My troops revolted yesterday. Or is it troop, when there’s only one member of the corps? Anyway, R insisted that we take the US 189 route to Jackson, through Evanston, Kemmerer, Big Piney and Hoback Canyon. He’s driven so many miles of U.S. Highway 89 with me over the years, I conceded, but only for the outbound leg of the trip. Besides, he was driving at the time.
Besides, he was being kind of romantic. See, we moved to Utah in 1993 and visited Jackson for the first time that year. We have been coming here every year at the end of September, and until I started this crazy project,
we always came up US189. One year we counted over 200 pronghorn along the way. Another year we watched in horror as the pipeline destruction teams worked over the sagebrush. The cottonwoods on the Green River, the aspens in Hoback Canyon, the plastic owl on a power pole we mistook for a real one: the drive is full of happy memories.
I learned what outdoor skills I have in Grand Teton NP. Here I made my longest hikes, paddled my first back-country kayak overnighter, woke up a frost-covered coyote on a trail before dawn. R was with me (ok, in the car) when I made one of my signature photos of Mt. Moran, the one on the front page of my website and in my book proposal logo. And each trip until the last few years began with the drive up US189.
Why did we go that way? It’s slightly faster from where we live in SLC. The landscape is far more remote, and in the early days we were looking for solitude. Driving through a windswept wildness, along miles of snow fences, badlands, and sagebrush. Counting raptors (we saw a pair of golden eagles once, R remembers exactly where). Looking for the first golden cottonwoods on the Green River around LaBarge, always wondering if we were early, or late, for the peak of autumn. Once in a while, we hit it spot on.
Happy memories, and we made some more on the way up. Like these pronghorn, racing around in the fields around Bondurant. We watched a half dozen males challenge each other in a combined herd of about 50 individuals. No clear winners, just a lot of spent animal energy. The aspencade is glorious this year, and the cottonwoods are in sync, which is unusually lucky.
My tasks in town are complete; tomorrow we go into the park. By the time we return, our little rebellion will have blown over, and we will return to our beloved Rte. 89. Besides, it will be my turn to drive.