Idaho, GTNP, and a Coaster

Wyoming (and Wyoming adjacent) Part II, January 22, 2022

Snow plows roared down Pearl Avenue early Tuesday morning and startled most of us awake earlier than we’d preferred. I decided to luxuriate in my warm sheets for a while before rising, but Brinn couldn’t bear to stay in bed one second longer than he had to. Cold air affects him like catnip, and he definitely had a strong dose in Jackson. He pulled on clothes in record time and was out the door like a shot to go explore the streets as the sun just started to peek into town. After a quick reconnaissance, Brinn returned to try to talk one of us into joining him. Ian still hadn’t woke up yet, and I wanted to take some time to organize the massive amounts of gear we brought with us. Grandpapa, however, was excited to pull on his thermals and venture out for a walk before street traffic increased. While Brinn and Grandpapa walked down Cache to Broadway, I was able to watch them from the live cam! During their explorations, they checked out the antlered arches around town square, and also identified our next restaurant we would eat at.

By the time the fellas returned, I had Ian moving (albeit in slow motion) and breakfast coming off the stove. We chowed down and discussed our options for the day. This was the only day for our trip that I didn’t have any reservations or plans in place. At this point Grandpapa made his only request for the entire week. He wanted to visit Idaho since we were so close to the state line, so after Ian and I got dressed and packed our snow gear, we piled back into the VW and began our drive to Victor. The drive alone was well worth the 45 minute trip as the view was stunning. The mountains rose up around us, covered with white spruces and aspens, frosted with a thick layer of powdery snow. Brinn pointed out ski tracks coming down the sides of every slope we passed, explaining that “real” skiers hike in to the peaks and ski down without ever having to pay for a lift pass. The sight of those tracks gave him goose pumps, but the thought of hiking in ski boots made me shudder.

I was under the mistaken impression that we were just driving into Idaho to take in the scenery, stop in Victory to check another state off our list, then head back over to Jackson. Silly me for forgetting who I was with. As soon as Brinn saw public parking with a snow machine sitting in the lot for Southern Valley Trails in the Targhee National Forest, he immediately pulled in and shut the car off. Again, I thought we’d get out and take a picture or two, then be on our way. But all three of the guys started pulling on snow pants and heavy boots, so I joined the club and suited up. Off we went on my first real snow hike.

I wasn’t sure why the forestry department would leave a snowmobile behind, but once we started down the trail, Brinn was able to show us its role. Forestry would periodically drive the trail to pack the surface for hikers and bikers, and also make tracks for cross-country skiers. Unfortunately Ian and I didn’t realize the tracks were for skiers until we’d already stepped onto it and messed up a section. I’m sure there is some skier in Idaho who is still cursing us.

We saw several neat features on the trail as we hiked along. It looked like several antler rubs and scrapes along trees, and a variety of small tracks going off through the forest. My dad stepped off the trail at one point and fell into deep powder up past his knees! We only went a couple of miles as we hadn’t packed for real hiking, and didn’t have any water or snacks with us, but Brinn and Ian made the most of every step and dove off the trail many times to roll in the snow. When we made it back to the trail head, Ian spent a little time tunneling through the deep snow.

After our jaunt down the trail, we did finally drive to Victor and see the super tiny town from the car. By then it was getting close to lunch time, so we returned to Antler Inn to assemble ham sandwiches. At this point Grandpapa decided he wanted to rest for a little while, so the three Kisers set out on foot to explore together. I steered us towards Snow King so that we could scope it out in advance of the boys’ reservations for Thursday. We walked up Pearl to Cache, turned right and followed Cache down a few blocks until we got to Snow King Avenue, where we made a left that brought us right to the mountain. While there, Brinn suggested we stop in at their ticket office to see if we could go ahead and grab their lift passes to save time later in the week. After grabbing passes, we walked on up the stairs to look around, and we found the Cowboy Coaster. Passes were only $20 for an hour, and another guest offered her pass to Ian , so we jumped in line to buy a pass for Brinn. I had to text Grandpapa to let him know we’d be here for an hour while the boys were busy getting situated into their cars, then they were off.

It took some convincing, but Ian finally agreed to leave behind the coaster so that we could move on to our third activity for the day. We hiked back to Antler Inn where we picked up the car and Grandpapa, and headed on over to spend the afternoon in the national park. First we had to stop for an obligatory sign pic, then moved on down the road to the visitor center. Unfortunately I didn’t check the national park app in advance or I would’ve known that the visitor center is closed until April. But it was still worth stopping to play in the deep snow and get an epic pic with the snow covered moose.

We took the park road on up to the Signal Mountain Loop, where it was closed for the season. Like in the Targhee National Forest, they used snow machines to groom the road from this point on for hikers and cross-country skiers. We didn’t hike this time, but Ian did spend a lot of time playing in the snow. His favorite was climbing on top of picnic tables and jumping off into the waist deep snow. After his mittens started to freeze up, Ian traded for my gloves and kept playing until we had to beg him to jump back in the car so we could work our way back into town to go eat. As we were driving past the airport on our return to Jackson, we got to see a couple of moose chewing on tree branches along the road.

Returning to Jackson once again, we were starving. The fellas scoped out restaurants earlier that morning, so we set off on foot for Hand Fire Pizza. The huge menu had lots of great options, but Ian was the only voice to speak up with his request. Brinn and Grandpapa left the order up to me, so I decided on the Sweet Italian Sausage and a Classic Cheese Pizza. Oh my goodness! I definitely think I made the right call, as we didn’t have one single piece left to box up and take with us. Hand Fire Pizza probably has my vote for best food during our trip. 10 out of 10 I will go back whenever we visit Jackson again.

What started as an open day of opportunities turned into an incredibly busy day full of adventure. We were able to cover a lot of ground and have some great experiences, but the biggest adventures were yet to come.

About ashleekiser

“For in Calormen, story-telling (whether the stories are true or made up) is a thing you're taught, just as English boys and girls are taught essay-writing. The difference is that people want to hear the stories, whereas I never heard of anyone who wanted to read the essays.” ― C.S. Lewis, The Horse and His Boy Join us on our family adventures as I try to tell our stories rather than bore you with more online essays.
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