Category Archives: Wyoming

CAMINO COMPLETED – NOW WHAT??

38 days of continuous walking followed by another 3 weeks of exploring northern Spain….it was time to go home. We left from Charles de Gaulle airport on an early morning flight.

We flew to Atlanta and from Atlanta, back to Denver, arriving in time to catch the shuttle back to Laramie WY. We spent a few nights in Laramie being happily reunited with kids and grandkids….

….joining in the excitement of the Laramie Christmas Parade….

……..getting settled back into our little home on wheels, and seeing the dentist before heading to Lander. We left Laramie and arrived in Lander on a beautifully sunny day and got ourselves all set up. That night there was a big snow storm.

That’s the night we found out that this is not really a 4 season rig – maybe in Florida but not in Wyoming at 22 degrees F. The water pump wouldn’t work properly,the line from the fresh water tank was frozen solid – in a trailer boasting heated tanks, which we discovered were the black & gray tanks ONLY not the freshwater -, air was getting into the system, PLUS there was a hole at the top of the fresh water tank from a misplaced screw….and on and on.

The good part was the spectacular views we had of the snow-covered Wind River range…

    

We stayed until we thought South Pass from Lander to Rawlins would be passable – it turned out to be 3 nights. We took an exploratory trip up the pass just to make sure and decided we would be safe enough to drive the next day. 

We left mid-morning the next day and got as far as Nephi, (south of Salt Lake City Utah) hoping to finally find warmer temps. No such luck – it was colder that night than any other before it! We basically froze. Early morning breakfast at Dennys and then onwards along I15 to Mesquite where it finally became warm enough to melt all the ice accumulations on the AF. At Mesquite we turned off and when we entered Overton, we decided to stay the night at the Robin’s Nest RV Park. Good rates and friendly people as well as a leaking fresh water tank prompted us to stay for a week while Mike tried to figure out what was wrong. We liked Overton…Sugar’s Restaurant, Lin’s grocery store, The Inside Scoop for ice cream, a great senior’s center, 2 hardware stores, and an excellent library, warmer temperatures – we had everything we needed to be happy. 

The week we stayed in Overton, we also went to explore the area. First we went to see Echo Bay, the first campground in the Lake Mead Recreation Area. More about Echo Bay in a separate blog because we ended up becoming the camp hosts there for three months. The next campground was Callville Bay, 30 miles along Northshore Road from Echo bay. At Callville Bay is a fully functioning marina, marina store and cafe, as well as a Ranger Station, campground, and pay showers. From Callville Bay we continued west around the end of Lake Mead to find Las Vegas Bay Campground which boasts a “no generator use” section for campers who hate those noisy conveniences we RVers must sometimes rely on. Now heading back east on the other side of the lake, we discovered Boulder Beach Campground, the largest and most popular of all of the campgrounds in the Lake Mead National Recreation Area or LMNRA. We ended up this particular day of exploration with a visit to Boulder City, vowing to return to check out the Historic Railroad Trail from Boulder City to Hoover Dam, the main avenue for supplies to reach the workers building the dam.

MEDICINE BOW PEAK – A Soul Baring Experience

The most exciting (and exacting) of our “training hikes” began as we climbed Medicine Bow Peak at an altitude of 12,800 feet (3900 m) in the Snowy Range.

Driving to the trail head at Lewis Lake Campground. We hiked to the very top of the peak in this photo.

There are two ways to climb this peak: one way is from Lewis Lake, straight up. This is the steepest and most difficult and the one Michael chose for us to do, his memory serving him a bit hazily regarding the amount of scrambling this climb would require us to do. Michael had often mentioned this hike to me and really wanted to do it once more, with me. It was a compliment to me that he thought I would be able to do it. And so, full of excitement and with just a hint of trepidation on my part, we set off.

At the Lewis Lake Campground with Lewis Lake in the background. The pointy peak on the left is called Sugarloaf. We walked around it before starting the climb to Medicine Bow Peak directly behind Michael.

The trail during the first part of the hike was good.

It wasn’t long though until the trail started to climb, gradually getting steeper and steeper until we started encountering switchbacks, boulders to scramble over, and steep side hills.  All good at this point. We passed an 81 year old woman who wanted to climb this peak one last time. She was supported by her whole family…kids, grandkids and spouses! I was to remember her later on in the climb  for she became my role model….my mantra became, “If she can do it, so can I!”

Getting closer to the top. This would be the last photos we took until after we reached the summit and started down the other side (the ‘saner’ side, we discovered.) Behind Mike is the summit and the ridge we walked all the way into the distance.

