The Big Horn Mountains and the Medicine Wheel

August 4

The Bighorns from I-90 On the border between Montana and Wyoming, rising to the west of Interstate 90, are the Big Horn Mountains. Referred to locally as “The Bighorns”, and source of the Little Bighorn River, I still haven’t really figured out whether they are the Big Horn Mountains, or the Bighorn Mountains.  Either way, bighorn sheep live in these mountains and they do have big horns.

Living near Spokane and Coeur d’Alene for nearly three decades, Interstate 90 was my most often traveled route east, and many times I passed these gorgeous mountains wishing I could see them up close.  I once knew someone who traveled there yearly for hunting, and a very long time ago (in 1971) I traveled across the southern part on the way from Yellowstone to Rapid City.  The memories stayed with me, and as we planned this trip I knew that I wanted the Bighorns to be part of our explorations of this part of Wyoming. 

day 14_022DSC_0060 There is something mystical and mythical about this mountain range, considered sacred to the Sioux, the Crow, and the Cheyenne for millennia. The centerpiece is the Cloud Peak Wilderness, with a network of hiking trails to remote areas and alpine lakes.  On this trip, I knew we wouldn’t have a chance to explore the roadless wilderness, but I planned for three nights in Buffalo so that we could at least explore the three scenic byways that traverse the range, US Routes, 14, 14a, and 16.

view west toward Dayton from the Big Horn Mountains Scenic Byway 14Unlike the Black Hills, created when a pluton of magma pushed up through the earth, the Bighorns were created during the Laramide Orogeny, the same geologic event that built the Rocky Mountains. Thousands of feet of sedimentary rock laid down when the landscape was covered by an inland sea were uplifted to build these gorgeous mountains. 

The highest peaks are in Wyoming, and Cloud Peak itself is 13,167 feet high. Although there are many evidences of past glaciations, Cloud Peak is home to the only remaining active glacier in the mountain range.   Much like the east side of the Sierras, the east flank of Steens Mountain in Oregon, and the east side of the Rockies, the east facing side of the Bighorns rises abruptly from the plains with dramatic, breathtaking views.

one of my favorite parts of Wyoming...Geology signsWhen we embarked on our Saturday morning journey, we were thrilled to see that the skies were completely clear all around us except for a low gray-brown pall far to the east. From our route north on I-90 toward Sheridan, we could see Cloud Peak sparkling in the morning sunlight.  Highway 14 leads west across the northern part of the range from the small town of Dayton, climbing directly up from the foothills at Dayton, and the views were breathtaking.  I discovered one of my favorite parts of Wyoming travel were the clearly marked signs documenting the name and age of each of the geological formations as we crossed them.

a photo of Cloud Peak, as close as I will get on this tripBy the time we reached the Bighorn Visitor Center near the junction of 14 and 14a I felt thoroughly educated in the geology of the Bighorns. The visitor center was well done, with my favorite 3D maps of the mountain range, and many educational exhibits telling of the human and natural history of the mountains.  Hanging over all, in the center of the dramatic timber frame building, were photographic panels of Cloud Peak, majestic in her isolation.

The Medicine Wheel in the Bighorn MountainsSomehow, in all these years, I had never heard of the Bighorn Medicine Wheel, and yet after talking about it I have discovered that many of my friends have been there.  Having never even heard of it before this day in the mountains though, made it all the more special to me. 

We drove the high winding road to the summit before finding the side road to the Medicine Wheel site and the head of the trail to the structure.  There is a road that goes out there, unless you have a documented disability, you must walk the short 1.5 mile trail to the site.  Later we laughed with friends who had been there, since it is one of those trails that seems to be uphill both ways!    Maybe it is because of the elevation, who knows. 

the Bighorn Medicine Wheel is at the top of the mountain in the center of the photo The walk is beautiful, with views in all directions to the plains to the east, the Wyoming desert to the west, and the canyons to the north. The Medicine Wheel is at nearly 10,000 feet near the summit of Medicine Mountain.  It is built from stones gathered from the surrounding area, with a circular rim, 28 spokes extending from the rim to the center, and a series of seven cairns. It was built between 700 and 1200 AD and has been used since then by many local tribes for prayer, fasting and visioning.  To this day, Native Americans come to the wheel to pray and for ceremonies, and the enclosure is hung with prayer flags of all sorts. 

day 14_064DSC_0106An astronomer studied the wheel in the 70’s and published his discoveries, showing that the cairns were aligned in the direction of the summer solstice sunrise and sunset.  He also found that the rising points of the stars Sirius, Aldebaran, and Rigel are marked by other cairn pairs. More information about this interesting study of the wheel can be found here.

