Saturday, July 5, 2008
Spirit Lake and the Sheep Creek Geologic Loop
While getting our phones worked on we had gotten to talking with the salesperson about camping. She told us her favorite place was Spirit Lake, which is in the Ashley National Forest. After looking on the internet for directions, we found it and also found a road called the Sheep Creek Canyon Geologic Loop. So we packed sandwhiches and headed to the high country,(we can actually see the Unitas and the snow covered cirque from our campsite at Buckboard Marina).
The drive, after reaching Manila, was steep and beautiful. We climbed up a series of long steep stretches, not really switchbacks, but sustained climbs in elevation.
There were several turnoffs so we stopped to appreciate the view of Sheep Canyon and its bay in Flaming Gorge Resevoir.
Turning off the highway we drove for 13 miles on a narrow but new blacktop. Mountain meadows greeted us with a carpet of flowers. You really have to see the moutain flowers to imagine how so many flowers could be in one place! Reds,yellows, blues, and purples, along with whites almost overwhelemed our senses. We stopped to photograph a red patch of flowers, blocking the road and drawing glares from a group of four wheelers.
The next road was gravel for 10 miles, followed by a narrow dirt road that took us to a pretty cirque lake called Spirit Lake. Leaving the car we walked to the lake's edge. Looking down I saw that my legs were covered with mosquitos! No wonder the trout were feeding! Chased back to the car we drove to the lodge through a cloud of mosquitos. It even beat Grand Isle, Louisianna! We drove to the lodge to find the restrooms were for guests only. After eating lunch in the car, Renita went to use the privy in the campground, only to be chased out by flies! It was like a horror movie,(I have to say again I have never seen mosquitos while driving the truck, they were that thick, in fact Grand Isle paled in comparison).
Heading back down the mountain we again marveled at the profusion of flowers. When we reached the blacktop we turned east and took the Geologic Loop, actually the old highway.
A sign warned of the steep gradient for the next six miles. We headed down the narrow and broken road and after a series of switchbacks were greeted with one of the grandest views we have seen in our years journey. Vertically folded rock towered above us. A high window offered a view that only a mountain climber could ever hope to view.
Another suprise, as we entered the narrow gorge and were met by six bighorn ewes who plodded by us grazing undisturbed. Renita was less than five feet from them as she rolled down the window and talked to them. For a moment we were tramsformed into children again..........
Passing Tower Rock we continued down until we reached the main road. The trip home gave us time to savor the surprises we had seen. While we would not return to Spirit Lake, the Loop road is a must see for anyone traveling through this area. Clear skies.