Posts Tagged ‘wyoming’

Devil’s Tower, But No Devil (Day 48)

September 5th, 2009 2 comments

Me: The big fella around?

Devil’s Tower Imp: Huh? Oh — no. He always says he’s coming and then we get the place all fixed up for him, but then he doesn’t show up.

Me: Huh.

Imp: Yeah, he’s kind of a jerk.

Me: Makes sense.

devils_towerYep, it’s a big ol’ weird-shaped granite monolith all right!

devils-tower_hay-balesYep, it’s a big ol’ weird-shaped granite monolith with hay bales in front of it all right!

I walked around it. There were rock climbers on it — not that there’s anything wrong with that. Relevant Indian tribes consider the thing to be the home of 100-foot-tall bears, which seems considerably cooler than lazily assigning it to Satan. Man, but I hope there are 100-foot-tall bears somewhere. Maybe at Boundary Waters?

(Meanwhile, it’s 95 degrees in North Dakota and I’m sweating on the keyboard in the campground. Hopefully no ticks crawl in through the USB ports.)


A Bad Day Fishing (Day 47, Part 2)

September 4th, 2009 3 comments

11:30 — Finally leave the house and head into downtown Sheridan.

11:50 — Arrive, find a sporting goods store, realize they don’t have any fishing experts there, leave.

12:00 — End up on Main Street, find another sporting goods store, realize they don’t do any fishing there, ask them if there’s a fly fishing store nearby. It’s across the street.

12:05 — Arrive at fly fishing store. They don’t sell any non-fly gear there though. I buy a license. Guy knows about fishing and likes talking about it. Guy recommends Twin Lakes, says it takes a half-hour to get there from downtown and that there are signs that clearly point it out from FS Road 26.

12:35 — Go back to the first store and buy a couple more lures.

12:45 — Leave store on “half-hour” journey to Twin Lakes.

1:45 — Arrive at Twin Lakes picnic area, but there are no lakes. Exit car and look around the area: there is a river. Wonder whether by “lake”, they mean “slow part of the river”. Decide they probably don’t.

2:05 — Cross the road to where I saw a sign for Sawmill Lake. Follow a trail for a while before I realize that it’s kind of dumb to follow a trail when you don’t know how long it is.

2:35 — Get back to car and head further into the wilderness area until I find a map by a pull-out. The map indicates only one area called “Twin Lakes”: the picnic area.

2:45 — Turn around and head to the Ranger Station.

3:05 — Arrive at Ranger Station. A helpful volunteer there says he doesn’t know how to get to Twin Lakes, but he has a map. It looks like the lakes are on another road next to the picnic area — probably the road that I didn’t go on because it was gated shut. The road doesn’t look very long.

3:25 — Arrive back at the Twin Lakes picnic area. Get out of car, get fishing gear, start heading up the closed road.

3:30 — See the lower lake, decide to head to the upper lake.

3:40 — Reach upper lake. It looks windy, so return to lower lake.

3:50 — Get gear out, put lure on swivel, open bale to cast, notice that the reel is missing its handle. Cast once to see whether it’s reasonable to reel in without a handle on the reel. It isn’t.

3:55 — Hand-spin the bale until all the line is back in. Head back toward car.

4:00 — Dig around the back of the truck looking for the handle. Find it. Put it on the reel. Try reeling a few times. Realize that there has to be something that holds the handle onto the reel, otherwise it’ll keep falling off. Dig around back of truck looking for handle lug. Find it. Screw it into the handle. Line is now all fouled up. Break off ten feet of line. Re-tie swivel and feet it through eyelets.

4:25 — Gather up gear, head back out to lakes again.

4:30 — Arrive at lower lake. Cast ten times. Eight of these casts come back with grass.

4:40 — Head for upper lake.

4:50 — Arrive at upper lake, maneuver around to the side of the lake where there’s something like a spit going out into the water (which is obviously much lower than it’s been).

5:00 — Put lure onto swivel, cast.