Walking to the Wheel, standing in the high place where so many others have stood, was an experience I won’t soon forget.  I felt much as I did when standing at the Mnidra paleolithic temple on Gozo, and in the Grotto of St Paul on Malta, and in the Hagia Sophia in Turkey.  Sacred places are made sacred for so many reasons, but this one felt as sacred as any I have visited.

playtime with Roger and Jackson in the Bighorn MountainsTalking with the ranger at the site was fascinating.  She enjoys her stint on the mountain, living there for the summer months.  She told us that the day before had been fogged in completely in the morning and then smoked in completely in the afternoon.  One more time we were blessed by the wind and weather gods for incredible views of an incredible place.

Shell Falls on the Big Horn River  We lunched near the summit back on the highway, and then drove down the steep canyon to the dull brown of the Wyoming badlands before reaching Worland and the eastern route, Highway 14, back up over the mountains. The road climbs up the canyons to Shell Creek Falls, with paved trails and overlooks, lots of interpretive signs, and a visitor center.  Much to our dismay, however, our dogs couldn’t even walk on any of the trails, and we found it hard to find a place where they could relieve themselves.  Again, we appreciated traveling in pairs so that one pair could go see the falls while the other took care of the dogs back at the cars.  By this time in the afternoon, the sun was hot! 

getting ready to go, Nancy and Roger are a great teamContinuing over the mountain back to our junction near the visitor center gave us views of the rolling summits of the Bighorns, with broad areas of dark conifers accented by green high mountain meadows.  We even saw a bit of the Cloud Peak Wilderness to the south.  By the time we drove back down the steep east face of the range, it was late afternoon. All of us were too tired to even think of stopping in Sheridan, a town that according to everything I have read is a place worthy of its own visit.

Instead we ambled back to our camp in Buffalo, appreciative of the grassy open spaces, the big shady trees, and the comfortable sites that were far enough from the highway that we didn’t have a lot of road noise.  I can highly recommend Deer Park Campground in Buffalo.  Our three nights there were perfect for the time we had to explore the surrounding area.  The Bighorns were on my bucket list, and I finally got to see them.  There are a lot more photos of this great day including the Bighorn Mountains and the Medicine Wheel here.day 14_194DSC_0237

 

The Last of Wyoming

August 6 and 7 Falls Campground on Highway 26 west of Dubois, breezy, in the low 70’s

view from loop B in Falls CampgroundIt’s breezy at the moment, and the vertical mountain cliffs north of the campground are a bit clearer than they were when we woke this morning.  Smoke from the fires in Montana and Idaho are finding their way toward us again and dimming the brilliance of the sunshine. I am sitting in the shade by the unlit campfire while Mo splits kindling for tonight.  Tee shirt and shorts are the order of the day.  The sun is warm but the breeze is just chilly enough that the shade feels wonderful. 

Day 16 (54)When planning this trip, I hoped to find something along the way between Thermopolis and the tourist busy part of the highway around Jackson Hole.  Streets and Trips led to this Shoshone FS campground and we took our chances without a reservation.  Then I read RV Sue’s account of her time both here, and at the Brooks Lake campgrounds five miles north, and I knew the choice would be a good one.

It has been a peaceful stop, even with the daytime sound of traffic moving west toward Yellowstone and the Tetons.  The rally at Sturgis is now in progress, so the roar of motorcycles has dimmed to just an occasional rumble.  After our hot evening in Thermopolis, (yes, I still have to write about Thermopolis, the Bighorn Mountains, the Medicine Wheel, Buffalo, and the Little Bighorn Battleground!) even the A loop seems uncrowded to us.  The plans were adjusted a bit yesterday so that we could stay here two nights and have a full day to enjoy the last of the Wyoming mountains.