Still smiling at this point. In the background is where we came from. Still not all the way to the top but getting there!

Every time we turned the corner of another switchback, I thought we’d reached the top. No such luck. I didn’t really know what to expect. Finally though, we made the last turn to find….not a trail but…..a boulder field. Some of these boulders were as big as small houses…some the size of the rooms in a house….with crevices….big black holes….between them. No problem. Don’t call me a whimp! I started off. Pretty soon the poles were folded up and given to Michael to carry as I needed both hands to make my way from boulder to outcrop back to boulder again. A few times I just sat on a boulder contemplating how on earth I would find my way through. (Later on Michael labeled that behavior as “freezing up” and as a “panic attack”  to which I took great offense!) In this moment though, the last 100 yards, he was a warrior, my warrior, and gallantly offered his hand and guided me safely through the boulder field to the top, promising that once we got to the summit, there would be a good trail down. Just a side note here: I wasn’t the only one experiencing difficulties. There was a young father waiting patiently on a boulder with his golden retriever beside him. Apparently the dog had found it difficult to keep track of where all four of his legs were and had already fallen several times into crevices and …  there were other “grey hairs” content to sit at the foot of the boulder field. I should have paid more attention. What was I thinking???

While I rested at the top, averting my eyes from the drop-offs all around me, Michael went searching for “the easier trail” down the other side. We were making a grand loop, intending to end up where we started at Lewis lake. He found the trail just beyond another boulder field. The boulders here though weren’t as large or as extensive as the previous ones. We found the trail and started making our way down….again Michael had to help me around the more precipitous ones.

The trail on the other side, descending. This side was much easier.

Beautiful views….

…still lots of boulder fields to scramble over…but these boulders were much smaller…

…..trail markers set into cairns all the way down.

It was a long way down…not as steep as the way up….just a constant downhill spread over a longer distance. We met lots of hikers coming the opposite way, asking always how much farther. One woman told us that she was afraid to go up the way we had – that she’d heard how difficult it was. That made me feel pretty good about what I’d accomplished.

By this time, I was getting tired. I had exerted a great deal of energy on the climb up and hadn’t really rested other than a few short stops. There was as yet no end in sight. We came to a section where the trail all but disappeared, turning into large, loose rocks on a steep, steep slope. The so-called trail did a major hairpin, turning back on itself. At that turning point, Michael was standing right on the edge….nothing behind him but blue space….waiting for me. I had no sure footing, a poor sense of balance, nothing to hold onto, and….did I mention how tired I was? My poles were no help in all that waste of rock!!! What to do?? I became spider-woman without the super-powers. I sat on my butt and scrabbled my way across the hairpin. No way was I going out on that point and falling to almost certain death! What else did I do? I got supremely, silently angry. That anger built up as I made my way down the remainder of that descent from hell. My mantra of “If she can do it so can I,” changed into, “How could Michael not know, not remember this part of the climb? How could he have forgotten that huge boulder field? Why would he bring me here knowing how frightened I am of downhill scrambling (ever since breaking my leg in three places trekking in Nepal?”

Thi is the last part of the descent from hell. It was much worse than it looks!!

At that point, as I finished my “spider walk”, Michael made the inopportune comments that I referred to earlier in this blog. Words like “freezing up” and “panic attack” were uttered with a total lack of awareness, on his part, of the volcano I’d become. At that point, nothing was said. We each remained silent until we were once again on firmer ground.

We sat here and rested after the descent from hell, before the ‘firmer ground’ was reached. The closest lake is Marie lake and just a bit farther is Mirror Lake.

THE SALVOS BEGAN…..we started firing shots until finally, Michael turned, looked at me and said, “Look into my eyes. Do you really believe I would ever knowingly put you into danger?” If you have met Michael, you know his eyes are the most beautiful blue eyes. At this moment, they were tunnels reaching directly into his soul….I got the message of his love loud and clear….I could see and feel it with so much intensity. The anger dissolved into tears which accompanied me the rest of the way down.

The last mile or so down to Marie and Mirror Lakes.

By the time we reached the bottom and filled up our camelbacks at the pump at Mirror Lake, we’d hiked 11-12 km. I was totally bagged – couldn’t walk another step. Michael left me sitting at the water’s edge, contemplating our hike, while he hoofed it back the 4-5 km left to Lewis Lake where we’d started and where the truck was parked.

At the bottom right you can see the edge of a small ‘fishing dock’ which is where I waited for Michael.

