Friday, August 9, 2013

Day 54 - Tetons!

We started this morning on the horse superhighway. Apparently this section is popular with horse outfitters, and people having a City Slickers-type adventure. The trail was unusually well-marked, with odd diamond-shaped wooden signs written in Flintstones font. And the trail was 2-6x wider than normal, with deep furrows where horses had been ridden side by side. The trail was also liberally spackled with horse apples, some of it dry and inoffensive scatterings of hay, some of it gleaming and sharp smelling.

Since it's Friday, the trails were relatively busy. We saw several groupings on horseback--usually some Platonic ideal of cowboy, handsome, behatted, bandanna-ed wearing full leather chaps. Then the guests, looking less comfortable on a horse, carrying binoculars or camera, cotton t-shirts and socks, gaping at the beautiful scenery. They were riding through a slice out of a Cormac McCarthy novel, long yellow meadows with a green ribbon of river down the center, surrounded by imposing limestone crags. I don't blame them for gawking--to a person, every guest seemed ecstatic to be out, and commented to me about how grand life was. Truly spectacular views.

We also passed the historic Soda Springs today. I vaguely remember the pixelated version from Oregon Trail in elementary school. I was excited to see the real deal, expecting beautiful blue pools, bubbling with fresh spring water. About a mile away, I passed a young blond teenage boy, who told me he drank out of the springs, and regretted it. When I arrived at the springs, I understood. They were running, but slowly, leaking from the top of a small hill. They were running shallowly through the soil, an orange, inedible drip. The dayhiker told me he drank from them to drink from history. The ranger told him "no one has ever gotten sick", but I'm sure no one has ever gotten healthy from that foul, orange runoff. Historic or now, we decided to push on to other water for lunch.

The area was quite dry, having burned recently. It was oddly beautiful, a mix of black tree trunks, green undergrowth and vibrant purple flowers which spring up in burn areas. We found a nicely flowing small inlet into Soda Creek, and had a wonderful picnic lunch, lying on our ponchos as blankets. A lazy afternoon, enjoying the dry weather, which was a welcome change from the gray drizzle of the morning.

The afternoon stayed hot and clear, which was a relief as we forded cold and broad Buffalo Creek a few times in the afternoon. The clouds began to gather ominously, so we made a dash for the last climb of the day, up through another notch in the Tetons. I was slowed by the spectacular views of the mountains, which look unique--sheer limestone crags in unusual shapes and curves. I've never seen anything quite like the Tetons.

Fortunately, the weather gods were looking after us, and we reached camp relatively dry. As I'm typing here in the tent, I hear a few sprinkles, but we were spared the terrifying sounding rolling thunder from the next ridge over. Imagine a crack bowler rolling a strike, a loud THWACK followed by the rumbling of the pins clattering against the wooden lanes.

Also, wild strawberries are in season. Sparrow showed us a small patch. The strawberries are much smaller than the commercial variety. The wild ones are maybe the size of a pencil eraser, and have a surprisingly sweet and flavorful burst.

Tomorrow, a short day into Dubois, WY, home of the cowboy. Fingers crossed for a dry morning and a quick hitch.

Mileage: 25mi from the Parting of the Water to Trail Creek (part of Holmes Cave Creek)

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