Published: September 10th 2010August 29th 2010
Entry 31: Craters of the Moon drive to Bridger National Forest, Wy.
Sunday, August 29, 2010
Getting a late start leaving the Craters of the Moon National Monument, I felt some of the same “antsiness” that I had experienced returning from last year’s 5-week trip—slow going. True, I had spent all day exploring Craters of the Moon and its new-to-me landscape, but I rationalized that I wouldn’t have the chance to visit, possibly ever, again. But, in the back of my mind, the 1,200+ miles to go were still looming large. Now, at only 4 ½ hours to sunset, I wouldn’t be going too far tonight.
Back on Hwy 20 towards Idaho Falls, I headed east, passing small hills and staring into the sunlit road ahead of me. I buzzed into Idaho Falls, ignoring the most direct route to Yellowstone, its gentle lull calling me to revisit the park (I had spent 10 days there last year). But, even at only 90 miles West Yellowstone, I realized that the Park wasn’t a “drive-by” situation, and spending a day driving through was worse than not being able to visit at all—it’s certainly too special for an end-of-the-trip tack
It was my goal instead to take scenic route Hwy 26, which travels 70 miles down to the small town of Alpine. I would drive until at least the Caribou National Forest in Eastern Idaho; if I could make it, I would travel into Western Wyoming into the Bridger-Teton National Forest, as a Forest Service Road indicated that it passes close to the “Grand Canyon of the Snake River.”
Knowing that I still had a long way to go, I was tired, and the drive through the Caribou seemed long. I hit Alpine, crossing my old friend Hwy 89, a road that I had the pleasure of traveling extensively on last year; after Yellowstone, I had spent a night viewing the Tetons from the Bridger-Teton forest, and then spent the last night somewhere—I thought—close to Hoback Junction, at the intersection of Hwys 89 and 189, 20 miles south of the Tetons.
Crossing the Idaho/Wyoming state line, I knew that I was too tired to travel further north to that intersection, where, tomorrow, I would loop around on 189 South to 191 South, and onto Interstate 84, my now-chosen route East back to Chicago
(I still had to travel through Wyoming, Nebraska, Iowa, and Illinois). In Alpine, I decided to pass over Hwy 89, find the Forest Service Road, and attempt to find the “Grand Canyon of the Snake River.” I drove East through the small town of 550 to the only dirt road that headed up into the hills.
Passing a couple of blocks of shabby trailers, at the official sign for the Bridger-Teton National Forest, a police officer sat in his car. Pulling up, I said, “I know that you’re working and not an information service, but do you offer directions?”
“All the time,” he said, stepping out of his vehicle to take a closer look inside mine (I was guessing that the extra security was to prevent locals from going into the woods to party or do meth).
I pointed to the line on the Road Atlas and said, “Does this road lead to this canyon?”
“No,” he said, “You’d have to travel 20 miles up 89 to catch that.”
“Does this forest offer good dispersed camping?” I said.
“Well…the bridge is out 22 miles in, so you can only go back in that
far, but, yeah, there’s great camping up there. This is Wyoming’s largest un-dammed river.”
“Well…I’m too tired to go back that far, but I’ll go in a couple of miles…”
I thanked him for the time and pavement to the gravel and dirt road; the trees thickened, and the large river rolled downhill past the truck on the left. It was about an hour before sunset, and I was glad to be reaching the forest before dark.
A mile in, I crossed the river; another mile in was the first turn off leading to dispersed camping. I passed another ½ mile later. A third was occupied. Now I could find a place to stop (I rationalize that if a serial killer were to visit this particular National Forest, he wouldn’t travel any far back than he needs to reach a victim).
At five miles in, I veered right at a dirt road on a hill…Wait a minute… My jaw dropped in disbelief and I could not believe my freakin’ eyes…
There are more photos below