Sunday, August 1, 2021

We're Glad that We Changed Our Direction (Again)!

Our plan was to stay one night at Saratoga Lake, and then head straight west down Interstate 80 to Rock Springs, Wyoming the next morning. But our plans often change based on the weather, advice we get, and natural phenomenon. Yesterday, all three impacted our decision-making. As we looked back towards the mountains that we just left, we could barely see their outlines because of the smoke that has blown here from the wild fires in the west. We decided that we didn't need to be in any hurry to head straight west. (Also we don't really want to stay here very long because the mosquitoes are vicious. Those specks in the picture below are not birds, they are mosquitoes buzzing in front of the camera.) The smoke and mosquioes are natural phenomenon that might change the trajectory of our travel.

We took some pictures of Saratoga Lake last night, including a little local wildlife on the water.

There were small waves on the lake last night, but the weather forecast called for big waves the next day. It would be a terrible day for driving a motor home across the plains of Wyoming. So we made the decision to stay an extra day in Saratoga. When the winds blew 40 miles per hour with gusts to 50, it rocked the motor home in our camp site. We were certainly glad that we weren't on the highway fighting those winds. It's an example of the weather changing the timing of our travel.

Twice yesterday, someone mentioned that Lander, Wyoming, was one of their favorite places. It happened when we were talking to hikers at South Gap Lake, and again when we were talking to locals at the hot springs. But Landers would take us in an entirely different direction than we had planned. So in the extra day of sitting out the wind, we planned a whole new direction to travel based on the local advice we'd been given. The next day we then headed north on Highway 287 toward Lander--a town we didn't even know existed until two days ago. It was a two-and-a-half-hour trip through 165 miles of sage brush.

We're so glad we made the decision to stay put during the windy day, because this route is already known for "strong wind possible."

We also recognize that this route gets lots of snow in the winter. We saw around 165 miles of these wooden snow fences on the side of the highway.

The drive today also gets the auspicious prize for having the most expensive diesel fill-up since we bought the motor home almost seven years ago. At $3.60 per gallon, it was actually the cheapest diesel we saw today. We're afraid that this situation isn't going to get any better.

We got checked into The Twin Pines RV Park outside of Lander around noon. This is our first full-hook-up site in a while, so we had lots of laundry to do. But we also had places to see in this interesting area that everyone says we need to visit. So this afternoon we took off on a loop drive through Red Canyon.

This place comes by its name honestly, as everything in Red Canyon is red--the hills, the road, and the rocks.

The last part of this red road runs through the Red Canyon Wildlife Habitat Management Area. We had our eyes peeled, but the only wildlife we found was this single mule deer, with those huge ears sticking up over the tall grass.

Our next stop is Wild Iris, and our map described it as a "climbing crag on Limestone Mountain." After several miles driving down the bumpy gravel road, we arrived at the rock walls that make this place famous among rock climbers.

We're taking pictures in these cracks and crevices, but we don't have the equipment or knowledge to climb to the top.

We walked along the rock face until we found people that did have the equipment and knowledge. It was fun to look at these tall walls and see the tiny climbers make their way all the way to the top. Can you see her at the upper ledge?

There were squeals of delight when this climber touched that top rock surface.

We stopped and watched three different climbers in three different locations . . .

and it just so happened that all three were women. We also noticed that all three of the people holding the safety rope at the bottom of the wall were men. We struck up a conversation with two guys that were heading out to climb, and they took the time to explain the procedures and terminology and share some of their experiences. We meet some of the nicest people in our travels! They also told us that Wild Iris is a world-class place to climb, and the International Climber's Festival will be hosted here next weekend. People from all over the world will be climbing at Wild Iris in a few days.

Our last stop of the day was at the tiny historic town of South Pass City.

This is a collection of historic old buildings that makes up a Wyoming State Historic Site. Today they are celebrating their annual fund-raiser--Gold Rush Days. So the buildings are decked out in red, white, and blue; and the wagon and stage coach are waiting for visitors.

We're sad to say that we arrived when things were closing for the day. A few kids were still panning for gold in the stream that runs through town, but we missed the last anvil launch of the day. Nobody wants to miss a spectacle like an anvil launch!

We did manage to buy a piece of cherry pie before the bake sale closed up for the day.

We ate it while watching an inning of the old-fashioned baseball game that was taking place at the end of Main Street.

The left fielder was out in the sage brush close to the log cabin (and not far from the outhouse). 

The players are wearing uniforms and using equipment reminiscent of an earlier time. Check out how small that baseball mitt is.

The cowboys were calling it a day, and all the volunteers from the festival looked tired. But we were glad we got a sampling of the fun before we headed back to Lander.

As we looped back on the faster route via the highway, we could look down on the red roads of Red Canyon.

We are in a hurry, because Mark read that the Gillygirls are performing in the downtown park in Lander this evening. No, we've never heard of them before, but the music on their web site sounded good. It also intrigued us that these four are sisters--two sets of twins! We really enjoyed the show, and they are all exceptional musicians!

The two girls in the middle are twin 15-year-olds, and the two on the ends are twin 17-year-olds. But their story is even more interesting. When Mr. and Mrs. Gilly couldn't have children, they looked into adopting. They actually adopted cryogenically frozen embryos through the "snowflake" program. So embryos were implanted and Mrs. Gilly carried the first set of twins to full-term. They adopted more frozen embryos two years later, and she gave birth to another set of twins. They have an amazing story, and we enjoyed meeting the whole family. By the end of the concert in the park, we were sitting between their Mother and Grandmother, and spent the entire intermission talking to their Dad. What a great family!

