Now that I’m home I can say it was a good trip. But maybe I should have given a second thought to a nearly 10 hour drive followed immediately with having to set up the camper. Setting up while trying to beat the sunset. We knew ahead of time that the weather would be good for one day, and then followed by two days of rain, but I didn’t think about cancelling. Reality hit after a day of taking photos that first day, and we again tried to beat the sunset while taking the camper back down that night. And another nearly 10 hour drive home the next day. On the way home I wondered if this was all too much for me, if maybe this camping thing had run it’s course for me. But I’m rested now and I have to think I’m not done yet. There are still places to go, things to see, people to meet…
This interest in photography has led me to take a closer-up view of the natural world, and to face the facts that life for the birds and animals that I photograph is a day to day struggle to stay alive. As opposed to the Disney-like view of how pretty all the creatures out there are, which is about as deeply as I thought about it in the past. But this rugged Wyoming landscape has given me a new appreciation for what it must have taken for people to come and settle in such a beautiful but harsh climate. To have had to go out and gather food, or not eat. To have to build shelters for themselves that would keep them alive through harsher, and longer, winters than I would have imagined. And to discover ways to provide services to your neighbors that would allow you make a living.
These are the things that crossed my mind as I visited Menor’s Ferry. In a non-Covid year there would be displays in the general store, and opportunities to ride the ferry across the river, and a bit more information about life in those days than just taking a self guided tour and trying to use your imagination to fill in the gaps.
The replica of the ferry itself…
The general store…
The home in which a meeting took place which led to the eventual founding of The Grand Teton National Park.
I love this sign…
And the Chapel of the Transfiguration. It’s altar window frames the highest mountain peak, but I didn’t get to see it since it’s not open this year.
I looked this information up this morning to be sure to be more accurate.
Historical Timeline of Menor’s Ferry
Menor’s Ferry once belonged to William D. Menor who came to Jackson Hole in 1894, taking up a homestead beside the Snake River. Here he constructed a ferryboat that became a vital crossing for the early settlers of Jackson Hole Valley.
Jackson Hole was isolated by its surrounding mountains and had such a harsh climate that it was one of the last areas of the lower 48 states to be settled. Homesteaders came here, mainly from Idaho, beginning in the late 1880s. Most early settlement in the valley took place in the south, or on a few scattered areas with fertile soil on the east side of the Snake River. Menor was alone on the west side of the Snake for more than ten years.
Rivers are often important transportation corridors. However, the Snake River was a natural barrier that divided the valley. In dry months the river could be forded safely in several locations, but during periods of high water even the most reliable fords were impassable. After 1894, Menor’s Ferry became the main crossing in the central part of Jackson Hole. Residents crossed on the ferry to hunt, gather berries and mushrooms, and cut timber at the foot of the mountains.
Bill Menor built the original ferryboat and cableworks. Today’s ferry and cableworks are replicas. The ferry is a simple platform set on two pontoons. The cable system across the river keeps the ferry from going downstream, while allowing it to move sideways. By turning the pilot wheel, the rope attaching the boat to the cable is tightened and points the pontoons toward the opposite bank. The pressure of the current against the pontoons pushes the ferryboat across the river in the direction the pontoons point. This type of ferry existed in ancient times and was used elsewhere in the United States.
Menor charged 50c for a wagon and team and 25c for a rider and horse. Pedestrians rode free if a wagon was crossing. When the water was too low for the ferry, Menor suspended a platform from the cable and three to four passengers could ride a primitive cablecar across the river. In later years, Menor and his neighbors built a bridge for winter use, dismantling it each spring.
Menor sold out to Maude Noble in 1918. She doubled the fares, hoping to earn a living from the growing number of tourists in the valley. Noble charged $1 for automobiles with local license plates, or $2 for out-of-state plates. In 1927, a steel truss bridge was built just south of the ferry, making it obsolete. Maude Noble sold the property to the Snake River Land Company in 1929.
Bill Menor and his neighbors homesteaded here thinking of the local natural resources as commodities for survival, but many of them grew to treasure the beauty and uniqueness of Jackson Hole. In 35 short years, from Bill Menor’s arrival until the establishment of the original park in 1929, this land passed from homestead to national treasure.
Two places I wanted to go to while I’m here in the Grand Teton National Park were Jackson and Idaho Falls. I had been to Jackson 28 years ago when Charley and I came to Yellowstone. Charley said that he had gotten ‘wilderness’ out of his system after that trip due to the lack of TV stations available at the motel we stayed at. In all of Yellowstone also. And I’ve found that the situation hasn’t changed all that much.
But yesterday I decided to go to Idaho Falls, and I let the GPS choose the route, and I believe that I may have used up a couple of my nine lives on the trip. A narrow, windy road, which became a narrow, windy, rutted road, and just when you thought it couldn’t get worse it did. A 2 1/2 hour drive turned into a 4 1/2 hour drive. Part of which I had to do in reverse and uphill when I chose the wrong fork in the road. It was mind boggling to drive through a forest of burned trees on such a tiny road. For some reason I really felt the horror of what a fire like that must be like. But then that landscape gave way to a forest of Christmas trees on both sides of the road. And that eventually gave way to what I thought were Birch trees, but I was corrected by my cousin that they would have been Aspens. As upset over the road as I was I couldn’t help but enjoy the scenery.
