Journal and photos of our travels in the West.

Sunday, July 30, 2006

July 29, 2006: Libby Flats

We’ve set up camp on the flats below the peaks of the Medicine Bow range. In front of camp is a view of the peaks, a couple of miles distant, still with a fair amount of snow; behind our camp is a lateral moraine that is composed of little hills and ponds. The hills are piles of quartzite boulders and chunks of some very old, tan sandstone covered with bright orange and green lichens. Some of the ponds are homes for frogs and tadpoles; all of them have footprints around them from elk, deer, and the little pikas that watch our coming and going from the tops of the hills. The flats are open meadow, but scattered about are very decayed old trunks that are the remnants of a forest that once grew here. The occasional patches of fireweed suggest that the forest burned, perhaps around the time of Lewis and Clark.

I wander among the round boulders, noting how thousands of years of freezing and thawing have caused the larger ones to break up in interesting ways. Some are broken in three or four pieces, while others have spalled in layers, like an onion.

I am thinking about a conversation I had yesterday with a ranger. I had mentioned that our plans are to eventually drive north, from Rawlins to Lander, across the Great Divide Basin. Last time I crossed the Basin, via Oregon Buttes Road, I saw a number of wild horses. I mentioned this to the ranger, noting that the horses occasionally loitered near some of the many gas wells in the Basin. I asked her about the on-going controversy between ranchers and oilmen, focusing on the lowering water tables apparently caused by pumping out gas.

“It’s gotten a lot nastier since you were here several years ago,” She said. “No dialogue any more. It used to be that they didn’t drill or do any exploration during the winter, during the elk migrations. At a public a meeting few weeks ago they informed a group of ranchers that they had the mineral rights and would do ‘whatever they want, whenever they want.’”

“Of course,” she noted, “you know who is in charge now!” We both knew to which Wyoming politician she referred.

I am sitting on a comfortable rock, atop the highest of the little hills, staring absently at the mountains, seeing shapes in the snowfields. The one that looks like a man with outstretched arms, which I photographed for an earlier blog entry, is still there, his left arm now mostly gone. I imagine the great river of ice that once flowed between where I sit and the distant peaks. Then I see our screen tent, bounding across the meadow with the breeze like a beach ball at a rock concert. I cover the ¼ mile between it and me in fairly good time, considering the altitude, and haul it back to the campsite. Still a few things to learn about making camp.

Friday, July 28, 2006

(jack) We returned to the Snowy Range to do some serious hiking. Made it to the top of Medicine Bow Peak (over 12,000 feet). We camped for two nights in Sugarloaf CG, which is where I used to go with the kids. It's gotten pretty fixed up now, and is full of squalling brats, RV's with generators, and people cruising all day looking for campsites. enough. Last night we found a place to boondock away from the yayhoos, and are much happier.
On the way down from our hike, we both realized that today is our 8th anniversary! What a great way to celebrate. And, I have to once again extol the beauty of the rocks in these moutains..they look like candy. Here is a nice green one.

and here's a heart-shaped rock for you know who! (sorry, it was too big and heavy to carry down the mountain)

later, we treated ourselves to lunch at the Friendly Store Cafe in Centennial, WY. I had a bowl of killer gumbo made by Chef Dave.

(nancy) The camper is smaller than it was and is driving me crazy; I was going to add some storage before we left and didn’t get to it. It will be interesting to see how in the world we last for months in it. This is by no means an RV, which is both good and bad. Here's a photo from Arnold Architectural Digest, Summer 2006 Issue.
(Every time we stop to camp, we need to move all this junk out and start excavating. We probably spend an hour a day just looking for things).

Here's a couple photos from Colorado a few days ago, including a cool old house in Crested Butte, made in to a work of art.

Monday, July 24, 2006

For blog 7/24/06

Sunday 7/23, Nancy: Day One of the big escape! Is this really happening? It’s a dream come true. I’ve always wanted to camp the whole summer; now we’ll see if it is in reality as relaxing and wonderful as it seemed when I came up with the idea….

Leaving Cookie was almost impossible, but she’s in love with Braldt so she should be fine. Still, there are cat-shaped holes in our hearts, and we’re half tempted to turn around and get her. Yes, that would be dumb and we won’t do it, but boy do we miss her.
Today we drove from Santa Fe up to the Colorado Rockies, and here we are at a campground near Crested Butte. New territory for both of us, recommended by our friend Margaret. Tomorrow we’ll probably actually see Crested Butte; tonight we’re camping near there. Great to be in the high mountains; the air is clean, it’s cool, the blue jays are dropping things on us from the tall pines above the picnic table, we splashed in the river, and we’ll worry about bears tonight. We saw a group of Dahl sheep today; the babies were adorable…. When we got too close the whole herd took their turbo powered magic carpet ride straight up the mountainside. That made my day, as any wildlife sighting always does.
Quite a lightening and hail storm getting here today, over the high pass. The hail whitened everything like snow. Slow driving, 1-2” of ice on the highway and steep grades -- scary, then quickly gone. Someone had a bad accident in it after we passed through; we saw 9 emergency vehicles on our way out.
Our first dinner was time-consuming to prepare, exhaustively planned, and took luxury to new heights: hot dogs and zucchini on the campfire. Can’t take the gourmet out of our lifestyle, no siree. Cell phones work here, so the picture is of Jack talking to his mom while cooking this masterpiece. We’re enjoying the champagne I’ve had for months, waiting for this night.

