“To The Lovecraft Bar!”

After finally touching down in Portland, it was time to go dancing! Besides the Tao of Tea, The Lovecraft Bar may be my favorite Portland establishment. With so many amazing places it’s hard to tell.

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The First Hurdle was a Footwear Crisis, as none of my more military boots had made it on the trip, unless they’re buried somewhere under the cargo bed, which is effectively the same thing.

There was, of course, only one solution to this problem. My *other* favorite place in Portland, House of Vintage!!! This place is an aircraft-hangar-sized, owner-run resale business full of every imaginable nostalgia object of the past 150 years. It is absolutely impossible to escape without buying many, many things. Since I only needed one pair of boots, I deliberately took only my folding bike, my mostly-full Wilson satchel (previously purchased at House of Vintage) and my black leather Tumi world traveller backpack (also purchased at House of Vintage). The capacious interior of Junior had already been flooded with a dangerous level of thrift store flotsam, one can only *imagine* what catastrophe might ensue with that level of storage available!

There’s a certain gibbering insanity in trying to photographically capture House of Vintage, but this comes pretty close:

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“Dammit! Not my size! NEVER MY SIZE!!!”

Once I got over my all-too-common girly moment of being excluded from Fabulousness due to the failure of my body to conform to impossible physical standards, I continued digging like an rabid wolverine through Atari 2600s, pimp hats, Polaroid cameras, and so, *SO* many boots! My first hit was a fly set of green original British-made Doc Martin steeltoes in excellent condition for a mere $26. However, I realized I would *never* wear them again after returning home to Austin, so I left them for someone else. Instead, I found these!

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They’re Bates riding boots, they fit perfectly, especially with the insoles I swiped from the Doc Martins. 🙂 They’re useful, look amazing, are actually *much* better dancing boots than the officers boots I usually wear, and I scored them for a mere $33!

I strapped them on along with the of my Gothic/Industrial/BDSM dark-black goodness, hopped on the Brompton, and pedaled forth!

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…immediately to be stopped by a very, *very* long train. 😦

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Having learned from previous painful mistakes, I remembered to be careful to hit the train grooves only at 90 degree angles, keeping my Gothy ass off the pavement.

I was mildly disappointed to see real bike racks in front of my destination, denying the requirement to chain my Mobile Embarrassment to the existing metal artwork outside the door. Like everywhere else in Portland, many people seemed to be living in vans, most of which aren’t as nice as mine.

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After digging out my Texas driver’s license, I pushed through the clove smoke and headed inside!

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I was both relieved and disappointed to not see the super hot bartender I got in a small degree of trouble for hitting on shortly before leaving on my last visit two years ago. It was hard to tell if the bouncer was the same or not. The club, however, was 100% Lovecraft!

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I promptly ordered a local cherry cider from the bar and sipped my way through it for over 20 minutes between dance floor gyrations. The front DJ was spinning up a storm, and I was ecstatic to be back on the dance floor again! I’ve been in this scene since the mid-90s, almost since its inception, and I’m thrilled that it’s lasted this long, and has outposts in most major cities.

I guess as long as they’re still making Batman movies I’m safe.

During a lull, I realized what I previously thought was a mirror behind the bar seemed to be a whole other room behind it! At the Lovecraft, it’s hard to tell! Schlepping rearward around the bathrooms, I discovered an entirely new dancefloor I’d never seem on previous visits! I’m not sure if I’d forgotten, it was new in the past two years, or I’d been so distracted by my genetic predisposition to hit on waitstaff that I merely missed it on frequent previous visits.

Inside the back DJ booth, there was a girl!
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I can say from first-hand (and other parts) experience that the only thing better than dating a bartender from a Goth bar is dating a DJ from one! Miss you, Warhammer!

Despite generally being a massive lightweight, I was feeling so little from my 16 oz cider that I wondered if maybe it was non-alcoholic? Just to sure, I ordered the *other* cider, and was soon pleasantly tipsy.

Wheee!

Emerging back into the front room from the Sekret Only to Skott back bar, I encountered The Unexpected! A teapot on the bench!

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It turns out The Lovecraft Bar has a full selection of freshly brewed teas! Who knew?

