Although I navigated airplanes for the Navy for a while, my grasp of 2D geography and relative distances, especially in the western US, is a far cry from exceptional. For example, I still have a hard time believing the 20 minutes to get anywhere in LA doesn’t include San Diego. Anticipating we’d be journeying in Davista for a good part of the day, I was surprised to learn I had significantly overestimated the length of our trek from Yellowstone to Grand Teton National Park. The boundaries of the two are actually only nine miles apart. !!! And to think, my skills have improved.
We stayed a ways out from the center of the Park (at Headwaters Lodge RV Park), but had a space we could expand into – a very welcome change from Yellowstone’s cramped accommodations. The Clam again saw some play and we busted out our two hammocks, a first on this trip. Our goal with living in Davista is to sleep within yet find ways to sprawl into the outdoors to minimize feeling cooped up. The Clam, the outdoor cooking area, the picnic table provided at most campsites, and the hammocks have all eased our (or at least my) feelings of confinement and alleviated any (mobile) cabin fever.
Once camp was set up we made our way to the Colter Bay Visitors Center, where Firebolt and WoodSprite were insistent on getting the Junior Park Ranger Books first thing. The girls were on a mission to complete their respective Junior Ranger Programs and knocked out their requirements in one day, in just a few hours really. Fortuitously, half an hour after they had books in hand, the same Ranger who gave them their books presented a talk on birds in the Park. We learned about the tiniest birds in the park (the calliope hummingbird, recognizable by the magenta patch at its throat) to the largest (the trumpeter swan, who mates for life). Although he didn’t appear to want to pay attention, Keeper, too, offered answers to the Ranger’s questions throughout her talk.
Keeper was having a tough go. Lack of connectivity has been tricky for us in trying to sell the house as we had a very interested potential buyer who was threatening an imminent offer (more on that later). This certainly posed challenges for Flight and me, however, being cut off from his friends back in Maryland was extremely demoralizing for Keeper. Of the three kids, he is the one who has most expressed his dissatisfaction with the whole notion of departing Maryland and his friend network. The main reason we had purchased him an iPhone prior to this adventure was so that he could text and Facetime to his heart’s content so as to maintain his friendships while on walk about. He had been cut off for almost a week, save occasionally driving through haphazard snippets of 4G comms in the Yellowstone, which is an eternity in the world of a 6th grader. We made it a point to get lunch at a GTNP café that boasted Wi-Fi and allowed him some space to catch up with his friends.
Not unlike Yellowstone, anywhere we wanted to explore involved a commitment to a car ride, during which the kids were constantly bickering and whining at each other, much to our dismay. After doing such mini road trips first in Yellowstone and again in the Grand Tetons environs, Flight and I expressed our deep gratitude for having chosen a Class A motorhome instead of a 5th Wheel, which would have necessitated all five of us in the tiny cab of an enormous truck for all of our transit time. I can think of no more grating self-inflicted hell – unless we then stayed only on Montana’s washboard back country roads.
Our first day on the other side of the Tetons ended with a family “mountain bike” ride around the campsite. In truth it was just a scenic outing along a hiking trail, hardly technical, but it was the first WoodSprite had managed. At one point, she (in her own words) “ate it” but dusted herself off and continued the ride. Pretty awesome for someone who is still averse to using her actual brakes and, when faced with coming down any hill, will use Fred Flintstone methods to slow herself to a manageable speed.
The next day we went to String Lake and (most of us) kayaked. We have four very different inflatable kayaks that we carry with us in Davista’s belly so we can explore any waterways we encounter: two two-person kayaks (one specifically made for fishing and one just for tooling around) and two one-person kayaks (a sporty one made for whitewater kayaking and another also highly maneuverable one). Shamefully, this was the inaugural paddle for our trip, and so, understandably, we were all eager to get on the water.
