A thermal inversion set in at Rock Springs. The frigid air normally found in the lower pressures of higher altitudes slithered its way down the buttes that surround the western Wyoming town. It’s almost twenty degrees warmer a few miles north where the highway climbs the high ground and the snow covered mountains of the Wind River and Wyoming ranges reveal themselves as the icy barricades that wouldn’t let the cold leave.
The Winds look like a freight train running north, their sawtooth profile ripping moisture from the southbound breezes leaving a smoke-like plume running down their spine. Swainson’s Hawks sit on fence posts and road signs waiting for breakfast to make the mistake of movement. Utility trucks that work the natural gas rigs pass infrequently; even fewer are the semis running supplies up to Pinedale and Jackson.
I’m almost home. Two hard days driving separate me from family down South where I’ve been the last month. Yesterday, I found a bed nineteen hours and thirteen hundred miles after I’d started out at 4am. I’ve always tried to get the drive over with as quickly as I can. Audiobooks and music are decent company—good to listen to, but not much for listening back.
Today though, I stopped to write. The latest winter storm arrives this evening, but there’s time, and my dog Annie will be happy to take it to stretch her legs. Except for the small strip of pavement where a few cars have passed, snow and ice cover the turnout. Stepping out of the truck, my nose hairs instantly feel rigid with frost and my eyes water up. The lower freezing point of saline tears, it occurs to me, is no small miracle.
Annie doesn’t care about any of this. Bounding for the snow she locks up her wheels to skate over an ice patch. I swear she’s smiling. Playtime is paused only for the food that rattles into her bowl. That quickly scarfed down, she takes a few sips of the water I’ve poured that’s beginning to ice over. All these things about winter are coming back to her too, and I know she likes it. She’ll confirm it by prancing and burrowing in the snow drifts around my house that consume her attention while I unpack the truck.
Loaded up, we ease back onto the highway to make the last push up the Green River valley and then down the ice floes of the Hoback into Jackson Hole. A right turn up the Snake, then a left to cross it, we’ll climb Teton Pass and slide down into Idaho. We’ll build a fire tonight and it will feel like home.