Map Thermopolis to Falls CampgroundYesterday was a short trip, only 155 miles or so between Thermopolis and this park, with a Wal-Mart stop at Riverton in between.  Some parts of Wyoming are simply breathtaking, but other parts seem like long stretches of a landscape only a geologist could love.  When we reached Dubois, the mountains again lifted to the west.  This part of the west gives full meaning to what John McPhee described so well in “Basin and Range”.

west of Dubois, WyomingI thought of RV Sue in the laundromat, telling her great stories at the only place where you can get any kind of internet.  We haven’t had a decent signal in several days now.  We don’t even have a cell phone signal here and in the park in Thermopolis, the phones wouldn’t work at all and the MiFi struggled along with a single bar. 

settling into the electric loop A at Falls CampgroundWe decided that even though loop B was completely empty yesterday, we wanted electricity, and so entered loop A hoping for two sites together.  Two sites appeared, and just in time, since the two rigs following us were hoping as well.  I think this loop filled up last night, but when we went walking in loop B it was still empty.

brother and sisterNancy and Roger and Mo and I are still enjoying or tandem travels. This is new for us, since we usually travel alone, but it has been working out just perfectly.  Mo and I are somewhat the tour guides, with the responsibility of planning the routes, looking for gas, choosing the overnights, deciding how far we can go in a day.  Whenever I ask Nancy or Roger if they have a preference, their answer is invariably, “Whatever you two want is fine with us”.  Talk about easy!!

campfire at Falls CampgroundWe have been sharing our evening meals, with most of them a joint effort, and now and then we do the big camp breakfast complete with hash browns and toast.  Tonight is steak night, and I’ll bring the salad, Nancy does the Texas toast and we each cook our steaks.  Roger even has a pair of titanium sticks for cooking marshmallows.  They don’t get hot at all over the fire and I have some of those huge camp marshmallows left over from who knows when.  I don’t even like marshmallows, but still love to do the campfire thing.  

dogs playing in the Big Horn River at Falls CampgroundWe walked around the campground last night, took pictures of the waterfall, and spent a lot of time laughing at the dogs while they played in the Wind River that winds through the campground.  Jeremy really enjoyed this spot as well, since it was open and spacious enough that I could let him run around outside on his own.  He is really so good about it, but every once in awhile he decides that he is NOT ready to go in and will go under the rig and laugh at me.

Brooks Lake on a smoky dayToday we decided  to take a leisurely drive (five miles of very washboard road) up to Brooks Lake for some kayaking and hopefully to hear more stories about the mama grizzly and her two cubs that have been hanging out there.  Mama is gone it seems, at least the camp host Richard hasn’t seen them in a couple of weeks.  We also discovered to our dismay that in order to launch our kayaks in Wyoming, we are required to have a Wyoming boat sticker and an additional invasive species sticker for each boat.  A bit too expensive for one afternoon of kayaking. 

Brooks Lake on a smoky dayInstead we parked at the boat launch area and wandered off toward Jade Lakes and enjoyed the part of the trail that borders Brooks Lake. We thought better of hiking the four miles round trip to the top since we were in our kayak sandals with the dogs and  had no bear spray and no water. It was a pretty walk, and at the time we didn’t know that mama bear wasn’t around, so we were a little nervous now and then as we approached buffalo berry thickets. 

campfire at Falls Campground the perfect marshmallowIt feels great to slow down a bit, and this will be our last day in cool, timbered mountains.  Mo built great campfires, surprising that they are allowed in this kind of fire season, but the fire circles at this campground are especially nice, with strong iron grates, and a space beneath the fire box to store kindling.

Jake and Jeremy really like each otherIt  has been wonderful to have enough space to let Jeremy outside to explore the campsite and play with Jackson, his new found best buddy.  Jackson loves the kitty and will lick Jeremy’s ears and follow him everywhere he goes.  Abby isn’t as affectionate with Jeremy, and since Jeremy grew up with dogs, he misses that interaction.  He often snuggles up to Abby and she looks at us saying, “really?!” 

Tomorrow we will again have internet access, television, and probably traffic.  Twin Falls is next on the list.

