So we were awesomely good at what we were there to do and finished so early that we had an extra day left over. Airlines now charge so much to change your reservation that the "Should I Stay or Should I Go?" controversy is usually up to you. It costs as much to stay an extra night as it does to change your flight, so for the company it's a wash. For us, it was woo hoo! We had a minivan at our disposal and a whole day to kill. Naturally, the day started late. Stutter woke me up (rather rudely) by calling the greggers' room looking for a ride to the airport. In his usual style, it took him a long time to declare that he must have been connected to the wrong room. I knew he was suffering, but I allowed him to go on and on for a while before I told him that he had the right room. Because I am solid, I volunteered to drive him to the airport and got lost on the way back. So we didn't get out of the hotel on our Big Adventure until about noon-ish. We didn't really have a plan -- it pretty much was just "drive to mountains." So we did. The "we" in question includes our whole posse: Boo and 88.
We passed through a lot of prairie. The highlight of this was seeing a small group of horses being chased by a very happy golden retriever who was being run after by a cowboy. They all looked happy.
We eventually got to the tiny town in the foothills (pop. 100) and started the climb. The National Forest Service has a little stop where you can get copies of maps (really, they were xerox copies. Damn budget cuts.) and hats shaped like a bear's head. We looked around for a while at the maps, then asked where the trash can was because we had lunch trash in the car. They don't keep trash cans out because they attract bears, we were told. Yay, bears!
So we continued upward, pulling off at an observation point that had a big binocular thingy stand and some little trails. The little trails had signposts all around with helpful signs telling us that the little critters scampering about were pikas and least chipmunks (didn't know there were greater ones...). It was freaking cold! And gorgeous! And windy!
After learning about small creatures and alpine ecosystems, we continued onward. Everywhere you looked was a postcard. I pulled off the side of a road to look at a small lake that had a faded sign explaining its history. I wanted to drink some of the snowmelt water because it just looked so delicious and cold. It was! Just for the heck of it, we started wandering around the lake. A sheet of snow was on the hillside above us, still melting. Boo started climbing the hillside -- pretty steep -- and in a few seconds the greggers and 88 were following him. I decided to enjoy a few moments of solitude and some more of the tastiest water I've ever had. Then I started to climb up around the other side. By then the others were out of sight and I assumed that they had been eaten by a bear due to the lack of trash cans. Climbing was quite an experience -- the hill was so steep that the best way to tackle it was in short vertical bursts, which then caused my lungs to explode and little fireworks displays to occur behind my eyeballs. Climb, catch breath. Climb, catch breath, marvel at pulse rate. Climb, marvel, watch the colors of the world pulsate and fade.
Eventually I got as high as I wanted to go (not metaphorically this time) and waited for the others. When they didn't show up, I just drove away and left their half-eaten carcasses there. Kidding. Eventually they came down, slowly and gingerly, because, can I just tell you, that climb was steep?
So on we drove, up and up. Ears were popping. I vaguely remembered something about a town on the other side of the mountain, so we descended and drove across more plains. We reached the town and stopped to look around. It didn't look like much of a place, really. A main street through town, a couple of garages... We decided to go into a couple of shops before we headed back, and I made the dubious choice of going into an antique store/junk shop. It reeked of old lady. Now, I have a thing about going into a store then turning right around and leaving. It's just so rude, even if the store stinks like grandma's house. So I was browsing and the others followed me in eventually. Used crap, plastic flowers, post cards... Then I saw a post card that showed a thermal spring in the very town we were in. The proprietor asked if we needed help, and I asked her where the spring was. She gave us a little info about it ("Left at the only stop sign in town"}, 88 bought a souvenir shot glass, making me feel a whole lot more polite, and then we left to discuss the possibility of actually finding the springs. Concensus was: why the hell not? So off we went to find swimming shorts for all 4 of us (for some reason this took two trips to the same store).
Sure enough, left at the stop sign took us to the city swimming pool (which had a sign on the side that said "Hobo Pool"), the hot springs, and the river. We changed into our shorts and off we went to the hot springs. The spring was bubbling up out of one end of the cement pool. The whole thing couldn't have been larger than about 15' by 20' and it was NOT FANCY. There was an old park bench submerged in it -- covered with slimy green moss. The stairs were also lawsuit-ready, covered by the same slime. I got out of the dressing room first, went down the stairs, stuck my foot in and it promptly vaporized.
Ha ha! said the guys at the other end. "This end is cooler." So we headed to the other end, where it was a degree or two cooler, maybe. Still hot enough to cook a lobster, I believe. When the greggers got in, he thought he spotted a floating turd (did I mention it was a bit rustic?), but it turns out it was just a large clump of slimy green moss (probably covering a turd). We paddled about for a while in short bursts -- the water was too hot to stay in for long. But jeezy kreezy, was it relaxing. It just made your skin and muscles feel good -- all that climbing, and no soreness at all.
After the springs, we headed back toward the mountains again. This time through we made a few more stops. One was to see a couple more beautiful lakes. That's where I saw the mommy pine marten moving her babies to a new hole. She got so close to me -- she was about 10 feet away. It was so cool. The dad was supervising, by which I mean just kind of milling around and bitching at everyone (me included). Another stop for an old miner's cabin.
After we descended and were heading off toward the hotel, it was twilight. It gets dark late up there in the north. We were getting close to town when the greggers spots a large bird sitting on a barbed wire fence and speculates that it may be a bald eagle. So, what the fuck? I turned that minivan back around and we went back. The eagle seemed to be a young male -- he wasn't huge until he spread his wings to fly. We looked at him too long, so he flew away, but made an immediate u-turn and settled back down again about 3 posts down the fence. We pulled up to him again to get another look. He appeared to be molting his brown feathers of youth to reveal his white head. He was gorgeous.
So we headed back, went to Crapplebee's for dinner, and back to the hotel to pack. Pretty fucking good day for an unplanned road trip that didn't start til noon.
In domestic news, I have baked a pie.4 comments so far