Sunday, October 20, 2013

TVRT Wrapup

The Spirit's willing but the clock's not.

As much as we would love to write a nice tidy tale about each of the aspects of our Teton Valley Road Trip (TVRT), we simply do not have the time at this juncture of our life.  Therefore, we will write a short summary and "call it good".

After we tried to find the slow road to Susie's Nipple, we spent some time perusing the Scenic Byway information and checked out the Harrops Bridge RAP (RAP = River Access Point).  Then we drove into Driggs and checked into the Teton Valley Cabins about 5 pm.

The cabin was really great. It was hard to believe the rate was $25 per night.  Everything was top notch, except the WIFI which didn't work.  We definitely plan to go back to this place next year if the same deal is available.  We deduced the owners offer a $25/night rate from October 1-November 15 simply to employ the family who runs the place on their behalf.  If so, that's a smart plan.

After Susun had a nice, long nap, we drove out to the Nickerson Bridge RAP and studied the RAP map for the Teton River.  It felt quite cold as the sun set into a cloud bank over the Big Holes.  Meanwhile, a storm cell hovered over the route to Teton Pass. All-in-all it was a nice panorama of stormy evening vistas.

When passing back through Driggs we stopped off at the city's Destination Supermarket--Broulim's.  This grocery palace could legitimately be a tourist attraction.  It's arguably the only grocery in rural Idaho to place a sushi bar right inside the main door.  Next to the Sushi bar is the Asian buffet table.  Broulim's produce dept. carried some vegetables I've never even seen or heard of.  Meanwhile, the aisles and shelves are filled with gourmet this and specialty that.  'Tis quite the establishment!

Upon our return to the cozy cabin we enjoyed a fun Happy Hour, played cribbage and plotted our upcoming day's travels.  We were slow to rise Tuesday and didn't get out of the cabin until 10:30 am.  Having a full kitchenette in such a sweet spot encouraged us to linger longer.

As you know, we love tent can truck camping.  However, we maintain a "Motel Camping Kit". We always take our own coffee maker and coffee.  We've never met a motel yet that had a decent coffee maker.  Likewise the so-called coffee grounds barely deserve the name "coffee".  After a nice breakfast of tortillas and chili with cheese, we set forth on our day.

We drove north toward Tetonia and headed out Rammel Mountain Road.  This road started out in nice condition but all sorts of mental red flags started flying as soon as the road crossed into Forest Service lands.  We wisely turned around and retreated.

Eventually, we found out way onto the Jackpine-Pinochle Loop. This is one sweet gem of a road.  Every aspect of it is top notch. We remarked it represents the state-of-the-art of the heyday of Forest Service road building.  In today's times, the Forest Service doesn't build roads any more like the agency once did.  Money's too tight.  Environmental clearances could take years to obtain.  Logging's mostly fallen into the dust bin of history. Mines are few and far between.  Even ranching is nowhere near its peak of the 20th Century.  However, back in the day, the Forest Service built some very awesome roads and the Jackpine-Pinochle Loop is definitely one such road.  The periodic views were great; the forest itself is in very good health no no discernible beetle-kill; and the occasional aspen groves provided perfect fall color accents. We definitely plan to return to this gem of a road.  If and when we were write a guide book to "slow road sweet spots" this loop will be one of the highlights.

After coming back out into the valley farmlands, we made an attempt to find a short route to the Bitch Creek railroad trestle.  We drove through a ghost subdivision and spied out a place where we would probably hike the old railroad grade to reach the trestle.  After some debate, we decided to continue with a pure Slow Road Day and not mix in any day hiking.

Ghost subdivisions are seemingly everywhere in the Teton Valley.  Prior to the housing bust and The Great Recession, land developers had the Teton County Commissioners in their pocket and received approval to plat subdivisions in every far flung nook and cranny of the valley.  Of course, they are all now abandoned reminders of the financial excesses which helped spawn that sad chapter of our country's economic history.

We enjoyed watching a farmer plow some fallow land.  We both enjoyed the ambrosia-like aroma of the freshly tilled soil.  Susun almost tasted some of the heady loam.  We stopped briefly to stand on the old railroad which is now a state "rails-to-trails" project.  We hope to return with our bicycles to check out this alluring venue.

