Journal and photos of our travels in the West.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Snowy Range, Wyoming

(Note: remember that you can see a larger version of each image by clicking on it. Then, just click on your browser's "back" button to view the blog again. )

(Jack) Part of the Medicine Bow Range in southern Wyoming, the Snowies are a great little mountain range, because you can drive right up to the high country. My dad first took us to these mountains in June, 1962. What I remember from that time is driving up a curvy road out of Centennial, Wyoming into a landscape of icy lakes, rock, and clouds.

Yesterday, Nancy and I parked by the road near a snowbank at 11,000 feet and hiked up through the snowfields and meadows.

The plains below 8000 feet are already brown because of the severe drought, but the mountains received 130% of their normal winter moisture, so there are plenty of green, flowery meadows.

The alpine lakes still have plenty of ice and snow, but the anglers are already out, catching brookies, rainbow, and the occasional cutthroat trout. Makes me want to take up fly fishing again, but, considering the cost of equipment and licenses, perhaps I would be better off just taking pictures of 'em!

We hike a trail between the peaks: Medicine Bow Peak, at over 12,000 feet, is the highest in this range. the trail is still flooded in several places from runoff, snow-covered in others. Fortunately I am wearing hiking sandals, so I just go squishing through. The snow is a bit chilly, however.

These mountains are built of hard, competent rock. Not the young granite of the Sierra, nor the ancient, iron-tinted sedimentary rock of Glacier, these mountains are mainly a metamorphosed form of sandstone called precambrian quartzite, and it is even older than the rocks of the other two ranges. (Over 2 billion yrs.)

The colors of the rock run from pink, to white, and shades of green. One entire mountain looks as though it is built of a light, apple green rock of a shade similar to jade. Most of the mountain tops are composed of the whiter quartzite, hence the name, "Snowy".

Nancy has completely fallen in love with these mountains. She stops every few hundred yards to sit and marvel at the scenery. I realize that she is helping me to slow down; my habit is to hike to the top- of-wherever to see what is there. I miss a lot along the way.
In the past, when alone, I might drive up to the Snowies to check out the rocks, then on up to the Bighorns to see if the fields of lupines are blooming, then over to the Winds for a get the idea. Nancy's task in slowing me down is formidable; perhaps she needs to clock me upside the head with a chunk of precambrian quartzite!

Monday, June 26, 2006

6/26 Nancy: Cheyenne, Wyoming.
We drove through Nebraska today, and it was beautiful. Somehow we hit perfect weather, high of 80, not humid; the corn was intense green which is still a miracle for us New Mexicans. I think it's a big part of the reason we're on this trip; to get some green in our eyeballs. Our favorite stop today was this huge lake near southwestern Nebraska called Lake McConaughy. Oh, what a treat, a wonderful swimming lake with pristine white sand beaches mile after mile. Unfortunately we'd already booked this room at the Super 8 in Cheyenne, so we couldn't stay, but we sure wanted to. We swam and swam, walked and ran a lot, then drove on to Cheyenne. Tomorrow we hit the Sierra Trading Post - the real live one, not the website, then a little mountain time.

I-80 W near North Platte, NE. (Jack)
I've driven through Lincoln 2-3 times since moving away when I was 17. Leaving Lincoln at that age felt good...I was ready to move on. But this visit has been the best. I am most impressed by how much the town has changed for the better. It was good to see some of the old neighborhoods in the company of my sister and mother, and recall sweet times together.

Understand, mine was the kind of mom who would "call the cow" if you didn't drink your milk. she would pick up the phone and start dialing, and Pat and I would gulp down our milk, even though we sort of knew it was a game. Or she would drive us to the outskirts of town on a July evening to watch heat lightning. I remember one April Fools' day when she put chocolate icing on squares of sponge she had cut up, calling it "sponge cake".

We also visited my mom's hometown, Fairbury, NE. Not so prosperous as Lincoln; most storferonts boarded up, bricks falling off the fronts of some buildings. Only the county courthouse is maintained. But mom's stories are priceless..she was one of the town rowdies, I think. I see the tradition continuing with my daughter!

Although fun loving, mom has by no means been unwise; for example, she married my dad.

-farther along the road-

Visiting this sod house replica reminds me of my (Great-great)Aunt Cora's homestead in western Nebr. If a person lived on the land for a year the government gave them the land. So uncle Jack stayed in town to keep the business going and she lived there alone. Aunt Cora kept a rifle handy to shoot rattlers and scare away the Indians. They would walk right into the house and help themselves to food.
Aunt Cora learned that her niece, my grandmother, Lola, was being treated badly by the evil Aunt Ella, so she rescued her. Cora brought Lola home to her soddie and
made some cute clothes for her. They went to barn dances where Lola was the belle of the ball because she danced wonderfully. (Also, aunt Cora had sewed a perfect figure into the

Sunday, June 25, 2006

June 25
Lincoln, Nebraska

(Jack): Approaching Lincoln from across the prairie, the first thing you notice is the state capitol building. Atop the gold-domed tower is "The Sower", a statue of a farmer tossing his seed to the prairies.