We meet such wonderful people on our journeys! We enjoyed the Gillygirls so much that we're meeting them tomorrow morning at the church in Lander where they are helping with the worship service. Just yesterday we were planning to be in Rocksprings, Wyoming, and today we are in Lander driving the Red Canyon and listening to the Gillygirls. Sometimes we are amazed at how our plans change, and we find ourselves in the most interesting places. 

Saturday, July 31, 2021

A Day of Blood, Sweat, and Tears

All our lives, we have heard the phrase "blood, sweat, and tears." It means giving your all and trying your best to accomplish something. We're not sure if we can say that we tried our best today, but we did experience a little tears, sweat and blood.

For the last three blogs, we've been raving about this wonderful campground we've found in the Snowy Mountain Range of Wyoming. We've talked about the pristine lakes that we can walk to . . .

and the myriad of great hikes that literally start right at our doorstep. Why wouldn't we just stay here forever?

There are actually two reasons we must leave. One is that we have no cell phone service. Even with the cell booster, the only way to even send out a text is to climb to the top of the motor home--and that doesn't always work.

The other problem is that we have no electrical hook-ups, and our residential refrigerator is an electric hog. Even running the generator for an hour two times each day, it runs down our house batteries quickly. By the third day, our old batteries are needing some shore power. 

So Denisa will shed a little tear that after only three nights, it looks like it is time to leave Sugarloaf Campground. But before we leave, we have one more hike.

As we're starting on our hike to the Gap Lakes, we see more skiers starting their hike to Medicine Bow Peak. This is the second time we have seen hikers with ski gear so they can ski down the back side of the mountain after they hike to the top.

The yellow alpine lilies are still in bloom. This is such a special place!

This morning's hike is to the Gap Lakes, and it only took a 1-mile hike to get to the leading edge of South Gap Lake.

We have wandered into another of God's wonders!

Our hike took us the entire length of South Gap, and then the trail disappears into that pile of boulders. We must pick our way through those boulders to continue on to . . .

North Gap Lake on the other side of the rocky ridge.

We sat and enjoyed the lake and the blue skies, contemplating if we would go further. This trail continues with a chain of links sprinkled over this mountain valley.

But to go any further means picking our way across a giant boulder field. You can barely see the two people working their way across those boulders on the bottom left hand side of the picture below.

After watching them struggle with the rocks, Denisa decided that North Gap Lake was a good destination, and we headed back towards the motor home.

Since this was now going to be a pretty short hike, we had time to play in the snow on the way back.

We had noticed this big patch of snow with an interesting blue crack, and Mark wanted to check it out.

He hiked onto the highest section of the snowbank, and the snow is still surprisingly hard even in July.

From there he could peer down into the crevice to see that bright blue color that is always fun to find.

He even talked Denisa into climbing aboard for some interesting views as well.

This was another great hike that we could start right from our doorstep. We will shed a few TEARS that we must leave such a beautiful cool place in the middle of the summer heat! When we were ready to pull out of our favorite RV camping site, we had people waiting to pull in. This is a popular place!

From our campground at 10,500 feet in elevation, we drove down and down and down. We stopped at another first-come-first-served campground at Saratoga Lake, just 40 miles down the highway. But at an elevation of 6,792 feet, it's hot down here. There certainly isn't a line of people waiting for a camp site. But we are thankful to have a good phone signal and 50-amp electrical service (that will make our refrigerator and batteries happy).

Saratoga, Wyoming is most famous for its Hobo Mineral Hot Springs, so we headed there in the evening. We thought some warm water therapy might be good for the muscles we have been using to hike and kayak the last few days. We started at the medium-hot-springs.

Then we tried the hotter spring pool, and this one made us SWEAT! We found that the further we could get from the inlet of the hot spring water, the less hot it was. While we've seen hot springs that charge as much as $25 per person to swim in the warm water, this place is totally free!

Where the hot water comes directly from the springs is a rock tub that the locals named, "the lobster pot." Denisa tried to get in just to try it, but all her survival instincts kicked in and she only touched it with her toes. It was so hot it made  you sweat just sitting beside it.

Just below the pools, the North Platte River runs through town. It was a lovely natural place to enjoy the water this evening.

The hot water from the springs also filters into the river, and people have made natural rock barriers that trap different amounts of the hot water. There is an infinite number of hot spring temperature options within the rock circles that line the river.

After showers at the Hobo Hot Springs bath house, we drove through the quaint town of Saratoga, Wyoming. You know it is a little town, when a doe and her fawn feel comfortable walking down the street too.

As we headed back to our camp site at the lake, we noticed that it might be a nice sunset. The wind was calm and Denisa walked down to the water to get a picture of the sun setting over the water. That's when she found out how bad the mosquitoes were at Saratoga Lake. She was swarmed, and made a generous BLOOD donation to get this picture.

So this ends another varied day in the life of two wanderers. It's a bit of a stretch, but we had tears (from leaving our best campground ever), sweat (from the hot springs) and blood (from the swarms of mosquitoes). We gave it our all and tried our best to accomplish another good day of wandering His wonders.