Let’s knock this down in a few stages so it’s not so scary.
Grand Teton National Park. Just south of Yellowstone, this small park feels almost alpine; majestic peaks reflected in a string of blue lakes. Perhaps worth more time than the short shrift we paid it; the main problem here is the unreservable, very popular campgrounds. Arrive in the morning, grab a site fast, and you’re OK. Arrive late and you’re stuck in the open site by the entrance, or out of the park entirely. Alpine weather, of course, is changeable. The lovely morning was too hot for kicking back in a boat, and the wind had picked up by the afternoon, but we did manage a pleasant day of not very much. Building cairns of balanced rocks on the beach, and so on.
Onward, ever onward, to Craters of the Moon National Monument, and possibly the best damn campsite (site 13) in the best damn campground ever. Where? The whole area is black volcanic rock of different types and flows. It’s an alien environment, very different from the other places we’ve visited and definitely worth a stopover. Also off the beaten track; we saw few other visitors or campers. This day we explored the park, walked up a cinder cone, peered into spatter cones (one with snow inside, at the base that never sees sun), gazed into a crater, and clambered around caves. (Not, alas, the main caves, which were all closed. Bummer.) Our site this night is enclosed, invisible from the main road, single file access past enormous boulders. Anyway, we finish the day with some wine, some food that wasn’t as bad as expected, and glorious stars shot through with a meteor shower.
On the way to CotM we dropped in on ERB-1, the world’s first successful prototype nuclear reactor. You have to wear shoes to enter to absorb the minor residual radiation from the floor. (I really like the idea of safe free energy. Shame about the waste that lasts for millions of years and risks of a serious accident. Maybe fusion will be worked out soonish.) Regardless of mixed feelings today about nuclear power, back then it was a brave technological leap, and it’s an exciting place to visit, like the place that first broadcast television or seeing the first Gutenberg bible.
The really cool thing about the place, though, is the fantastic 50s industrial industrial design (you know what I mean) and the fact that you can touch pretty much everything that’s not radioactive. All the switches and buttons are touchable, including a satisfying one labelled “REACTOR SHUTDOWN”. And they’ve set up manipulator hands to play with, so you can pretend you’re moving dangerous substances from vial to beaker.
So. After CotM we flew through the pretty Sawtooth National Recreation Area (goodbye Idaho) and an extremely scenic river on our way to Ontario, Oregon. A small town with lots of motels and not much else. A cheap sleep, our first night in a bed in over a week. Long driving, so we needed a rest. Unclassy Asian takeaway with beer and some astoundingly bad TV. I taped some of a rotating-hair-dryer-brush informerical that must be seen to be believed.
On again, driving a long long way, we made it to the so-retro-it’s-almost-hip-but-not-quite Econo Inn (nee Scandian Motor Lodge) which had seen better days but at least had beds available. It was in Cascade Locks, along the Columbia river, which is a long way, but moving through was what we needed. Portland beckoned. This was where we watched the Olympic opening ceremony, a long and boring event which sorely lacked Roy and HG’s natter. Sydney was better, wasn’t it?
Anyway, Portland can wait, it’s bedtime. We’re in a tent by a splashing stream in a National Forest on the Oregon coast, a few days since Portland, and less than ten days until we fly. This message should go up tomorrow, which should give you time to digest the last two postings. Sorry about that, and more soon.