Jeremy loves it when he can explore camp

~Deadwood, Devils Tower, and Buffalo ~

We are now in Buffalo, Wyoming, at the Deer Park Campground. Skies are smoky and night temperatures have cooled to something more reasonable that the 95 degrees we found when we arrived at 7 pm.
day 12_095DSC_0095Somehow this day seemed to be a study in contrasts.  The streets of Deadwood thundered with the sound of motorcycles and the crush of people, and the same sounds accompanied our views of Devils Tower.  Yet, as we approached this mythical mountain, I felt much as N. Scott Mornaday did when he said, “There are things in nature which engender an awful quiet in man, Devils Tower is one of them”.
finding Devils Tower on a cloudy dayWe approached from the south leaving Interstate 90 at Sundance so that we could make the loop back to Moorcroft without having to backtrack on our way to Buffalo.  The land rises slowly, with low rolling ridges lifting upward and shadowed by the dark pine forest of this far northern tip of the Black Hills.  The road is a good one, and the views open up to the west for a hundred miles of Wyoming space, but Devils Tower doesn’t make it’s first appearance until we are several miles north of the interstate.  When it does, it seems small but still not insignificant, even shrouded in the darkness of an afternoon thunderstorm moving east.
a little bit of light on Devils TowerControversy surrounds this vertical dome of rock, even to the geologic origin of the porphyritic igneous gray stone filled with large white crystals of feldspar.  The simplest explanation is that it is an intrusion of magma that wasn’t ever really a volcano, and probably never erupted on the surface of the earth.  It cooled and was later exposed by erosion.   That is the simple version, and there are many others written up in the various geologic references to the dramatic vertical tower.
In addition to the creation controversy, there are conflicts over the name, which has a negative connotation that doesn’t sit well with the local tribes who revere the monolith as a sacred place.  Bear Lodge is one of their many names for it.  There is also controversy over the several thousand people who come each year to climb the huge columns.  Just yesterday a young couple ascended the east face with their ten month old on board.  That puts a whole new spin on the “baby on board” thing, doesn’t it!  What about child endangerment??
the Legtend of Bear Butte (Debils Tower)If you ever saw “Close Encounters of the Third Kind”, a classic and a favorite of mine, you saw this place.  It is the kind of place that triggers imagination, whether that of Steven Spielberg or the many Native American tribes who have an equally mythically compelling story of 7 sisters who were chased to the top of a tall tree by their brother who had transformed into a bear.  Eventually the sisters were raised safely to the sky, and became the Pleiades, or the Big Dipper, depending on who is telling the story.
rigs in the coming stormThe road to Devils Tower past the entry gate (where we used our Senior Passes for free entry) wasn’t too narrow, but when we saw a sign “Large Vehicle Drop-Off) we whipped around and took advantage of it and unhooked the toads for the trip to the visitor center just 2 miles farther up the road.  It was a good thing we did, because there wasn’t any parking at all up there and barely any turnaround space. I enjoyed the visitor center, and the proximity to the tower. I could have stayed there much longer, but the day was escaping and there was still some 130 miles to go before we settled in for the night in Buffalo, our destination for the day.  I somehow didn’t plan this leg of the journey quite right because my short little hour for the town of Deadwood, turned into three hours of delight and fun.
great buildings on the streets of DeadwoodLeaving Hermosa this morning right on time at 8am, we caravanned north on Highway 40 to Keystone.  The town was still sleeping and yet the rock shop was open and we spent some time wandering among the big bins of rose quartz and petrified wood so that I could take back a big hunk of that gorgeous rosy rock that comes from the heart of the Black Hills.  I saw several outcroppings of the stuff as we wound our way around the hills, and remembered the huge bins I have seen in Quartzite of Black Hills rose quartz.  Of course that would be my souvenir! So much better to get it here right in the hills than down in the desert.
Deadwood from Mt Moriah CemeteryThe drive north toward Deadwood opened up a completely different part of the Hills, with deeper forests and less rangeland, more water, a big reservoir, and green valleys in between.  Yesterday we spent time in Custer State Park, buffalo country, gorgeous rangeland, and the difference was significant.  The Black Hills stretched north, and felt much bigger today than they did until now.  I’ll be writing about Custer City and Custer State Park eventually, but tonight this day is foremost in my mind and vision.
Thunderstorms threatened us all day, with huge dark clouds just out of reach, and just an occasional burst of raindrops on the windshield.  By the time we got to Deadwood, the skies were clearing and the air was fresh and cool.  I had no idea what to expect of Deadwood, but Mo thought we definitely needed to at least drop in and spend an hour or so. 
We were here on August 2ndDeadwood reminded me so very much of Wallace, a north Idaho mining town where I once lived.  The big difference was the influx of money from casinos and gambling into Deadwood. Like Wallace, the entire town is a National Historic Site, but the money from gambling seems to give a big boost to the Deadwood economy.  The town was lively and fun! After walking up and down the streets I did begin to notice that there weren’t any real “shops” anywhere in Deadwood, just a LOT of bars, and saloons, and restaurants, and casinos, and just a few shops with kitschy stuff and a boutique with diamond studded leather everything.  In the midst of this, however, it was obvious that underneath all that was a real small town, with a courthouse, and an athletic center, parks, and some old wonderful neighborhoods.  Just like Wallace. 
Mt Moriah Cemetery from the trolleyWe wanted to see Boot Hill, or what is now called the Mt Moriah Cemetery, where Wild Bill Hickok and Calamity Jane are buried, side by side.  Instead of climbing the long steep hill to the top, we decided to enjoy the Boot Hill Tour trolley. Lucky for us, they were dog friendly, and Abby and Jackson were perfect dogs on the trolley and in the cemetery where they sat on the stone steps and slept while we all listened to stories of Bill and Jane, who actually only met once and were barely acquainted!  A shocking revelation to me.
Abby and Mo on the dog friend Boot Hill TourBack down the hill we settled in for lunch on the patio of one more very dog friendly spot before loading up and heading out of town.  I was so glad that we stopped at the first big parking area on the southwest side of town as we entered, because we discovered there would have been no place to even think of parking a motorhome any closer.
smoke filled skies as we approach the Big Horn MountainsWe drove from Deadwood to Buffalo with the Devils Tower loop in about eleven hours, and it was only 275 miles.  I was excited to once again see the Big Horn Mountains, my reason for traveling this way, but on this August afternoon I was to be disappointed.  Fires in the west are wreaking havoc, and at the moment there are several burning in Montana just north of us and in Wyoming and Idaho.  The smoke got thicker as we approached Buffalo and we could just barely see a thin faint outline of what was supposed to be Cloud Peak, the crown of the Cloud Peak Wilderness and the Big Horn Mountains. 
Big Sigh…
We have scheduled three nights here in Buffalo, with day trips into the Big Horns big on the list. Smoke in the summer in the west… I knew it could be a problem on this trip, but so far we have been really lucky.  We will see what the next three days have in store for us.  Looking at the murky skies over Buffalo, I wished we had planned instead for a night or two just feeling whatever it is that you feel at the base of Devils Tower.  Map Hermosa to Buffalo