The elevation of String Lake (6870’ – !!!!) made inflating the kayaks rather taxing, especially for Flight because he was mostly flying solo with that. As I had never participated in their inflation, I was on “running young ladies to the port-a-potty” duty to change into swimsuits and tend to other necessities, and never in one fell swoop it seemed. Keeper had enthusiastically jumped in to assist Flight and immediately blew out one of the pumps. After swapping pumps to further inflate his kayak, we learned that Keeper’s FireFly (highly maneuverable single) had a hole along one of the seams, one that needed a patch and 24 hours of curing time. Bummer.
Often our children impress me with their compassion, wisdom, and wit (maybe not while in all riding in the backseat of the Suburu), but I’m always blown away when they demonstrate the true meaning of team player. When Keeper learned we were down to kayak seating for four, he said, “That’s okay – while you paddle, I will swim!” and swim he did. Although some of his “swimming” involved barnacle operations dragging off of either kayak, he did so joyfully and made it all the way to the other side of the lake. Flight told him he’d trade out on the way back. I’m hoping Keeper will offer his own summary of the experience.
On the far side of the lake, we made landfall amidst downed trees in the water, using one as a dock of sorts. Keeper was already on the log and the girls had disembarked and were making their way up the bank when we heard, “pshshshshshshsssshssssssh.” Crap. That’s really not a sound you want to hear in an inflatable kayak. Looking down for the offending weapon, I saw a pointy, broken off branch poking out just above the water’s surface. I put my hand down and felt where air was gushing out of my ride, a few inches above the waterline. Crappity crap crap crap. Now we were down to one kayak and seating for two.
Ever the pilot, Flight immediately assessed the situation and was working through his emergency procedures decision tree to come up with the best solution to our predicament. I asked Flight where the patch kit was – I knew we had one as I’d just seen him use it. “In the car.” Well, shoot. I wasn’t sure how much help that might have been anyway, having just learned a full cure requires 24 hours out of the water (I have since learned that would have been fine temporarily to get us back across the lake. Noted.).
Ever the Girl Scout, I mentally reviewed our stores. Four cans of LaCroix, almonds, half a canteen of water, a few iPhones and car keys (all in dry-bags), and our “Go Bag” (contains a basic first aid kid, acupuncture needles (because ya never know…), homemade lip balm, homemade “Bug Off,” hand sanitizer, and antibacterial wipes) that goes everywhere with us. If only we had a holocaust cloak… No such cloak, but we did have waterproof Nexcare bandages as part of our “Go Bag.” When I volunteered one, Flight said, “Give it a shot. I’m not sure it’ll hold, but maybe it’ll slow down the leak.” I dried the site as best I could and placed the bandage squarely over the hole. Pssshsshsshhsshh – and silence. Leak secured or better yet – wait for it – Band-aid applied to that problem. HA! Woo HOO!
We rallied the girls who were busy being pioneer women exploring their new homestead. They were sorely disappointed to have their playtime cut short, but we had no idea how long our innovative use of the wound-care bandage might hold. Flight had Keeper kayak back with Firebolt, who was keen to get out of the kayak with me – apparently I dripped too much water on her while she wasn’t paddling. WoodSprite and I paddled back while Flight happily swam back. Every dozen yards or so, I’d look back and check in, “All okay?” “Yep, just trying out all the different survival strokes.” He totally rocks.
Hot-wash of first kayaking adventure yielded the following lessons learned: 1) much as they’d probably disagree, the girls don’t NEED paddles and their having them is probably more detrimental than helpful in forward propulsion; 2) always ALWAYS bring the patch kit, or at least Nexcare bandages; 3) LaCroix is no substitute for just plain water and we should bring more of the latter and probably none of the former; 4) children get over their disinterest in raw almonds once all the more interesting snacks have disappeared; and 5) ensure “Go Bag” is replenished and always well-stocked with Nexcare products for their versatile use is limited only by one’s imagination. As Flight said, it was a really good thing we had this trial day on the water before we tried to float the Snake River.
