Kolden Trip Report, May 2009
This trip is dedicated to you, Becky Byxbe, with hopes that each day that passes brings you peace.
May 16, 2009
Wolf Point, Montana
We checked the tow lights on Whitey only to discover that we have no brake lights. Jim says it’s okay since he doesn’t plan to stop anyway! Imagine he’ll check it out down the road somewhere.
The skies are gray and precipitation is forecasted. Just hope it is rain and not snow. We are making a beeline south. No stopping to visit along the way in hopes that we can outrun the storm and get south to clear skies and sunshine.
Lots of farmers have their crops in the ground already. Seems like a good time for the rains to come in light of that.
We updated our streets and trips with the Microsoft GPS and newer software. Seems to have done wonders for our vehicle tracking. The Garmin GPS would track but, only using the Garmin software.
Only 760 miles to Rawlins, Wyoming!
I fixed Jim a tuna sandwich for lunch and I had a salad with fake crab meat. I boiled water and made green tea to have after but Jim refused. We are seeing a few raindrops although we had intermittent sunshine for a while. We will soon turn south at Custer.
We ran out of fuel just outside Hardin. Erv was reluctant to start but, finally spun over and caught. We fueled up at Exxon, (Lucky Lil’s). It was one of the dirtiest convenience stores I’ve ever been in. There was several months’ worth of dust covering much of the stock (I am an expert on what month’s worth of dust looks like) and the bathrooms were a fright. It looked as if an entire rugby team, fresh from playing in the mud, had trekked through the ladies room. There was no soap and the automatic faucet ran for about 3 seconds. I went straight for the hand sanitizer when I got back to Erv!
We did make 10 mpg, which wasn’t bad considering we are towing and had gone through quite a few hills. Diesel was $2.33 a gallon here.
We are heading south out of Kacee, Wyoming. The elevation is 5500 feet and we are steadily climbing. The ground now has a smattering of snowdrifts, evidence of a recent storm. We are seeing more white than we’d like but we’ll push south to Rawlins, hoping to drive out of the snow.
We kept seeing huge drifts of snow in shaded areas as we approached Casper. Once in town, there was evidence of a recent major blizzard. As we crossed Casper Mountain and went south, we drove out of the snow. Hopefully Rawlins will be brown!
No such luck. We hit a huge blizzard outside Rawlins. The only way we could have enjoyed that particular storm would have been to view it from beside a roaring fire, while wearing sheepskin slippers and flannel pjs. We did drive out of it only to have it fire up with a vengeance once we it Rawlins. We fueled at flying J and then parked. After a mediocre buffet supper, we hit the hay, thinking that this was NOT the spring vacation we had planned on!
Day two, (4/27/09, Monday)
We woke and looked outside to find many inches of heavy, wet snow blanketing our world.
I made coffee and proceeded to cook bacon and fried potatoes, which we ate with eggs. Or shall I say tried to eat. About half way through the meal Jim’s plate made a successful suicidal leap to its death onto the floor. With egg yolk dripping off his foot onto the floor, joining the potatoes already there, he decided that he’d had enough breakfast.
The temp outside was 30 above and Erv fired up after turning over just a few times, much to our pleasure. Little smoke was visualized… Eco-Nazis be damned!
We are headed toward Baggs, Wyoming, on the interstate. There is much snow on the ground but the highway is nearly dry, fortunately.
We drove in much snow all morning, only to find it lessening throughout the day. After lunch, we became pretty much snow free.
We went from Rifle, Colorado to Craig and then down south of Gateway. We are currently parked in a beautiful red narrow canyon along the Delores River.
Jim fixed the lock on one of his compartments, much to my relief. It is the compartment containing all tools, fluids and the inverter. If we were to go away in Whitey for a few days and leave Erv unattended, we might return to find that compartment empty if left unlocked.
While Jim repaired, I walked down the narrow, trash-ridden path to the river’s edge where I found what I believe to be cougar prints along the shore. With the canyon being so narrow and the walls quite vertical, the riverbanks may be a preferred method of travel for critters.
We also spied a load of tires that some idiot had dumped here recently. Too bad they weren’t caught. There was also an old fridge in the brush indicating that people have been dumping here for awhile.
We ate cold cereal for supper, read a few minutes and then lights out at about 7 p.m.
I woke in the night, drowning in the murky haze between sleep and wake. I had dreamt that a man wearing a policeman’s uniform and sunglasses (at night) was lying facedown on my legs. When I questioned him (I was very afraid) he produced an ID that said his name was "Joseph Sorenson". I was extremely afraid of him and felt sure he was there to murder me. Even as I struggled to wake up, I felt a horrible foreboding and found my heart racing and my breath quick. I lay in the darkness, struggling to hear every sound, certain that the bad man in a cop’s uniform was right outside the camper. Eventually I fell back asleep and slept well the rest of the night. When I woke, the feeling of impending doom had vanished.
PS. We both found it interesting to be seeing so many magpies along the road. There are so few left at home (from the West Nile Virus) but, apparently the birds are tougher down in Colorado. There were many deer carcasses in the ditches and the magpies and crows were feasting. I even saw one golden eagle perched on a carcass, surveying his kingdom, as if daring another to try to take his meal.
Day three, 4/28/09, Tuesday
The furnace didn’t come on once last night and we woke to 50 degrees! Winter is over in these parts.
We breakfasted on steak, eggs, toast and coffee and after our morning ablutions, hit the trail. The canyon we are following is quite scenic with the red rock sheer cliff walls and winding riverbed. Many geese are nesting on the riverbanks. I’d think it would get too hot for them about mid July but, apparently not.
We came upon a flume hanging on the cliff face, built in the late 1800’s that reportedly carried over 23 million gallons of water a day to a mine. I would not have wanted to work on its construction! It’s amazing that it still clings to the cliff face after all these years.
We came upon a tiny town named Naturita that had more bars and liquor stores than people! The main drag through town (just about the only drag through town) had a bar about every few buildings. It would be a perfect place to live if you were a practicing alcoholic. Some of the local color looked a bit scary as well. One man I saw driving an old pick-up had many years growth of facial hair sprouting from his face in all directions. I imagined his eyes to have that crazy "unhinged" look about them.