CAMINO PREP. CONTINUED – ON LOCATION IN LARAMIE WY

Excited about the arrival of our second grand-daughter, we didn’t get started with our on-going hiking/training program until 5 or more days into our visit. This was actually a good thing because here in Laramie, we are at 7,220 feet (2200 m), a good 2,000 feet (610 m) higher than in Lander, giving us time to acclimate.

Most of our hikes have been in the Medicine Bow National Forest (Vedauwoo, Happy Jack, Pole Mountain) 16 miles (26 km) east of Laramie, at an altitude around 8,000 feet (2440 m). This area is a favorite with bouldering/rock climbing locals and visitors alike. This was Michael’s playground in his youth. It is a spectacularly beautiful area – my pics don’t to justice to it.

Beavers are very busy here! Lots of homes and dams.

Adjusting hot spots before they become blisters.

Michael is always happiest in the wilderness areas of Wyoming….

…..and when he’s at the top of the world….

Meadows….

….rock formations….

….holes in rocks…. Michael called it “Angry Rabbit Rock”…

….”the Buzzard”….

Most of the time we have no service but when we do….this is what happens!

Great places to hike! Having experienced seriously challenging places to hike previously (next blog), we will continue exploring this area until it’s time to leave for Spain and the Camino Frances!

 

ECLIPSED 2017

It was ALL Dave’s fault…. last year suggesting that we all meet up to watch the solar eclipse. Lander, WY was located in the area of totality… on the southern edge. Just happens that Lander is our hometown –  Tilly and I had already  planned to be there visiting my parents during that time.

Although we would be able to observe the full eclipse from our backyard… the totality would be short (30 – 40 seconds reported by  my father who did watch it from the backyard). A bit of research and I discovered the the center of totality would pass almost exactly through a favorite fishing spot of ours….  we call it “bass lake” although I have never caught a single bass there. There we would be able to experience the longest period of totality & it was only a 50 minute drive from home -ON an ORDINARY day.

 

 

We headed off at 8 am … early enough to get to the Lake, set up our site and be ready for the start of the eclipse – about 10:30 am local time. As soon as we left town the traffic was heavy . At every roadside turnout , people were already parked parked – easy chairs set up. Anywhere they should pull out into a field they were set up…

It took us an extra 30 minutes to get to the turn toward Bass Lake… which was still 11 miles north. As soon as we were 1/2 mile from the highway, the crowds were left behind. There were other people at Bass Lake but we were able to set up inner own picnic shelter…

 

The spectacle began:

First “BITE”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Crowd cheered!

 

 

 

 

 

                                                  HALFWAY!

 

 

 

The Crowd grew SILENT…

 

 

 

 

                                          TOTALITY

 

The Crowd went wild!

 

 

 

I had spent a lot of effort trying to figure out how I could watch and photograph the eclipse without damaging my camera(s)… Plan A was to ‘project’ the suns image through my spotting scope onto a poster board … but the more I experimented, the more cumbersome the set up was. Plus, keeping the suns image in the center of the poster board as the sun  moved was a pain.

I, finally went simple … a cardboard tube with a filter cannibalized from a pair of ‘eclipse glasses” … Afraid to use my DSLR I opted for my slightly better than a “point and shoot”  Lumix… besides the cardboard tub fit the lens better…

 

MY efforts were rewarded with  a picture  of the “Diamong Ring”… The sight when the suns rays just emerged as the totality ends…

NOTE: For those of you already screaming “PHOTOSHOP”!!!

 

This is the image of  my Lumix display- just after taking the shot.

 

 

Knowing I would be totally focused on the sun photos and wanting to remember the full experience,  I set up my other “point and shoot” to video the lake as the totality occurred…

 

We had taken a picnic lunch with us … so we spent a leisurely 2 hours eating and relaxing… knowing the roads would be crowded as people had begun scurrying quickly off after the totality was over…. OUR drive home would be “EASY”

I have never before driven LA RUSH HOUR traffic in Wyoming … and hopefully, never will again. 2 1/2 hours to drive 40 miles…

OH YEAH!

THANKS DAVE!

PRE-CAMINO DAYS – GETTING READY – ON LOCATION IN LANDER WY

Decision made…return flights to Paris reserved and bought…Denver hotel booked …

NOW WHAT?

We made the official decision to walk the Camino Francés on August 1st, 2017. The week before that, already deep in discussion with each other about when, where, and for how long to go, we’d had a FaceTime discussion with Harold (introduced by friends), who has walked the Camino 9 times starting at the age of 71! The result of that conversation created an impulse to jump right in and to buy our airline tickets. We were so enthused and excited. Michael and I tend to jump into things fairly quickly so this time we promised each other we’d wait for a week to see if we still felt as enthusiastic and certain about taking this giant leap of faith…..faith in our joint emotional and physical stamina! While we waited, we started physical training, planned what to bring, ordered our “Credencials de Peregrino” (from http://www.americanpilgrims.org), and ordered a great resource recommended by Harold, “A Guidebook to the Camino de Santiago,” by John Brierly.

