Wednesday 23rd November – Goodbye Tetons

I think that was my coldest night. Not only did I have frost on the windows, the top of my doona was frozen where I’d been breathing on it. Eek! The temperature gauge read -10oC inside the van. Needless to say, everything was frozen. To my surprise, it was a clear day outside, even clearer than yesterday! After the wind from last night, I assumed a snow storm had blown in, but the mountains were picturesque in front of me. I had a quick wash then head off.

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I made breakfast along the highway adjacent to the mountain range. The sun even felt like it had a bit of warmth to it! I took my time, a stark contrast to yesterday’s running around, and I enjoyed it. Hard not to with the view I had. I drove north alongside the mountain to the upper entrance to the park. I’d marked out some hiking loops I could do here, but I resolved just to do a short stroll, feeling a little tired from yesterday. The place was deserted. Like school on a Sunday, I had the whole place to myself. I drove across the Jackson dam where the reflection of the mountains in the still water was magnificent. After that, I was at a marina.

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The water in the shallow marina was partly frozen so I took to what was fast becoming my favourite past-time of throwing rocks at the surface. Some broke through, but most didn’t, skittling across the ice with an uncanny sound. I tested the ice under my body weight. I made some huge propagating cracks to my satisfaction, then after getting my left boot thoroughly wet, I stuck to the rock throwing.

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I wandered around the Shore Trail, walking along a rocky beach. Instead of the small pebbles moving away underneath my feet, they clung to each other from the frost. It really was cold, but I enjoyed the slow pace and the scenery.

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Back at the car, another car had pulled up, but they didn’t stay. I followed them out, waving goodbye to the Tetons. I had no certain place to get to today, except that I was heading east across Wyoming aiming for the south west corner or South Dakota where I would hopefully enjoy warmer weather, Mt. Rushmore and some riding if snow hadn’t set in.

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The drive was beautiful. I am really loving the countryside of America. Today was all animal farms, with horses and cows everywhere against a beautiful backdrop of mountains and red rocks.

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I found the cheapest petrol of my trip in Riverton for $2.05 per gallon! I also stopped here for a quick shop in Walmart. It seems all I do is bloody shopping but I always forget something! It doesn’t matter, it breaks up my time in the car nicely.

As the sun started setting around 4:30pm I was keen for an early camp. At some point between Shoshoni and Thermopolis, I was driving through a canyon that the Bighorn River runs through. There were two beautiful campsites belonging to the state park right on the banks of the river and only very partially snow-covered. Unfortunately they required $10 for a stay and I didn’t have any cash to pay for it, regardless of whether I was willing or not (which I wasn’t). Onwards, I didn’t have to drive much further before I passed a dirt road leading down to the river. It was far enough underneath the main road to be mostly out of sight. I turned around.

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I walked along the river where others had before me and found that the road led down into the river, as if to launch small boats from there. I could see how it would be a popular fishing spot, it was beautiful. As I wandered, I heard a splash and turned just in time to see the tail of a fish disappear beneath the water. I was happy with this camp!

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Before the sun set, I went through some expenses, a bit shocked to discover the numbers, but happy I’d look at them anyway. I’m coming up to my 1-month anniversary, so I’ll do a proper reflection on my trip so far then.

I am grateful it is not as cold tonight. I am definitely becoming more resilient to the ever-chilly conditions, but last night took its toll. It’s not that I am cold while I’m sleeping, it’s just the constant fluctuation between freezing (hands and feet) and cold that is getting to me I think. Last night’s dinner for example was such a rush-job because it was painful for me to be outside. Tonight I’m wearing the same clothes as yesterday and without gloves, I was perfectly comfortable taking my time with dinner and not dreading getting out of the van. Didn’t even have to employ Big Buddy tonight! It’s good to be at a slightly lower elevation.

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