Further down the road we climbed and climbed. Erv pulled well and Jim was pleased with the level of black smoke Erv coughed up. It was a gorgeous drive all in all and well worth the climbing to view the sights.
We arrived in Monticello, Utah about lunchtime and I spied Cindy’s Second Hand. I made a quick trip in while Jim read his book. The owner’s husband, a lifelong Monticellan, expounded on the beauty of living in Monticello. I bought a 2 dollar, black vintage purse and we hit the grocery store where I found Jim a piece of fried chicken. After dining, we unhooked Whitey and toured the town a bit. The LDS church seems to have quite a stronghold on the town. I did not see another church, only theirs and a very large new temple.
We stopped by the local NAPA store and I ran next door to the hardware store where I found a little non-stick fry pan to add to the camping box for Whitey. The store, albeit a bit touristy, had everything from woven baskets and horsehair pottery to cloth and thread, as well as quite a bit of hardware. There was a small hospital/clinic and even an Internet café in town. What we didn’t see was a movie theater and not one bar or liquor store. Very interesting…
We fueled Whitey up after taking a drive up the mountain into the Monti-la Sal National Forest, where we found snow banks. From there, we hooked back up and headed south to Blanding, Utah, where we fueled Erv. Being nearly time to camp for the day, we headed west of Blanding to a free camp spot that we’d used before, down on Cottonwood wash.
We plan to take Whitey out for a day trip tomorrow and see what happens.
Although it’s a bit off subject, I must tell you about a dream I had another time we were "down south". It was during a visit to Chaco Canyon, Arizona. I was sleeping soundly when all of the sudden (in my dream) I found myself stuffed into an excruciatingly tiny cave, having the life choked out of me by a very angry "ancient one" who had also placed a huge boulder on my chest and torso, preventing me from moving. I woke with a horribly claustrophobic start and tried to climb out the window of Erv, over a sleeping Jim, who was quite surprised by my actions, especially since the windows are hardly big enough to get one’s head out, let alone your whole body. Struggling to breath, I then attempted to get my head out the back windows and finally "came to" enough to realize what was going on. I found it extremely difficult to go back to sleep after having been "dream (nightmare) choked" nearly to death and even the next day the sense of impending doom surrounding me was quite strong. I convinced Jim that we should leave and find somewhere else to stay as I dreaded the thought of spending one more night in that area. I didn’t want to find out if the "ancient one" would come back for me yet a second time. So far, so good but, I do not plan to spend another night at Chaco Canyon.
Day Four, 4/29/09, Wednesday
English muffins topped with sausage gravy followed a good nights sleep. Preparations were made for a drive about in Whitey and after removing the hitch and tightening up the battery cable, the only things left to do were remove the tow lights and take off the manifold cover to inspect the valves. Satisfied that all was in order, we departed.
We used the laptop, GPS and small inverter to track our progress as we’d left home without a map of Utah. We had managed to pick up a partial map copy at the BLM field office in Monticello so we weren’t completely without a hard map.
We drove a beautiful road called Comb Wash. It paralleled Comb Ridge (named for its spiky, tooth like appearance) and was designated unimproved. Jim commented that it was every bit as good as an improved McCone country road!
We noticed petroglyphs on some of the huge boulders that had "calved off" of the rock face and stopped for closer inspection:
We then zipped over to the Valley of the Gods and toured the loop. Many famous western movies were shot here:
We ate lunch under a shade tree above a spring. The fencing separating the two areas appeared new and was well done.
I spotted several large lizards at the spring and regretfully, did not have my camera. Lunch was followed by a return journey though Butler Wash. I’d have to say Butler Wash was more scenic and had a lot of hiking potential. In fact, I decided to attempt a climb to the top of Comb Ridge. My preparations were sadly lacking as I took off wearing only sandals and toting no water. I went quite a ways but every rise I crowned led to three more between me and the top. Finally I turned back. Jim said I was wise to do so and I agreed. It was a gorgeous view nonetheless.
We are now back at camp with only a few sightings of magpies and songbirds to report other than the lizards. We did see some petroglyphs and spotted a few potshards and evidence of stone tool working. We both need to wash some of the Utah red dirt off and dinner waits. It remains to be seen what it will be. Tomorrow we plan to go on an overnighter since everything is working well. Jim has scouted a route that will take us through Blanding so we can acquire fuel and a few supplies. Adventure waits.
Day Five, 4/30/09, Thursday
I woke in the early morning stillness and read by flashlight until daylight, finishing my book. After coffee, cornmeal pancakes, sausage and eggs, we readied ourselves for town. This required Jim tinkering with the camper fridge to make it run. It was running when we woke but, quit sometime between then and breakfast.
We took a scenic route into Blanding, one full of switchbacks and spectacular views. We’ve decided to do a two-day adventure, away from Erv and tour more country like we saw today.
Once in town, we drove about looking the place over. We both liked it better than Monticello and there is more town. One thing being a brand new hospital that is not functional yet, even though it was to open months ago.
We stopped at Napa for Jim to buy some oil and ate a nice late lunch of charbroiled burgers at a restaurant decorated in turn of the century memorabilia and photos. The food was excellent as was the ambience and we had the place to ourselves very nearly. I had "ribbon fries", something I’d never had before but would recommend now. They were super thin slices of potatoes, deep-fried. Some of them were crispy like potato chips and others were softer, like French fries. They were delicious!
We drove the streets of town and were amazed to see chicken runs and horse pens right in town, nestled in among the manicured lawns and cactus gardens belonging to the cookie cutter homes.
While in town, I toured the native pottery factory and bought a couple pieces that called out to me. The pottery store owner was also a city council man and informed me that Blanding was right on the drug trade route and that they practically financed the city budget with the proceeds from seized drug dealers vehicles. He did say that the rest of the crime was theft resulting from someone walking into an unlocked home. He thought folks should probably lock their doors even though they do live in a fairly nice small town.
On a previous visit to Blanding we’d stopped at a small antique store and made a purchase so we stopped again today. I found a flower frog for 99 cents plus tax and spied a few other items that I’d like to have if the price was cheaper. One treasure that I coveted being a woven, lidded basket and another being the tiniest round milking stool.
