Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Stranded in Paradise

Chucks transmission has been MIA for about 9 days now (see Transmission Mission post).  During this time we have been bumming around Driggs, Idaho, and the surrounding valley.  Now we are effectively stranded due to these unforeseen circumstances.   However, I firmly believe that it is need that drives human relationships.  Depending on others is the cornerstone of society and life in general.  The most interesting experiences are the ones that are unexpected and unavoidable.

Now, I could think of a hundred worse places to be stranded in.  Situated just southeast of Yellowstone, this valley is highly scenic with excellent views of the Teton mountain range.  Also, with a population of around 6,000 this valley is refreshingly empty.  Now when I say empty, I mean sparsely populated enough that random people will wave and smile as they drive past you.  This is not the same empty as central Wyoming, which is nearly a barren wasteland as far as being able to find food and entertainment goes….

This valley also has a very active planning committee.  They take care of making it pretty and inviting for those tourists.  For example, billboards are not permitted (at least in the size us big-city folk are familiar with).  Also interestingly the only major fast food chain-type store is a Subway, which is hiding on the north end of Driggs.  Now it seems the residents here have a very particular view of how life in their little chunk of paradise should be. While I haven’t found this mantra codified in a written form, I can relay an example that may clarify it for you.
This event was relayed to me by a long time local resident who will remain unnamed.  Several years ago it seems an enterprising businessman opened a Burger King in little Driggs Idaho.  This was in fact one of the first major attempts at a corporate mega-chain store of any kind in the area.  Now local law strictly limits the size, location, and general construction of billboards/advertisements of any kind.  Not willing to have his brand new restaurant ignored, the owner had a sign put up on a tall wooded hill outside of town (this was a small sign by my standards, for the locals it was rather large).  Now this sign was not particularly well made or attractive, and several individuals complained to the owner and manager.  Of course, they foolishly did nothing about it, saying something about a free country and such.  This was apparently a serious error on their part.  About a week later some enterprising local (I like to think it was a burley and heroic lumberjack, and yes lumberjacks can be heroic) took a chainsaw to the sign in the dark of the night, simultaneously the manager’s tires were all slashed.  I am not sure of the events that occurred after this, but I can confirm that there is no Burger King within 100 miles of Driggs.  Idahoans take their scenery VERY seriously.

If you are an avid watcher of the national news, you are probably vaguely aware that there are several fires burning in various parts of the western half of the USA.  Due to my pervasive desire to avoid television news in general, I was completely unaware that there were three major wildfires burning in western Idaho.  If you glance at the conveniently placed photo you will notice the substantial smoke that these fires are generating.  In Driggs the smoke was heavy enough that on several days it was impossible to see the mountains to the east.

Despite the smoke we did take several chances to avail ourselves of the local sights.  One day we decided to Hike the Darby Canyon Trail up to the Wind Cave.   At about 5 miles round trip and 1000ft in elevation gain, this trail is classified as moderate.  I am definitely not in the best physical condition, as I was feeling all five of those miles the next day.

At the top of this trail there is the wind cave, which opens at around 40+ ft tall and slowly narrows to a crawl space which after 9 hours of spelunking leads into the Ice Caves on the other side of this mountain range. 

This cave is aptly named as a cold wind almost continuously issues from deep within.  Having no gear or experience we decided to forgo the 9 hours of crawling, and head straight back for some well-deserved dinner.
As I finish writing this we are camping near the Wyoming border.  We are back on the road after reviving Chuck.  I will cover Chuck’s repairs in another forthcoming post. 

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