The Great American Road Trip – Day 13

My first stop today was Pompeys Pillar National Monument, a large rock formation upon which William Clark carved his signature and the year, 1806. It is the only remaining physical mark left by the Lewis and Clark expedition.

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Then I drove down to the east entrance of Yellowstone. I visited the park five years ago, and mentioned to someone that I’d seen it “recently”. I’m getting old enough that five years ago is recently.

Anyway, I skipped all the stuff I saw last time and just drove through the eastern side of the park. I got a few more smashed pennies to add to the ones I already had (the album I’m currently filling up actually came from Yellowstone five years ago). I also got pictures, of course.

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I headed south to Grand Teton National Park, which I drove through last time but didn’t stop to enjoy. This time I managed to get one of the few remaining campsites in one of the main campgrounds on the shore of Jackson Lake. I’m very glad I did.

For dinner I had some of my stolen hotel cereal with chocolate milk, macaroni salad, and then sparkling apple juice with scotch. Still very childish, only now with more alcohol.

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I went swimming in Jackson Lake after dinner. The water temperature was perfect; cold at first but quickly becoming comfortable and refreshing. The sun was pleasantly warm. There was a cool breeze that kept away mosquitos.

Afterward I lay on the shore as the sun set, listening to the sound of the waves splashing against rocks and logs. I dug through the pebbles to find a handful of interesting ones, in the process freaking out the tiny spiders that lived among them. Ever since I was old enough to dig through pebbles, I’ve been fascinated by them. There are layers, edges, crystals, translucence, opaqueness, mosaics, speckles, and bubbles frozen in time. There are blue, brown, black, white, grey, red, green, orange, pink, yellow, and other colors I don’t know how to name.

I pondered the eons of sometimes slow and sometimes violent processes that created the pebbles, each one a piece of the earth ground down by weather and water, or spewed from a volcano. How old were the little rounded objects I absentmindedly grasped between my toes? Each one could’ve been a different age, its birth separated from the others by millions of years and thousands of miles. I lay on a bed of ancient history.

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And there were mountains. Tall and jagged, cutting into the sky like the spine of a prehistoric reptile. I felt so lucky to exist in that time and place, just a wandering speck of the universe capable of experiencing it. I and the mountains and the pebbles and the spiders were all the same stuff, fragments of ancient stars flung violently into space and by chance ending up together for a beautiful evening.

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Day 13 Statistics

States: MT, WY

Daily Miles: 482.1

Total Miles: 8168.7

Entrance fees covered by my $80 annual national parks pass so far: $107

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