The Elders must have been with me that evening, because I was able to get into the restrooms without waiting not once, but *twice*! Hail Cthulhu!

Even the bathrooms at the Lovecraft are amazing!

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I was open to meeting old friends and new, but, as usual, was mainly there to dance. I enjoyed some chemistry and people-watching, but, at a certain point, The Moment Had Arrived to Depart! I bowed my way out, removed a disrespectful bit of toilet paper clinging to my new boots pointed out to me by the bouncer, and wobbled into the darkness and home.

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Repairs and Van Slumming in Portland

After two years and countless days of work in 100+ o heat, I finally made it back to Portland!!! It’s been my goal to visit every summer since I started in 2012, and I’ve only made it four times. It takes me less effort to go to Burning Man three times than to Portland once!

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Just before leaving Idaho, I ran into these guys digging around under the hood of their Sprinter, the same vintage as mine. It turns out I had just done work relevant to their problem, and was able to use my tools and knowledge to help them limp into town to the Mercedes dealership. It felt good to pay back some of the Remote Location Repair Assistance Karma I’ve been receiving so much of recently. There’s something about cross-country travel that brings out the best in people.

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I started things right with a Forest Park hike with Rita and Scott. It was amazing to see them again in person before too long, and we once again established we have a huge amount in common. We were discussing photography, van living, and Rasberry Pi embedded van networking projects within five minutes of our initial hugs.

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Junior had a widening crack in the front windshield that needed attention. Windshields are actually two layers of glass with goo in between, and it turns out this crack was on the *inside*. Why is that important? Because the crack repair resin hardens by *exposure to the UV light of the Sun*. Windshields filter out 96% of UV rays. I figured this out just as the sun was going down. The resin was trying to drip out, and I couldn’t get it to set!

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First I tried to use a reticulated makeup mirror to reflect sun onto the location. It was already near dusk, and even with the convex mirror, it wasn’t enough. I left the plastic covers in place and put the request on FB for a UV light.

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In the meantime, I had lunch with the indubitable Amanda Thomas, who’s front yard was the home of my yurt on many previous visits. It was amazing to see her after so long. She gave me a tour of the still-in-progress new house she bought. Here’s Junior visible out her nifty new front door!

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After lunch she let me borrow a 15 watt UV light, which I promptly strapped to the windshield with duct tape and bungie cords:

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I left in place for several hours, then repeated it again the next day. I didn’t know if the UV was powerful enough to get the resin to set, but it *seemed* to be working.

It says something about Portland that there were precisely zero questions about the UV light strapped to the inside of the windshield while parked downtown, even when I waited to long to take it down and it was visible at night!

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However, it seems to have worked! The repair is far from perfect, but my main goal was to stop it from getting worse, reduce the glare, and make sure I was still waterproof. If I have to, now that I get the process, I can go back and patch it up. Steven has offered to let me borrow his UV laser, which would cure things *much* faster next time! Hopefully I’ll spill less resin, I couldn’t find the razor blade it came with, so it took about 45 minutes of dedicated scrubbing with acetone to get off all the excess resin and duct tape glue! Blech.

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Within days of arrival, I had hit several of my Portland Faves, starting with The Tao of Tea on Belmont, the Most Zen Place On Earth!

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There I sipped tea and continued The Path is Everywhere, one of the best personal psychology books I’ve ever read. It was gifted to me by my jujutsu instructor, and integrates at least six different fields/modalities I’ve already worked with, including Buddhism, attachment theory, internal family therapy, and Jungian psychology. By combining these with extensive client experience, the benefits are greatly amplified. It consists largely of identifying parts of ourselves we were forced to disown as children in order to get our needs met, and using our power as adults to re-integrate them back into our lives so they stop pulling strings behind the scenes. Thanks John!

One of the most important components of the my van life setup is my Brompton folding bike. When stowed it fits neatly behind the passenger seat, but when deployed is a mean 6-speed urban commuter bike perfect for Portland’s proudly bike-friendly streets. The folding mechanism is powered by one’s dignity, which must be channeled into the bike during movement. Most of it is returned upon dismount. It has a headlight that’s brighter than most cars, and an integrated USB phone charger! The bike uses 100 PSI for the tires, and was another great opportunity to use my new Ryobi 18V inflator.

