As I mentioned in my last post, we made a number of trips into and through Wyoming during May, June and July. Several were due to family events, but our most recent trip was a quiet, seven-day escape to recharge and see if we could really spend that many days in a row with
the teardrop and not totally go crazy on each other. I'm really glad to say that we received an awesome compliment from a neighboring couple at one campground. They watched us drying soaked tarps and the canopy cover and repacking everything (more on how that happened shortly!) and commented about how organized we were as we worked together. It truly made me feel good, because the two of us really have developed a teamed rapport to make our setup and teardown go smoothly and it's become almost second nature.
During our several trips through Wyoming, we tried to follow highways and byways that were not the interstates. Sadly, anyone following only I-80 and I-25 through Wyoming sees, to my mind, the least beautiful parts of the state, and they likely form their opinions based on what they see. For example, one campground we found is in the mountains about 20 miles due west of Glendo Reservoir. This campground climbs past a number of well-kept ranches to an elevation of about 6500 feet -- compared to the 4700-foot elevation at Glendo -- the last mile of which is a steep climb with a drop-off on one side and sharp curves, rocks and ruts. We'd stayed here one night on a previous trip and it was wonderfully quiet and uninhabited (plus we had an incredible light show, as I mentioned in a previous post, and the foggy morning seen above), so we just had to return.
Our second stay started well with several new backroads to explore. We found this wonderful vintage kerosene-fired tractor abandoned in a field of wildflowers. Since I didn't remember ever hearing of this brand, nor of kerosene-powered farm equipment, I had to look it up. They were built by International Harvester between 1922 and 1947, with the kerosene-fired models being earlier in general, and some converted to use gasoline. This particular tractor had rubber tires both front and back, so it would have been at the tail end of its production years, likely the mid-1930's. My childhood memories include driving, and mowing and raking hay with Dad's old Farmall (a model similar in style to this one, and that succeeded the McCormick-Deering series in later years).
After finding the tractor, we explored further along various roads until the rain started. We got back to our campsite just in time for a downpour that lasted nearly two hours. When it finally let up a bit, we hurriedly packed the soaked canopy and tarps, hooked up the trailer and headed back to Glendo. We might have done better to have stayed in place overnight, although it rained for several hours during the night, too. We had two choices for returning to the highway -- the steep, rocky and sharply curved mile of road the way we'd come in, followed by about 12 miles of gravel with several areas of grades and curves to navigate before we got back to pavement, or the unexplored way that seemed flatter but was gravel for 20 miles to the highway.
We're pretty certain that choosing the slightly flatter but unexplored way was the better choice for the conditions, but it turned out to be quite
scary. The surface of the road had turned incredibly slimy, and our teardrop's axle is just a bit wider than the Honda, leaving the tires just outside the ruts the truck's tires left. That meant that in some areas, the teardrop would start to fishtail. My husband had to juggle the steering and acceleration continuously to keep enough momentum that we didn't get stuck, but slow enough to keep everything out of the ditches. The scariest few minutes was when a local resident going home came down one of the hills toward us; we didn't think we could safely pull over far enough to pass without one or both of us ending up in the ditch. Thankfully, she understood the situation and pulled over as far as she could in the widest spot available and waited for us to pass. But it was a hair-raising hour to cover that 20 miles! And when we got back to pavement, everything was covered in a couple inches of mud! So, on to the next town with a car wash, about 30 more miles up the freeway. Even after washing everything as thoroughly as we could, the tires bounced severely all the way to Buffalo, where we decided to get things checked out the next day.
That morning, while we were waiting to get the Honda in to have the tire balance checked, we received the compliment about working together so well. Finally, after getting everything dried and repacked, some laundry done, and the tires cleaned up as well as possible and rebalanced, we headed up into the Bighorn Mountains west of Buffalo. Highway 16 is a gorgeous drive and the geology is fascinating. I really appreciate the frequent markers that identify geologic formations seen in the road cuts -- from Pre-Cambrian bedrock to the much, much younger Chugwater Formation, often found in a nearly upside down order because of the extreme uplift, folding and tilting that took place. One example is this fault visible in a road cut. Syncline means the rock layers are folded downward; thrust fault means the older formations were pushed above the younger. I guess I'm going to have to plan a future post just for geology tidbits I've learned in our travels.
Our initial route took us over the Bighorn Mountains twice. The first time was on Highway 14 (the Bighorn Scenic Byway) through Shell Canyon, and then on Highway 16 (the Cloud Peak Scenic Byway, or The Sweet 16, as it's sometimes called) through Tensleep Canyon and over Powder River Pass. We used the same route on the later trip, but in reverse order, giving us a new view of the same areas. Here, in no particular order, are some of the photos I took during the two trips.
Tensleep Canyon was really dramatic with the low-hanging clouds, cliffs, and incredible greens during our first passage. The scene below is the second landscape I've seen where I could completely imagine dinosaurs in the distance (the other was, of course, in Dinosaur National Monument).
The rainy spring and heavy snowmelt had the creeks more than usually high and rough. The rumble as the creek flowed under the bridge was quite dramatic. In another area, Shell Falls was well worth the visit, too. On average, more than 3600 gallons of water per second pass over it! And it was flowing much higher than that due to rain and snowmelt when we visited.
The other pretty creek fall I just had to photograph is where Granite Creek shoots down a natural granite flume near the highway, as seen above. This is a tributary of Shell Creek and less than half its width, but still mightily impressive.
We ended up revisiting a campground we'd last been to nearly 40 years before, and were able to use the location as a base for some of our explorations. Between the campground and Shell Falls is where we found the moose of the first picture, along with a couple of his buddies who were less extroverted and who generally lounged on the hillside above with only their antlers showing. The trips were great for wildlife sightings, probably because all the rain had the meadows absolutely lush. We'll be looking forward to our next trip.
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