Overnight camp south of I-80 Angel Creek

We are now at the Rock Springs, Wyoming KOA

Angel lake Road from Wells, Nevada south toward the Ruby MountainsWith a short day of driving, we arrived at our planned night stop in Wells, Nevada rather early in the afternoon.  The temperatures were still hot, and the parking lot at the Flying J, while big and fairly empty, left much to be desired in the way of ambience.  Instead, we fired up the CampWhere app and discovered a couple of forest service campgrounds just 8 miles or so south of town.

Map Angel Creek CampgroundIt helps to see the area on google maps, and see if the road into the east side of the Ruby Mountains looked passable.  It also helped that one of the campgrounds had a size limit for motorhomes of 45 feet. Surely with a limit that high, the road must be OK.  The higher elevation campground at Angel Lake has a 30 foot limit and we discussed the possibility of trying that one out. 

storm toward the east from Angel lake Road from Wells, Nevada south toward the Ruby MountainsDriving the Angel Lake road was completely manageable as far as the Angel Creek Campground turnoff, and still a bit undecided we thought we would check out the campground before attempting to drive higher.  I said, “Let’s just be safe and unhook before we go up this steep, winding road!”  Mo agreed wholeheartedly as we looked up along the ridge to see something that looked like it might be the highway.

The campground was delightful, with 18 sites, some too short for even our rig, and yet a few here and there that were plenty long for even the biggest rigs.  The camp hostess was a delightful young woman living in a tent shelter with a nice big German shepherd companion.  When we asked her about the Angel Creek Road she said without hesitation that we probably didn’t want to take our motorhome up there.

one heck of a scary road to Angel Lake, so glad we didn't take the MoHoWe settled into our site, paid the half price fee of $6. with our senior pass, and unhooked the baby car for a trip up the mountain.  Within a few hundred yards we were quite happy that we didn’t have the motorhome.  The road is incredibly steep and the drop-offs to the valley below are hair-raising, at least for me, and even in the baby car I found myself leaning inward to supposedly avoid going over the edge.

