Wyoming, Days 4 & 5, Rest & Walkabout

Day 4, Rest

As I said a couple of weeks ago, vacation is more than time off from work; it is the purposeful pursuit of rejuvenation. Part of rejuvenation is rest. We learned many years ago that about 3 or so days into our vacations, we needed a “crash day.” A day with not a lot (If anything) on the agenda.

We accomplish that by selecting a place that is conducive for rest. Doing nothing while you have spent hundreds of dollars on your trip seems liked a waste. This is why we select cabins for our lodging instead of hotels. Sitting around in a hotel for an entire day does seem like a waste and honestly, not very restful. But when the cabin is a destination unto itself, it is very helpful to the rejuvenation process.

Another aspect of resting is the selection of our destinations. First of all, we hunker down in one area for the duration of our trip. A tip of the hat to those of you who can visit 10 national parks in a two-week trip, but that’s not for us.

A number of years ago, when we began taking adventure trips, we would travel from our home in Florida to western North Carolina. (We now live there!) We added a destination to Yosemite one year, and then, a couple of years later, we went to Rocky Mountain National Park in Colorado.

At this point we had a decision to make. Do we continue this process of adding new destinations, new parks to our itinerary each year, like notches on the barrel of our gun? Or, do we return to previous stops and try to go deeper and see more of those familiar places?

We opted for the latter of these approaches. After all, there were places left unseen and adventures left untaken in Yosemite and Rocky Mountain. Yes, we still have a “bucket list” of destinations, but we don’t just want to be whirlwind tourists, getting only a glimpse of places, regretting that we didn’t experience more.

So, for the longest time, those were our chosen locales. Then, 4 years ago, my boss at Chick-fil-A booked a large lodge for his leaders in Jackson, WY. That’s how we ended up here. In the past 3 years we’ve returned, exploring new portions of this landscape, all while setting up a home base in a friendly cabin.

At the end of our rest day, I did step out for a short drive to take advantage of the afternoon light to shoot some photos at a favorite spot. You see one of those at the top.

Day 5, Walkabout

One of the locations we were looking forward to revisiting this year was a small lake alongside the Beartooth Highway. We found this late in last year’s trip, and did a little bit of exploring around the edges of the lake. There were spectacular views, and we had marked this as a go-to place for this year.

This little alpine lake has no name. Last year, when we discovered it on the side of the road, Carolyn said, “Lock the car.” This meant we weren’t just going to stand on the edge and gaze at it; Carolyn was going walkabout. So, we’ve informally named this mountain gem, “Carolyn’s Walkabout.”

This year, we packed for a longer jaunt. We brought our lunch and scaled up the rocks to a high point where we could catch the views and eat. All the while we kept a sharp eye out for bears, carrying our bear spray with us.

There’s something refreshing about getting off the beaten path and launching out into new territory. We saw no other person there. With each step away from the highway, we could feel our heads clear and our souls come in touch with the Creator of all. As one of my friends recently said, “There are no words…”

Wyoming, Day 3, Off-road!

Owning a barn. Living in the mountains where we used to vacation. Seeing the Cleveland Browns win a playoff game over the Steelers. These are just a few of the unlikely things in my experience. Add to that today…going off-roading.

There’s plenty of space for it out here in western Wyoming. In past years, I’ve looked at a few routes, driven a little bit on some of them, but they always turn “expert-level” pretty quickly. And we don’t have one of those super-duper off-road golf cart type vehicles that would be ideal.

So, in planning this trip, I got to looking at a ridge line with unpaved roads. Namely, Bald Ridge. Seemed pretty straightforward without a lot of steep climbs or descents. We made our way to the trailhead and drove in.

The road (and it technically was a road, since it was numbered along with all the various off-shoots) was generally pretty well-maintained. A bit rough in spots, but our large-size SUV was able to clear them. Toward the top, we had some uncertain moments, but we pulled through.

