Jackson Hole Hiking and Tipping Points

Jackson Hole is one of my favorite places on the planet to visit. I went there first when I was just a kid and haven't gone much more than a year or so since then without dropping in since. My uncle grew up there, perhaps the initial excuse for going out there was to see him and my aunt, as well as to go skiing.

In my travels I've put it on my path whenever possible. In fact, in the summer of 2007 when I first decided I wanted to move out of a New York City apartment and into a backpack, Jackson was the first stop. While my family usually flew out to make visits, they'd decided on road tripping instead. To me that was the perfect opportunity, I hitched a ride with them and got myself far away form my starting point, out into America and officially on the road.

Six years later and I found myself with a similar opportunity along with my new found traveling companion, Marilyn.

My sister, who was now going to school out in Hollywood, was driving up to Jackson with a friend of hers, a couple extra seats in the car were awaiting for myself and Marilyn to join.

The four of us cruised on up, out of Los Angeles, arriving in Vegas when my sister realized she'd left her wallet sitting on top of some gas pumps in Anaheim. Luckily Marilyn had cash and was able to cover the gas to keep cruising up to Wyoming, and more lucky still one of my sister's friends was able to get to the gas station to find it before it was stolen or otherwise, it would be waiting for her when she got back.

I drove the last leg, cruising over the pass from Idaho and finally into Jackson where my mom and brother had already arrived having flew from Connecticut.

All together we'd spend over a week there, Marilyn and I anyway, my sister would have to drive back with her friend back to California before that.

I showed Marilyn around the village and the town, played disc golf with my brother several times a day and visited the two new breweries in town, including Thai Me Up, or Melvin, which would win several gold medals for their beers.

We swam in String Lake, rode the free gondola up the mountain for happy hour, hung by the river and caught up with family in town. We even hit the fair that had come to town and rode the rides, ate the funnel cake, all the essentials.

My uncle took us out floating down the snake river the day before my sister and her friend drove back south, a relaxing day enjoying the peaceful scenery and taking in the flow of the river.

A day later Marilyn and I decided to go on a longer hike, aiming for a section of the Teton Crest Trail, a trail I'd loved hiking solo once before. We rode up the tram to the peak and got going from there, wrapping behind and down, past the lakes, the death canyon shelf, pushing on into the day. Just before we hit Alaska Basin we got caught in a hail storm while completely exposed on the mountain side, we just had to take the pelting and keep getting down as quickly as possible.

The weather had been coming in and out the whole day, but this jostling rewarded us with a big rainbow once we hit the basin, where we decided to use the last of our daylight to set up camp for the night.

We got moving come morning, across and up a steep slope and finally to a vista looking out at the Tetons, my favorite view of the hike. Straight down from there alongside a glacier, down, down we went. I'd gotten ahead of Marilyn as I'd generally been the whole hike, I paused on a big rock to wait up for her and have some lunch. Close to an hour seemed to tick by until she came hobbling down the trail to join me, exhausted with talk of never ending foot pain, but smiling all the same from the scenery.

We got moving down and down still, finally having to choose a steep uphill and another night on the trail, or a small jaunt to the free ferry across Jenny Lake. Marilyn had gotten her fill, the ferry was our out.

On the other side we found the parking lot and got to the road where our thumbs did the hiking for us, scoring us one easy ride from a couple visiting from Indiana that drove us all the way back to the village in one shot.

Marilyn hung back the next day when I went to another lake with my mom and brother, Phelps. We hiked around until we found the big jumping rock. My brother jumped, then I jumped, something like a thirty foot drop, still enough for my mom to be satisfied simply being an observer. No sooner did I get out of the water did we see the dark clouds rolling through, time to run I thought.

I booked it down the trail as the winds howled, my brother and mom following. It caught up with us quickly, the hail and rain pounding down. We alternated between running down the trail in the lulls of the storm and standing under trees during the more intense parts. Giant trees had now blown over and covered the trail we'd come in on, what had been a nice sunny, clear walk before.

We got ourselves around and out, sunny again by the time we'd reached the trailhead, we dried off and soon were driving on out, pretty fun all together. We had a big dinner that night, buffalo meatloaf for myself, took advantage of the hot tubs and relaxed.

I went and laid down eventually, done for the day. Marilyn came in for a cuddle as she normally did, I'd already been drifting to sleep, she was particularly buzzed as she'd began drinking when the rest of us were jumping off rocks and running through the hail. She began getting emotional and frustrated, asking questions about "us" and "what we were", what labels or titles we had, wanting to put a name on our relationship or at least get me to offer some kind of statement or opinion on what we were doing.

Most songs have titles, some have definitive genres in which to classify them, artists who's names can be named or recalled, interpretations that can be mulled over, but I never really cared about those details. Maybe you can geek out about what genre it was later, what a certain lyric meant, what chords were struck and how to hear it again. Or not. First, let the music play, dig it or skip it or tune it out.

This thought process didn't seem to gel, a woman isn't as simple as a song, "girlfriend" and "rock n roll" don't seem so parallel. She wasn't hearing what she wanted, or much of anything really, as I tend not to entertain annoying questions particularly when I'm tired and have heard them before, I remained mostly unresponsive hoping she'd drop it all, fade to sleep and let me do the same. She burst instead, a rush of emotion as she began flailing her arms at me like a baboon as tears came out, only connecting one rubbery fist along the side of my face.

I'd had enough of her. Enough of her questions as to my future, my future with her, any future, a future I didn't want to think about because the unknown has always had more options and opportunity. Maybe it was the exact future she was looking for, maybe not, but I didn't know. Now I was getting her outburst, suddenly feeling like an asshole as surely only an asshole would get swung on. Only I didn't really feel that way, didn't want to feel that way, I wanted her gone for even having the thought cross my mind, I wanted her gone so I could be gone from her if she thought that way. There's no reason to spend time with someone who can make you adopt their negative view of you.

I left the room, her sobbing apology temporarily wasted on me. My fleeting flash of anger from the initial outburst quickly transitioned to disinterest, my mind wandered as I sat out on the balcony looking into quiet darkness. I came inside to the table and pulled out my computer where I breezed through an unrelated story, pecking it out on the keyboard as I translated some past trip from mind to text.

Back in the room, ready to sleep, I crawled back into bed, Marilyn was awake and awaiting. I listened to her apologize again, explain herself, carry on. I was over it, already in a different head space after traveling back in time through my writing. There was a make up of sorts, an option less annoying than any alternative in the night. Drunk passion and needs for particular words, sentences, all of it fades into the night.

We spent just two more days after that night, more disc golf to be played, another trip up the gondola, more relaxing. Finally the morning came where it was time to move on. Marilyn had just a little less than a month before she needed to get back to her nursing job in Indiana. A month is still a fair chunk of time though, so rather than east we were aiming back west, first stop would be Boise, Idaho, ready to see what was truly next.

July 23, 2013 to August 3, 2013