Beyond the Grand Tetons, over an impossibly steep pass, and nestled just a few feet within the Idaho boarder, lies Driggs. This town feels like a secret treasure. Ericka, the wife of Mark Goddard, (Pop Top Shock’s owner) informs me that they are recruiting new people to the area and it’s not a hard sell. They have created a unique life in Driggs one that many only hope to find in their lifetime. Close friends, a tight community, a couple acres of land, a beautiful home with a loft apartment and a “green house” filled with vegetables ready for picking. They ski in the winter, bike on paths that wind throughout town and connect the next town over, camp in the Teton canyon and hike the countless miles that trace the mountain chain.
They welcome us to Driggs with cocktails mixed with Huckleberries that Ericka picked and stored herself. As stories emerge and pieces of life are exchanged I forget that I’m not talking to an old friend. Mark was successful in getting our shocks in working order. Before we leave, they direct us to a spot in the Teton Canyon (about 10 minutes away) with plenty of disperse camping. Ericka reminds us to carry bear spray, “lots of bears around here.” Despite leaving their house at dark, the moon is bright and directions are easy. We find a spot and pop the top with almost no effort. We are snuggled in bed when a rustle in the trees alarms Colin, who then gives me a good poke in the arm. The rustle continues and it is close. In seconds we are curled next to the screen and waiting for whatever is behind those trees to step out. I know it’s a bear. I can sense it. I can feel my heart pick up pace and I can’t believe a bear is going to step out of the trees…the branches are breaking and we can hardly stand it. Just as I want to call it by name something appears and it is not a bear but a big black cow. Angus to be specific. We both sigh at the same time and can’t help but break out in laughter. I had forgotten the cattle guard we crossed right before turning into this spot. The next morning the entire herd greeted us. Walking Sprite means watching out for cow pies.
Late morning and it’s a good time for me to review our travel budget before taking a hike. Colin is in the back of the van repacking and I am going through receipts when I hear him yell out, “beaaaar!” I look up just in time to NOT see anything. Colin reports that a bear just ran behind our camp. I don’t believe him but as his voice turns to urgent I realize I don’t want to believe him. How did I miss this!? “Black bear,” he says, “and boy was he moving fast.” At this point we both have “bear” on the brain. Every dark stump, mossy rock, moving shadow is, in our minds, a bear. We see something black moving in front of us and instead of considering a dog, we think bear. The spray is unhooked and we stop cold. A black dog comes in full view along with a group of hikers and we reconsider. Clouds move in and rain follows. Pours actually and we are soaking wet. Picking up the pace until I hear Colin say, “stop.” Like he means it. We both glance in the woods and see a big brown body with little body and now it’s real…and coming toward us. We realize it’s a moose with baby and charging directly toward us. In a second Colin has the bear spray unhooked from his backpack and we both shout out, “holy shit!” That is enough to scare them into changing directions and thankfully heading away from us. When they are out of sight we turn to each other with eyes bugged out and I ask Colin if his heart is in his throat. A nod confirms we are on the same page and agree we have had enough nature for one day.
Today, October 3, marks 9 weeks of living out of our van. Colin mentioned feeling homeless the other day. My response came in the form of a question, “how can you feel homeless, when you are drinking the latest in trendy coffee?” True drip coffee is making a comeback. Not an electric coffee pot folks, that system pulls too many amps from our battery! As we were passing through the town of Lander, Wyoming (a few weeks back) in search of a cup of coffee we stumbled upon Old Town Coffee. Ordering just 2 large cups sent the process in motion, which took me completely by surprise. With a long line of glass carafes sitting on top of a thick wooden bar, covered with colorful plastic filters, the barista scooped fresh coffee into one filter and then poured hot water over the grounds in a careful rhythm, waiting a few moments and then another round of water. I sat back wondering what on earth do they do when it gets busy? When finally, the last drip dropped, the barista poured the dark brown liquid into 2 large cups leaving the perfect amount of room for cream and set them on the counter, like masterful pieces of art, just for me. Taking the first sip was slow; I felt how a food critic must feel observing the color, the smell, the temperature and finally the taste. It was very good, maybe the best I’d had in months. So, when our electric coffee pot was sadly moved to storage I was forced to adopt a new system. Not happy about the switch at first until I remembered Lander and the pour over process. This then led to a new teapot (bright orange, which adds a nice touch of color to the van) along with a stainless steel carafe with plastic filter. After the pot whistles, (remembering the baristas rhythm) I carefully pour the hot water over the coffee grounds resulting in not just a cup of coffee, but you can almost taste the love!
About three weeks ago we headed back to Virginia to process our travels to date, and reassess the next phase of our trip. We have a notebook with bullet points reminding us of stories, dates and interesting people we have met. Since traveling nearly 9,000 miles in the first 6 weeks, so much was happening with little time to write. Our journey will continue soon, with plans to travel to South America. Stay tuned for more from Wake the Dead Diaries!