5:35 — Having caught nothing, seen no fish jump and no birds swooping down, realize that I should probably get back to my bro’s house before someone sends the police after me. Leave.

6:30 — Return to bro’s house.

I think the more apt question is whether it beats an *average* day working. Yes, certainly it beats an average day working. The best day working? I mean, the best day working at my old job included having cool vendor people take me go-karting or to basketball games, so probably not. A bad day — let alone the worst day — fishing probably isn’t better than the best day working (depending on what you do for a living). But still: better than an average work day, rest assured.


Categories: northern states Tags: , ,

Sheridan, Wyo.: The Horseback Riding Experience! (Day 47)

September 3rd, 2009 4 comments

— You ever ridden a horse before?

— One time, at a park, with a girl leading it around.

— We’ll put you on Sonny, then. He basically rides himself.

Naturally, within 30 seconds of getting onto the horse, he (Sonny) decided to take an unrequested gallop down my brother’s street. Only threatening to have him gelded (again) got him to slow down. Things got better from there, though, and no bones or spirits were broken (I don’t think).

sheridan_horsesThe boys. From L to R, Archie (the loner), Maverick (the one everyone hates because he’s a jerk), and Sonny (“the self-riding horse”).

It’d be fun to learn to ride a horse for real. The only problem with the guy taking off like that was that it was unexpected; it was otherwise not unpleasant. And maybe if I got good at it, I could justify growing out an un-ironic handlebar moustache. Always dreaming.

We rode for about an hour or so. 36 hours later, my legs are still sore in places they’ve never been sore before. I think I’m supposed to write out “36” if it’s at the beginning of a sentence. C’est la vie. The horses didn’t smell bad.


PS, The other cool thing about Sheridan is that on a clear day you can see FOREVER (not pictured). I can’t recall ever having seen stuff as far away as that. In the OC, you’re lucky to see the ocean from the beach what with the air pollution and all. (Yes, that’s slightly exaggerated.)

Red Grade Road (Day 46)

September 3rd, 2009 2 comments

Once at my brother’s house in Sheridan, the key thing was to sleep in. That accomplished…

I should just start with the second paragraph.

There’s this road, “Red Grade Road”, that’s not far from my bro’s house (in Sheridan), which is “in the sticks” (according to my niece), but not as in the sticks as the road. The road turns to dirt quickly and then heads up the hills. It’d probably be a great place to camp on the weekends or snowmobile or fish. Here are some photos:

sheridan_black-tooth-mountainBlacktooth Mountain — supposedly my brother’s going to hike to the top one day.

sheridan_red-grade-roadDirty Truck = Happy Truck. At least, that’s my current working theory.

sheridan_red-grade-cloudsThey have clouds in Wyoming also.

The cool thing about Sheridan and the whole area around it is that it looks (to me) exactly like you expect Wyoming to look. Rugged high-country, grassy hills broken up by stands of trees and, in the distance, snow-capped peaks. I’ve heard it said (or maybe read) that when people are thinking of Wyoming, they really mean Montana. Not so true as it turns out. It would not have been hard to imagine that Big Whiskey was going to be the next town up the road at any point (although I think the movie was probably filmed in Alberta). Anyway — it’s a landscape that looks like it needs cowpokes, outlaws-turned-sheriff, saloons, brothels, five-cent whiskey shots, etc., etc. Feels like the West, and not the overrun one like we got in California.



PS, Sheridan is also cool b/c my brother lives there.

PPS, I enjoyed getting to sign my nieces’ permission slips for their first (actually second) days of school.

Hard Drivin’ and the Buffalo Bill Museum in Cody (Day 45)

September 2nd, 2009 8 comments

Stayed the night with Jon and Erin in Victor, Idaho. I was particularly impressed by their mature lifestyle that was a clear departure from how a college student might live. In the morning, we had breakfast!, which, somewhat confusingly for me, did not consist of high-fiber Pop Tarts:

IMG00055-20090830-0831They have more kids than I do.

