May 7, 2016

South Pass Wyoming - Day 5

May 7 Saturday
The rain that messed with us yesterday wasn't falling as we left Jackson, but it looked like it could at any minute. We made the quick run down to Hoback Junction south of town, to regain our trail, then made the turn onto route 189/191 which carried us toward the east and south. Initially, the road follows the Hoback River through the spectacular Hoback Canyon. This is the land of the original mountain men. Men like Jim Bridger, Jedediah Smith, and Bill Sublette lived and worked in these mountains during the early 1800s. It was a unique time, sandwiched between discovery and the arrival of emigrants, that lasted about 30 years.

Off to the east and below the threatening clouds were the snow-covered Gros Ventre Mountains; to the west, the Snake River Mountains. Whether a day is clear or cloudy, the mountains are rewarding. I don't know why, but they just do something for me.

On our way south toward Farson there is an interim summit that made us ascend into the low cloud deck. For a few miles and until we descended again, we drove slowly through fog as visibility was very limited. Along through here we crossed the historic Lander Cutoff of the Emigrant Trail. Precipitation was on-again off-again, and with temperatures getting close to the freezing point, becoming various kinds of frozen water. Near Farson, where our path makes a hard left toward the east on WY-28, the sun made a brief appearance.

South Pass is the area where most of the emigrants in the middle 1800s crossed the Continental Divide. It was the easiest route close to available and, oh so necessary, water. The grade is gentle. The Divide is actually hard to discern. As we ascended, sleet and snow started building up on the road, eventually several inches of the stuff that was wet and slick. Several cars and a jack-knifed semi took the easy route into the ditch.

At the summit, there's a pull-off with a short trail, along which are interpretive signs about the pass. We pulled in... based on the lack of other tracks in the 5 inch deep snow, the only ones to recently do so. Since South Pass was my prime objective for this trip, there was simply no way I was going to short-change myself once we're actually here. Dar chose to stay in the truck while I ran around the circuit, stopping at every sign, wiping the thick layer of snow from the sign, snapping a photo of it, and jogging to the next. Jog, wipe, snap, repeat. By the time I was back at the truck, I was wet, hands frozen, shoes soggy, but I was happy I did it. I'm sure, at some point, we'll be back through here. And hopefully, the weather might be more tourist-friendly and we'll be able to spend a little more time.

From the Continental Divide, the road, counter-intuitively, goes UP. Eventually, reaching 8,400 feet before dropping back down toward the east. Driving became easier and we made Casper before deciding to drop anchor. Weather made the decision for us... it'll be another night in a motel.

Beyond Branson; Pondering Future Travel

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