We got gas and groceries and returned to ERV via another scenic route through the high elevation cedars.
We finally spotted a herd of mulies, looking very fit, on a hillside near the road.
We had seen their sign as well as that of a bear on the road today but no sign of the actual animals other than that until now.
Tomorrow we plan to get seriously into backcountry mode now that we’ve replenished our supplies and fuel.
Day Six, 5/1/09, Friday
We breakfasted on French toast (whole grain bread of course) and Canadian bacon with coffee. Supplies were loaded into Whitey for a multi-day drive-about and we were off! Jim showed me an area on the map that looked interesting and at our earliest convenience; we bailed off of the oil onto dirt.
We spotted a place called "Indian Village" on the map and in our attempt to find it, spotted this vibrant rock crawler:
Along our way North, we stopped to look at several mines. Not sure what type of mineral was mined there but they did not appear to be active.
We traversed over the mountains, in the Manti-LaSal National Forest and found several interesting side roads to travel, all rough and extremely unimproved. Lunch was sandwiches down a little trail near the creek, flanked by old growth forest. Jim commented that he wondered how the old trees had avoided the sawyer. He also counted tree rings on a piece of firewood laying near the fire pit and came up with about 300 years, and that was just on a tiny tree…nothing like the huge trees we parked among.
We climbed several thousand feet in elevation and the air grew noticeably colder. The road was really little more than a trail and appeared to have been traveled in less than desirable conditions, as there were ruts present. We topped out over 8,000 feet in a lovely little alpine meadow complete with pond.
From there, we continued on and stopped for a picture just before going down narrow switchbacks with hairpin corners.
We were fairly certain that the road would be impassable when wet. Little did we know how right our supposition was.
We stopped to admire the view of the Canyon lands as we progressed down and around the mountain, headed for Beef Basin and Ruin Village.
After many miles of bone jarring travel over slick rock, mixed with sandy terrain and washes, we run across a man who thought my wave meant we needed to talk to him. Luckily, he did think it too, as he was a wealth of information. He dissuaded us from attempting to travel into Canyon Lands NP due to terrain constraints (needing spotters and winches to go with your fat tired, slick rock crawling, high clearance rig for one). He explained that some of the features that lay between us and "good going" in the park were the "Silver Staircase" and "the elephant’s back" (AKA, elephant hill) and those were IF we could make it by "Pappy’s pasture". We assured him we had NO desire to travel in terrain like that. He also told us where the best ruins were to be viewed and his last bit of advice was this: "If it starts to rain, GET OUT!!! We parted ways with our friend from Colorado after learning of his previous "terrain imposed" stays post rain.
Next fellow we meet said the exact same thing to us: "If it starts to rain, GET OUT!!" Having just enough daylight left to view a ruin we headed off in the general direction of them, stopping first to view a potential campsite. Satisfied with the arrangements, we investigated a square granary before making camp.
Supper was pork steaks and asparagus and having had along day; we made up the bed in Whitey,. We secured our belongings onto the top of Whitey in case it did start to rain in the night. We hoped to make a quick getaway back up and over the mountains. We crawled in and passed a steaming mug of green tea back and forth while we reviewed the day and captured the many little beetle type bugs that were crawling about inside with us.
Only the moon was visible and the sky was a bit overcast. We weren’t overly concerned as the second man we’d talked to said that the lowlands didn’t get much precipitation, that the mountains usually got the rain. He was right about that…
Day Seven, 5/2/09, Saturday
We woke to a completely overcast sky and I washed up while boiling water for coffee. We decided to take off immediately to view more ruins before leaving and breakfast would come later down the road. A few sprinkles started to hit the windshield and we discussed leaving then but decided to look at just one more ruin before leaving since it wasn’t really raining.
We probably took about an hour total and enjoyed ourselves viewing the farmhouse ruin, (circa 11th or 12th century) before leaving the area.
We noticed that the other groups of campers had left, as their tracks were clearly visible in the damp sand. Jim commented that we might just follow them out, no matter where they were going.
As we retraced our steps over the bone jarring, rugged trails we were thankful that the soil was quite sandy. We hit a bump and I spilled coffee down the front of me and onto the lap top computer, which we were using to navigate with since the maps were not loaded onto the GPS. I noticed shortly thereafter that the mouse no longer worked. It seems that spilling coffee into the touch pad didn’t do it any good. I managed to get the map back up and after sopping up more coffee and saying a prayer, the mouse started to work again. I was relieved as many thoughts had raced through my mind of trying to find our way back out, in the rain, with nothing but an incomplete roadmap!
Soon the sprinkles turned to light rain and the soil turned to something akin to wet gumbo. This occurred while we were climbing the skinny little trail riddled with switchbacks and sheer drop offs!
To say that I was very afraid is a complete understatement. We had to climb back up the crooked, steep, winding road, following three sets of muddy ruts, all slipping and sliding in the wet "snot" that had become the trail. Jim "rode that white pony" (Whitey) for all she was worth, as we slipped and slid violently back and forth across the tiny trail. (Jim later commented that he was surprised at how fast Whitey could "swap ends"!)
All I could envision was slipping off the edge of the road and disappearing into the trees and boulders below, never to be found, until many years later. Jim would still be gripping the steering wheel with bleached white, bony fingers and I would still be clinging to the panic bar above my door with same. My heart rate was probably double what it normally is and Jim’s jaw was set as he whirled the steering wheel back and forth as fast as he could while shifting gears, trying his level best to keep us on the road and going forward.
We soon came to a junction, where we had been the day before and all three sets of muddy ruts ahead of us, turned down the other trail, on the north side of the ridge. We followed. I’m not sure if Jim could have turned out of the ruts to go the other way even if he’d wanted to. Now we were committed to riding the road clinging to the north side of the mountains and there were snow banks to contend with as well as the aforementioned
"Conditions from hell". I think at one point I may have commented on the seriousness of the advice the locals had given us and I continued to pray for sun, wind, traction, my life, a break in the rain, a chance to live to see another day, quick hands and sharp eyes for Jim and did I mention a chance to live to see another day?