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With the Brompton, I can park in a neighborhood in a nice central location, then ride to wherever I need to go. My only concern is that it’s a prime target for bike thieves, a perfect example of how having things other’s don’t leads to problems. I’d like to live in a world where anyone who wanted one could have one and there was no motivation to steal.

One of my first trip was to get a glass drillbit to help with the windshield repair. One glance at my poseur snowboarding helmet shows you how deftly I solve the Brompton’s dignity problem.

I’m am nothing if not fly.

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That Is a Very Big Hole

My last day in Yellowstone I *really* wanted at at least *glance* the Grand Canyon. My earlier Bison Encounter slowed me down, but was *totally* worth it. From Old Faithful, I decided to take the loop starting going east on 191 skirting Thumb and then Yellowstone Lakes. This was a beautiful drive. I only succumbed to the urge to get out of Junior once to smell the wet air. I imagine boating on the lakes must be unbelievable. I then proceeded north on Grand Loop Road up toward Artist’s Point. I got there just in time for a gorgeous dusk!

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The Grand Canyon was both staggeringly, impossible-to-describe-enormous, and slightly smaller than I thought it would be. 🙂 Seeing it from one tiny vantage point, even one with as many views as Artist’s Point, is likely selling it enormously short.

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It’s definitely one of those places that truly embodies words like “awesome” and “reverence.” Its like a massive mountain cathedral with it’s own holy water dancing through the bottom. I immediately wanted to both take the mule tour down, and go rafting on the bottom. I was certain I had to come back and see more, but was totally happy with my 30 minutes of bliss!

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OMG Bison

As I travelled through Yellowstone on my way to Artist’s Point in the Grand Canyon, I encountered a huge herd of bison! Bison on the hills! Bison grazing on the roadside! Bison slobbering on my van! It was definitely the most intense wildlife experience I’d had thus far at Yellowstone.

I got this obscene Ice Cream Creation at the Old Faithful Inn on my way out of that area. It was more than a complete meal.

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The river lowlands en-route to The Grand Canyon were gorgeous and flowing!

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Here’s a panorama with Junior perched on a hill:

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But naturally the coolest thing was the bison!

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At first there was just the one:

But then suddenly there were a Lot More!

A huge herd was casually wandering through traffic, so I stopped the van and got out the camera!

They were just about touching the vas as they ambled and snorted by! If I had been dumb enough to try to pet them, I would have succeeded. Briefly.

After about 15 minutes, the herd had thinned enough to get moving again.

In person bison are incredibly powerful, hairy, snorty, and majestic! I was a little worried, even inside my massive armored box, and there were quite a few people breaking the rules, out of their vehicles to get better shots. Not me! I was deeply grateful that I was able to encounter one of the most amazing creatures in the park without any planning or extra effort. Ofttimes my life is amazingly blessed!

After I was able to get moving again, I hurried (at low speed) to get to The Grand Canyon before dark.

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Yellow Stones and Yellow Water

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I’ve finally seen Old Faithful! Like, four or five times! I spent two days exploring the beautiful alien landscape of geysers, pools, foreign accents, and sulfur.

After saying goodbye to Jackson, I headed north from Bridger-Teton National Forest (free) into Grand Teton National Park (not free). I tried to buy a year-long Park Pass, good for all National Parks, for $80 at the entrance, but they were out. They just waved me through and told me to buy it as I went into Yellowstone.

The drive was an amazing wonderland of unspoiled mountains, plains, prairies and distant forests. The scale is impossible to describe in words, and it gives a powerful, gut-level understanding of what the US was like before the coming of Europeans. I was immediately proud to live in a country that prioritized keeping such wide-open spaces, and I felt good giving my money to the park system once I reached Yellowstone. The scenery was fabulous through the huge panoramic windows of Junior instead of the cramped, headroom-free Metro.

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When I arrived at the Old Faithful area at dusk, hoping to see the geyser blow at least once before dark. There weren’t that many people, and I was still out of data range on both phones. I later discovered I had turned off the data access on my Tracfone, which uses Verizon. I *did* have the Yellowstone App on my phone, which said that Old Faithful goes roughly every 90 minutes. I had brought my full hiking setup anticipating a wait, so I settled in as the crowd gathered.

