Gateway Towns: S'no driving like snow driving

Road Journals Blog—From my sofa in Northern California, it looked totally do-able on the map. Jackson, Wyo., up the eastern edge of Idaho to West Yellowstone, Mont., just across the border. A short November drive. It would be beautiful—Teton country.

I booked my flight in and out of Jackson, allotting a day each to drive to West Yellowstone and back. I wasn't exactly surprised to find Jackson covered in snow, but as I stood in the rental-car office, shivering and studying the big map on the wall, my itinerary suddenly looked more challenging. I upgraded from a subcompact to a small SUV.

There's a road under there ... somewhere. | Jennifer Reese

The morning I left for West Yellowstone it was lightly snowing and there was ice on the road. This might not be the best idea, I thought, but the car was moving, so I drove. As I climbed up the spine of Idaho the snow flew thicker.

The highway narrowed to two lanes, or at least it seemed to; it wasn’t clear what was going on under all that snow.

A lot of giant trucks were out that day, all barreling down the highway from the other direction, headed straight for me (or so it seemed). Then the yellow line in the middle of the road disappeared completely under a carpet of white.

This definitely isn’t the best idea, I thought. But the car was moving, so I drove. Just 40 miles more. Thirty miles more. Twenty-seven miles more.

Then a huge truck came speeding out of the blizzard and I had to swerve to avoid being clipped. My car slid as I pumped the brakes before coming to a stop in the middle of the highway in the middle of a blizzard in the middle of nowhere. I was within spitting distance of West Yellowstone and it was so tempting to push on.

But once I got there I would have to deal with getting back to Jackson the next day. What if conditions got worse? The car was stopped. I was no longer in motion.

I had a choice. I turned around.

Jennifer Reese wrote about gateway towns to national parks for the July/August 2011 issue of VIA.

This blog post was first published in August 2011. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.