Finally, after miles of terror, we started to notice the road drying up a tiny bit ahead of us. When it was safe to stop, Jim took a picture because the view off the side of the mountain and out over the valley was spectacular.
Soon the sun came out and the wind was blowing, drying things up a bit. We could see more incoming clouds and hoped to be down off the mountain before any more weather occurred in light of our recent hair-raising adventure. I saw a road on the map that looked like it followed along the creek and we crawled down to it. We came upon an old homestead, called "Wilson Ranch", where I cooked breakfast.
It tasted particularly good to both of us, perhaps because of what we had just experienced. While we didn’t even get a wheel off the edge of the road, there were times when we were headed toward it and I’ll never forget that feeling of cold, steely fear gripping my chest, drying my mouth. Jim said that his biggest fear was being stuck sideways in the road. Ha!
After lunch we continued on down the creek and came to a ford. Campers had built a dam with rocks and it had caused the water to pool and deepen. We debated turning around but instead; I donned sandals and opened up the dam, allowing the level of water to lower. I then waded the ford and determined it was safe to cross. (At this point, we were taking no chances…we were off the mountain and safe and we were keeping it that way.)
I looked at the map and commented that it appeared that the road went either across the creek many times, or maybe "in" the creek. We came to another ford and the road disappeared into the water!
Jim discerned a track, down creek and after some discussion, parked in the middle of cottonwood creek; we decided to try to follow the road in the water. The bottom was solid and gravelly and the water fairly shallow. We were hoping it would wash some of the mud off of Whitey and Jim said, "take a picture of this! It’s not every day you drive IN the creek!"
(After the fact, he mentioned that I should have taken pictures of our trek from hell but it wasn’t going to happen…I’d have had to let go of my death grips on the panic bar!)
We finally crawled back out of the creek, and I can honestly tell you that was an eerie feeling, to have the road be the creek! The sun was out but, clouds were looming and our plan was to head to pavement and eventually Erv. We could see a storm coming, dark clouds boiling about. Just after we hit the highway, a huge dust storm kicked up and we had to pull off to get pictures of it.
Shortly, came fat raindrops and several silly fools on bicycles. Neither of us could fathom the joy of riding in gale force winds, brown out dust storms, and stinging drops of rain, uphill. We did spot this scenic view and both thought it photo worthy.
We traveled on, stopping at Newspaper Rock to take a photo, as the sight is quite spectacular. The rain was pelting down and our stay was short.
We drove through Monticello and on to Blanding where we pulled in to fuel up. Just as we did so, the rain started to come down in buckets and we both felt ecstatic that we were safely off the mountain and on pavement. Lightning was pounding away in the storm and it became evident that the storm had produced snow at higher elevations, as well as what appeared to be hail along the highway. Again, thankful!!!
Back at Erv, we unloaded and cleaned up. I fixed chicken fried steaks, fried potatoes and stir-fried broccoli slaw with onions. Tasted pretty good…and did I mention that I was thankful to be alive and down off the mountain in one piece?
Day Eight, 5/3/09, Sunday
We ate and packed for a day’s outing. We turned out west onto the highway and went just a few hundred yards before turning north onto a dirt road. We toured about and Jim found a trail leading up the slick rock to the ridge top. Of course, we took it! The hill was quite steep but, we crawled over the rocks, stopping at times so I could get out and "rearrange the trail" to avoid high centering on large rocks. We made it nearly to the top and realizing that we had to go back down; I suggested that we walk the rest of the way.
The view from atop the canyon wall was spectacular and we noticed a trail winding along the bottom of the canyon, disappearing out of sight. After snapping a few pictures, we descended our rocky perch and made our way to another trail we saw on the East Side of the canyon we were in.
We noticed the narrow trail snaking it’s way up the side of the sheer mountainside and disappearing from sight. Jim suggested we try it, as the view from the top would be wondrous.
The entrance to the trail had a Trail riders sign posted, declaring it a level one, or difficult. This did not ease my mind, in light of our recent mountain scare but up we went, the road growing ever narrower as it clung to the side of the mountain, twisting and turning toward the top. Jim spotted another "neon lizard" out his window and got a few shots of it.
At one point, I suggested I get out and "scout" the rest of the trail before we embarked on it as I doubted we’d be able to turn around on it once committed. It would be difficult enough to turn around where we were currently stopped! Jim just turned the rig around right there (much to my relief) and we eased back down the way we had come.
From the bottom, I spotted a cave on the West Side of the canyon and we picked our way to it through the "old growth" sagebrush and sand dunes. Once at the base I tried to hike up the slick rock that flanked it but it was quite steep and appeared to be nowhere to access the cave from above. As I turned to come back down, I was startled by just how steep the climb had been. I noticed Jim climbing below me and told him to turn around, that it was too steep for us and when he turned around, he also was surprised by the angle of the hill below us. We reaffirmed what we’d both already come to know….we would not have made good cliff dwellers! (Note: the pictures do not show how steep the climb was)
Back down at Whitey, I decided to attempt crawling up the ravine bottom to the cave but again, only got so far before I decided that the trail was best left to mountain goats and lizards.
We retraced our route to the trail we’d seen in Arch Canyon but didn’t get far as there was a questionable creek crossing. We decided to leave the 12-mile Arch Canyon trail for another day. It is definitely on my "to do" list as I’m sure the drive along the creek in the canyon bottom would be quite memorable, quite possibly best done on a hot day as wading the creek to determine depth is one of my responsibilities.
Our next stop was a place we’d been before and was well worth revisiting. We hiked the canyon rims the rest of the day admiring the various ruins below and their amazing condition having been built so long ago.
I spotted this large lizard, sans tail, and Jim captured a shot of him clinging to his rock.
Worn out, we returned "home" for supper and sleep.
Day Nine, 5/4/09, Monday
Pancakes and ham steak were our breakfast and we "saddled up" our white "pony" for another day’s ride. Jim wanted to tour a road that encompassed the "Mormon trail" or "Emigrant Trail". We first hiked about admiring the remnants of ancient civilizations and then set off on our last day’s drive about.