Which brings us to the next day…
We got an offer on the house, although it was for significantly less than we’d hoped. We went back to the same café for lunch (and cell phone coverage) and contacted our realtor and came back with a counter-offer, well two counter-offers really. We split the take home difference for us with their initial offer: 1) we came down in our asking price, but offered to pay the closing costs up to 3% (as they had requested with their original offer) or 2) they pay a lesser amount, but without any help with the closing costs. Either option was roughly the same amount to us. Our realtor agreed to pass that along to theirs to see if we could come to an accord.
Holy crap, it’s really happening. We’re going to travel back to Maryland, pack out our trash, store it who knows where, and have nowhere to call home in the event this whole deployment thing goes south. Much of the early afternoon was fraught with evaluating “what if” scenarios (and laundry), sorting out how we might get the kids to Flight’s parents’ house in the Bay area, leave Davista there too, while Flight and I would fly back to pack out the house in Davidsonville. Throw in the mix an upcoming work trip for Flight, a Navy Reserve weekend back in DC for me, and Flight’s folks being out of town for two weeks in September. Needless to say, our minds were spinning as we did our best to plan for every contingency and iron out where we’d be for the next few weeks to optimize our flexibility for what may or may not be coming down the pike.
Originally, we were planning to go to Park City (also on the short list of where we might end up) from Grand Teton National Park, but only for a couple of days. We learned that my parents were going to be in Salt Lake City for a week beginning just before Labor Day, our own accommodations for which we had yet to nail down. Surprising us not at all, most places were already booked up for the holiday weekend. We were able to get in at Jordanelle State Park for Thursday and Friday night, but they were totally booked for Saturday and Sunday night. Considering we just barely (HA – that’s a ridiculous Utah saying that makes me crazy, using barely incorrectly as a temporal reference) made this change of plans, we’ll have to sort accommodations out upon arrival. Since we recently (proper use of the proper word) stayed in the parking lot at Grand Targee Ski Resort, we might be able to do the same at one of the resorts in Park City. If not, there’s always the Walmart Parking Lot…
After this whirlwind of mental gymnastics, it was about 3ish in the afternoon we got to the put in location on the Snake River. We (it was we this time) inflated the kayaks, and Flight took off to park the car at the take out location. Our game plan was to have him hitch a ride from the car to us and then we’d get on the river. However, as Flight noted, apparently it’s 2017 and enough people have seen any number of movie versions of “The Hitch-Hiker”, which means few drivers will actually pick people up, especially “a middle age dude in a weird hat.” His words, not mine.
Fortunately, we had a rare cone of connectivity for both of us. While Flight was lamenting not bringing one of the girls to increase the awwwwwww fer cute/sympathy factor to maybe generate a ride, I could update him on breaking weather conditions. Now I barely (correct use of the word, as it was not last week and I did almost fail) passed my meteorology class in Flight School, but even I can recognize a rainstorm gathering energy. Just days ago we had discussed virga with the kids, but that quaint sublimation was not what was inbound. I texted Flight that the sky was about to open and dump (official meteorological term) as I was watching the storm stalk us across the valley. And then it was upon us. I gave Flight further updates from under one of the upside down two-person kayaks. The kids were troopers, actually they thought it was great fun to be sheltering under a kayak. Flight called our training evolution complete, mission aborted, returned to the car and drove back to us. He trundled us all into the car so we could warm up while he deflated and packed up our non-float flotilla solo and in the driving rain. I offered to assist and he declined. Like I said, he totally rocks.
Back at our campsite and in a fresh change of clothes, we packed up most of our gear after the rain passed and got ready to head to Park City in the morning. Owing to its proximity to a major airport (facilitating our respective upcoming commutes east) and lots of family (I think that between Flight and me, we are related to half of the Salt Lake Valley), we made the call to stay in Park City longer than everywhere else we’d been so far.
I left Grand Teton National Park feeling as thought we hadn’t really seen much of it. When I voiced this observation to Flight, he said, “Most of what you really should see involves backcountry hiking and camping.” Ah, okay, so that’s not exactly in line with our current SOP. I’m guessing Grand Teton National Park is one for us to further explore when our kids are much older and need no carrying to get up mountains.
Onward to Park City…