Thursday, July 24, 2008

Travel Hell to Ghost Town Heaven-Wyoming Day 1.5

The Smoking Lounge to Dollar Rental...

We made our flight out of Denver at about 1:30pm Saturday. It's a pretty short flight to Jackson Hole Wyoming but we were already worn out by the delays that morning when we got there. This is an interesting airport, one of the few that still bring out the mobile stairwells to the plane for de-boarding. Obviously could only handle two major flights at a time, as a Delta jet arrived the same time we did and it turned pretty hectic inside the airport.

After battling the crowd and waiting for the Dollar Rental bus to show up, we headed into Jackson Hole to get our SUV. Dollar Rental was a small building in the middle of town, and evidentially had the best rates, since there were at least 20 other people trying to get cars. Kathy went ahead and took care of business while I stood outside with the bags. Looking through the window I knew it wouldn't be a good experience as Kathy's face was already getting red. The gal that was waiting on her kept getting interrupted by other employees for various reasons. By the time Kathy finally came out she was fuming. "Do we have a rental?" I asked, not seeing any keys or contract in her hand. "How the hell should I know, the gal just stopped mid stream and started helping someone else!"

About that time, one of the other employees in charge of getting the vehicles to their drivers walked by. Seeing several people standing around us, all looking at Kathy's now glowing radioactive face with smoke rolling off the top of her ears, he took charge to get the situation under control. Moments later he was guiding us to an SUV and the manager was hurriedly coming out with contract in hand. As he handed the contract to Kathy he made his first critical mistake...."Everything OK?" Now, Kathy controls her self fine, but is pretty good about letting you know just how bad your customer service sucks when it's called for. "Twenty three times, I counted em...Twenty three times your customer service rep was interrupted while helping me, and not by other employees who apparently haven't a clue about what they are doing!!!!". That's about the time the manager made his second mistake. "But everything is OK now?"

This is when everything in my mind goes into slow motion....Kathy moving in for the kill while I turn to look at the manager, who doesn't realize the true danger he is in. Making sure I get his attention, and then give him the look only another man would know, the look that says 'Stop talking now...back up and slowly move away from the not attempt any further communication or risk the wrath that you have called upon yourself for asking such a stupid question to begin with'.

Jackson Hole to Dubois

We would have loved to make it all the way to Lander that day, but we were both completely beat. Saw some great scenery at the edge of the Grand Tetons as we traveled along highway 191 up to Moran, then down 287. Wound up stopping at Dubois, home of the Giant Jackalope. A nice little old western tourist stop that I'm sure we would have enjoyed, if we had the energy. Stopped at the Super 8 and settled in for a nice peaceful rest, determined to change the course of our adventure with a fresh start Sunday morning.

Dubois to Cody...

Got an early start on the day, knowing we had a long one ahead of us. Our primary objective were the ghost towns around Lander Wyoming. The drive was beautiful, following the Wind river, stopping to see Fort Washakie and the grave site of Sacagawea, the famous Indian guide to Lewis and Clark. Passing through Lander, then down highway 28 through Red Canyon, we reach the historic mining district of Atlantic City and South Pass. Cool views and a driving tour of Atlantic City, but not a town trying to get tourists to stop and stay for a while. It was still home to about 57 residents and while they want you to see their history, I got the impression they wanted you to see it from the highway. Most all the points of interest were on the paved road, and no stores open on Sunday. There is a small saloon though that looks like it does good business during the week.

Onward toward South Pass we come upon an abandoned mine on the side of a mountain. This is what Kathy lives for, those out of the way hidden treasures not frequented by the public. After finding a road leading up to the mine we get a real treat with several buildings still in tact and most of the mine still standing. You could tell it had been active up until at least the 1940's, and we would later get confirmation of that as we moved closer to South Pass and ran into a bigger Mine that was being restored for public touring. The history of the area indicated that the gold mining was finally played out and totally abandoned by the 1950's.

Just a step or two down the road is South Pass. This mining gem is a State Historic Site, and many of the buildings have been restored. Small fee to take the walking tour and worth it. We really enjoyed ourselves learning about the stage stop along the Oregon Trail, the people that used to live there and how the town went from 2,000 residents to no one. Today about seven people live there, but there are plenty of visitors to stop by and give it life again.

After South Pass we head back up toward Lander, almost ready to call it a day, but not before Kathy finds another ghost town, this one not restored, but maintained for visitors. It's a short hike off a dirt road to Hamilton City, with several buildings in various states of being reclaimed by Mother Earth. You'll note that it's on signs and maps as Miners Delight, and it's a good stop for enthusiasts like us.

Finally ready to head down the road, we made it back through Lander on highway 789 up to Riverton, then highway 26 through Boysen State Park, with plenty of photo opportunities sure to please any nature lover. Catching highway 20 in Shoshoni, then highway 120 in Thermopolis, along the way some incredible Wyoming scenery to help light our way and tickle our minds with anticipation of our next exploration, Cody and Yellow Stone National Park.

Next blog adventure: Cody Wyoming's Crown Jewel and Mother Earths incredible forces in Yellowstone.


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