I spotted a gravel road that rejoined the highway so we took the loop and enjoyed some of the forested lands up close. A person could spend years out here driving all the little back roads and trails and much of it is BLM or other public lands. Wonderful!
We found a shady spot next to the creek for lunch and I spotted some petroglyphs on a nearby rock.
After lunch we continued on back to the highway, jumping some mule deer in the woods. We came out onto the pavement at Salvation Knoll, a spot where 4 lost scouts became re-oriented after being lost in a blizzard one Christmas in the late 1800’s. Some area to be lost in, we thought.
After finding our turn off to the Emigrant Trail/Snow Flat Road, we began our many mile journey across sand dunes, slick rock, forest, crypto biotic crust, boulders blasted with dynamite to make a road and steep hills. It was a beautiful, lonesome ride even as bone jarring as it was. To think of the Mormon’s coming across the country we were driving through, in wagons was dumbfounding. I wouldn’t have wanted to be on that ride for anything. Just finding enough water must have been quite a challenge and then getting the wagons through must have been quite a feat. Jim suspects they were taken apart and toted around the tougher sections. Who knows? All that just to be able to have multiple wives? Not good judgment in my book. I can see why they shut down where they did though, after traveling some of that rugged, forlorn country, I’d have been tired of travel too!
We saw several beautiful blooms in our travels, such as this one.
Looking ahead on the Garmin maps loaded onto the computer, I could see that we were going to come to something named "The Twist". I began to fret about what it could possibly refer to and as long and rough as the road had been, wondered if we’d have to back track out of there, a thought we both dreaded. Especially since we’d never make it back to pavement before nightfall.
Thoughts of horrible, twisting, boulder strewn, steep trail ahead about had me ready to turn around! Jim’s sentiment was that we WERE NOT backtracking, that as long as he could go down whatever it was, we were going. As we started into "The Twist", we came upon parts of someone’s suspension, (not a good sign in my opinion). As we drove around the top of the canyon rim, on the slick rock and boulder strewn dirt trail, my apprehension grew, no doubt born of our vehicular "fear factor" a few days ago. We continued around the edge and then the road turned sharply, right back the way we’d come. We commented that if the trail didn’t get any worse than it was that we would be okay.
Around we went until we could see the road below us. No problem! Now, writing this a day later, I am amazed at how I was able to whip myself into a fearful frenzy of the unknown, just by reading a name on the map! I would not have made a good scout if this was to be my daily demeanor and…they had taken wagons over the route many years before, after all. Relieved, we took a picture to prove we’d made it through the twist and then we descended into the valley floor below us.
We continued to travel eastward, toward Comb Ridge Road, and our home away from home. We knew the road to Erv from there was good, having traveled it earlier in the week.
When we came close to the Comb Ridge road, we encountered Comb Wash, a deep bottomed, willow lined sandy wash. Following our GPS map, I instructed Jim to take what really was the road less traveled! Good thing we were in a short, small 4 wheel drive vehicle or we may have had trouble getting out of there! Of course Jim, always in the mood to "Baja" a little, rose to the occasion and drove us right around, up and out of the wash. Soon we were back on Comb Ridge Road and traveling North towards camp, when I spotted some ruins hiding on the cliff face.
As we stopped to glass them, I also noticed the moon, just peeking over the edge of Comb Ridge. A very picturesque setting, we thought.
Back at camp (some 20 miles of dirt trail later), I showered, only to discover that the greywater tank was full. Jim hadn’t planned on showering anyway so we didn’t worry about it. I cooked pork steak, red potatoes fried in olive oil and seasoned with smoked sea salt and wax beans for supper. We made up the bed and snuggled in to read a bit.
Day 10, 5/5/09, Tuesday
I woke with a dull headache, a remnant from yesterday that I thought I could sleep off. Since this was not the case, I popped some ibuprofen and opened my book back up. Lingering images from last night’s latest nightmare flitted through my consciousness. In reality, I knew we were safe and very near the highway but, in my dream we were winding, bumping and grinding our way through a huge, boulder strewn canyon, going ever down, unsure if we would ever make it out alive. It was ruggedly beautiful country but unsettling and horribly rough just the same. (I can only imagine what the head shrinkers would think of my crazy dreams!)
I followed the scary dream with the usual puzzling array of nonsensical dreams that usually occur. After reading a bit, I felt the headache slip away and we began our morning coffee preparation. Since we were nearly out of food and the tanks needed attention, we decided we’d best head for town. We packed up, hooked up Whitey and headed for Blanding.
In town, we stopped at a Trading post but it wasn’t open. From there we dumped our tanks and weeks worth of garbage and watered up for a total of $3! If you are ever in need of such services and are near Blanding, Utah, the Kam Park, south on the way out of town on the east side of the road, is the place to be.
A stop at the grocery store was next. I was pleasantly surprised to find "Zoom" cereal on the shelves. From there, it was off to find another trading post where I purchased a Zuni sun face ring for myself. The place had been owned by several generations of the same family and there were many museum quality pots (clay, woven reed and beaded), baskets, rugs, jewelry and more. Quite an interesting store and the proprietor, a woman pushing 70, was knowledgeable and willing to visit as well. She lamented the fact that her daughters have no interest in either her turquoise jewelry or her mother’s jewelry either.
After that was a stop at the visitor center and then a tour of town with the map. We’d look the areas over and write comments on the map for later use. Both Jim and I find Blanding to be an intriguing little town with all the roads, canyons, mountains and trails to explore. Between the tourist aspect and the prospects of the large new hospital opening up, there should always be work there.
We decided that we must start making our way back north today so after a late lunch of steak and eggs, we are headed north, toward Moab, Utah.
The bright green leaves on the cottonwood trees in the washes and creek bottoms are a startling contrast to the deep, rusty- red rock of the canyon walls. Such ruggedly beautiful country!
It looks like Moab is a bustling tourist town with signs for every kind of adventure possible crowding the road. Lance, was the name of that hostel you stayed at the Lazy Lizard? If so, I happened to notice the sign for it as we passed through town.
