Tuesday, October 8, 2013

The Great Wyoming Adventure: Closing Notes

I promise: this is the last article about The Great Wyoming Adventure. I just had a few other closing notes I wanted to pass along.

Our car was wonderful: solid, reliable, comfortable. We are hoping to make many more trips in it.

We stayed in two different hotels, and they were quite different experiences:

  • The Snake River Lodge was very comfortable and luxurious. We pampered ourselves with trips to the pool and enjoyed all the conveniences. We were very busy trying to fit as much adventuring in as possible, so having all the niceties was great.
  • Transitioning from the Snake River Lodge to Flagg Ranch was a little bit of a shock, because they were two very different hotels. But the cabin at Flagg Ranch was very nice, spacious and clean, and in fact Flagg Ranch had everything we needed, once we got used to it.

At Flagg Ranch, we had: no Internet, no Cell Phones, not even Cable TV. As they say:

No phone, no lights, no motor-cars, not a single luxury.
Like Robinson Crusoe, it's primitive as can be.

But it was wonderful!

The reason for staying at Flagg Ranch is to be in the middle of both Yellowstone and Grant Teton, with easy access to both parks, and to have a nice room to boot.

Flagg Ranch delivered on exactly that promise.

One of the things that was interesting about the trip to Wyoming was how well we ate. I had been a little bit worried about having to eat out all the time, but in fact there were all sorts of wonderful restaurants:

  • I enjoyed my Buffalo Meatloaf at the Mangy Moose in Teton Village
  • We got great lunches from the Aspens Market in Wilson
  • The breakfast buffet at the Snake River Lodge was quite nice
  • The french toast for breakfast at Flagg Ranch was great

But best of all, bar none, was the amazing Pheasant Soup at the Snake River Lodge. I think that the Snake River Lodge hired away the chef (Scott Rutter) who used to be at the Wort Hotel in downtown Jackson, because if you look on the Internet you'll find all sorts of people raving about his pheasant soup at the Wort (and at the Aspen Meadows Resort before that).

But now he's at the Snake River Lodge, and let me tell you: it's almost worth making a trip just for that soup! Here are (some of) the ingredients:

  • smoked pheasant
  • fire roasted sweet corn,
  • pumpkin seed oil,
  • and sweet potato hay
It was styled as a creamy soup, sort of a bisque, and boy was it good!

We went back to the restaurant at least 3 separate times, drawn just by the soup. Apparently, not only did Chef Rutter win a number of awards for this soup, but he's also been a judge on the Bravo channel Top Chef competitive cooking show, so it was certainly a treat to meet him in person at the Snake River Lodge.

Another thing that you probably picked up on, if you read all my essays about the trip, was the challenge of timing the trip.

I'm really glad that we went after Labor Day, because the rush of crowds was much less. We really only felt crowded twice:

  • once on the hike to Hidden Falls and Inspiration Point at Jenny Lake, which is the most popular hike in Grand Teton (and it was on a beautiful day with perfect weather)
  • once at Old Faithful, which is, of course, Old Faithful.

Except for those times, both parks were MUCH less busy than I expected, and I'm really glad about that.

However, I think we waited a bit too late in the season. A number of the visitor centers, lodges, and other facilities in the parks were already closed for the season, and for many of the other facilities we were in the last week of operations.

This led to all sorts of minor annoyances, (e.g., the Flagg Ranch restaurant being out of orange juice for breakfast), but also led to a bit of a spooky feeling:

  • buildings would be unexpectedly locked up. This was particularly annoying when they were buildings like the public restrooms on the south rim of Yellowstone Falls, which would be a really nice place to have restrooms.
  • roads would be closed, like the road to Lizard Creek campground, or the road to Lewis Lake campground. Not that we planned to camp at these campgrounds, it was just weird to be driving around and visiting the parks with things half-closed.

Of course, we should be happy; had we been even 1 or 2 days later, the parks would really have been all closed up, and our beautiful 10 day vacation would have been for naught. Foolishly, I didn't even consider this in my planning, but luckily for us the politicians waited until we had had our fill before they locked the doors.

The other thing about waiting this late, of course, is that we ran the risk of bad weather, and sure enough the snowstorm that came through the area was a big impact on our plans. We never got to get over Dunraven Pass, which was a big disappointment, not just because that is described as such a beautiful road, but because I was really looking forward to getting back into the north-east section of Yellowstone (Tower Junction, Lamar Valley, etc.) and that was just flat-out impossible once the weather hit.

So if I did that part over again, I would try to go no later than mid-September.

Lastly, on a fairly light note, one of the things that we do when we go on trips is to play "the license plate game", in which the sport is to try to spot a license plate from an unusual state.

Well, northwest Wyoming is the PERFECT place to play the license plate game! I think that by the end of the trip there were only a handful of states that we failed to see a license plate from:

  1. Arkansas
  2. West Virginia
  3. New Hampshire
  4. Vermont
  5. Maine
  6. Rhode Island
  7. Hawaii

It will be hard for us to top this trip, but we'll sure try!

I hope you had fun reading all my silly essays about it.

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