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The eruption itself was impressive and fun, but the best part was the multi-lingual Banter of Impatience as people from across the globe sat on benches pointed at a hole in the ground and waiting for something to happen. Naturally there are a few false starts in the minutes before the Big Spooge, and I enjoyed the suffering of others as they repeatedly experienced disappointment and annoyance. I met some fellow Texans sitting next to me, and we discussed homebrew RVs while we waited.

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I tried to get video of the eruption, but a variety of camera problems prevented it this time. I did get some with a brief Scott Cameo during a later eruption.

There is a large, sturdy walkway that winds for miles among a huge variety of fuming geysers and gurgling pools, all with different colors, personalities, and timings. It’s a full day just to see those within walking distance of Old Faithful.

The Old Faithful area is a small town, with The Visitor Center, Old Faithful Inn, Ski Lodge, Ranger Station, and a Post Office. There’s a huge amount of parking, even during this busiest time of the year, and I had zero problems staying in Junior. Getting local accommodations is expensive and requires booking months in advance, but an off-grid RV could conceivably stay here for months, simply moving every day or two to blend in. I’m once again blown away at the freedom bestowed by having a fully self-sufficient living space, and full of pride for having created it myself from an empty, run-down cargo van.

20170824_100657.jpgThe Old Faithful Inn

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Both the Inn and the Ski Lodge have a nice but expensive restaurant, and a bar, which are open until midnight. The Inn also features posh public showers, $4 if you bring your own towel, $5 without. There is some kind of Early Christmas event happening, and my super-orgasmic shower, only the second I’d taken since leaving Hurst over a week earlier, was free! “Merry Christmas!”

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After the Main Event, I huffed and puffed my way up the scenic overlook, informing the cute couple at the top that “I had been sent by the Governor to ruin their private romantic interlude!”

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I then left them alone to take pictures higher up the trail. Afterward we walked down together and *barely* saw this family of ptarmigans as they blended into the rock. The mama was up high, and as we watched, we realized she was teaching her chicks to learn to fly by climbing to an area they couldn’t reach. They were adorably incompetent as they reluctantly took wing across a small gap so as not to lose site of Mom. It was one of the more magical moments, and it was fun to share it with Bailey, also from Texas, and her friend.

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Can you find the birds in this pictures? Talk about cammoflage!

I took hundreds of pictures, which you can see by clicking on any shot in this post.

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Wifi is for-pay, and only at the Ski Lodge. I was too unfocused to try to get all my onlining done in one hour for $5, so I decided against it. The area was quite busy, and if I had been more social I could have had many conversations with people from around the world. I did try to talk to a German couple out on the walkways around the geysers, but they seemed a bit taken aback and clearly weren’t interested in continuing the discussion. I heard German at least three times while I was there.

After an expensive meal in the Inn restaurant, I bedded down early, wanting to see Old Faithful with the dawn the next day.

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Down Into the Jackson Hole

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The city of Jackson Wyoming is the biggest town near Bridger-Teton National Forest where I saw the 2017 eclipse. It’s expensive and touristy, but very
walkable and fun. It’s kind of like Disney Land for the Western Mountain Experience.

One of the best things about Jackson is that it has city-wide wifi! After several days of no data and barely any cell service, this was so orgasmic I got a ticket for parking too long downtown. I could just sit in my van on my computer as long as I wanted, and eventually I fell asleep. Considering I had seen the entire eclipse without spending a cent on lodging, I was ok with losing the $30.

The Persephone Cafe and Bakery quickly became my favorite hangout. Great coffee, *amazing* baked goods, and a small but fabulous selection of breakfast foods.

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The pastries!!!

Variations on my Sprinter van, including competitors like this new Dodge Ram and Ford Transits, were everywhere in the mountains.

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Persephone has a small Frenchly-cramped interior and large outdoor porch featuring several fire heat sources and free blankets for cold mountain mornings. Many people wore long sleeves and jackets with shorts. All of them were Wrong.

This breakfast my second morning was so good I almost embarrassed myself moaning pornographically in public. Not only was it amazing, but I think one of my low-carb gluten-free muffin recipes could be adapted to work like this.