From Moab, we followed the river north through the canyon which certainly would not be a suitable road for any large motor home or even "tall" camper, with it’s narrow lanes, lack of shoulders and steep rock "ditches". The road had many 25-mph turns as well. Occasionally you could catch a glimpse of a mountain behind the canyon walls.
Eventually, we broke out on top into rolling prairie.
We got on I-70 and are traveling east toward Rifle, Colorado along the Colorado River and it’s various well-tended wineries, vineyards, fruit orchards and the like. It has been hot today, probably about 80 or even hotter. We did check the temp back in Blanding and it was 76. Due to the warmth, we’ve decided to stop around Rifle for the night. Hopefully we’ll find "just the right spot" to camp.
The oil boom is ongoing in the Battlement/Mesa area. You can hardly scan the skyline without seeing a drill rig or tank battery or pumping station. Everyone around here must have jobs and the ability to pay their housing mortgages.
Further east, up in the mountains, there is snow and what appears to be weather. I hope we are turning off before we get there! We came through enough snow to suit me on the way down.
Erv is running well, starting the best it ever has for sure. We found that we’ve had about all the climb the old girl can handle though, just today. We had planned on going over the Rockies, across Colorado; to Greeley to visit my sister and her husband but are glad we didn’t try it now. We’ll get together with them when we are on the same side of the Rockies.
We’ve hit road construction now, single lane traffic, and reduced speeds, a detour. Fortunately we are just out of Rifle about 7 miles. Will be interesting to see how they route us.
The moon is up, has been for several hours. Just about full, will be in a few days, it appears. Should be a beautiful night if it’s clear out.
Having decided to go on to Meeker, we are climbing steadily. Jim got a kick out of a sign that declared 60 mph corner ahead. It wouldn’t have been funny except for the fact that we are only going about 30 mph! Nearing the summit (elevation 7,400) top cruising speed in Erv is just a tad over 25 mph, in first gear and she’s pouring forth some black smoke. We are thankful that we didn’t try to go across the Rockies where many of the passes are over 11,000 feet. We probably would have had to unhook Whitey and I would have had to drive it or perhaps leave it hooked up and I would have to drive it to push!
We fueled in Meeker and just as we were pulling out of the gas station, the lights were all turned off. Guess we were the last customers of the day. The clerk was a friendly local who told us there was a park near the White River that we could camp at for free. I didn’t get great directions and we ended up nearly having to unhook Whitey at a dead end but Jim managed to drive Erv through a little ditch and avoided that process.
We finally found the park, leveled up and I fixed turkey burgers, black-eyed peas and salad for supper. We read a short while before sleep overtook us.
Day 11, 5/6/09, Wednesday
We woke to the sound of diesel engines. Trucks were backed up on the bridge at the river drawing up water. Pancakes and tofu sausage followed coffee. I tried the "batter blaster", a can of organic spray pancakes, I’d seen in the grocery store. It’s okay but not as good as homemade although it claims to be organic. The faux sausage was okay but not great.
We showered up and tried to stop in at the second hand store in Meeker but it was closed. I walked down the main street and stopped in the Meeker Hotel, a turn of the century building on the historic register that is full of world-class animal mounts. Any hunter should definitely swing through and look at the hotel. The lady at the desk offered to show me the rooms. She said they were all period as well. The hotel had hardwood floors and timber supports and railings. The hotel was quite a sight to see and I’m sure the rooms were just as unique. I tried to talk Jim into coming to see it but he declined, as he’d have had to walk the block from where we were parked.
We are now headed to Craig. I’m sure the second hand store here will be open.
Note, all the rivers and streams that we’ve encountered, even in Utah, have been running high and dirty. Also today, there have been quite a few magpies spotted as well as ducks, geese, and pelicans on the water. We saw one eagle on a road-kill deer carcass today too.
Upon arriving Craig, Colorado, we stopped at a second hand store along the highway. Everything was 50% on Wednesday so I ended up spending just over 10 bucks. I got a shirt, swim suit, leather hard sided purse (to use as a map bag) pair of sterling silver earrings, a Japanese hand painted porcelain dresser box, a silver plated flower frog, a lifetime supply of replacement plastic "lighted ornaments" for my ceramic Christmas tree that was missing several – in various colors, a youth cook book and a swinging wall mounted hanger.
I kept noticing the smell of raw diesel (I thought) yesterday but, Jim didn’t think Erv was leaking and he even checked it once and couldn’t see any signs of leakage. Today, I smelled it again and when Jim checked, found a hose leaking. We saw a Ford dealership so swung in to buy the hose but no luck. A one eyed man gave Jim directions to Napa Auto Parts but they turned out to be iffy. We did find a Checker’s and pulled into it. I threw out the sunshade for the windshield for Jim to lie on and he measured the hose. He’s now inside Checker’s auto parts attempting to purchase a replacement hose. He says he’ll replace it later, when the engine is cool.
No luck at Checkers so we are back on the road looking for the ever-elusive Napa store. After driving about town we still do not see Napa. Finally I spotted a Napa Service Center and we pulled in to inquire. Directions were given (real directions, I might add) and drove right to the store where a length of hose and 2 clamps were purchased. Next stop lunch. We ate in an old café called the "Golden Cavvy". For those of you who don’t know, a cavvy is a selection of the better horses for a cowboy (or cowgirl) to chose from, therefore a "Golden Cavvy" is really the cream of the crop. Jim had a hot beef sandwich with mashed potatoes and I had the "Cavvy Burger", a beef burger loaded with onion and green pepper, both were excellent.
From there, I browsed a western store and then went into a huge second hand store while Jim sat in the park on a bench. Since the store was so large, I motioned for him to come in and browse. We found a very unique white porcelain medical container, with a black rim. It had graduations on the inside and a tube that appeared to be made for attaching tubing of some sort to, near the bottom. We also found a deer, made out of the Montana clay marked "Yellowstone Park" and a ceramic flower frog, shaped like a spout less tea pot marked "Bo Kay Creations. I found a pair of cotton shorts with the lower rise waist that works so well for me since I am extremely short waisted. I found a pewter eggcup also. The store was laid out well and everything had its place, making it easy to browse. Nolee if you ever get to Craig, Colorado, stop at the Community Budget Center and shop the Vintage Rack. You’ll love it!