The destination at the end was worth it. We were overlooking the deep Clark’s Fork River valley. Interestingly enough, earlier in the day, we had driven to the mouth of this valley with the idea of driving along those lower off-road trails. However, they were immediately beyond our capability, so we drove to the ridge line, and within an hour or so, we were looking down into that very valley.

We are now back at the cabin…cleaned, fed, and resting, happy in the adventure of the day. One unlike anything we’ve undertaken before.

How like life this day has been, so analogous to our journey to the Celestial City. Rough roads with hardly a smooth patch at all. Moments of wondering if we were going to make it. Flashes of fear as we felt the car slipping. Telling ourselves that the worst was over, only to come upon a more uneven stretch.

There is a highway that we travel on our way to the cabin with the longest stretch of straight road I’ve ever driven upon…probably 10 miles long. Wyoming Highway 120. It’s wide and smooth, and the speed limit is 70 MPH. It’s not very busy, so even if you come upon a slower vehicle, it’s easy to get around them.

Life is not Highway 120. It’s the Bald Ridge Trail. But there’s an advantage to traveling off-road; the destination is worth it. And as I stand on the top of Bald Ridge, gazing down at the valley far below me, I am reminded again of that for which I live and strive and suffer. Jesus! “To me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain” was the Apostle Paul’s credo.

It is because dying is gain that life is worth the journey. I can withstand a thousand bitter tears if I know that Jesus is at the end of them. And more than that, since “to live is Christ,” I know that he is with me in every rough and uneven patch of road I drive upon.

Wyoming, Day 2, Jackson to Cody

We began the day with a simple goal – make the 4-hour drive from Jackson Hole to Cody. We would be traversing the southeastern portion of Yellowstone National Park, driving out the east entrance.

We had no idea what we were in for. We spent a little time at a waterfall (Lewis Falls), which is one of Carolyn’s happy places. After exiting the national park, we began a descent down the Shoshone River canyon that could only be described as “surreal,” and “other-worldly.” Sharp, jagged rock formations and outcroppings looked like giant castles and worn-away statues. Hoodoos abounded everywhere. This area doesn’t really have a name, but my thought was, “Why isn’t this a national park?” There are place names like Elephant Head Rock and the Holy City, but this section of the Absaroka Range bears no distinguishing identification.

I see formations like this and am reminded that many of these beautiful features are the result of God’s judgment. The global flood of Genesis 6-9 wreaked unbelievable devastation on the planet, much of which is celebrated today in our national parks and forests. It is humbling to note that even in the judgments of God, mercy is shown, as he has given us these natural treasures to enjoy.

Wyoming, Day 1, Travel Day

Ever watch the movie, Catch Me if You Can, with Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hanks? In it, DiCaprio plays a con man who, among other things, impersonates an airline pilot. It was set in the 60s, during the glamour age of airline travel, when pilots were sought out for their autographs, and flight attendants were always young women and were called “stewardesses.”

Travel is nothing like that.

Oh, our flight crew was friendly, engaging, and professional, but travel is not this mythically glamorous experience like it used to be (if it ever was).

Our flights were changed from what Carolyn originally booked, leaving us with a very short layover in Charlotte, an arrival in concourse E and departure in concourse A. This was followed by a long 2nd leg to Jackson, Wyoming. I’m afraid the young man in the aisle seat was ready to brain me with my second trip to the restroom.

Then there’s the whole rental car issue. Rentals are at a premium this year, and we paid almost twice what we paid last year. Plus, I had this nagging fear that the rental reservation would fall through and there would be no car.

All this created a little anxiety. When we finally sat down for a late lunch, I prayed a prayer of confession for my worry. After all, what’s the worst that could have happened? Instead, I wasted mental units on worry that should have been used for rejuvenation.

Speaking of lunch, our first destination was Liberty Burger in downtown Jackson. This is our favorite eatery in a town full of good culinary destinations. Their shoestring fries are the bomb.

Tomorrow, we drive about 4 1/2 hours to our AirBnB north of Cody. Hopefully without the unnecessary anxiety.