Thursday, January 23, 2003

Road Trip Day 4 - High Plains Drifter

McCall, Idaho:
I awoke a 8:30 to take a few pictures of partially frozen Bear Lake before descending the icy road towards Montpelier, where the puffy jacket vest is alive and well. A detour on the 89 sent me east into Wyoming. Light snow flecked my windshield and the slush of an earlier snow made a patchwork of white on the blacktop road.

Crowded down under low clouds and driving at a most likely unsafe speed I saw some amazing views. The few times I found a safe place to stop beside the road I noticed the my camera's lens never captured the feeling of being there. So I took few pictures.

Heading north again, I saw a sign for Yellowstone, so I ploughed through the deepening snow in that direction. At times the road vanished completely, merging with the sinking cloud layer and blanketed fields.

Big blobs of wet snow fell at the final turnoff for Yellowstone. The park ranger told me that the park is closed in winter. She said I could drive the 23 miles up to the park but they don't plough the roads at this time of year. Still with hundreds of miles to go today I figured it was better to turn back.

The clouds peeled apart, opening to blue skies. By the time I passed through Idaho Falls they had become a distant back drop colored like a Maxfield Parish painting by the setting sun.

Leaving Idaho Falls was like sitting on top of the world. The land slopped away for a few hundred miles. The effect was stupefying. Distant mountains were below me looking like islands in a vast cloud-covered sea. A line of clouds above a patch of clear blue formed the horizon of this imaginary ocean. As the sun passed this line it appeared to be swallowed into the water.

Two hours later, still driving downhill, I witnessed the most beautiful sight in my travels. Clouds, navy blue, were darkening silhouettes against the still light sky. Surrounding them was a maze of crisscrossing wisps, also darkening. The sun had long since slipped below the horizon but its light still held on. So as the clouds blackened they looked like holes in the sky. It took One Hundred and Fifty miles at 80 mph for this show to evolve. It was so fucking majestic I nearly wept. (well . . . )

Eventually the frozen lakes gave way to wheat fields, featureless in the gather darkness.

After 13.5 hours of driving I found snow again at my destination, McCall, Idaho.

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