Next stop was a little antique store where we found several items. I got quite a few pair of earrings. They were in baggies, all for one price. I did find one pair that was a match to the bracelet I have of Grandma’s so I asked the proprietor to separate them from the rest of the items in the bag for me, which she did. The store was having a sale also and we got a discount of the other items we purchased which were: a trivet for sad irons, a teapot and a pair of Japanese lusterware salt and peppershakers.
Next stop was the museum and here again, I’ll tell you that this little museum has some world-class displays! I saw a bracelet almost exactly a duplicate of the one I’m wearing…that I was given by Bea Eldrige’s family for helping them.
The bit and spur section was pretty spectacular and many weapons were on display as well as Native American items. Chaps, saddles, horsehair and silver bridles, it was all there, even Cowgirl items. Bess, I sure thought of you as we went through looking at all the western items.
There was a saddle smith in Meeker, Colorado in the old days and I think we have a saddle made there. It runs in my mind that it was the one I bought at a yard sale for $3 too! Will have to check on that when we get home. We also have the 1898 civil war bit like the one in the museum. It’s so fun to see the items you own in museums and shops.
We made our donation to the museum and decided that we’d best get back on the road since we’d come only 43 miles so far today. We are heading for Rawlings, Wyoming again with the hopes that there will be no weather like the storm we were in there on our way south!
We are cruising along in what appears to be arid land or high desert. Lots of sagebrush and sparse grass flanked by mountains, as far as the eye can see. Back down the road a bit; we saw a line of sheep wagons parked, side-by-side. There were so many it looked like a "used sheep wagon lot"! Those folks must have many bands of sheep to warrant all those sheep wagons.
Just into Wyoming, in Baggs, we are into road construction. We are sitting stopped in a line of vehicles waiting our turn to travel the one lane road. The other lane is being paved and the hot mix trucks of course are being given right of way over general traffic, such as us. The road will sure be nice and smooth when done!
We are seeing large numbers of antelope. We have seen elk and mule deer as well. Nothing like the numbers of antelope we are seeing though. I think Wyoming is known for it’s large numbers.
We’ve been bucking a stiff crosswind for miles. Jim is pleased to know that it will become a tail wind when we enter the interstate and head east to Rawlins.
We noticed large numbers of trucks at the Flying J in Rawlins on the way south and today there are many of them on the road again. Since I-80 is a main East –West mode of travel, it’s not wonder.
We are fueling at Flying J in Rawlins. This may be it for today.
Day 12, 5/7/09, Thursday
We parked by a very large abandoned building, kind of down in a valley in Rawlins but still the wind howled. Just after midnight, I woke to the sound of a vehicle, seemingly, right outside Erv. We looked and found two vehicles parked, motors running. Probably folks up to no good although the only thing they did to bother us was drive close too us and wake us up.
I fixed the last of the "batter blaster" pancakes and bacon for Jim and fried myself an egg. We had spotted a second hand store last night and went to it after getting cleaned up. I got several pair of vintage earrings, a pair of Capri pants, a small pot with lid for camping and a vintage address book (unused) with floral prints on every other page from the Museum of Modern Art Collection. I also got an unusual hard sided glasses case and a very long apron. My total was $15.64 with tax and they couldn’t break a hundred dollar bill. I also had $14 but the younger female employee insisted I go get change and come back. Instead, I informed her that I would put back $1.64 worth of merchandise, as going to get change would not be convenient for me. She just shrugged. The elderly cashier bagged all the items I’d selected and told me matter-of-factly that they needed to get rid of stuff and to just take it, to which I agreed. I thanked her and departed out into the high winds of Wyoming.
Now, we are headed east again on I-80, surrounded by trucks whizzing along in both directions. The very lifeblood of our economy (and that of many hardworking Chinese, Taiwanese, Korean, Mexican and other workers) is being hauled to and fro by weary truckers.
Between Walcott and Medicine Bow, Wyoming, we came upon a sizeable wind farm.
Seems like there should be more of them as hard as the wind blows here. Farther down the road and off to the south, we see another, even larger, wind farm. I sure like to see greener options for power in action. Of course just a bit back down the road, we did see a large coalmine in operation, no doubt fueling some power plant here in the U.S. (Hopefully going to a power plant with effective scrubbers in operation to reduce pollution emissions).
We toured Medicine Bow, home of "The Virginian". There was a neat old hotel there, still functional, also named "The Virginian".
From there we traveled north to Casper. We are still seeing large numbers of antelope all along the road. In Shirley Basin, we stopped to take pictures of the mine signs. Jim has cousins who worked for Pathfinder years ago and he wondered if it wasn’t here that John and Jay were employed.
At Shirley Rim rest stop I cooked beefsteaks, fried potatoes and we had sliced tomato as a side. We are back on the road again and I again smell the diesel. The leak had quit last night but has apparently resumed. Will report more on that later.
In Casper, we parked at the new Wal-Mart on the west end of town and unhooked Whitey. I had a list of second hand stores along from a previous visit to Casper and we punched the locations into the computer. We stopped at 3 stores before they closed up for the day and found several pair of jeans and two jackets for Jim. I also found two tea jars, one with Asian motif and the other hand made ceramic. Penny and Liping, you’ll never guess what else I found! A little blue hand crank flashlight, just like the ones we got in China except it’s got two bulbs instead of three. Jim has claimed it for his own and is quite pleased. I also got a pin and several pair of earrings.
After shopping the thrift shops, we went back to Wal-Mart and found Jim a new pair of tennis shoes since his had sprouted a hole in the side and the tread was starting to fall off. We also found a pair of light hiking boots for him to wear out hiking, hopefully to prevent any ankle injuries such as the terrible sprain he suffered last year cat fishing. We also looked for a decent striker to light the propane stoves with but all they had was the disposable kind that only works in hot weather and that has us frustrated. We’ll have to go to a big hardware store and find a couple of the good ones, one to put in Erv and one for our camping kit to use in Whitey.