Idaho Falls probably had more to see than just the Riverwalk with it’s statues, but that’s all I did. A two mile walk around a lake where you see the falls along the Snake River, and a view of the Mormon Temple across the way. It was a lovely walk, but I rushed it to get back to my little home on wheels.
Lucky for me I ended the day at my cousin’s house where I could enjoy a beer and her beautiful garden before I closed the book on another chapter of this adventure.
Oh, did I mention that when I was finally in the home stretch to get to my cousin’s house I found myself driving over Teton Pass? It was probably magnificent view-wise, but I wouldn’t know because I was clutching the steering wheel and trying not to drive off a cliff the whole time. Yup, two lives at least.
Did this day really start in Florida? That seems like so long ago. I had never driven through the Florida panhandle before, and knowing that I was passing all those wonderful Gulf beaches just to the south of the highway was distressing. I felt like there ought to be a view, or something. I expected to be dying to stop for photos at Mobile, AL also, but maybe it was the dreary skies that stopped that from looking so enticing. I loved the fabulous Alabama welcome center with it’s beautiful setting of rolling hills, but it turned out that I only dipped my toe in Alabama because I was in Mississippi in no time flat.
Aside from seeing signs for Laurel, MS, which made me want to go drive through the town and look for the houses I’ve seen on Home Town (love that show), there wasn’t much to see. I was on smaller roads at this point, going through towns, and seeing little old houses looking weather worn and a bit tipsy. I wished I dared to take a picture of that little slice of Americana, but it would have been rude. I did see what I thought was a sign on the side of a barn, it announced, in big letters, Shelton Fireworks. And in only slightly smaller letters underneath were the words, ‘No Smoking.” I heard Charley say, plain as day, ‘No Shit Sherlock’. That had me laughing for 20 miles at least. My other take-away from driving through MS was that every time it was time to pay attention and look for my exit the skies would open and a downpour would totally blot out the view. I began to take it personally.
My choice of the Southern of the two routes the GPS suggested was the right choice for me. I had the cruise control on for at least 75% of the time, with a nice chunk of highway to myself. Not much to see but an easy drive, and eventually a sign said that the Mississippi Welcome Center and rest area was a mile ahead. I took the exit and panicked a little because the building was right there on the road and the parking lot was small and I was afraid I’d get trapped and have to back up. But it was deceiving, there were pull through spaces for trucks, and the modest looking building I saw from the road belied the spectacular veranda and view of the Mississippi River and the two bridges, one of which I would find myself traveling over when I got back on the road. I would have kicked myself if I hadn’t stopped. And the bridge to the right was a railroad bridge I noticed. It’s a shame I didn’t stick around a few more minutes because as I drove over the bridge I saw a train coming towards me heading for the other bridge. It seemed miles long, I wish I’d gotten that picture. When I landed on the other side of the bridge it was to the announcement that I was entering Louisiana. Three new states to me, and a lot of miles in one day, and as I drove I thought about how nice it would be to fall into comfy hotel bed, with wifi, and all the coffee I want in the morning. So here I am, tired but happy, so I’ll just say goodnight from Shreveport LA.
I sat down here at the computer a while ago, determined to look up the route for my potential trip this summer. I had also been looking at it last week and the week before, trying to imagine myself traveling along that blue line on the computer screen, my car a little blinking light inching along toward the goal. The computer offered me two routes for the beginning of the trip, both of which wound up merging eventually, and the last of the route passed right past my sister-in-law’s house where I would love to stop and visit. Yay! But the two early routes caused me stress of a sort. Should I try to camp along the way? If so where, and for how long? And what wonderful sights might I miss, just a little way off of that blue line? Or should I keep on moving, enjoy the one visit, but get to my destination first and figure out where else I might like to go from there?
I do realize how lucky I am that these are the things causing me stress in my old age. Not really problems, just my overactive brain. So today I saw some mention of up-tics in the number of COVID-19 cases and I decided that the smart thing to do would be to check the quarantine rules for the states I’d be traveling through. A heads-up for myself seemed like a good idea. Paper and pen at the ready I started up the computer and asked for the route for probably the 10th time, and this time it gave me an entirely different route. And one route only. No options. Almost from the minute I leave home it had me on different roads. And this route has me bypassing the entire state where my SIL lives. Does it know something? Did it get tired of showing me the same old options, thought it would liven things up?
This sort of thing makes me nuts. There is a comfort in thinking that there is only one way to do things. One route to follow. If you stay on the path, follow the rules, then nothing bad can happen. It’s probably pathetic that I still think that way after all these years, but I do. It’s gotten me this far…