Well, the temperature dropped about 20˚ last night, so I fell asleep with no covers and the fan blasting me and woke in fetal position with the covers pulled tight. Ah nature. Got up and took a few photos of the dramatic sunrise, then ate and collected my stuff and got on the road. The plan was to drive two hours into Boise and get the van checked out, so that’s what I did. Unfortunately the European car repair place doesn’t work on Sprinter vans, so I had to head to the dealership, anticipating getting overcharged and underserved. The guy was nice but said he had a busy day and asked if I could leave the van. I said I could, but I’d be planting myself in their waiting room until it was done. Which is what I did. The upside was that I then had a bunch of time to edit some photos that have been sitting on the back burner for the last week or two. Felt good to make some headway in that department. But the whole time I was working, I was filled with anxiety about the van, hoping they’d find nothing wrong with it but making alternate plans in case they did. I sat until 3 PM, when I went into the office to check on the progress and was told the van was in ship-shape, other than having a little too much oil in the engine. They only charged me $65, not the $125 they’d quoted me, which was a surprise and relief. I was flooded with an almost euphoric relief and was so excited I almost drove away without grabbing my computer and backpack from the waiting room. That would’ve sucked. I ran a couple errands in town, then got myself on the freeway towards Wyoming.
I took the main highway for a bit, then jumped on the 20 in order to drive through the Craters of the Moon National Monument, also to avoid driving on the interstate. The northeast section of Idaho was gorgeous… long, broad valleys surrounded by buttes and rolling hills with periodic pine forests and sprawling farmland. As I drove I wondered about the people who live and farm there, wondering about their personal connection to the land. How to they relate to it? How does it *feel* to them? Do they think about the land that way, or do they just see it as something to work? And with those thoughts, I couldn’t help but think about their ancestors who’d settled there first, forcibly removing the native populations with the help of the US Government. I wonder if those “rugged individualists” and “pioneers” and anti-government right wingers have any awareness around the fact that they’d never in a million years been able to settle those lands without the constant intervention of the US Army. The native people would’ve slaughtered them as quickly as they could come, and they sure tried. Every time white settlement pushed past the adopted boundaries of the original settlements, the natives would come charging. Then they’d whine to the army that the “savages” were on the “war path” and couldn’t they come and do something about it? Fucking snowflakes.
The land here is beautiful. It’s also been irrevocably violated and partially destroyed by 200+ years of white European civilization. I can’t help but feel contempt for the sons of the pioneers who think their claim to this land is the only valid claim, or that their way of life is some kind of God-given right that should never be questioned. As if they’re the only people with tradition and a connection to the land. Their tradition is white supremacy, resource extraction, and religious intolerance. Some of them might be nice people and good stewards of the land, but their tradition has blood on its hands.
Anyway… As I drove through the giant basins of irrigated land and expanse of wild prairie, the air was the perfect temperature, the breeze was refreshing and sweet, and there were barely any cars on the road. A deep sense of satisfaction came over me, contentment at driving down this road at this time, seeing the stunning landscapes and spending time alone with my thoughts.
Craters of the Moon is an amazing place, an expanse of lava beds that still look fresh but are millions of years old. I stopped for some quick photos, but because I left Boise so late in the day, I wanted to try and get to Jackson before it got dark. As I moved north and east, a curtain of darkness obfuscated the distant mountains and giant sheets of rain swept over the lower hills and valleys. As I got closer and closer, the setting sun and wild storm clouds coalesced into some of the most gorgeous textures and colors I’d seen in a long while. I love driving into storms sometimes.
The rain poured down and darkness fell just as I began ascending a mountain range on whose other side lay Jackson and the surrounding towns. I had a harrowing journey on rain-slicked roads that wound steeply up and up into the darkness, then dropped down into more steep hairpin turns. I’d almost stopped to find a spot to camp an hour or so before, because I wanted to see the mountains and surrounding areas instead of passing them in the night. But I decided getting to Jackson was the goal and I was gonna stick to it.
I finally made it to town and connected with the two organizers of Fire In The Mountains at a local bar. We chatted for a little while and they recommended a place I could drive and camp not too far from there. Justin encouraged me to drive all the way to the top of this mountain road, where I’d wake to a majestic view of the Tetons on one side and Indian Head on the other. Problem was, it was a 45-minute drive from town and I was beat. I said my goodbyes and jumped back in the van, following directions to the road. It was rough and steep and lumpy, and many of the lower camping spots were already occupied by scores of other campers (and people who work in Jackson for the summer but can’t find a place to live due to a housing shortage). I charged on higher and higher, watching it get later and later. Finally, after 30 minutes crawling up this dirt road, I found my spot. Leveled out the van and put myself to bed. Long day.