The feel of the terrain changed dramatically in Wyoming. While Nebraska and South Dakota had a numinous, feminine quality, it was clear we were entering cowboy country when we crossed the state border into WY. One of my favorite stretches of road was gravel Highway 18 into the Badlands in South Dakota. Rolling hills, sage greens, fawns and purple browns dotted with a variety of shrubs and pine trees evoked the nooks and sensuous curves of a woman’s body, topped with soft, grassy fur. Even the Badlands had a mysterious, softening effect, possibly because the animals seemed peaceful and protected. The Black Hills were more rugged, home to more antelope than cow with a brooding, historic quality all their own. Still, the mystery was present in the pinon trees, the road to nowhere that took us into the woods, the reservoirs.
The flat stretches of coal and oilfields, along with a preponderance of cattle and horse ranches made the eastern part of Wyoming feel distinctly masculine. The odd bicycle on the hill early in the trek Westward provided a welcome moment of whimsy in the spare, no-frills expanse of gas stations, post offices, abandoned outposts and caravans of truck and train transport. I “enjoyed” my once in a lifetime all white meal at the Ghost Town Café (hot turkey slathered in white gravy over white bread over mashed white potatoes). It was hard to imagine we were headed to one of the most beautiful natural settings in the Northwest: the Grand Tetons
The dearth of birds on this trip surprised me. I had a fortunate encounter with a ruffled grouse during a hike I’ll post later, but other than hawks, crows and the occasional magpie they were hiding or absent. The other exception came at a rest stop with a pond, which we shared with a flock of migrating Canadian geese. They were a lively group, not shy at all. I may have seen one flock of sandhill cranes in the distance in Brighton, CO but I’ll probably have to go south to the Gulf Coast to see any more this year.
After one of several 8+ hour drives, we pulled into Jackson, WY at twilight. The teaser shots of the Tetons included in this post are from the following day on the way to Yellowstone National Park. Jackson Hole proved to be an Aspen wannabe, but the Wyoming Inn, despite the over the top Western theme, provided a great base camp for the next few days. The fireplace and the large Jacuzzi tub didn’t hurt. Neither did the homemade cookies and outstanding bread pudding (with fresh berries) snuggled up to Seattle’s best in the hotel lobby. I haven’t talked much about food because this was not a culinary tour by any stretch of the imagination. We had one nice meal at Café Genevieve, which made up for the sushi we tried at Ignite, an Elton John bar boasting an assortment of cowboy Asian appetizers. Right, but it was late and the menu looked interesting. We declined other JH sushi (one on every corner, seriously) offerings and considered wild game (the other red meat) without biting in the end. The pig candy appetizer at Café Genevieve, however, took me beyond any lingering bacon fetish and ended the reign of the noble pig for the time being. http://www.genevievejh.com/
Despite his cold, Bill rose early the next morning to take some amazing shots of the Tetons in the morning light. Fortunately, I got some good ones at a more reasonable hour – posting to come.