Then it was off to the open road. From Victor, headed onto Highway 22, which goes steeply and windingly over Teton Pass (not sure if that’s the name, but it seems like it could be) to Jackson, Wyo., which is a town whose amazingness seems a little lost on me. Maybe because I never get out of my car when I’m there.

From Jackson, the road headed north back up through the parks — Grand Teton and Yellowstone. A couple things about Grand Teton. One, the mountain itself looks pretty cool:

grand-tetonAnd you don’t even have to get out of your car to see ’em.

The other is that in order to get from Victor, Ida. to Sheridan, Wyo., no matter what the fastest route goes through Grand Teton and Yellowstone, which becomes somewhat less cool when all 50 or so miles grinding through Grand Teton look like this:

grand-teton_trafficFine: not quite *all* 50. But pretty close. And it’d be nice if there were a highway somewhere in this country that wasn’t being re-surfaced.

It’s also repeatedly disappointing that people don’t understand that when they’re driving slowly through national parks, you’re supposed to use the pull-outs. I think it makes complete sense to be doing 20 under the speed limit while driving through Yellowstone — but if there’s someone behind you, get out of the way. OTOH, I got to practice tailgating and high-beam flashing quite a bit, so maybe I should just be glad for the experience.

Once I escaped the parks, it was a pretty easy shot over to Cody, Wyo., home of the Buffalo Bill Historic Center, a museum that sort of tells the story of the West. They have, for instance, the biggest collection of firearms I imagine could exist under one roof:

cody_museum-firearms (1)Then multiply by 48.2 to get the full effect.

The great thing about the firearms wing of the museum is that you learn that you don’t know anything about the history of firearms. I figure learning what it is that you don’t know is probably about as important a thing to learn as anything. Museum also had big exibits on western art (

cody_museum-bear-hunters (1)No, I don’t know why I wouldn’t have taken the photo straight-on.

), the Plains tribes of Native Americans, the life and times of Buffalo Bill Cody, natural history of the West, and a temporary exhibit on Lewis and Clark. I liked that the museum was unapologetic. The displays are all professional and the write-ups show the sort of scientific detachment you’d expect from a museum, but there was no sense of emotional manipulation around any of it, which could have been easy to do from a number of directions. It’s a solid half-day museum (but kind of expensive: $15/adult).

Oh, also: I had some fantastic New Mexican food in Cody. No photos and I can’t remember the name (there’s only one New Mexican restaurant on the main drag in Cody), but it was pretty fantastic.

From Cody you have two different ways to get to Sheridan: 14 and 14A. Supposedly 14A is prettier, so I headed up that direction. The road goes through Mormon flat-land farm towns for a while, but eventually takes a sort-of dramatic turn and heads up into the hills.

highway-14aAs always, I think the bug splatters make the photo.

It was pretty, winding, and steepish. Would probably make a fantastic sled hill in the winter. It got up high enough that there was a patch of snow next to the highway in one spot. Near the top, there’s a turn-off to go visit the Medicine Wheel. After driving a mile and a half off the highway to visit it, though, they inform you that you can’t use the road that goes to it and have to walk the last mile and a half. Feeling used, I declined.

Driving down out of the mountains, I encountered family after family of deer, most of whom were galloping single-file across the road at inopportune moments. The three closest calls I’ve ever had with deer came within about a half-hour of each other on this little stretch of road. It’s like they have this death-wish. And it probably doesn’t help that they built fences on either side of the highway such that the deer appear to be trapped on the road. OTOH, if they’d just stay *off* the asphalt.

highway-14a_deerBambi’s mom: none too bright.

And it’s good to know that my brakes work. By the time I got off the hill, I was getting pretty mad at the road. I think an hour a day of winding mountain roads is plenty. Three or four hours is probably too much.

Finally rolled into Sheridan a little after 8 PM, got to my brother’s house, and had some leftover beef stroganoff that was really good. Pretty tired, though. I appreciate roofs and permanent structures now more than I used to.


