Friday, June 5, 2009

Update for days two and three

Yay for having internet access and a good place to sleep for the night. The Devils Tower Lodge is awesome and Frank (the owner, who reminds me of Nuncle Joe in a lot of ways) is a hoot. Staying at strange, fun, off-the-beaten-path places is the way to go.

Two quick things about the pics in this blog entry - First, y'all should know that the pictures in the albums at are not really converted properly from the raw versions, since Photoshop takes forever to do it the right way and the laptop hates doing it. Some of them are broken in some very interesting ways, but once home Chris will try to fix everything and convert them properly, one-by-one, to get a better version of the album up and running.

Second, for this entry, they're uploading slowly (gee, I can't imagine having slow upload speeds on a satellite connection, can you, Dad?), so while they're going to be in the album soon, I'm not able to link to the specific picture that I'm talking about. (EDIT: They're all up and I've added links where they're relevent) Just browse through here and you'll see them all.

When we last saw our heroes.. err, I mean... Where did we save our last update? Oh yeah, day two!

We got up around 6 am, had a pretty tasty continental breakfast at the Comfort Inn (yay for those waffle makers where you pour in the batter and flip over), and went to work on the car problem. Alamo has a Idaho Falls location, so that was handy. We were the first customer of the day, and after looking up our file and seeing the notes from calling roadside assistance the night before, the Alamo counter girl said she could exchange it.

Here's the fun part - even though we were returning a defective vehicle, and had agreed in Boise to pre-pay for them to fill the tank upon return in St Louis (which is actually cheaper than doing it yourself... go figure), they wouldn't take this car for the exchange without a full tank. That agreement gets us one tank at the agreed upon rate, not two, says the girl at the counter.

Grumbling all the way to the gas station we passed on our way to Alamo the first time, we put in a tank, and now we're driving a Dodge Durango. Yes, we went from a somewhat sporty little Chevy Cobalt to a seating-for-seven Durango. Not quite sure how that worked out. Aimee thinks that they needed it to go back to the east coast so they upgraded us for free. In any case, we have a much larger, more comfortable car, but sadly also one that gets 2/3 of the gas mileage of the prior. So far we're averaging around 20 miles to the gallon, to the Cobalt's 31. :(

The Durango is pretty nice all around, but it too has a few fun... let's call them "quirks." The computer thinks that it needs an oil change, and reminds us of it every time we turn it on. We also had a fiasco with the overhead lights being on constantly, until Chris finally discovered a setting near the headlights to turn them off. Luckily, there was no in-the-dark driving, which is about the only time the cabin lights being on would be an issue.

Speaking of light and dark, holy guacamole! We both forgot that the further north you are, the longer the sun is out in the summertime. It doesn't get dark in these necks of the woods 'til well after 9 pm, and the hotel clerk in Idaho Falls said it'd be even crazier in a few weeks, with it not getting totally dark until a little before 11 pm!

We took off out of Idaho Falls around 9 or thereabouts, and made it to the Grand Tetons somewhere around 11 or so. There's no way we can put into words how amazing those mountains and the surrounding glacial lakes are. You're driving along in western Wyoming, you round the bend of a tree-lined road and WHOOOOOOOOA NELLY! All of a sudden, you're gazing at mind-blowingly tall, snow-covered mountains!

After stopping in the GT visitors' center for a while (and checking out their awesome model of the range), we decided to both do a little hiking and do a little comfortable seated sight-seeing, so we drove to Jenny Lake (this is from the west side, looking east, so you can't see the mountains here. It's pretty nice anyway though... ), which is one of the glacial lakes near the base of the GTs. Besides being a gorgeous alpine lake, the thing that stands out about Jenny Lake, and really all the water near the Grand Tetons, is that it's glacial water that's amazingly cold and amazingly clear. You can actually see to the bottom of the lake straight through the water, it's so clear. Once there, we bought a round trip ride on a boat that takes you from the road side of Jenny Lake (the east side of the lake) to the mountain side (the west side). One surprisingly quick boat ride later, we got to the other side and hiked around a mile or so to get to a gorgeous place called Hidden Falls.

Now, we know that Aimee is from the east coast and has had some limited experience with a bazillion gallons of running water gushing down a mountainside, but it's been a long time. And we know that Chris is a born and raised desert rat. Suffice it to say, we were both in awe and just a little bit overwhelmed by Hidden Falls. Aimee's favorite part was the pale, sea-glass green color the crystal-clear water takes on as it cascades over the rocks. Chris' favorite part was that the entire hike was full of awesome surprises around every bend-- interesting plants, animals and running water to see at every step of the way. On the other hand, his least favorite part is the ever-so-flattering raccoon mask sunburn he acquired thanks to hiking with his sunglasses on, and no sunscreen on his face. Part of the lack of sunscreen on his face is because evidently, Idaho doesn't believe in sunscreen. Seriously. It wasn't available in the Albertson's that we found.

After hanging around the GTs for a couple of hours, we drove on to Yellowstone, although we stopped every few miles to take more pictures of the breathtaking landscape. At one point, we saw a herd of deer on the side of the road, so of course, we needed to snap a few shots of them. Yellowstone in general, and Old Faithful specifically, is a gorgeous place. We had some more battles with road construction, but made it to our gorgeous hotel and it was awesome. It was pretty rustic (hence the lack of internets), but since you could see, hear, and sometimes smell Old Faithful outside the window, it was a good trade off.

Day three!
We didn't get to see everything that we wanted in Yellowstone the first evening, so we got up early and hiked around then. Everything there is beautiful and Chris took lots of pictures, which are all up on the album. Aimee wasn't totally sure that the 6:00 AM, 50-degree, two-mile hike to the Morning Glory pool would be worth it, but Chris managed to convince her, and she was really glad they went. There are lots of other cool geysers and thermal features along the way too! The only real disappointment is the fact that we didn't see much wildlife. There were a few deer on the side of the road, but until we were leaving and saw a few bison, that was it.

The drive to Devils Tower was pretty uneventful, and we made it just in time for dinner, which was very tasty. This B&B is literally in the shadow of the tower, and Frank runs climbing expeditions up it several times a week, or even sometimes several a day. The room we're in has housed the governor and first lady of Wyoming, and has an AWESOME view out the window of the Tower. We'll explore the park in the morning (assuming the current storm bearing down on us doesn't rain on our parade) and put up pictures with updated links tomorrow take plenty of pictures so we can put them up like these. (Edit: The storm was awesome and full of close thunder and lightning. The fog/clouds that followed this morning totally obscure the Tower, and honestly, I'm not sure if it even exists anymore. We'll let you know in the next update...)

Goodnight everyone!

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