Angel Lake in the Ruby MountainsOn our way up the mountain, a huge cloud of smoke from some far distant fires darkened the skies and with the added storminess, the final view of the small lake itself was a bit of an anticlimax.  It certainly didn’t make us want to pull off the kayaks and jump in.  We didn’t even pay the parking fee to let Abby go swimming, since all seemed a bit dingy and uninviting.  The Angel Lake campground was a big surprise, however, with several really big rigs tucked into low shrubs and uneven sites with no actual view of the tiny lake.  Sometimes these really high elevation lakes don’t invite me that much, they seem harsh and barren and inhospitable. 

storm from Angel Lake RoadIn contrast, our little camp at Angel Creek seemed lovely even with the stormy clouds hovering and the smoke coming and going on the winds.  Dinner was a simple quesadilla and a walk around the campground afterward made for a lovely ending to the day.  We were in bed at a ridiculously early hour, with the wind blowing and rain spattering the roof now and then.  With no hookups, but plenty of stored power from the day of driving, we were just fine for the second night of dry camping.

I was so happy that we found another quiet, dark, beautiful place to spend the night since the rest of this trip is fairly well planned. This morning when we woke, there were was still a bit of cloudiness, but by the time we got to Utah the skies were fresh and blue and clear.  We stopped at a nice little rest stop for a short walk before traveling east toward Salt Lake.

Sue on the trail at the I-80 rest stopMy turn to drive, and once again the Garmin Girl proved her stuff, taking us along Route 201 to Salt Lake City rather than directly along 80 to I-15.  I have driven through Salt Lake many times, and usually the traffic and congestion are horrendous.  This time, however, it was a breeze, and we flew right through the southern end of the city and up the Park City grade without a bit of trouble.  The grade was as long and steep as I remember, but the MoHo did just fine and traffic wasn’t terribly heavy so we were only slowed down once by trucks trying to keep moving in the two left lanes.

Once we were on I-84 we called brother Dan to see how the other 2/3rd’s of our caravan were doing.  They were just an hour behind us, having spent the night at the friendly Walmart in Mountain Home where Don was once stationed when he was in the Air Force. 

the rain is holding off for Roger and Dan to get set up at the Rock Springs KOAMo and I arrived in Rock Springs in time to stop in at the local Walmart for some RV toilet supplies before we drove back to the KOA where we had reservations for all three rigs for the night.  Within an hour Dan and Roger joined us and we all were set up in a row in three easy pull through sites with full hookups.  We could have easily boondocked another night, but when planning the trip, we were unsure of the weather, and with others in the group everyone decided that a hookup night would be good.  The Walmart here in Rock Springs already had some folks parked, and it seems that is one of the “ask to park” stores that welcomes RV’rs.

Oukrops in Rock SpringsWe had no campfire, but we all sat around the rug and caught up on our travels and already the family stories of kids growing up along the Columbia River in Oregon started making the rounds. I am sure that during the next few days we will hear many more of these kinds of stories, one of the more fun parts of family reunions.

day 2 and 3_056DSC_0056One more great surprise was in store for me.  Usually when Mo and I are on the road and my daughter Deanna is trucking somewhere we are one interstate off, or going the wrong way, or on the wrong side of the country.  Yesterday morning I called Deanna and told her we were on I-80.  She laughed and said,”Oh we are too, but we are way north of you”.  They were heading west from Ohio, and going deanna explaining to Mo how they tie down the enginesthrough Rock Springs !  I told her no matter what time it was to call me and she did.  At midnight, we got the call, and Mo and I snuck out in the Tracker to drive 4 miles up the road to the Flying J where I got to have a two hour cup of coffee with my daughter before she took over the driving the rest of the way west.

Hmm…coffee at 1 am?  We came home and I tried to go to sleep, but of course that was silly.  After awhile I thought that maybe processing photos and trying to blog a bit was better than lying there in the dark with my mind spinning!  Now it is after 5am, and soon we will be continuing our trek east toward Colorado.  Something tells me that I may need to doze a bit today while Mo drives, ya think??

Miles driven today: 365

Map Day 3

Off to Lincoln, Nebraska, to teach Basic Soil Survey

May 10 2007 Thursday

Lincoln 020 We left Jamestown traveling east to Winnemucca Nevada. Drove to Jackson via HWY 49 and then up 88 over the mountains. It was a great day with beautiful weather. The pass was open and the highway was clear. Abby did well on the trip and everything seemed fine. In Winnemucca we found our space, and even though it was near the highway with traffic sounds, we slept well. We made dinner in the motor home,  pretty sure we had hamburgers but I am sure that we didn’t eat out. We then went for a long walk through town via the highway. It was sunny and warm and the wind was blowing hard. We walked back behind the tracks and found the street where the Basque restaurant was that we saw last year. Quiet uneventful and delightful evening Lincoln 025in the MoHo for the first night out