Brierly’s Book – highly recommended!

Two separate credencial’s. The one on the left is the one we used in Switzerland. The one on the right is the one we’ll take to Spain. We still hope to complete the Swiss Camino.

The credential folds out accordion style. As you walk the Camino, you get stamps at the chapels, churches, and pilgrim hostels where you visit/stay at.

Our Physical Fitness Preparations:
We started to train quite seriously; spending as much time on our feet as they would allow….shorter distances at first, slowly increasing over time and interspersing the walks with the odd aerobically challenging cycle. From this point on, every walk would be in the boots/trail shoes we would wear on the Camino and would include daypacks and filled-to-the-top camelbacks. On the first 2 days we were content with a 7.5 km and a 6 km walk (both on paved, level surfaces). After that, we started increasing the distance, terrain, and elevation gains of our walks/hikes. I soon discovered that the boots I was using, wouldn’t cut it; my toes were constantly in pain from hitting the ends of my boots. Not only were the boots a bit too short, but my feet had grown accustomed (over the past 14 years of living in hot climates) to being in sandals and flip flops. Solution? New boots. I bought some Salomon trail shoes in a half-size larger than I would normally wear. At the same time, I purchased some super thin and silky liner socks and some merino wool over-socks. My feet love their new abodes and are now allowing me hikes of 24km!!

Lander, Wyoming is the perfect place to train for the Camino. Not only is it extraordinarily beautiful with a moderate climate, it has an abundance of hiking and biking trails all at ELEVATION….which is excellent….if I can hike steep uphills for 10 km at 7 – 9,000 feet, then I should find it a walk in the park at the lower elevations of the Pyrenees in Spain. One of our favorite places to hike is a park developed for mountain bikers, hikers, and horseback riders called “Johnny Behind the Rock.” We also love Sinks Canyon. Here are a few pics.

Johnny Behind the Rock (JBTR)

JBTR Hike with Mike’s Dad Marvin who’s 88 this year!!

JBTR Red Ridge – a favorite trail of ours now!

Squaw/Baldwin Creek cycle – 25 km.

Hike up Sinks Canyon from the state campground all the way up to Fossil Rock. !0 km up and another 10 km down. If you enlarge the pic you will see the road as it hairpins up the mountain.

 

Another hike up Sinks Canyon from the state park but this time to Bruce’s Campground up to the falls, a total distance of 14 km.

Taking a rest break looking out over the Popo Agie River (pronounced Poposhia).

At the top. You can see the falls top left of the pic but doesn’t do them justice. This was our first hike with loaded backpacks.

Today, we hiked 11 km at “Johnny Behind the Rock” with fully loaded packs. I carried 21 lbs and Mike carried 25 lbs. Lots of ups and downs and we hiked without stopping. Took us three hours. We are pretty pleased with ourselves and oh-so-happy we started training when we did. Soon we’ll be in Laramie, hiking in the Snowy Range which is at even higher elevations.

A MASS OF MOZZIES – Exploring Green River Lakes, WY

Originally, we intended to spend two weeks ‘boon-docking’ at Green River Lake – a destination 50 miles from the nearest town – in Wyoming. However, our one and only grand-daughter’s second birthday in Laramie, family members to visit in Lander, and a good monthly rate at the Maverick RV Park in downtown Lander caused us to re-evaluate our plans. After settling into the RV park and after several visits with family, we finally set off to explore the Wind River Wilderness.

In Lander, we are on the eastern side of the Wind River Range. Our exploration required us to cross the range and get to the western side. We didn’t want to do that pulling a 33’ fifth wheel trailer so we packed our camping gear and headed off ‘trailer-free.’ We took HWY 28 out of Lander, over South Pass and headed for Pinedale. Crossing South Pass put us on the western side of the Wind Rivers. We could have continued on paved roads all the way to Pinedale but in the spirit of adventure, we decided to take the turnoff to Big Sandy which put us onto a well-graded gravel road winding through range country. We saw lots of trucks pulling travel trailers of all sizes and types. We could easily have pulled our fifth wheel-oh well! The day was sunny; the scenery spectacular; snow-covered peaks, miles of meadows/grasslands/wild flowers, and numerous ranches. Wyoming produced……we saw cowboys on horseback moving their stock from one range to the other!

Where we turned off.

Following the signs.