Lincoln has prospered in the years since I moved away. It has maintained its downtown area in spite of many suburban malls, and the historic Haymarket district has been revitalized. Of course, it helps to have the University of Nebraska right next to downtown.

(Nancy): Lincoln is the quintessential small midwestern city, full of trees, parks, and families. It's been such a great experience, looking at this town through the eyes of the quintessential small midwestern family from the 1950's and 60's. Those Arnold kids, Pat and Jack, had a great childhood here. Their dad was on an entrepeneurial path that led them to progressively nicer neighborhoods and bigger houses. Their mom was a full-time mom, and a great one. The last house they lived in here is a beauty that Harold designed and general contracted himself in 1954. A block from school, right on the edge of what was then the wilderness, and which is now an endless bike and walking path through the city and out to the farmlands. It's gorgeous. The kids played out there when it was the railroad track. It seems to me the perfect blend of city and nature, and does help explain why both of them are smart and sophisticated as well as nature-loving now. The other night Jack and I walked out that trail at 11 pm, in the balmy summer night, and the whole place was lit up with a thousand tiny shooting stars out there in the dark: fireflies! lightening bugs! I was enchanted, being a western girl deprived of them. In Minnesota I'd only seen them a few times; but here in Nebraska they are thriving now, and I'm in love. Like sparkly Christmas lights in the dark. I didn't know there could be so many. Some were so bright they lit up the branches and the sidewalk with their flash.
We went back to find them again last night but the evening was colder and perhaps that's why there weren't very many; or as Pat says maybe they'd already found their true love and were bunked up at the Firefly Holiday Inn. We listened for heavy breathing....

The family living in the house now let us come in and look around. Bless their hearts; we were just driving around and gawking at it, and instead of thinking we were ready to rob them, he gave us a big yet questioning smile, we told him the reason for our interest, and soon we were yakking with them for almost an hour. Invaded their precious Saturday, delayed their lunch, showed up out of the blue; they were so gracious. What a treat for all of us; Ruth, Pat and Jack got to see the house again after 40 years, I got to see the home and the setting I'd heard so much about, Randy and Lisa got to connect with the original owners/builders. So fun to see every room and hear all the memories. It's a great house, 5 bedrooms on a huge grassy lot like a park, really nice layout that was good then and is now, very well-built and solid. The renovations done by the previous guy (who cried when he sold it, they told us) were done beautifully. A great house on the Firefly Trail! We all wished Harold were with us, but his spirit was strong nevertheless. I know he was the kind of man who did things right, for the long run. I think he'd be glad that his accomplishments with that and all of his houses, are living on and sheltering more and more families. Lisa and Randy and their 4 kids were sweethearts and we're so thankful they opened their home to us.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

June 22


We looked for the most direct route between Santa Fe and Lincoln, Nebraska, and decided on US 56 from Springer, NM through the Oklahoma panhandle and through Kansas. turns out we have been following the Santa Fe Trail most of the way.

As soon as we crossed into Oklahoma we saw them: huge, lumbering thunderstorms. We spent the rest of the day's drive avoiding hail, high winds, torrential rains, and tornadoes on either side of us, finally ending up last night in Dodge City, Kansas.

Today, we continued our trip through Kansas and north into Nebraska, stopping along the way to take in bits of history, including a visit to Fort Larned, Kansas. Fort Larned was established to protect the Santa Fe Trail from the locals, who, understandably, were pretty upset about all the riffraff coming into their country along the Trail. the Fort is pretty well preserved, including an acumulation of graffiti on the soft sandstone walls.
At the fort we met a couple from Tasmania who are biking the Transamerica trail from Oregon to Virginia. They average around 80 miles per day, and have encountered all kinds of weather, including the storms we drove through, as well as 100+ degree heat and 4 feet of snow.

Monday, June 19, 2006

June 19, 2006

We gave away a lot of our stuff, sold our house, and moved to a very small house. I call it our storage locker with a view. Our emotions alternate between bourgeois crisis (we made a mistake..we miss our pretty house!) to feeling as though we haven't jettisoned enough.

Nancy quit her job; today is her first jobless monday in many years. We are cancelling the paper, garbage, phone, etc. etc. Interesting how much it takes to run a household.

In two days we will continue the walkabout we started last October, with the difference that there is no end date planned. Interestingly, we will begin by driving to the town where I grew up, meeting my mother and sister there for some good old-fashioned reminiscing.

I cannot believe we are actually doing this.