Monday, September 12, 2011

Day 6 - Saturday August 27, 2011

Day 6
2690 miles
We woke up after a restless night at Colter Bay Campground. I thought Anna had slept well in our tent, seeing as how she'd been snoring and whistle-breathing while I spun in my sleeping bag like the Tasmanian devil,  but since she could recount how many times I had gotten up to pee (twice) and could imitate my shushings of the neighbors, I guess she didn't get that much sleep either. Thank god for caffeine and adrenaline.

We restocked our food supply in the seriously gourmet camp store that could rival Philbricks in Portsmouth.  Despite the influx of tourists... The Morfar coffee index is still  holding strong - 1.89 for a large!!! We got bagels with cream cheese, granola, cheddar cheese (they only have the gross orange kind - no seriously sharp cheddar in these parts - so much for the rugged hunter image), apples, and yogurt, and then ran back in for a bag of ice and a big sugary cinnamon bun. Cuz that's the Swedish way. We ate on a log bench with a view of Grand Teton herself and the sun streaming through the pines, and felt ready for a new day of exploring the wild west.

And whaddaya know, within 15 minutes we had  our first wild animal encounter of many to follow;  a mama bear with her cub ran across the road 10 feet behind our car on the scenic route around Jenny Lake! High on Bear adrenaline we arrived at Jenny Lake for the quick ferry ride across to enjoy a scenic waterfall and gorgeous viewpoints. We met people of all sizes and shapes and from all parts of the world. Some were prepared with Bear mace to fight off any encounter, while others carefully tried to climb the trail in their high-heeled sneakers. We never made it up to 10K, but the Cascade Canyon in the Grand Tetons was amazing. Careful research (a 2 second chat with a ranger) had made us to decide to hike in past Inspiration viewpoint and to follow the Cascade Canyon. In an ideal world we would have stood on the dock that day at 6 am in the morning ready to complete the 14 mile roundtrip hike up to Lake Solitude, but instead we settled for a 7 mile loop and oohed and awed over the beauty around us, checked out the moose and the baby brown bear cub that was sleeping on the mountain hill. Okay, so we didn't actually see this bear cub, but Anna took enough shots of his supposed whereabouts that she'll be able to spot him with a little zooming on the computer at home. Same diff.

"Hur mår du" (how are you in swedish) comment passed us and intrigued we set out to investigate. On a pebbled shoreline along the river we caught up with Jeff and Guy, two old college roommates gone wild on a "man-cation". Anna chatted with Guy and found out both he and his wife were radiologists, which may explain how they could afford to fly directly into Jackson Hole from Tuscon, Az via Salt Lake City. I started my conversation with Jeff by asking him if he and his buddy were married, to which he replied "I'm straight but I have no problem with gay people. Ya are what ya are." As it turned out they are married, but each to a woman. Jeff and I discussed the Haves and the Have-Nots, that is  what life is like if you have children vs what it's like if you don't. He has 3, I got none, and we decided it's a crazy idea to have them but still a fine choice. Everyone was a winner in our heartwarming, spontaneous chat about life. Then he asked me for my number. Just kidding!!!!!!! After parting ways we caught up with them again, sat another while together on the side of the trail, and discovered we were all born in '69. Anna and I were delighted to inform them of this after Guy told us he was going through a midlife crisis that we wouldn't understand because we were MUCH younger. Happy for our growing kinship, we formed the Four 69'ers Club, shared a round of hugs, and followed the trail in opposite directions.

A few fat raindrops and giant gray cloud formations over the mountaintops heralded a gathering storm as we made our way back to the boat. Still only threatening as we got to the parking lot, we passed a guy slicing a summer sausage on his truck bed. " That looks yummy," I said hungrily, and he immediately turned and offered us some. While we tail-gated with our newest buddy Seth, the storm hit the mountains and we got the fireworks show of a lifetime. Chain lightning ripped from peak to peak while we screamed and laughed on the sidelines, still dry. Seth gave us some tips on what to do when we got to Missoula (a brewery and a skanky bar - he's 24), and the rain came down Wyoming-style - big, warm, and certain.

As if this weren't enough for one day, we still had the evening in Yellowstone ahead of us. A short drive north and we were already at the southern entrance to the park. Anna flirted with the hunky, bearded, 20-something Ranger at the gate, flashed her park pass, and in we drove. More ridiculous vistas along the road in, which is also the Rockefeller National Highway and a mere medium of transportation for the lucky locals. Every corner yielded new beauty; the rushing Yellowstone River tossed itself through deep red canyons, evergreens stood behind birches, and the blue sky welcomed all of us. Suddenly Anna hit the brakes and turned onto a dirt road - there was our first geyser, bubbling up from the Earth with a constant puff of white, sulphury steam. Just like she'd read about in the American Cowboys and Indians books from her childhood bookshelf in Sweden. Freakin' wild.

The geyser area was crazy and gorgeous. We walked on boardwalks winding through the moonscape of this thermal phenomenon. Mini volcanoes burst forth water at 200 degrees and small holes in the clay bubbled up like giant clams in a horror movie. We asked a Swiss couple to take our picture and they did so happily. They were the first ones to ask the question of the day: "Did you see the grizzly?" "WHAT GRIZZLY?," we screamed, and they told us that around the corner was a grizzly bear chowing on a freshly killed elk. We freaked out, glanced around at the boring geysers, and ran for the car.

Sure enough, there was the Ranger along the road, herding tourists towards the feast. A group of about 50 people, most of them fat middle aged men with lenses hanging down to their knees (also called "Compensation Lenses"). The bear was there, 2 or 300 yards away, napping next to his kill, his belly full of elk steak. A Ranger stood and answered questions while he repeatedly reminded wandering Facebook photographers to stay back behind the line.

All of a sudden Swedish words are spoken, surprised and pleased to finally encounter my own nationality  I am instantly engaged in rapid swedish conversation  with Seth, a fellow Swedish/American from my alma matter Lund University. Sofia yawned and decided for once not to take the opportunity to display her flawless Swedish, instead she quickly immersed  herself into a deep conversation with Seth's partner Jared.

As we are walking to our car, people started to yell "he is moving", we turn around and se the grizzly slowly strolling over to the river, quenching his thirst after his feast, he demonstratively turns around to be sure that all we can see is his giant behind.... Yes grizzly we get it you mooned us.... Then the grizzly delivered his final punch... He sank down on his behind and a shriek was heard from the four year old that had his binoculars glued on the grizzly " he is pooping" !

For more pictures from Day 6, check out the slideshow below!

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