What we look like.

Views along the way.

All too soon, we reached Pinedale, a quaint, western-themed little town.

A bit of history.

Stopped for lunch at the Wind River Brew Pub.

Great place.

Mike had always wanted to revisit Fremont Lake a short jaunt north of Pinedale and check it out for boon-docking and kayaking possibilities. We followed the road up and up and up some more to an elevation of 10,000’ at the end of which was a small state campground. This time we were happy not to have the 5W as the road was narrow, rough, and climbed so high. We could get the 5W to the top but there was no easy access to the lake; the only access we saw was at the bottom south end of the lake, before we started climbing. There were some possibilities for dispersed camping lower down.

Small “ranger station” at the top for hikers and outdoor enthusiasts to get maps and advice.

View of Freemont Lake from the top and of the storm brewing.

On the way back down, there seemed to be storms brewing all around us and sure enough, as we returned to Pinedale and were leaving the gas station, it started to rain. We headed first west and then north, towards Cora, on HWY 352. The rain turned into a driving hailstorm, making it impossible to have any kind of conversation inside the truck.

After the storm – hailstones everywhere!

One moment we could see the mountains and the next….

…they disappeared behind the clouds.

We entered the Bridger-Teton National Forest where the road turned to gravel once more.

Entrance to the park.

On the road to Green River Lake.

No sooner had we crossed the cattle guard than the road meandered through meadows along the Green River. The landscape lived up to its name….Green, green, and more green! There are many opportunities for dispersed camping all the way through the park from beginning to the end along the Green River. We saw lots of RV’s parked along its banks and started to feel a bit sorry we hadn’t brought ours too.

We reached Green River Lake Campground at around 4pm and spent the first hour looking for, finding, and setting up our ideal camp. It was at this point that we started to seriously regret not bringing the 5W…..you guessed it……MASSES OF MOZZIES….. TRUE MOZZIE MISERY! I have never experienced mosquitoes like this before. I was covered head to foot with homemade bug spray which worked well previously on other mozzie attacks. But, these Green River Lake pests were more determined than any I’d ever experienced before so we pulled out and applied the second line of defense….packets of bug repellent-soaked towelettes containing DEET, which we rubbed on our clothes….to no avail. They bit us anyways. Thankfully I’d prepared dinner before leaving home…foil wrapped packets of veggies and salmon in parchment….so we quickly threw them on the grill and tried to sip a Happy Hour drink while cooking.

Our campsite for the night.

Covered in beach towels for protection!

We had to sit inside the truck to eat and by then, I couldn’t have cared less whether I ate or not, I was so miserable. We cleaned up and decided to go and see the lake. It lived up to its reputation for beauty. Not only was it wildly beautiful, it was also sunset time so everything was bathed in the orange light of the setting sun. We felt vindicated, even as we were being eaten alive.

First view of the lake.

To the south.

To the southwest

Southeast

East

8 o’clock rolled around and we had no choice but to crawl into the tent to escape the tormenting mozzies. We read for a while and then fell into an uncomfortable sleep (not used to sleeping in sleeping bags on pads) waking up often to roll over and commiserate with one another between bouts of scratching ( I know … you’re not supposed to scratch) mozzie bites. Once we woke up to the howling of wolves….that was really something to hear! There we were, in the middle of the night, discussing how cool (or not) it was to hear these wolves and about the fact that there never used to be wolves in this area – that their population had exploded right out of Yellowstone.

Next morning, our plan was to kayak to the end of the lake but a poor night’s sleep, the prospect of having to deal with mosquitoes….well….plans changed. we headed home. Safely insulated from the bugs in the truck, we enjoyed the drive back to where we had entered the Teton – Bridger Wilderness area.

At this point, we decided to explore further, taking the Union Pass Road over the Wind River Range.

We came from the road to/from Green River Lake on the right in the pic and and followed the sign to the left.

It was a very rough road but worth every bump. It was gravel all the way and wound through ranch-lands, open range, and mountain meadows (where we hoped to spot a grizzly but saw only deer and antelope.)

We headed across this beautiful direction towards the left of the mountain and started climbing.

Another sign – great names. We did NOT stop at Mosquito Lake!

Beautiful views all along the route.

Even the cycle tourists like this road.

Meadows filled with flowers….no wildlife though.

In one area the meadows were covered with blooming thistles.

No wonder we didn’t see much wildlife – they are so well camouflaged.

At the top of Union Pass….

Spectacular views in all directions!

Still snow in mid July!

Heading down the other side into Dubois….

A beautiful trip. I got to see parts of Wyoming many travelers to the state never get to see.