Wyoming, Day 10, in Idaho

Sometimes the Google homepage picks a winner.

A couple of months ago, undoubtedly based on other internet searches I’d performed, Google displayed a picture and a link about a little-known sight in Idaho, not far from Jackson, Wyoming.

I needed to choose an activity for our last full day in Jackson, something not too strenuous or complicated. In keeping with our theme of trying new locations, I mapped out a plan for a drive into Idaho to see this small waterfall known as Falls Creek Falls.

For the most part on this whole trip, we avoided the crowded, familiar sights of the national parks. We were highly rewarded for this choice. Day 10’s destination was no exception, and truly could be thought of in a saving-the-best-for-last way.

This small creek flows into the Snake River in Idaho, across the mountains and downstream from where the Snake flows in Jackson Hole. What’s amazing is this small stream ends in a glorious cascade.

As waterfalls go, this one was spectacular. My wife Carolyn often speaks of the “character” of a waterfall, as in, “This waterfall has a lot of character.” This generally means there are many channels in which the water flows, creating visual variety as the water falls to the plunge basin. Niagara Falls is pretty impressive, but it doesn’t have a lot of character.

Being that we live in an area of many falls (western North Carolina), we often see some pretty remarkable fountains. Stepping to the edge of this one immediately took our breath away. Carolyn’s first words to me were, “You made my day.” That was quite satisfying, as that was what I was going for.

Carolyn finds her soul restored with rushing waters. A quiet walk along a stream, standing at a waterfall – these are some of the things that bring peace to her spirit. And, I must admit, to mine also. This sense of tranquility comes from knowing the Creator behind the creation. From knowing that this glory that we see before our eyes is but a dim reflection of the glory of the God who made it.

We spoke to a man who lived in the area but had never been to this waterfall until he saw an online picture. It was not far from the main road, but couldn’t be viewed from the main road. We felt like we’d discovered a hidden gem.

Part of this kind of discovery is wanting to share it with the world. But that often comes with a cost, as more and more people come and possibly overrun a place like this. Just look at what has happened at Max Patch Mountain along the Appalachian Trail. Too much usage has led to a ban on camping after the place got trashed. We are like locusts sometimes.

On the one hand, we all must visit the wild and beautiful places, for in this we come to treasure them. But if we are not careful, our footprint becomes destructive. It’s a fine balance. What I can do as an individual is to follow the old mantra – take only pictures, leave only footprints.

Our journey into Idaho led us through some lush farmland and some autumn colors. In previous trips out here in early September, it had been too early for colors. But this year, owing to a dry season, we’ve seen some stunning coloration.

Day 11 is a travel day, back to hearth and home in North Carolina. We have been rejuvenated and refreshed on this vacation, with a fine mix of activity, rest, and thoughtfulness. I encourage you to seek for those times of refreshing.

Vacation is not the absence of work. It is the intentional pursuit of rejuvenation.

M. Graham Knox

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…”

Vacation

Vacation is not the absence of work. It is the pursuit of rejuvenation.

M. Graham Knox
One of the spots we hope to revisit

I’m going on vacation next week. Here are a few random thoughts.

We’re going to Wyoming again. This makes the 4th consecutive year. A different spot this time, so there will be a sense of familiarity mixed with unfamiliarity. I’m excited about that.

In the picture above, I’m wearing a Blue Ridge Parkway hat…in Wyoming. I have a Yellowstone hat, but I’d look like a tourist. Don’t be that guy. This way I look like a well-traveled adventurer.

At my work at Chick-fil-A, I often engage with guests who are traveling on vacation. This always energizes me, because it turns my thoughts toward my own adventures. Since we live and work where we used to vacation, I really love giving advice on things to do. One of the many services we provide.

My operator at Chick-fil-A is an epic explorer. He recently said, “The thing about adventures is that they make you want to have more.” This is why we’ve been planning this trip for over 6 months, and why I’m already scoping out new spots to travel to.

Carolyn has completely recovered from back surgery last December. She’s been a trouper on our adventures, even with her chronic back pain. I’m eager to see how the lack of pain will increase her enjoyment. I hope I can keep up.

We will be right outside of Yellowstone National Park. However, since we’ve been through the park several times in the last 3 years, and with all the record crowds, I’m not sure we’ll get into YNP very much. There’s plenty to see in the outlying areas. We’ve done that before in Yosemite in California. Some of the best sights are outside the borders of the parks.

Speaking of sights, I got a new lens for my camera. Last year, my lens broke during the trip, so most of my pictures were taken with my phone. Now, a Galaxy S20 takes really nice pictures, but I was missing my Canon.

Every article I’ve read about travel in the national parks this year is that they are bursting at the seams with record crowds. One article talked about the lack of rental cars and prices of upwards of $500 a day (!!!) in Jackson, where we fly in. A couple of months ago I encouraged Carolyn to reserve a car early. Prices were staggering. She finally found something that was only twice the cost of what we paid last year. She later found a better price, but it’s still not cheap. And don’t even mention Turo (the AirBnB for cars); prices aren’t much better and the owners can be sketchy, pulling out of a rental agreement last minute.

I’m not planning on doing a lot of writing during my trip, but I will try to post on this blog some of the best pictures each day. Stay tuned.

Our cabin is pretty isolated, well outside of town. I plan to contemplate the stars and the God who marks them off with the span of his hand.

I’ve got Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Up Around the Bend” running through my head: “Hitch a ride to the end of the highway
Where the neons turn to wood.”
Yep, we’re leaving the sinking ship behind and goin’ up around the bend.