Devils Tower (not Devil’s Tower)

I think I’m being watched.

I don’t know how many times we have passed to the N.S.E. or West of this place and never stopped. We finally decided this was the time. Often things you have always wanted to see are underwhelming when first finally experienced. This was my reaction to the columnar basalt plug that somehow became named Devils Tower (it was supposed to be Devil’s Tower, but a clerical error in the bill forever gave our first National Monument an incorrect spelling). After so much red rock in the southwest, the greenish gray of the tower was a bit of a disappointment. Set down in any other country in the world it would be the most visited place. shame on me!

However, the surroundings, pines, grass and wildflowers were a welcome change, and we enjoyed two days in the campground. There was a prairie dog colony between the campground and the tower, and they were somewhat habituated to humans; nobody shoots them here, and it’is possible to get a good look. When they are hunted, as they are on most all private property in Wyoming, they won’t let humans within a couple of hundred yards of them.

Our campsite was in the middle of a grove of cottonwoods, and the rustle of the leaves sounds like a gentle rain falling, even with the sun shining. Our sunroof gave us views of the small, heart shaped, leaves against a starry sky each night. Last night thunderstorms to the east added depth and interest to the stars and broken clouds. We got a sprinkle. Or was that just the cottonwoods?

Vedauwoo Wahoo!

June 10, Vedauwoo, Wyoming. We decided to check out a SE Wyoming bouldering spot; the photos we saw at the Wyoming Welcome Center reminded us of a place in Australia called Devil’s Marbles. It is on BLM land, so the camping was cheap, and half price for me, so we decided to make a day of it and stay the night. The hike around Turtle Rock, from the campground, was four or five miles, just right, and we had lots of daylight. We got distracted by a little bouldering of our own: Claire surprised me by asking to try a little climbing and she did very well. If I remember the old system, we might have done some 5.2, hard core! It was really fun, but the top was truly vertical and we had no gear, so we passed and made our way back down to the trail and finished the hike.

The campground was basic, picnic tables, raised fire grates and no showers, but $10 and every site with a half-acre of space and a spectacular view of the granite piles of rocks. The wildflowers were thick and the scent of pine strong, and at 8,000 plus feet, breathing deep. The sleep was long and deep and the dawn was bright. Ahhhhhh.

Steaming Past Steamboat Springs

June 7. Steamboat Springs, Co.

When we first arrived we had elevensies in Turtle and watched a teen girl’s softball tournament; that was great, and the best part of Steamboat as far as we could see, since the town seems to be mostly about boutique shopping and real estate, neither of which interest us. The weather was deteriorating by the minute and we were told not to attempt Rabbit Ears pass after 3pm. We looked all over town for unsecured wi fi and failed, went to the overcrowded library (bad weather drives active people into the library) and finally decided on such a day there was nothing for us in Steamboat. We decided we’d try the pass and give Steamboat a chance another day. We had wet snow and slush at the top, but nothing to worry Turtle. Not what I had in mind for my birthday, but things improved on the other side of the pass. We found a fine quiet boondock in Walden, along our original Zippy (tandem bicycle) route around the U.S. in 1995, and shared memories of that very special time in our lives. We has a special dinner and slept well.
June 8, we met with disappointment in the fading village of Cowdrey.
The small coffee shop/music shop/ lunch place we were hoping to enjoy again, had made it until three years ago and failed. On another cold June day in 1995, after an even colder pass from Wyoming, we’d found steaming mugs of herbal tea, a radiant woodstove, some cakes, wonderful classic jazz and the conversation of a lovely 17 year old girl, about to be married and head off to college. It was nothing special really, but somehow, at the right moment in the early stages of our first big adventure together, memorable, very memorable. Now we wish we could know where the parents went, did the girl’s marriage go well, was college a success for them, did they indeed move to West Virginia? We’ll never know, like so many lives that have somehow enriched us, we’ll never know the rest of the story; but maybe that’s not so bad, we can write our own: the girl and her new husband moved to West Virginia for cheap land and cheap education and found both. But soon, he found the hills oppressive compared to the openness of the West. She began a garden and learned to quilt, set down roots. They began to fight… No I don’t like that beginning. Needs work.

Dinosaur National Monument Surprise

Dinosaur National Monument Panorama

Panorama in Dinosar NM (you should see it large)

We parked at an overlook near the top of Douglas pass, and after a run-in with a curious cow butting Turtle on the grill, had a peaceful, cool night in aspen country. The next day we spent the morning of June 4, hiking and photographing Freemont rock art of Canyon Pintado for a future story. Then we drove to Dinosaur National Monument Canyon Area visitor center and decided to explore the Harpers Corner road and hike the trail to the Green/Yampa River overlook, a truly spectacular vista of colorful rocks and deep gorges. It was nice to change the sagebrush juniper scents for the pitchy scent of pinon pine and crisp air of 7,000 feet. There were new wildflowers, or perhaps stunted versions of familiar ones; the globe mallow that grows to four feet in Tucson and was maybe four inches here. I would consider this canyon section of Dinosaur NP to be a real hidden gem of the park system. Most people go to the Vernal, Utah entrance where the dino bones are kept, and though nice, it is not as spectacular or remote in feeling as the Canyon District. Having BLM nearby for bush camping is a plus.

At the overlook we conversed with a pleasant couple from Virginia out for a fast-paced three-month trip in their new class-c. When the subject turned to age, the man and I (we expect an email with their id’s any day) turned out to have the same birth date of 6.7.44, or the day after D-day, the beginning of the end of WWII. Neither of us had ever met anyone born on that day, so we posed for our wives. After that long busy day, we found a county road onto BLM land, drove a couple of miles and had yet another million dollar view for a bush camp (boondocks are in parking lots or on main road, bush camps are hidden on public lands). We had some spectacular clouds that had us wondering about getting stuck, but got only a few sprinkles. The cows left Turtle alone.

BLM bush camp among the sagebrush and cows. Clouds provided only a few sprinkles, thankfully.

June 5. Craig. Colorado.
The library has no wi fi, but we found a hot spot at a local hotel, and parked across the street. We tried to find the manager of the Moffat County Fairgrounds, but failed; we stayed anyway but felt we should leave early. Avoiding those RV parks takes a lot of work sometimes. June 6. Craig. High winds and the local Hot Shots are busy chasing down small fires from lightning and winds are gusting to 50mph. Following this is a cold front our weather radio will take night temps down to the mid 20’s; from summer hot to winter cold in two days. It’s springtime in the Rockies! We were going to ride Rabbit Ears Pass east of Steamboat Springs, but snow and cold are forecast for several days. Bummer. We will work here a couple of days and see what comes next.