Our hitch into Jackson was from a NOLS instructor who just finished up guiding climbing trips in the Winds. What a perfect hitch for two adventure folk like ourselves! We had plenty to talk about during the hour drive, and next thing we knew we were pulling off the road right next to the town square's arch made of elk and moose antlers. The streets were packed with people. Quickly becoming overwhelmed, we ran across the street and ducked into a restaurant called Local to get away from the madness. Here we were immediately greeted by a hostess who offered us a place at the bar to sit. We felt very out of place. The veggie burger and a large order of French fries caught our eye, and after ordering we sat there with blinders on avoiding all the watchful eyes surrounding us.
That's one interesting part of thru-hiking: the looks you get in town. We absolutely are delighted when people break out of their assumptive state and instead approach us and start a conversation. We welcome that and love answering questions! We could do without the looks and whispers. We are friendly people! We probably do smell bad, but just talk to us!
The veggie burger was probably the best we have had on trail. After cleaning our plates and paying our bill, we grabbed our packs and headed out in search of ice cream. We found some ice cream at a small corner shop and it was delicious. With ice cream in hand, we sought out a bus stop, (we love these small towns that have free public transportation) and we headed towards the grocery store to resupply. Resupplying in a store is a pretty chaotic experience. It can leave you exhausted and scatterbrained. There are just so MANY choices.
Somehow we survived, but we made it out of the store about two hours later with way too much food in hand. We sat at a table outside of the store and began to sort and organize all of our choices. Dreading the now heaviness of our packs and concerned about not finding a place to stay that night, we did not say much and our eyes kind of glazed over. Coming to Jackson on a whim seemed like such a good idea at first but now we were starting to doubt our decision and wonder if we would be more comfortable closer to trail. We could not afford a $300 hotel room in this bustling National Park town.
There we sat in between our ridiculously heavy packs and a hard place, when all of a sudden two strangers stepped into view. They mentioned they had been watching us pack from inside the shop and asked what we were doing. Before we could answer, they asked us if we wanted a place to shower. Unsure if we were dreaming or not, we babbled out a bumbling "yes, sure, that would be amazing!" They grabbed their car, and we let us load up our packs and hop in.
Tony and Lynn drove us to their home in Wilson, which was a beautiful western mountain home with views of the Teton range from the backyard and gorgeous fly fishing memorabilia decorated around the house. A shower turned into laundry which turned into an invite to stay for dinner which blossomed into an invite to stay the night. We met their friends, Sandy and Norma, who were simply outstanding women with a raw love and energy for life. We even fell in love with Ridley and Rascal, Lynn and Tony's two Labrador Retrievers. Lynn made an amazing meal of salmon patties, salad, and corn on the cob, and we enjoyed their company over the delicious food, glasses of wine, and the incredible stories that danced around the table that evening. Before we knew it, the clock struck ten o'clock. If rest was not a concern, we knew we could have stayed up all night with them. We helped clean up, and then we were kindly shooed off to bed.
We felt so fortunate. Not only had we been taken in and treated like family, but we were fortunate to meet people who had lived and do live an adventurous life as well. We love telling stories about our hike, but even more so, we love to sit back and listen. Simply put: they inspired us to never lose sight of adventure and never forget how fun life can be.
Sleeping in felt amazing. Around 8:00am, we finally left the comfort of the bed and covers, packed up our packs, and headed downstairs. Lynn shared some delicious fruit smoothie with us and we tried to eat through some of the massive amounts of food we were planning to pack out. Tony joined us in the kitchen and he, too, enjoyed a delicious breakfast. Ridley and Rascal were sprawled out on the floor beneath our feet. Tony offered to give us a ride back up to trail and he even offered to take the road through Teton National Park.
Along the road, we caught an amazing view of the Tetons even though thick haze was settling into the valley from the many forest fires in Montana. Once back to trail, we said our goodbyes to Tony and Ridley and waved to them as they drove away. We cannot get over how special it was getting to meet Tony and Lynn and how much we appreciated them treating us to a warm shower, dinner, and place to stay. It was an absolute honor. They are fascinating people and we really truly hope we can spend some time on the water fishing with them in the future.
Passing by the Brooks Lake Lodge, we could not help but to wander into the main building, and after refilling out water bottles, we headed down to trail. The trail took us through open fields along Brooks Lake before ascending into the forest. Beautiful spires and rock faces framed the river valley we were in, and we as climbed around the mountain even more majestic mountains came into view. The heavy haze we saw in the Tetons has very present here and so the mountains became more like shadows with varying degrees of boldness dissolving into the farthest peaks on the horizon. We met Scavenger and began hiking with him. Then, we ran back into TI Toe and then there was four of us wandering down the trail. We ascended once again before a large descent lead us down to the Buffalo River. Again, we forged through without taking off our shoes. Wet feet has been our immediate reality during these last sections of trail.
Our day ended with a final ascent, briefly stopping to filter water and eat dinner. In the saddle of our climb, we found a perfect campsite big enough for both of our tents. An owl hooted as we fell asleep, and a big orange moon began to rise up through the trees.
Garbelly & Critter