Monday, July 24, 2017 ~ WY-UT-ID (455 miles)
Rock Springs, WY; Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area, UT; Mountain View, WY; Salt Lake City, UT; Ogden, UT; Albion, ID
I wake up at 5:20am for no damn reason. Five hours of sleep is better than none. This is the hard grind of driving all these miles and trying to get sightseeing in too. I am filthy- road grit, sunscreen, bites and bug spray, gross. I am gross. No energy to shower last night. The free wine didn’t help.
I am in a hotel room next to the ice machine with a view of the HVAC rooftop system. The sun is rising and I hear the womp, womp, womp of the hotel laundry room below. Pre-pay late arrival gets you the ‘worst’ room in the hotel. It’s clean and well put together so what do I care? On the road in couple hours anyway.
In the afternoon, I meet Todd Park’s family for the first time, after some early morning sightseeing in Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area. I am here to pay my respects to him, to grieve, to let him go. We walked our mutual paths of trauma in 2013. He did not survive but I did. All my care and love for him went into editing and publishing his memoir, Popcorn from the Void. I hope it is a fitting tribute to the memory of this incredible man.
I am not wild about getting back into the car. Visiting Flaming Gorge is a bit of a time crunch with afternoon coffee scheduled in Salt Lake City. But I do not want to miss the opportunity to see it. I can relax at home. I can relax when I get to Portland, Oregon. I can relax when I’m dead.
I drove highway 191 south out of Rock Springs, WY, to highway 44, to highway 43, to highway 414, to I-80 west, to I-15 north, to I-84 west, to highway 77, to Albion, ID. Here are some highlights along the route:
Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area offers some of the most spectacular topography I have ever seen. According to Wikipedia, the area was given the name “Flaming Gorge” by John Wesley Powell during his 1869 expedition down the Green River, due to the spectacular red sandstone cliffs that surround this part of the river. Utahgeology.org writes that the rocks in Flaming Gorge have been bent, broken, and tilted during periods of mountain building and basin formation for nearly 3 billion years.
Flaming Gorge Dam was built on the Green River, a major tributary of the Colorado River. According to Wikipedia, the dam is a major component of the Colorado River Storage Project, which stores and distributes upper Colorado River Basin water. It is also a major source of hydroelectricity and is the main flood-control facility for the Green River system. It forms the Flaming Gorge Reservoir, which extends 91 miles from Utah to southern Wyoming and is considered one of Utah and Wyoming’s greatest fisheries. I could have stayed there all day looking at that deep, clear, blue water.
Wildlife has been a fun part of my trip. I love seeing the animals. South Dakota had plenty of hawks and prairie dogs. Wyoming had herds of mule deer and antelope. Utah started out with what looked like a domestic dog, a white Great Pyrenees, out in the middle of nowhere, feasting on a rotting carcass. I suppose it could have been a ranch dog but from where? I felt badly and wanted to take him home with me but as he was the size of my car and I had 3,000+ miles to go, I left him in Utah. Plus his breath would have been murder.
As I stood at a lookout over the Flaming Gorge Reservoir, I saw a pair of turkey vultures flying nearby. They had an impressive wing span and looked as if they were suspended in mid-air. One of them broke off and passed low over my head, checking me out. Maybe from afar, I looked tasty. Yes, I was buzzed by a buzzard.
On my way out of Flaming Gorge, I spotted a bighorn sheep grazing by the side of the road. He was far more interested in the grass than in me.
Echo Canyon to Parley’s Canyon was an incredible drive along six lanes of I-80 in Utah. The rest area at Echo Canyon provided some great views and historical information of the area. According to Wikipedia, Echo Canyon follows the historical route of the Mormon Trail and the First Transcontinental Railroad. Parley’s Summit Crests the mountains at an elevation of 7,028 feet and Parley’s Canyon carries I-80 down the western slope of the Wasatch Front. Both the canyon and summit were named for Parley P. Pratt, an early settler to the Salt Lake Valley and an early Mormon leader who was asked to survey a new route across the mountains.
Salt Lake City was a bittersweet visit. It is Todd Park’s hometown and the final resting place of his ashes. I came here to finally pay my respects to him. Although I had worked on compiling and editing Todd’s memoir for three years, I had never met his family. We met for coffee- his mother Annie, brother John, and aunt Susana. It was such a special day for me. They shared stories of Todd and gave me a tour of where he was living before he got sick, where he received treatment for his leukemia, and where he is now buried. I feel really blessed to have fulfilled Todd’s wish to publish a book. I hope it provides his family with little closure. I left Salt Lake City for Idaho in peace.
I stayed at a bed and breakfast in Albion, Idaho. According to their website, it is housed in an old teacher’s training school built in 1907 on the Albion State Normal School campus. Originally, the building was used for new teachers to practice the teaching arts. It has been remodeled, turning the spacious classrooms into private bedrooms. Rooms are named after school subjects. Some of these rooms contain sections of the original chalkboards with teacher’s notes still clearly legible, vintage maps, a variety of teaching materials, and other memorabilia. I stayed in the Geography room which has 12-foot ceilings, four large windows that face the setting sun, and several large vintage school maps decorating the walls.
Though very tired after a full and emotional day, I pushed through into Idaho to put some mileage behind me. 600 miles to go. Portland, here I come!
-Copyright C.M. Mounts, September 2017
Great American Road Trip- Part 1
Great American Road Trip- Part 2
Great American Road Trip- Part 3
Great American Road Trip- Part 5
Great American Road Trip- Part 6
Great American Road Trip- Part 7
Great American Road Trip- Part 8