains stand just across Lake Jenny from me. The lake's waves lap against he shore, creating a calming, rhythmic sound that could trigger an almost zen-like experience if allowed to. Just 15 feet from the road and everything else in the world has disappeared. All that's left is water, mountain peaks, and a low-hanging sky.

At this point I went into the Lake Jenny Visitor's Center, got a map, and drove back up to the north end of the park to take the outer road and see the overlooks from there.

4:20 pm, Snake River Overlook:
I'm standing where Ansel Adams took his famous photo of the Tetons and the Snake River. The clouds have lifted a bit so even from this distance the mountains are all but clear. This view contrasts the geologically young with the geologically old. The mountains, sharp peaks and jagged faces, are still relatively new on the scene. The river, with wide curves on its meandering path, is old, taking its time from the Teton wilderness to the Columbia River and the Pacific.

4:35 pm, Glacier View Turnout:
The rain has returned, and the mountains are again cloaked in clouds. The peaks now hide behind and beneath white and gray. Seeing the rocks rise above the valley below and disappear gives an image of an infinite wall that rises from the valley floor and may never stop, a fenceline, impassible, a direct challenge to those on either side. And as the clouds clear and the peaks come back into view, the task seems almost more difficult than when the horrors of the ascent were hidden behind the clouds. The reality is so much more forbidding and forboding than the imagination.

From this point, I drove down to try to take an aerial tram up onto the mountains, but with such a low ceiling, the trip wasn't worth it. My original plan was to stay in Jackson, Wyoming for the night. But with bad weather coming in the next morning (killing any chance of taking the aerial tram then), and plenty of daylight still left in front of me, I decided to take off towards Seattle a little early. I crossed the Continental Divide for the third time on the day (I crossed it twice in Yellowstone) and made my way to Idaho Falls. From there, I started driving north in I-15, crossing the Divide for a 4th time on the day (and 7th time overall on the trip) as I passed back into Montana. I drove on into the night, through some storms, passed big rigs making late runs, before finally getting to Butte just before midnight. Getting to Butte was important, as it put me one long road (I-90) from Seattle, a run that I could make in one day.

Next few days in Seattle with family. Then I'll start working my way down the coast.

Pictures: Old Faithful, Midway Geyser Basin pouring into the Firehole River, looking out over Lake Yellowstone, 2 of the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, my version of the famous Ansel Adams Grand Teton/Snake River, and other views of the Tetons.

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