5/11 2007 Friday

We got up early and had cereal and coffee before filling up with gas at the Maverick right in town. Our next destination to be Evanston, Wyoming. The day across the rest of Nevada was fun and then when we hit Utah the salt flats were really really what Melody calls “white hot nothing”. The Utah pavement couldn’t hold a candle to the Nevada pavement, though, and the bump bump bump was a pain. We stopped at a small rest area and made tuna sandwiches and took photos of the salt flats. There was an  interesting piece of sculpture along the highway that at first looked like some kind of radar tower, but as we passed it, we could see that it was some kind of intentional art. Completely out of place out there in the desert. Then, as we crossed the Nevada-Utah line we saw signs for Drug Dogs Present and all kinds of cop cars and random drug stops. Laughed to notice a few cars stopping and turning around before they got in the thick of it. As we went through it didn’t seem to be that big a deal, but the signs evidently did their trick.

Lincoln 036Later we managed to get through Salt Lake traffic without much hassle and the real hassle was driving over the pass up to Park City. It was long and steep and the MoHo really felt the pull. Finally on top as we reached Wyoming, things leveled out and got really pretty. Our little campground in Evanston was fine except for the owner who was a very old man and accidentally charged me 313 instead of 31.30. I got it straightened out later, but it was a big surprising when I found the ticket. We found a walking trail just a couple of blocks from our camp and took Abby on a nice long walk to town. Evanston was a sweet little town, with lots of museums and restored buildings all around. The park had a bandstand and the river walk was paved and signed well and full of flowers. Walking through the town was interesting, people were all lined up trying to watch an old theater being demolished that had burned. We asked what was going on and the people lined up on the sidewalk all said, “I don’t know”. Funny. Another quiet and peaceful evening in our little MoHo.

5/12/2007 Saturday

Lincoln 040 Up early since this was going to be a long day over 500 miles to North Platte with a stop in between to visit Mary Ann and Gail in Laramie. Wyoming was really lovely until we hit the over thrust belt where there were a lot of refineries and gas and oil wells. Then it got pretty again as we climbed up toward Laramie. We crossed the continental divide a couple of times and wondered how that happens. The best part was what we called the meringue mountains which was actually the back site of the Uinta range in Utah. They were really dramatic and lovely and I took a photo of them as we passed. Mid day we arrived in Laramie to visit with Mary Ann and they took us to lunch in town. Laramie was also quiet and clean and altogether enjoyable. I enjoyed seeing Mary Ann again, since we have been friends for more than 15 years now.

Lincoln Moana 013 Leaving Laramie at 2 we headed on east into Nebraska toward North Platte. About half way there we dropped down a few extra miles to get into Colorado at the little town of Julesburg just so we could put our Colorado sticker up. We had great fun adding the stickers to the MoHo window. Arrived in North Platte to another fairly simple and nice campground and made dinner again in the MoHo before a good night’s sleep.

5/13 Sunday

Mother’s Day. I wasn’t using my phone much so I didn’t talk to the kids on this moms day. We got up early again and had eggs and potatoes this time, cooked outdoors over the Lincoln 043camp stove and set out for our adventure to the Sand Hills of Nebraska. It was a nice drive, although we had to turn east on HWY 2 and didn’t have time to really explore all the way up to Valentine. Decided that it might be nice to try that sometime. We enjoyed the trip, but the winds of Nebraska are something neither of us will forget! Buffeted the old MoHo around pretty badly along HWY 2. Nebraska was pretty flat and boring, but we managed to find a small town along HWY 34 that we took to avoid the I-80 traffic and trucks. Looking for something to eat for Moms Day we found this great little Midwest place and had a moms day buffet. Just in time. There was corn fed amazing pork, fried apples, really really good corn on the cob and all sorts of goodies for 10 bucks each. Turned out to be really really fun and nice. A surprise.

On in to Lincoln along that back road and found our campsite at the CampAway park right by the freeway. It was a really nice place as well, with good facilities, close to town and Lincoln 046lots of parks and grass for Abby to play right outside our site. Even with the traffic of the freeway, the huge trees muffled the sounds and the wind sounded wonderful. I slept great there. The park was full of huge trees and green grass where Abby could play ball in the afternoons with Moana. There was a big park across the street that had Frisbee golf and we walked there one evening and watched people playing. Abby loved the walks.