PostedAug-31-2006 11:48 AM
Altitude4,835.95 ft.
HeadlineJackson Hole to Rawlins
Entry We're up and moving relieved to be over the border and into Wyoming. We stop at a general store and find all natural Doritos. Smart move on Doritos' part. We're heading south and after some deliberation decide since neither of us have seen Jackson Hole to swing through and see what all the fuss is about.

As we grow nearer to town, the mini vans and tourists begin growing in numbers as we begin to get our first glance at the Tetons. These mountains are menacing, jagged, sharp, and of course beautiful. Pulling into Jackson Hole we had invisioned a quaint and tucked away mountain town. Not the case. I pass by a fabricated Ripley's Believe It or Not! attraction and with one fell swoop we've lost insterest in Jackson Hole.

Theres a Ripley's Believe It or Not! attraction at Hollywood and Vine in Los Angeles which is the very thing I would see coming to a town like Jackson Hole to get away from. We grab lunch at a Mexican spot and despite our dissapointment have to admit was really good. We talk more dreams of Telluride and move on. Pulling out of town we keep our eyes open for somewhere to get a shot with the Tetons in the back but the whole road is far too over flowing with mini vans and snotting kids plastered to the windows for any clean shot with a wide angle lens. We finally find a spot to pull off temporarily as it lies beyond a gate though not marked. We grab a couple before the frame is encroached upon by families.

We head South but see a problem. Our route is running parallel to us to the east (heading south) and we need to mate back with it. Between us lie a series of sprawling marked and unmarked ranch roads and we await a spot where the gap comes the closest. We turn off and attempt to catch up with a truck pulling through a set of gates but take a wrong turn and lose him on the backtrack. While attempting to keep going we hit a gate and realize the property we're leaving was marked private and no trespassing but with no sign for the area we're entering.

Thinking the other side is just as close we keep going when a heard of what look like gazelles, though I'm sure they're not, run across the road in front of us. Speaking of the road we've gone from gravel to dirt to two tracks of beat down grass and we're now starting to feel as if we're driving across someone's yard.

Though its a ranch, that's exactly what we're doing. Seeing a truck parked arcoss the ranch which cuts back toward their home within sight of us we're both beginning to get really nervous. Worse yet the rancher's truck pulled off towards the only route on the map which had a definite crossing spot for a river that lies between us and a solid public road.

We've got a quick decision to make, do we turn around back tracking and forcing us to heavily divert from the route or do we pick a path that leads us to the river and roll the dice to see if it's passable. We've never seen this river but in a spurt of determination and Han's unconditional confidence in the Cruiser's ability we make a run for the river.

At this point we're completely oblivious to whose land or what rules we're breaking in trying to get back onto the nearest public road from this whole debacle but neither of us have any interest in finding out so we're, umm, not slowing down. Coming over the crest of the embankment surrounding the river we've finally entered a sliver of a public parks road. However even with the tension relieved the only thing stopping us from reaching the route is the river.

We take a look seeing a 2+ foot drop just to enter the rocky beach the river sits on and drop in. The Outback Offroad Gear rear bumper came to a rest on the shelf as we made our way down and saved our ass, literally. The river was probably 75ft across and I waded out to get video and stills from a boulder in the center. Now we'd spotted the route Hanley was going to cross but this wasn't the strip I waded through to make it out there. I retrospect our lack of preparation was largely do to the overhanging timetable as well as our fading light for the day.

The sun was beginning to creep over the back of the enbankment and if we're going to put the entire trip at risk with a gutsy river crossing we wanted this thing on tape. Without any further ado, and with video running (post to come) Hanley hit the gas as the depth brought water half way up the doors. After making it roughly a third of the way across the nose of the Cruiser dunks downward and water flushes up over the hood. A ledge we were unable to see prior had brought the rig deeper into the water than we had ever intended.

With the bow wake taking the lead and water reconnecting she regains traction and pulls up and onto the more rapid and shallow middle section of river. Now on for the home stretch Han picks up his speed heading for the opposing shore but we're not out of the woods yet. Though you might think (or two over-caffeinated flatlanders may) one shore would be similar to the other, this wasn't the case. What looked like sand from afar was silt mud in actuality. This felt similar to the type of mud which sucks your shoe off when walked through.

Well the Cruiser comes to an abrupt stop hitting the wall of mud but even worse this is taking place where water is reaching the door panels. As I'm filming, seeing Han's wheels spin and realizing that hes not gaining ground I hear the scream of what I can only imagine to be similar to the sound if Hanley himself were drowning. With water making its way into the rig we're seeing the trip ending right in front of us, with each passing second I can see the Cruiser inching deeper and deeper into this quicksand of the muddy shore. Dropping the camera and fueled by the most disturbing cries to push, the adrenaline starts flowing and I swim to reach the truck while Hanley keeps the revs up hoping she doesn't die.

At first thinking we're trying to push to shore Han screams to push from the front knowing the section is impassible. Reaching the front of the truck, now up to my chest with mud and water flying forward as Han saws the wheel we both give it everything we've got. The engine begins sputtering slightly but she begins creeping out. Han cuts the wheel, water now making its way into the truck and guns it up the rapid strip for shore. When the truck reaches land we both begin laughing like hyenas, Han jumps from the car and starts hopping up and down uncontrollably. What a ride.

We almost saw the trip end and laugh at the wet carpet inside but hey thats what its all about. You don't throw a snorkel on the truck for looks.

With all the back tracking across the ranch and to river crossing we've killed more time than we thought pulling to the other side to see an incredible sunset. Coming over the crest of a hill we're both completely taken back by the scenery. A giant canyon farther down stream of the river lies below to our right with the sun setting over the eastern hills and the moon standing alone to the left. My Morning Jacket plays on the stereo and we both sit in gaping silence. This day has been such a wild array of emotion.

We drive on reaching the Red Desert Basin and choose an alternative off-road route across, hoping to buy time. We drive on not seeing a person for hours on end. On occasion blips of light could be seen on the horizon but this is not the place you want to break down. The deeper in we get the more jack rabbits we see and they really are everywhere. For some unknown reason they will run alongside the truck and then cut in front of it. Death wish? No idea, but dumb either way. I don't want to confess the total head count. I really don't.

Coaxing each other to stay awake we finally hit the far side to connect with interstate 80 to Rawlins. We pull off to Penny's Diner and with one foot in the door realize we've made a mistake but know both of us are far to tired to care. We must have heard the phrase "Awww come on now garrrlll (girl)!!" at least 20 times. Two flys land on our table and mate. Mate. I promise I couldn't make this stuff up, I feel like we're in hell meets the Twilight Zone.

Two cops walk in and ask us if we're someone and for some reason I'm guessing it's good that we're not. We pull into an abandon parking lot that looks to double as a trucker pull off and await tomorrow. What a day.