“It’s not an adventure until something goes wrong.” Yvon Chouinard
I think I forgot to mention that last night was a hotel stay—with actual, real Internet. We got caught up on grooming, washed clothes, I finished several blog posts and scheduled them to publish since I knew we’d be back out of Internet range in the Bighorns for another couple days. The hotel was nice, but when I went out to the trailer to get something I’d forgotten I felt like I wanted to sleep there, instead. Very strange. Plus, it’s tough to break the rhythm of where you keep things and how you access them. You have to remember to grab everything you’ll need for the hotel from the trailer. I was also wishing I had brought in my pillow, but was too lazy at bedtime to go back out and get it. We left the hotel at 10am, after Len futzed with the trailer brakes more to address some additional squeaking. (It appears to have worked!) We stayed in Casper for breakfast, gas, groceries, ice, and a fishing license for Len.
The speed limit in most of Wyoming is 80mph. Len has gotten used to this new law, very quickly. When we hit an area that was 55mph, he said (in mock indignance), “Hey! What is this? A school zone??”
Out of Casper, we took Route 20/26 to Arminto Road, then Buffalo Creek Road—a gravel, rough, dusty, washboard byway. At one of the turns, we encountered a mom and three kids with a lemonade stand. I make it a policy to never pass a lemonade stand if I’m not in a hurry, so we stopped, drank, and tipped well. It was delicious. And this was also roughly when we realized we’d forgotten to fill the other Rotopax with fuel. Most ranchers have fuel on their property, but the actual gas stations are pretty few and far between out here. We did some quick calculations and decided we were probably good to get in and back out.
On the road, we met two nice Wyoming gentlemen (who apparently stop to chat whenever they meet another car on a lonely road). The first one said (by way of greeting), “You’re on an adventure!” and the second one (who stopped to wait for us a good quarter of a mile from where we were) asked, “Is this the road to Chicago?” Len answered, “Just about 3,000 miles that-a-way.” In other words, we fit right in. Have I mentioned just how much I love the Cowboy State? It’s wide, wild, and expansive. As Georgia O’Keefe said about New Mexico, “It’s a place I can breathe.” (Except for, you know, all the dust and pine pollen.)
The last stretch we traveled was Bighorn Mountain Road, a ragged gravel road (going about 10-15 miles per hour) that crossed four creeks and climbed several peaks as we ascended into the foothills of the Bighorn Mountains (altimeter said 8,227 feet).
We made camp (we’re getting good and fast now), set out the extra solar panel since we’re going to be off the grid for at least a week) took a hike to a lovely rock formation and climbed it, checked out a promising stream and saw a bunch of trout.
The only downside was The Loud Family who commandeered the campsite just before ours.
“WHO WANTS TO RIDE THE ATV??”
“ME! ME! I DO!!”
“HERE WE GO!”
[Ten minutes of blissful silence followed in which birds sang, crickets chirped, and breezes whispered through the treetops.]
“WE MISSED YOU!”
“YEAH!! IT WAS GREAT!!”
A short time later, there was a chainsaw used for fifteen minutes, a talk-radio station playing, and then at least one of them started up a sort of strange, periodic growling yowl that was emitted every five minutes or so with no context provided for the emission of said yowls.
“Sounds like they’re making human sacrifices over there,” I said.
“If only,” Len replied dryly, “it would reduce their numbers.”
For dinner, we made fish tacos. Len got the fire started and I heated the tortillas in aluminum foil, cooked the fish in foil (with my special fish-taco seasoning, lime, and salt) then chopped up the last of the scallions and half of the remaining garlic scapes, added cherry tomatoes, romaine lettuce, pepper Jack cheese, and a big dollop of sour cream. So good. It was a dinner I’ve been envisioning ever since we started planning the trip. Aldi’s fish works well as expedition food. It’s individually packaged and portioned and quick to thaw. We used the foil from the tortillas and didn’t even need to dirty a plate.
After dinner, Len stoked the fire and we sat and enjoyed its crackling while the sun sank behind a field of lupine in which four mule deer calmly grazed (two males in fine velvet), the temperatures dropped (34 degrees!), and the coyotes sang in the distance. Even the Loud Family eventually quieted down. And we both felt that THIS is exactly what we came west hoping to experience.
The whole place was so nice, in fact, we decided to stay another day and skip the trip to Doyle Creek Campground. (We’re getting tired of pulling up stakes every day.)
Next up: More of the same!