We were fairly tuckered out by now and Jim suggested that we "dine out". We got a few pieces of chicken and a handful of the potato wedges and headed back to Erv. I had salad with my chicken and it hit the spot. We never eat fried chicken unless we are traveling so it does get to tasting pretty good. After dinner we tried the TV for the first time since we left home. Since it was so windy, the signal was "splotchy" making the sound and picture come in only part of the time. Later in the evening when the wind went down a little it improved drastically.
Day 13, 5/8/09, Friday
We slept well and I got up, dressed and went right into the store to pick up some staples that I need at home. I don’t like fighting the crowds and have found that going early helps a lot. I got a new pillow to replace my old "mite sack" (as Jim calls it) that I sleep on in Erv. In its day, my old down pillow was a dandy but now is quite flat and leaves a lot to be desired. I’m planning to will it to Lukie when we get home and I’m sure he’ll enjoy sleeping on it out in the garage.
We hooked up Whitey, negotiated the traffic (which we don’t love at all when towing) and headed north on the interstate. 13 days on the road today and it sure has been wonderful. It will be good to be home though. Several times during our trip I’ve thought of our Danish relatives, the Svenstrup’s, and their yearlong, world tour in their VW van. I am simultaneously envious and in awe of their moxie in even planning such a trip, let alone undertaking it. What an experience! I can only imagine the logistics of shipping your vehicle across the oceans and backpacking about while waiting for its arrival in your next country of choice. And, the fact that they drove from the west Coast to Wolf Point, MT, just to see what had become of their relative who emigrated there, just astounds me! I now wonder if everyday life back in Denmark seems mundane to them?
The hills of the prairie are lush and green looking. We are seeing quite a few antelope still. After exiting the interstate and heading east toward Edgerton and Midwest, we came upon quite an oilfield. Wells and power lines are everywhere you look. The Salt Creek Oilfield is apparently alive and well.
Next stop, Gillette, Wyoming. Both of Jim’s girls, Tammi and Tina, live here. We stopped at Tammi and Joe’s house where we also saw Tina and grandson Jordan.
We also saw granddaughters Shayna and Tristin and her kids, Alexis and Treyten, and Tristin’s friend, Shane. We had a good visit and enjoyed seeing the great grand kids, one of whom we’d never met. They are busy, active little ones!
Day, 14, 5/9/09, Saturday
I rose early to yard sale. I had previously had some luck in Gillette and left Jim to rest since we had been up late. I found a porcelain coffee set, several pieces of vintage jewelry, a salt and pepper set, several books to replenish our reading supply in Erv, a collection of kid leather vintage woman’s gloves and glove box, a few shirts for myself, some puzzles and a jewel box for the great grand kids and a flower press that I’ll probably send to Jan or Marla or perhaps Aunt Helen. I had a time of it with the freebie map I had and was more successful after I stopped and got a decent map. I went to most all of the advertised sales and some that weren’t. One sale in particular had a lot of neat items but was priced at antique store prices so I didn’t buy much.
Back at Tammi’s, Tina and Jordan came over and we visited a bit more. They left and then James, Tammi’s youngest, came over to prepare for prom. After pictures, James left to get his date and when they returned, we took more pictures of the dashing couple.
Following that, it was time to leave so we hooked Whitey back up and pointed Erv toward Wolf Point. The sky is clear and the moon is full. It will be good driving for a while. The deer are thick in the Broadus area so that will bear watching. Jim went back to sleep after I left this morning. He says he could drive home and may. I’m exhausted so we’ll see.
At the junction about 3 miles out of Broadus, we stopped at the stop sign and when we did, I noticed a "poof" of something coming out from in front of us. What it reminded me of was the "poof" you get when you start a large engine parked over fine, silty, dusty soil. I asked Jim what happened and his reply was that he didn’t know.
Once in Broadus, we pulled over and Jim decided to check the vehicles over. He found that we were low on and leaking antifreeze. When I saw the streak of fluid on the pavement behind Erv and Whitey, my first thought was diesel fuel even though I had not smelled it. Jim carefully checked things over but, with a flashlight in the dark, its pretty hard to tell what is what. We decided to spend the night and see what we might in the morning.
Day 15, Sunday, May 10, 2009
Jim dressed and went out to check on our coolant leak. Nothing was obvious so he filled the radiator back up with fluids and decided that we’d drive a few miles and check things over again. We may just have to go home. Nothing is open today to get any parts, even if we did know what parts to get. Jim supposes that he will most likely pull the radiator and start from there and work "up" to correct our problem.
The sun is shining sweetly today and there is nary a breath of wind. The rolling hills, dotted with pine trees, are carpeted in green grass and we are seeing deer and antelope out grazing, among the domestic animals. I spied a large bird on the shoulder of the highway and said, "rooster" (meaning pheasant)? Jim’s reply was, "Turkey"! It was a large wild turkey picking gravel. That’s not something you see every day along the highway.
We just encountered what appear to be the contents of a woolsack, lying along the road. For those of you unfamiliar, a woolsack is a huge bag that raw wool is stuffed into when shearing sheep. I’m not sure how much wool is worth these days but I’m sure someone will be sad due to the loss. It was A LOT of wool, in other words.
We stopped and Jim checked the radiator. He added more fluid and I smelled the diesel again. We are apparently leaking both. Will be good to be home where Jim has his tools and the time to properly attend to these troubles.
We are both hungry so I will fix steak, eggs and English muffin for breakfast here in a mile or two. Jim will no doubt check the fluid levels while I cook. I hope that the repair is not something serious.
After breakfast, it will be on to Circle, where I will get groceries. I cleaned the refrigerator at home before we left and it is quite empty. I’ll need to restock it, as I have to make lunch out of there for tomorrow’s workday.
After that, it’s getting two weeks worth of mail out of the mail box and then home to unload. I have a large pile of laundry that needs attention, here in the camper.
It will be good to be home. I wonder if Lukie will have disappeared, as is his normal when we vacation?
Final note, one week later, May 16, 2009, Saturday.
The cat was gone when we arrived home.
Erv is unloaded but we have yet to start any repairs. She is parked in her place of honor in the garage and Whitey waits unloading.
I have managed to do up all 6 loads of laundry that we’d amassed.
It’s good to be home.