“I’m dirty, sunburned, dried out, smelly, sweaty, covered in pine tree pollen, and it’s better than I’ve felt in a long time.” ~Len, sitting by the fire at Grave Spring Campsite.
For breakfast we enjoyed a pour-over made with Arbuckle’s Ariosa Coffee, apparently a revival of the coffee brand that settled the west and a favorite of cowboys in the 1880s (or, you know, we bought into the tourist ruse that it was cowboy coffee and paid three dollars for a small packet—ka-ching!). The sample pack came from Lou Taubert’s Western Wear shop in Casper where Len also found a pair of jeans in a style that he’s been searching for for ages.
As I mentioned yesterday, this Grave Spring campsite proved so fine (and the drive in here so rough) we decided to stay another day rather than drive to Doyle Creek, another Bureau of Land Management (BLM*) site that had been on our schedule. This is the smart part of travel—when you can be flexible enough to stay at a primo spot (especially when they’re first-come-first-serve) and enjoy it to the fullest rather than just pick and move because you thought six months ago that would be the right decision. So we settled in for the day and planned a hike.
Much to our unbounded joy, the Loud Family began to pack up as if to leave, making our decision to stay another night even sweeter. Then they proceeded to take another loud ATV ride, shoot off a shotgun several times, run a chainsaw, and start up a very loud gas generator and run it for about 45 minutes.
Our joy diminished.
There are definitely two philosophies to camping (and any number of shades in between), but the extremes run something like this.
- The Loud Family Philosophy: Conquer the campsite! Make it as much like home as possible. Bring all the gadgets and amenities you can carry, including a TV and radio, a generator, a 22-gauge shotgun, and a chainsaw. Bring a fifty-gallon drum of water lashed to the back of your camper. Occupy every inch of space allotted to you. Erect structures and spread out to fill them. Bring multiple vehicles, if possible, especially an ATV so you can roar around the countryside many times a day. Burn everything in the fire pit, even things that do not burn like plastic bottles, tin cans, and a horrifying plastic stand-alone sticky fly-catcher thing.
- The Pratt-Akers Family Philosophy: Ease into your campsite quietly. Create as little impact as possible as you back in, unlock your doors, and raise the lid on the galley (setup complete!). Enjoy the views that surround you and the many subtle sounds of nature. If you want to go anywhere, use your own two feet to get there. If you need more water, filter it from the local stream. Minimize your trash output and deal with it responsibly. Keep the human-made noises to a low-decibel minimum. Take only pictures, leave only footprints.
After a breakfast of granola and yogurt (it’s been awesome having my homemade granola on the trail) we hiked the mountain behind our campsite. We found a ton of beautiful petrified wood fragments of many colors and also a very curious small skull that had a sloping forehead with sockets
at the rear of the skull for future horns and oddly undeveloped eye sockets. I’m pretty sure we’ve found a skull of the elusive jackelope (thinking of you, Nina!). There’s just no other animal it could be. We shot a couple pictures of it and kept hiking upward (only slightly altitude-winded now, thanks to the body’s magic ability to adjust), hoping we would eventually reach an open summit with a view. Alas, it was an amorphous summit and resolutely wooded. But we did find our way back to the campsite in time to see The Loud Family leaving along the distant road—yee-haw! (They left one camper behind. So weird. Reserving their spot, I guess.)
As quiet fell over the landscape (alone, at last!) I did some writing and Len went fishing. Very quickly he came back with two brook trout. He said he was three-for-three: three casts, three fish (pictures coming to your inbox soon, Dave), and he released the smaller one to swim another day. The other two were large enough to keep and he cleaned and prepared for dinner. They came out of the nearby Buffalo Creek (North Fork), a tiny stream, but filled with brookies. In one tiny pool yesterday, we counted five, swimming in formation, waiting for a bounty of bugs to appear.
I made a salad and we cooked the trout over a fire along with two pieces of salmon from the freezer, in foil with olive oil, salt, and the last five garlic scapes. Len cut some flowers and put them in an empty bottle on the picnic table to complete the meal.
There are wildflowers everywhere here. Fields of them. So beautiful. There’s no signal (as I’m writing this), so I can’t look their names up online and I don’t have a guide with me, but from my limited knowledge I think we have huge fields of lupine (two varieties), yarrow, ground phlox, blue windflowers (or rock anemones), lots of daisies/asters of many varieties and colors, and a gorgeous delicate cyclamen that I found in a boggy, shaded area. So pretty.
My evening Coors Yeti-cap message was a repeat, but still a good one, so I took another picture to commemorate (with brookie bones, purple lupine, and petrified wood). Thanks, Yeti Dad!
Helpful hints from the wilds of Wyoming:
- If you are hiking through the woods in a remote area without a trail, look behind you occasionally as you walk, especially to note the larger landforms from that angle. When you are trying to find your way back, you will see the landforms from that angle, not from the one you had on your forward approach.
- If you are following someone else, make note of your hiking partner’s tendencies. It will be useful on the return. For instance, most of us, when hiking and approaching an obstacle, will favor a move to either the right or the left of the obstacle. Over time, this will throw your route substantially off track, especially if (for example) your partner goes to the left more while ascending and to the right more descending. This makes for a net double-direction shift off of your “straight” path.
- The low overnight in the foothills of the Bighorns in June can be below freezing.
- When cleaning solar panels, if you use Windex, dilute it by half with water. Solar panels are black and almospt always hot and the extra water helps keep the cleaner from evaporating on impact (and thereby being ineffectual).
Random Gearhead Facts: The road shower was 61 degrees at 8am and 95 degrees just before sunset.
Hard-boiled eggs do very weird things at altitude, especially when cooked at sea-level and transported to 10,000 feet.
*BLM campsites are just open all the time and can’t be reserved. You get what you get when you get there—sometimes they’re all taken. This Grave Springs site has only about ten sites (that we found) and three were filled, not counting us. They’re definitely No Frills spots. No water, no electricity (of course), a pit toilet and small trash bin. Each site has a picnic table, a fire pit, and many have amazing views.