I want to be back in Wyoming…

The Wind Rivers. The Bridger Wilderness takes up a sizeable chunk of the Winds. For what my group of backpackers accomplished, there's no better spot in the Lower 48.

I want to be back in Wyoming

It is still a fairly pristine place, at least once you hit the back country.  Amazingly, the crowds stick to Jackson and Yellowstone and avoid stubbing their toes on the rougher trails of the Bridger.  The local downside is the smog – reported to be worst than L.A. in the colder months – that is confined to Pinedale and buts up against the western slope of the Wind Rivers.  Just west and southwest of town are many dozens, if not hundreds, of natural gas drilling rigs that emit gases as a byproduct of forcing trapped natural gas to the surface.  Pinedale itself is loaded with energy roughnecks; Felicia and I got into a hotel elevator with a couple of them on the Saturday night before we hit the trailhead.  Each was armed with a case of fortifying Budweiser.  They weren’t looking at me.  There’s no denying, for better or worse, they are the new breed of Western man.

Still, there is something about traipsing around in the wilderness.  The Bridger is just as I remember it after all the times there (which never get old); scenery that is beautiful and majestic beyond description and perhaps the best throughout the Rockies, rugged but not penal hiking, fishing that virtually assures a fresh catch for dinner, and enough wild animal lore to make your hair stand on end around the campfire.  My little band of hikers had grizzly-itis; that’s why we all ponied up $40 for canisters of bear spray that never remotely saw a chance for use.  We never saw signs of bears, nor heard the wolves that have gravitated into the lower end of the Wind Rivers, and didn’t spot any slow-footed moose which were my one prediction of wildlife we might catch unawares.

Yours truly on the trail. 60 lbs. felt like 70 lbs., then 80 lbs. by the time the trek was done.

There were a passel of photos taken but none by me.  I’ll work to engineer all of the artwork on a single site and when that happens, you’ll see why I gush so much about this place.

I claim to be a Wyoman, although technically speaking it might be a shirttail relationship.  My twin brother and I were conceived in Sundance (a much bypassed little hamlet up on I-90 that is largely a pit stop for cars headed west to Yellowstone or east to South Dakota and Minnesota) but the doctors in Deadwood, SD told our mother that the delivery would be difficult, and that what passed for a hospital wasn’t perhaps the best spot for such a situation.  ‘Why not head to Denver or Rapid City?’ was their counsel.  Instead, mom boarded the train across southern South Dakota and northern Nebraska enroute east to Omaha where her folks lived.  That’s were the delivery took place; days later we were back in Sundance.  Dad stayed put; he was the assistant editor of the Crook County News and Sundance Times.  Maybe the best job he ever had he always said; now Sundance is better known for the burnouts associated with the nearby Sturgis motorcycle (i.e. Harley) rally.  That, and Devil’s Tower is a couple of miles away to the northwest.  My birth certificate may say Nebraska but my heart says the Cowboy State.

I want to be back in Wyoming.  It won’t happen soon enough for me, but there’s always the week of July 22, 2012, if you catch my drift.


August 2, 2011

Ellen/Reid: If gauging how tired one is by the amount of sleep they get after backpacking, than I am one tired old dog.  Have been sleeping like a proverbial rock.  I’m afraid my best days on the trail are way, way behind me.  It was amazing to watch the young guard steam ahead on the paths while I seemed to be dragging a plow.  My hips never hurt so much in my entire life.  My gait was tentative and labored.  Ellen, you did a great job considering this was your first time.  You carried a fair amount of weight but did yourself proud.  The Cleghorns really have to be feeling the pinch right about now.  They pushed on to Yellowstone and didn’t return to CLT until late Sunday night.  The girls are probably still in bed.  What a trip for them it was.  Reid, you’d of no doubt caught way more fish than your ham-handed dad.  I lost more fish through sheer folly, including one 12-14 incher, than were actually landed.  I love seeing the brookies and cutthroats come up to the fly.  Beautiful fish, and they are quite tasty, too.  It’s good that people got a chance to eat the fresh catch; brookies are the best tasting of the stream trout.  Ellen, it was simply amazing to watch Tim cast his line.  I’ve never seen such artistry and was unaware that my flyrod could be cast like that.  His called shot of the big fish behind a rock – that he caught in one fluttery attempt – makes me feel like a novice.  That boy can fish with the best of ‘em.

It’s sad to know that a trip so long in the planning is already over and done with.  I tried to soak in as much of the scenery and experience as much as I could but a lot of the views are just plain over my head, literally and figuratively.  It’s too much grandeur for this guy to absorb at one time.  The trip turned out far better than could have been anticipated.  The weather was sterling, the people got along pretty well, the food was okay, and the hiking was great.  They say that you have a tough time remembering pain, and already I’m noodling about a return trip next year.  Worth adopting would be Tom’s approach to going light.  He only carried about 20 lbs. vs. my 60 or so.  That makes a tremendous difference in fatigue and energy, all of which were in short supply for our over-laden group.  But next year, not sure of trekking in the same route but the Bridger is very hard to beat, except for the mosquitoes of course.  If we’d stayed up even a couple more days we surely would’ve lost someone to blood loss.  I’ve never seen, felt and swatted so many mosquitoes.  All day long, no less.  That owes to the amount of snow pack and runoff.  Reid, there were little pools everywhere that festered the winged mob.  It was curious to not see any bats flitting around to snatch them.  Perhaps they were already full of such bugs.  It would’ve killed Felicia to be up there because she has very adverse reactions to mosquito bites.  We would’ve had to carry her down on a litter.  As it was, she seemed to have a good time driving around the Tetons and Yellowstone. 

Reid, great photo of the McCartney concert at Wrigley.  You’ve sure made the rounds on the concert circuit up there.  Good for you.  You sounded great on the phone this past weekend.  Nice spring in your step.  Even your mother noticed.  On the other hand, you could be sweltering in Charlotte on what seems like a never-ending heat-a-thon of humidity and triple digit heat indexes.  I don’t care for it one bit.  How the locals ever come to accept it is beyond me.

Looks like it will be Minneapolis for T-Day.  Reid, I’ll pick up your ticket so let’s knock heads on that sooner rather than later.  I’ll plan to get up there on Wednesday.  Ellen, there is a chance that Felicia might join us, and in that case we’ll opt for a hotel close to you guys.  You’d have your hands more than full with three visiting adults on top of Tim, you and Mr. Henry.  Reid and I reserve the right to cook Thanksgiving dinner before we snooze on the chairs watching football.  Really excited to see the kitchen in all its glory.  That must be a huge relief to know that it’s all but finished.  That will really boost the value of your home.  Can’t wait to see it.  If either of you have no other Christmas plans, you’re welcome down South.  It’s been a while since you set foot in these parts.  But enough for today.  Love you both, and will see you soon enough.


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