Apparently we’ve done it. So much planning, so many details, so many reasons why not to, yet with just enough guts and stupidity, and the amazing help of Braldt and Margaret keeping an eye on the house and loving our kitty, we’re off. This will be the longest trip either of us has ever taken. It might be months. We think we’ll go north through Wyoming, Montana, Banff, Lake Louise, across Canada to Vancouver, then down the coast ending up in the Bay Area or LA seeing our loved ones… but anything could happen. Alaska will have to wait until next summer; we got started to late to make it worth the cost and the pain of driving there.

First camping night. I still love the freedom, Jack and the camper; I wonder how I’ll feel in a few weeks…

Thursday, July 20, 2006

I had to put up these rodeo pix I took last weekend. The rodeo is down the road from us in the little town of Galisteo. It’s down home rodeo at its finest. No frills, whatsoever. All local ranchers.
The little kids (4-5-6 yrs old) have their own event called “mutton bustin’” except that it’s the kids who end up getting busted most of the time. As soon as it’s out of the gate, the sheep runs like hell across the arena, and if the kid manages to stay on, he and the sheep both get slammed into the fence. If the kid is lucky, he hits the wire part of the fence; otherwise, it can be a face plant into a fence post.
The two guys running behind the kid can’t keep up with the sheep, so their job ends up being to pick up the pieces at the end of each kid’s ride. A rancher friend of mine assures me not to worry too much. These kids are used to getting hurt from time to time around the livestock.

Monday, July 17, 2006

What an emotional roller-coaster. We came back from Raleigh last week just so that we could get ready for our longest journey yet, and then on Friday, The Letter arrived. Jury Duty??!! Jack to start 90 days of Santa Fe Jury Duty on August 2??!! All weekend we worried; what if they really don't let him go? What do they consider "severe hardship"? Here we've sold the house, given up my job and are getting packed. So, in to town we go, to see if he can get excused.
This day's entry is dedicated to the angel in the court scheduling office, Jamie. Jamie, thank you thank you thank you for understanding and supporting us in taking this time to take off together in our camper. Congratulations on your 8 year old enjoying her camera so much. Here's Jamie, who let Jack off of jury duty today.

We love and will miss Santa Fe, but this clinched it; we'll keep packing and should be able to leave in a few days or so.

Now if I can just accept the fact that Cookie may be better off staying here with Braldt. They are crazy about each other, but can I survive without her purring in my face at 6 am? Without her chirping conversations with me? We may be gone for months, and that kind of absence from her seems pretty impossible right now. I may have to fly home in a month and get her! After all, she is our RoadKitty.
But, going to Canada would be so much easier without her, and so will hiking. I always think of Sue's story about their cat escaping in Northern Minnesota on vacation, and turning up months later.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

7/9/06 Nancy: Raleigh, NC. Our visit here is wonderful, mainly due to the most fabulously cute, lovingly adorable, Amanda. At 3 1/2, she is so full of giggles and dance that it makes your heart sing to be with her. I feel like I'm laughing most of the time. She is running and playing every minute, has long involved conversations complete with hand, foot and body gestures, loves to copy what we say and do. She's so much fun. When she sees you in the morning, she screams with happiness and waves her arms, shouts HIIIIIIII!!!!! She's so good for the ego! That big smile is worth even a Delta Airlines flight!

We've lucked out on weather, it's been beautiful. A bit of rain, and so far just warm, not hot days. It's not true every summer day in the South is sweltering. Most of the properties we share with Cess are doing well. One, however, had a tenant who is in jail for drugs, so his friends had to move his stuff out and Cess had to go to court to get the official eviction. We had to move lots of the junk out that he left, thanks to a Craig's list ad trading the labor of hauling the trash to the dump, for the furniture and lamps for free. We got probably 100 calls and emails in an hour once the ad was placed. (Mys sister is a genius, a fast thinker and a get-it-done now person!) Another unit, when repaired recently, afterwards mysteriously was missing the washer and dryer electrical and venting. Turns out the handyman walled over it. Not real bright. So, we're trying to do what we can while we're here, to help get over this slump. Usually things are not quite so weird, thankfully. It's been fun being in the South. Yesterday we had barbeque, which Jack loved and I thought was marginal (the pull and shred pork, and add a sauce kind of vinegary) - and Cess and I had to try deep-fried cheesecake for the experience. Not bad to me; Cess thought it wasn't so great. On a visit to Chapel Hill, we stopped for what was going to be a simple coffee, and ended up having crumpets with turkey, fresh wonderful chevre cheese and the most fabulous fig jam. They had dozens of crumpet combos to choose from, about a million martinis, and frozen blended drinks that all sounded good, including a spicy chocolate one that Cess had, with jalapenos and cinnamon. I'm in love with that place. Amanda is a joy to be with during all of the various things we're doing. I will miss her so much I'll probably cry for a week.

(Jack) The local farmers' market is where I tasted my first hush puppy. Pretty good..If one could compress the taste and smell of a state fair into a large bolus, this would be it. And let's not forget the deep-fried cheescake....Nancy and Cess were grubbin' on that one!

"Old times there are not forgotten..."

Monday, July 03, 2006

(Nancy) I just had to post this picture of Jack hiking across snow fields in Wyoming, at about 11,000 feet elevation, in sandals. That Jack, he's a Oner. My crazy husband.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Some pictures of the beautiful, ageless Arnolds, from our trip to Nebraska. More will be coming soon!

7/1/06 Nancy: Back a bit, to Jack's opening here in Santa Fe in June. The turnout was great, as was the food and the gallery setup. We're very blessed to have wonderful friends here, and many showed up to celebrate Jack's great photography.