Runtrails' Rocky Mountain Journal
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"My favorite thing is to go where I've never been."
- Diane Arbus 


Today we reached our destination just west of Grand Teton National Park, about six hundred miles north and west of Leadville. The truck did fine with its new parts, but now we're having computer problems. If it's not one thing, it's another! As usual, Jim was able to find appropriate solutions for both critical "machines."

It was hard to leave Leadville. We're actually happy to have been able to remain there a week longer than planned, waiting for Fed Ex to deliver a special new air filter for the truck. It arrived on Monday afternoon. Jim installed it with no problems and we said our good-byes on Tuesday morning. We were in the area about six weeks, the longest in seven trips to Leadville since 1999. It's a "cool" place to camp during the summer and a good base for many outdoor activities. We highly recommend it even if you aren't interested in the bike or foot races.


Even though I can't run right now, walking with my stretchy knee support feels fine. If I don't wear it the knee feels like it's going to fall apart, as if there are some loose parts. I've been doing some walks up to an hour on dirt roads and trails. I began with smooth flat to undulating terrain, but moderate grades and rocks seem to be OK now. No 14ers, though.  <grumble>

Jim's not sure if he's recovering from Leadville or tapering for the Grand Teton race this weekend! He took several days off after Leadville, then began walking and running gradually. The most he's done is about six miles last Sunday along the Turquoise Lake Trail. Cody ran with him and Tater walked with me.

These are some of the photos I took on two different walks/runs at the lake. They are both on the LT100 course.

The first pictures are from last Friday and feature the dogs. Jim and I get tired of throwing sticks faster than the dogs get tired of retrieving them, whether it's on land or water. They are fun to watch. Cody can paddle really fast and he'll go out every time. Tater is getting older and doesn't much see the point, especially since Cody usually steals her stick. Ever the Alpha Dog, he'll drop his own stick to snatch hers and bring it back to us! What a stinker he is.



Farther up the trail Jim took both dogs out on a floating dock and tried to get them to jump off the end. I was surprised it took so long to get them to jump. They often go flying off creek or river banks. Tater never would jump off but Cody eventually did:

We went back to the lake to walk and run on Sunday, and there were LOTS of folks camping, fishing, hiking, swimming, and enjoying the water in all sorts of craft: motorboats, sailboats, kayaks, and rubber rafts.





Most runners in the LT100 don't see all this activity on race weekend because they run past here in the dark on the first morning and either don't make it back here on the return or pass by during the night or too early in the morning Sunday to see much human activity.

Here is a parting shot of Turquoise Lake until the next time . . .



On Saturday we decided to take a drive up to Independence Pass, a nice place to acclimate at 12,095 feet. We do that most years, but hadn't been there this time because he discovered he could get up to about 12,300 feet in the truck on Ball Mountain. Jim doesn't need to continue acclimating that high. I think he was just so bored he wanted to go somewhere different than where we'd been this summer.

Along Hwy. 82 a bit past Twin Lakes we caught views of La Plata, one of the 14ers I'll climb next time we're here. The trail head parking area was packed with weekend climbers.

Independence Pass is another ten or twelve miles beyond that. I took these photos from inside the truck as we climbed the switchbacks to the top:



This one looks back east down to the road in the valley:

The last time we were up there it was stormy and I got some dramatic shots of gray clouds coming in while I hiked up a ridge, then enveloping the trail. This time it was mostly clear blue. We sat in the truck for a while, Jim reading and me drawing scrapbook sketches, both of us amused by some of the tourists in skimpy summer clothing suddenly turning around and returning to their cars before they reached the viewing platforms. It is perpetually windy on Independence Pass, and they weren't prepared for how chilly it was at that altitude. After about an hour we bundled up against the wind and walked out on the ridge half a mile or more with the dogs:


Always curious, we had to inspect this piece of (mining?) equipment:

I've climbed up the ridge on the right previously but not the one on the left. Maybe next time!

One more scene from the pass:



The good news on Monday was that Jim was able to quickly install the new air filter in the truck.

The bad news was that our laptop computer developed a serious glitch the same morning. It worked fine until then, although it's old and is inadequate for the software and photos we want on it. Jim's been worried all summer that the hard drive might die, and we've been backing it up almost daily to prevent a catastrophe (e.g., we pay our bills online).

Every time Jim booted it up Monday morning, it had this lovely vertical kaleidoscope of colors gracing the screen, obliterating most of what he was trying to see. He tinkered with it off and on all day, not knowing what the problem was.

In the evening we both went to the college library to read and send e-mail, schedule a bill payment, etc. Jim took the laptop, hooked it up to the WiFi connection, and discovered the problem is the SCREEN and not the hard drive. Whew! That was a relief. He could read everything on our hard drive and see it on the library's computer screen. Glad he thought to try that.

We both soon realized all we needed to do was buy a little flat-screen monitor and we could continue using the computer on our trip. On the way to the Tetons yesterday, we stopped at a Wal-Mart and got a monitor. Last evening in Rock Springs, WY we had a strong Verizon cell phone connection and the set-up worked perfectly.

