They say you have to cross your limits to find them. And lemme tell ya, I thought I crossed mine halfway through Wyoming.
But when when we saw the peaks off in the distance, we sat up straight in our seats and even began speaking to each other again. (What is it about heat that makes conversation unbearable?)
At first, we thought maybe we were hallucinating. You know, like Frank getting off Hidalgo and seeing the mirage of his ancestors to give him the strength to finish the race. But as we drew closer we realized they weren't clouds - it was peaks covered in snow.
Snow! In this heat! It was like drinking cold lemonade.
Those peaks got us through our final stretch.
We ended up traveling through the Wind River Reservation, which is a spiritual experience in itself. No one was outside (we were the only people dumb enough to be on the asphalt in that weather). But knowing that we were traveling through land and by peoples that survived colonization... is sacred and heartbreaking.
The website says that, "The 1.7+ million-acre Reservation is home to the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Arapaho tribes and was established in 1864 through the Bridger-Teton Treaty with the U.S. government."
Driving through the middle of the Reservation without taking the time to explore, to learn the history, and to meet the people will end up being one of my biggest regrets of this trip. As we drove we had no phone service so I couldn't do any research and I wish I had taken the time beforehand. But I know I will definitely be back to experience a powwow.
And even if you can't experience a Reservation, it is important to know that although they have survived colonization, they are constantly kept from thriving. One example is through the mismanagement of water sources on Reservations. "During the past decade, tribal water systems averaged about 60 percent more water-quality violations compared with nontribal water systems, according to Environmental Protection Agency data." Rivers where the tribes hunt, fish, drink, swim, and perform ceremonies are being taken and polluted. Click here to read more.
Finally, we reached the National Forests of western Wyoming.
After a long climb up, we put the windows down and breathed in the thin air that traveled across the snow to reach us. We thought about getting out to touch it - snow in June just doesn't seem real - but we decided to keep going instead. If it wasn't real, we didn't want to know.
After trying out a few campgrounds, we ended up turning onto yet another long, windy dirt road down to a meadow. It was magical when we got into the thick trees - would we see a bear??? Then we hit a pothole so hard that our wheel started squeaking and wildlife spotting became a distant thought.
We shared a knowing glance. We were a long way from cell service, and who knows how far from any mechanic. And, it was only day 6 of our trip! How could we already be running into car trouble.
After nursing the car down the rest of the road and through a horse ranch, we finally made it to our destination.
We squeakily announced our entrance into gorgeous, SHADED, campground nestled into the corner of the valley. There was a spot tucked beneath the pines that we claimed, and made neighbors to the cowboy campers with their horses, mules, chaps and herding dogs. Oh, and it was super close to the bathroom. Of course.
It was a relief to finally be out of the car and cooled off. But with the relief came exhaustion and worry.
So. What are we going to do?
We had planned on staying the weekend and doing some exploring in the area before we moved on to Idaho, but now those plans were uncertain.
We threw ideas back and forth. Do we leave? Do we hold off? Where is there a mechanic? The tense conversation was nearly pointless as we had no way of researching any information without service.
My jaw was throbbing, my cramps were so unbearable I could hardly stand, and now - just one week into our road trip - we were going to have to service the car.
I snapped at Jacob. He walked off.
I sat (read: collapsed) down onto the bench at the picnic table and put my head in my hands.
"I'm sorry. It's just a really hard day."
One of my favorite things about Jacob is how he can totally deescalate me when I'm stressed or I've lost my temper, and then somehow makes everything okay again.
He came over and put his arm around me. "Highs and lows, Molly. Highs and lows. Let's set up the tent, eat, and go to bed. We can figure it out in the morning."
For dinner, we opted for our road trip favorite - veggie wraps - because there were a lot of scary "pack your food or bears will attack you" posters and we were too tired to worry about cleaning up a messy meal.
By 8pm, we had cleaned up from dinner, gotten ready for bed, and set up the tent. Exhausted, I stumbled into the tent to find out the best news of the day.
"BABE! THE TENT IS COLD!"
For months I've been trying to convince Jacob that we should move somewhere hot and beachy. It took 5 days in the midwest for me to just accept that I am a cold-weather girl with a cold-weather dog and that's just how it has to be.
I kept all my layers on - even my socks - and snuggled into bed. Jacob and Miska came in soon after and I was already dozing off.
"How long til the sun goes down?"
He laughed. It felt ridiculous to be going to bed so early, but after the day we had, it was all I could do.
Nine hours later, I woke up shivering.
Oh my gosh, I thought. We finally slept all night.
I looked over. Miska was still out cold (see what I did there), when every other night he had been too hot to sleep, so he spent the entire night barking to alert us at the slightest sound outside the tent. But not this night. We all finally got the relief from the heat that we really needed. Even the Black Hills didn't give us this.
Suddenly, he sat straight up. Ears up, eyes wide open - there was something outside the tent.
I saw the large shadow pass over the tent and I froze.
"Quiet, Miska. Don't you dare," I whispered harshly. If it was a bear, the last thing we needed was for Miska to surprise it and send it on a rampage after us.
The shadow disappeared and the rustling stopped. We both sat completely still, listening hard.
Then I heard it.
Rip, munch munch munch. Rip, munch munch munch.
I laid back in bed and started laughing. Jake asked what was going on.
"Our friend is back to visit."
I pulled back the frost covered tent door and found our neighbor's mule snacking on the grass around our tent. She had come by the night before and had quickly been shuffled back by her owner. But this morning, she had found her time to explore while he slept.
Feeling much better, we got out of the tent, put on our down jackets, and made some hot tea.
With a full night's rest and a clear, cool morning, we were able to form a plan.
We would pack up and head to the closest town - Jackson - to either find a mechanic or have enough phone service to come up with a plan.
A couple hours later and I was back in the driver's seat of The Grizzly, (our Nissan Xterra).
"Go ahead and drive, I'm gonna walk along beside it and see what I can hear."
I started it and pulled forward.
I kept going.
... Still nothing.
Jake jumped in the car and we looked at each other. We didn't know whether to be pissed that we had changed our plans or to be relieved that the damage was either gone or just not so bad.
But we had already packed up, so there was nothing to do but to keep going.
As we turned the corner, the Grand Tetons off the in distance emerged from behind the trees and we knew we had made the right choice.