FYI, Camper: This Is What a Bear Looks Like

August 31st, 2009 4 comments

You’re in J-353, Loop J. Just follow the main road until you get to Loop J, then turn left. Here are the bathrooms (circles map), you can go to the site right now, check-out is at noon. We have bears in Yellowstone, so there are a number of rules (circles bullet-pointed rules), so don’t leave any food out, any toiletries, trash, soap, otherwise the bears will come and if they become a problem, they may have to be killed (circles picture of bear).


I just wonder whether she circled the bear because she didn’t think I knew what one looked like, or if it was just for emphasis. Either way, it was dramatic.


Yellowstone vs. the Tourist Horde (Day 44)

August 31st, 2009 1 comment

Even surrounded by hordes, I think geysers are pretty cool. I’d like to see them without the hordes one day — maybe they’d be even cooler. Ah. Well.

yellowstone_chromatic-poolChromatic Pool with some steamers in the background.

yellowstone_orange-rockNature’s take on the dreamsicle.

yellowstone_geyser-boardwalkTwo senior citizens walk up the sunny-day boardwalk toward their doom.

yellowstone_morning-glory-poolMorning Glory Pool — by midday, the colors fade to brownish-gray.

yellowstone_steam-and-cloudSome steam and a cloud that I liked.

yellowstone_old-faithfulEleven minutes late.

I like the colors. If I’m in the area again, I’d stop by and check out the Upper Geyser Basin again. Probably wouldn’t need to overnight it or anything, unless someone unearths some sort of incredible hike in the area, though. There are, just, too many people all trying to look at the same things here. IMHO. Always IMHO.

Oh, and the Yellowstone animal tally:

  • Two elk (one buck, one doe).
  • Three chipmunks.
  • No bears.
  • Infinite bison.


The Grand Canyon of Yellowstone and Nearby Attractions (Day 43)

August 30th, 2009 Comments off

Without a whole lot of time to explore the park, I decided I’d hit the Canyon area Friday, then the geysers on Saturday. As such, Friday:

yellowstone_lower-falls-sprayThere’s this stairway down to Lower (Yellowstone?) Falls that’s called Uncle Tom’s Trail. There are a lot of stairs there and a lot of overweight people who should maybe more-fully consider the trip back up the stairs before starting the trip down. Oh well. Also: rainbows.

yellowstone_lower-falls-viewpointLower Falls.

yellowstone_lower-falls-artists_pointSame waterfall, but this time with a “Grand Canyon” view. The canyon has interesting colors in it (not pictured).

yellowstone_grand-canyon-riverSee? Interesting colors.

yellowstone_hayden-valleyHayden Valley — sort of how you’d romantically envision all of Wyoming looking. I think it mostly doesn’t look like this, but maybe the government can fix that for us. Write your congressman (or congresswoman!).

  • Yellowstone is crowded.
  • I guess the good and bad thing about the place is that the most important sites are very accessible.
  • Actually, that seems mostly bad, since it’s hard to lose the sense that you’re not alone. Very hard.
  • Every photo ends up feeling trite since, well, anywhere you stand to take one there are five other people trying to do the same thing.
  • And then the trails don’t seem to take you anywhere you really need to go.
  • Plus, you have to buy intra-park regional trail guides ($0.50 each, but still — these are usually included on park maps).
  • But these trail guides really only talk about the often-paved little nature trails that run alongside the various parking lots.
  • In fact, some of the “trails” they include aren’t trails, they’re just parking lots.
  • And then if you ever do get onto a trail, the stuff in the guide doesn’t match up with the names of things on the signs at the trailhead.
  • Meh.


Entering Wyoming: State #7!

August 30th, 2009 1 comment

14.6% of the way there!

entering-wyomingOr, rather, “entered Wyoming”. The sign wasn’t as big as I was expecting.

I think I actually entered Wyoming somewhat earlier than the time of this photo, but it was on the highway from Big Sky (in Montana) to West Yellowstone (in Montana), which looks like it curves into Yellowstone National Park for a little bit, which seems like it might be in Wyoming. But there was no sign, so it’s hard to know if it really happened.

True story.


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