Flowers at Independence Pass

However, we don't have a cell signal now in the Teton area and we can't get on-line in the camper. There is a low signal about a mile from our campground so we'll either have to take the laptop and monitor there and get on-line in the truck or use the one guest computer we found at the resort where the Grand Teton races are headquartered. There is no library in Driggs, ID or Alta, WY, the nearest towns.

Thank goodness for thin, lightweight monitors. This is our first one. Hopefully I'll be able to upload one or more entries in this journal while we're in the Teton area. I don't know if we'll keep the monitor, return it for a better one when we have time to do more research about brands and specs, or just get a whole new laptop that has more capacity. Fortunately our desktop and monitor at home are fine for a while.


We mapped out the shortest way (with a camper) from Leadville to the Grand Targhee Resort west of Grand Teton National Park and it turned out to be quite scenic, too. It took us a day and a half to go 611 miles, some of it at 15 MPH on a 10% grade up Teton Pass! Fortunately, most of it was 60-70 MPH. The weather was great both days.

One of the prettiest segments was CO 24 northwest of Leadville, thirty-two windy, mountainous up to I-70. We'd been to Tennessee Pass and Camp Hale when I ran the Colorado Trail last summer, but no farther than that. We discovered a beautiful road similar in part to the Million Dollar Highway between Ouray and Silverton, but not quite so scary. Very nice!

Then we went west on I-70 to Rifle, CO where we ate lunch and re-supplied at Wal-Mart. That section of the freeway is very scenic, especially through the Glenwood Canyon area east of Glenwood Springs:


Next we headed up a long stretch of two-lane road on CO 13 and WY 789 to I-80. We enjoyed the hilly southern part of CO 13 between the Roan Plateau and White National Forest. After that, we were in rolling rangeland that wasn't as interesting. That's when I started reading 1776 again! The road is good the whole way up to I-80. We could travel at 60-65 MPH except for one road construction delay and a few towns.

After being on those sparsely-traveled roads for several hours, I-80 was a jarring cacophony of big trucks and speeding cars. The scenery wasn't as pretty, either. Even though we could drive a little faster, we both preferred the more leisurely drive on the two-lane roads and through the little towns.

Jim caught this "dirt devil" off to the side as we were cruising by:

Our overnight destination was the Wal-Mart at Rock Springs, WY. We arrived there in the late afternoon Tuesday and were surprised to find half a dozen big rigs (RVs and semis) already in place. We did find a good place next to a long stretch of grass for the dogs. The adjacent freeway was noisy but ear plugs allowed a good night's sleep.

We thanked the manager for allowing us to stay overnight, purchased some more items at this store, and cleaned up trash along the nearby fence. These practices are advisable if you stay overnight at a Wal-Mart or other store so folks can continue to do it. If people abuse the privilege in some way, the managers won't be so amenable. However, in areas where there are local ordinances prohibiting overnight "camping" it's usually more because of political pressure from local private campgrounds that are losing business than because Wal-Mart objects.

When I let the dogs outside this morning I saw the full moon setting behind the red-tinged hills across the freeway:

That's not someplace I'd expect to see such a striking scene. You can find beauty just about anywhere.

We headed north from Rock Springs to Jackson on WY 191, another good, relatively fast two-lane road. It became increasingly scenic the closer we got to the Tetons. On our right was the Bridger-Teton National Forest with its sawtooth-edged mountains including Gannett Peak, Wyoming's highest at 13,804 feet.

We loved the hilly, treed section of national forest from Pinedale to Jackson through the Gros Ventre Range and along the Hobart River, where we could catch occasional glimpses of the craggy Teton peaks to the north.

This was getting exciting! We've both been to the Tetons several times, but never from this direction so the peaks looked different. They are very distinctive.

At the southern end of Jackson we turned left onto WY 22. Most of the traffic went north to the Teton or Yellowstone areas and we were once again in fairly sparse traffic on our way to Victor and Driggs, Idaho.

I'd noted the three passes we'd be going over on this trip and none sounded nearly as bad as the 11,000-foot ones we'd driven over in Colorado. The new air filter handled Tennessee Pass (10,424 feet) on Hwy. 24 just fine. The Rim (7,921 feet) north of Pinedale, WY was a mere bump. So 8,428-foot Teton Pass west of Jackson didn't sound like anything to worry about.

Ha! Even the worst passes in Colorado, Monarch and Loveland, were "only" a 6-7% grade and we had to stop several times on the ascent of both of them because they were so long.

A sign at the bottom of Teton Pass warned drivers that it was a 10% grade up that sucker. Fortunately it was only about three miles up the east side. From below, it didn't look so bad:

That wasn't all of it though. We crawled up slowly, getting down to only 15 MPH at one point. Jim pulled over because the engine was straining so much -- but by golly, it wasn't overheating! The new air filter was doing a splendid job.

After a few minutes, we continued on up to the top without incident and slowly went down the other side to avoid straining the brakes. The descent was also a 10% grade and about three miles long. Neither of us could fully appreciate the beauty surrounding us because we expected something to go wrong! We'll probably find another way when we go back home, such as the loop on Hwy. 26 near the Palisades Reservoir.

Next entry: OK, now that we're here, where do we stay? Includes photos of the Teton Range up close.

"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, Cody, and Tater

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2007 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil