Wednesday, September 4, 2002

For a small town, Soda Springs has some GREAT attractions. First thing this morning we headed for Geyser Park & Visitor Center, home of the only captive geyser in the world. In 1937 a hole was drilled into the ground in an attempt to find a hot-water source for a swimming pool. At a depth of 315 feet the drill hit a pressurized chamber filled with carbonated water that sent a geyser spewing over 100 feet in the air! The geyser was capped and is now released by a timer every hour on the hour. Fantastic! I can't believe Tom and I were the only ones there. Imagine!

Soda Springs' captive geyser

Another somewhat dubious claim to fame in this little town is the Monsanto Slag Pour, "Soda's Man-Made Lava Flow." Slag, or calcium silicate, is a byproduct of the production of elemental phosphorus. Monsanto Chemical Company goes through approximately one million tons of phosphate ore per year from nearby open pit mines. The slag comes out of their furnace at over 2,500 degrees Fahrenheit, is hauled to the edge of the slag pile 600 cubic feet at a time, and is dumped over the side. It's quite a spectacle. This happens an average of five times per hour, 24 hours a day. Wow!

"Soda's Man-Made Lava Flow"

We followed the Pioneer Historic Byway out of Idaho and into Wyoming. Tom's sinuses were really bothering him, so we stopped at the Alpine Family Medical Clinic in tiny Alpine, Wyoming, for some antibiotics. Shockingly, the doctor there used to practice at the Cherokee Clinic in Maynardville, Tennessee, not far from Knoxville. Small world.

Fly-fishing on the Salt River

The scenery from Alpine to Jackson is gorgeous. The drive took forever because of construction, but that just gave us more time to admire the scenic Snake River.

Along the Snake River

Jackson Hole, Wyoming, is a 40-mile long, 15-mile wide valley in northwestern Wyoming, just south of the Grand Tetons. In Jackson we went into a drugstore to fill Tom's prescription, where we ran into none other than celebrity attorney Gerry Spence, one of many famous residents of the area.

The Tetons

After our brush with fame, we entered Grand Teton National Park. The Teton Range includes eight peaks over 12,000 feet. The elevation of the park ranges from 6,400 feet on valley floor to 13,770 feet at the summit of the Grand Teton. The park has nine major lakes and over 100 minor lakes, most formed in glacier-carved depressions. We visited Jackson Lake, String Lake, and Jenny Lake, each prettier than the last. Some of the best views are from the steep, narrow Signal Mountain Road. Our piddly little rental car did just fine, by the way. So there, Alamo! We saw a young grizzly bear and snapped a couple of not-so-great photos as we made our hasty retreat. We didn't want to wait around for mama bear.

Grand Teton National Park

We backtracked through Jackson, crossed back into Idaho, and turned north on the Teton Scenic Byway. The road descends from Teton Pass into Teton Valley, a/k/a Pierre's Hole. This western side of the Tetons offers a completely different view of the mountain range and isn't so packed with tourists. (Not that there's anything wrong with being a tourist - We just don't want to spend our vacation around them!)

The tiny towns we passed through on this route were little more than wide spots in the road, but they have a lot of character, especially the county seat of Driggs, population 850, where we stopped at the world-famous Spud Drive-In.

Welcome to Idaho!

Our friends Dick Tater and Sweet Tater

At Teton Dam Site near Newdale, a dam failed in 1976, releasing 80 billion gallons of water, destroying towns, and killing 16 people.

Dam failure site

Just before dusk we checked into the Log Cabin Motel in Ashton, Idaho. No phone, no ice, bright yellow log walls - I loved it! It was like a playhouse.

Gotta love it!

Warning: There is nowhere to eat in Ashton. We ended up scavenging what near-food substitutes we could at the local gas station, frozen burritos and such. Little did we know at the time that the gas-station dinner would become a recurring theme on this trip. 308 miles today.


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