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There are a lot of crazy mountain vehicles that look like loads of fun to almost kill oneself in.

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This is my favorite plaque of the trip so far! It makes me *really* want a pug version of the Bulldog hood ornament.

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This display was at the Art Center. At first I thought it was a tiny living demonstration or something, but each piece was actually a separate work of art.

I ended up at Snake River Brewing for dinner, which was expensive but worth it.

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I had the trout with some local Rye Ale for dinner, and this fabulous popcorn for dessert. Their wifi helped me catch up on all my blogging.

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I was able to park the van overnight for two nights just outside the controlled parking area with no harassment. Living in Junior rocks! I can cook and eat cheaply inside for sustenance to save money for the really good meals. Jackson is lousy with RVs of all stripes, and tourism is clearly their main business.

The area’s main themes are Western and Native American art.

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After buying a small vacuum for $5 and a used clarinet for $10 from the local thrift stores, I aired up my tires and prepared to heat for Yellowstone! Although it’s super-loud, I really like this Ryobi 18V tire pump that works with my existing batteries. My driver-side rear tire was down almost 10 lbs, a lot more than the right one. I didn’t find any punctures, but I’ll have to keep an eye on it.

I’m also starting to cross-post to Instagram as “nametag”.

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Pet Ideas From The Mountain

As soon as the eclipse was over, I grabbed my hiking gear and headed up the mountain on the Ski Lake Trail!

The first part of the hike was fairly easy, though with a consistent mild uphill grade. It alternates through pine forest and beautiful open meadows with great mountain views.

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Even the insects were great, including the beautiful…

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…and the creepy!

You might be saying “Gee Scott, these picture are pretty, but they all seem to be close up. Where are the mountain views?” Sadly, I accidentally deleted about ten breathtaking panoramas during editing. They were all Sound Of Music spectacular, and losing them was almost worse than getting stuck in the mud at midnight in Junior.

The Good News is that I’m now shooting RAW on a regular basis, which makes especially outdoor shots a lot better for a variety of reasons. For those unfamiliar, instead of compressing the image like Jpeg does, RAW simply writes down all the data flowing into the camera’s sensors so nothing is lost. This makes image tweaking a lot more effective.

As a consolation prize, I’m ending with this Wikipedia image of Ski Lake, about half way up the mountain.

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In addition to being visually gorgeous, the lake was full of these little guys, who look pretty much exactly like big brine shrimp. This is a freshwater snowmelt lake, so there’s not much salt, but they are clearly related.

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Here’s a video of them buzzing around through the water.

It occurred to me that brine shrimp, also known as Sea Monkeys, would be a *perfect* van pet! In the wild they only live a few days or weeks, and they almost always die from heat and dehydration. Any experience I could provide for them that’s better than that would be ok with me ethically, they’re easy to care for, don’t take much space, and are very temperature variation tolerant. If I needed to put in a small aquarium heater to keep them warm, it wouldn’t take much power. Having an aquarium in the van would be dope!

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I hooked up with a group of four, some of whom were from Idaho, at the lake. I was in such a hurry to go up the trail after the eclipse that I hadn’t refilled my food and water. I still had more than most hikers, but was flagging from the heat and altitude, and feeling a bit lonely. The group, mostly in their twenties and including an adorable Golden Doodle, was interested in my yurting and van adventures. Some of the pictures I lost were of the Doodle with flowers in his hair.

I want you to pause here and really *feel* the loss of those pictures.

Ok.

Keeping up with them at almost twice their age was a constant challenge, and I was huffing and puffing. The climb above the lake to the ridge, while spectacular, is narrow, steep, and shadeless. If I had been alone I would have taken at least three times as long to make it. This is exactly the kind of conversation, motivation, and safety in numbers I’d been hoping for. One couple excitedly followed me back for the Junior Tour afterward, and were super into my mobile house. I gave them my contact info, but neglected to make a note about *where* they’d met me. It would really be helpful to have some business cards when the Internet isn’t available.

I’m headed back down into Jackson Hole tonight to get some supplies, company, and wifi, then I’ll be rolling out for Yellowstone!

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