Then we drove to the Idaho Highway 32 bridge over Bitch Creek and pondered the incised enormity of this little-known drainage.  Afterwards, we checked out Felt, Idaho, and then wound out way over hill and dale to the Felt hydroelectric site.  The site itself sits in a deep, steep canyon.  The road is gated at the top.  The road is also too steep for either of us to be interested in actually driving it.  In fact, the road is so steep neither of us was interested in walking it either.

The Teton River lies flat and placid in the valley floor.  It seems to fall off the edge of the flat earth as it plunges ever deeper into the basalt canyon nearby.  We drove back out to Highway 33 and returned to Harrops Bridge.  Nope.  There's nary a word of warning about the dangers of the river once it leaves the calm meanders of the valley.  We both that that was very strange.

After looking around the Harrops RAP, we headed back to find the road to Susie's Nipple.  Did you know the Western landscape has many nipples?  Yep.  Molly's Nipple in Utah is perhaps the most well known but there are named nipples lurking all over the place.  It has a lot to do with lonely male pioneers seeing things on the horizon.  Someday we will do a separate story on anatomical place names.  Such an essay is far beyond the scope of this post.

Anyway, we eventually found the "road," if you want to be generous and call it a road, that heads out to Susie's Nipple.  The road was more like a route through mudholes.  We definitely shouldn't have been on that road but, well, we were there and you know how that goes.  Luckily, we didn't get stuck.  We certainly could have been stuck and at least once we should have been stuck but escaped such a potentially embarrassing fate.

This particular public so-called road bisects private property on both sides.  It became quickly apparent the property owner was running some sort of private hunting preserve.  There were ring-necked pheasant thick as flies.  They were seemingly everywhere.  We've never seen as many pheasants as we did on that road.  We lost count of their numbers.  At first they were fun to look at but then they simply became a nuisance and we hoped we didn't run over one or more of them.  We were glad when we finally exited both the mud and pheasant zone.

We enjoyed some really nice views after getting out of that muddy pheasant infested area.  We then threaded our way through some obscure roads to get onto the Packsaddle Loop Road.  If we thought the mud from the previous road was bad, it was actually just a preview of the mud on the Packsaddle route.  In some places, the muddy hills were so bad we were simply free-falling down those slopes in the Nissan.  We could only hope the free fall didn't take us off the steep slopes into a tangle of trees.  Suffice to say neither of us were very enthusiastic about being on the Packsaddle Loop under such conditions.  Luckily, we encountered only one other vehicle on that loop and, luckily, we didn't have to back up very far to find a place for us to pass each other.  Thanks goodness the road was essentially deserted!  Local folks obviously knew better than to be on that road about a couple of days of rain.

The Packsaddle loop really mudded up Marvie.  It took five dollars in quarters to feed the car wash to get Marvie clean once we came back to Idaho Falls.  We're talking serious MUD out there, folks!  After finally getting back on pavement we were very Happy Campers.  We decided we had enough of mud for one day and went back to our cabin to enjoy a fun and fine evening.

We were checked out of the cabin shortly after 9 am Wednesday morning and arrived at Daphne's Place at 9:30 am.  Daphne and we met when we actually had a paid job in Idaho Falls but that's another story too long to tell here.  Daphne's husband, Rick, and Daphne's Mom, Jacque, hosted us for a delightful morning in their sun-filled house with soaring windows looking toward the majestic Teton Range beyond.  Daphne made a superb veggie pie and banana bread and some awesome coffee and we all enjoyed a couple of great hours visiting together.  THANKS, Daphne, Rick and Jacque!

After we drove away from Daphne's Place, we headed to the famous Spud Drive-In Theater to set up a tripod and take our picture there.  Then we went to Fox Canyon to try to find the limestone quarry that was in a symbiotic relationship with the Idaho Falls sugar refinery for so many years.  Afterwards, we drove to the Grand Teton Brewery for a "look see" and then up to Pine Creek Pass to try to find the SNOTEL site there.  We didn't find the SNOTEL but we found some awesome views.  Then we drove home, arriving at 2 pm.

That's our story and we're sticking to it.  Thanks for reading.

No comments: