Saturday, August 30, 2008

Boysen and Thermopolis

We finally left Flaming Gorge on the 27th and headed north and east to Boysen Reservoir, near Shoshone. It was the first time we pulled across South Pass. Going over the pass was ok but going down I switched to manual and overrode towhaul. Dumb mistake as near the bottom the transmission heated up. I pulled over and the hot transmission light came on, but quickly went off as it cooled. Close call!

Arriving at Boysen, we went to Tamarask Campground and got a beautiful spot on the lake. Rocks, and primitive, and boondocking but thats Wyoming so we were fixed for it. We didn't have cell service, or the internet but were able to get seven tv stations, without the dish.

The next day we drove to resupply at Thermopolis and got to enjoy the beauty of the drive through Wind River Canyon. The shear granite walls and the whitewater rapids combined to make the drive a treat. One of the most beautiful canyons we have drove through.

When we got to Thermopolis we fueled up and then saw a bunch of green arrows(?), on the street. Green arrows? Those were dinosaur tracks, so we followed the tracks which led us to the Wyoming Dinosaur Center!

While we had heard of the place, we had never been there and so we paid our fee and got tickets for the museum and the tour of the dig site. Boarding the bus it turned out we were the only ones on the tour and so we headed up the steep nd rocky road for a private tour of the digs!

It turns out there are a lot of dig sites on the ranch, (87), and a lot of dinosaurs being found. The site itself is on a private ranch, and the Foundation is a for profit business. I was amazed to see the dig sites and collections. Looking east from the ridge we could see three tents for sites being excavated, and could see the whole exposure of the Morrision formation, Jurassic Park anyone?

The site and exposed digs were much better than Dinosaur National Park, in my estimation. So much more to be dug and with so much promise. The main tour site is a plethora of jumbled bones and tracks and includes bones with teeth marks from Allosaurs!

The museum itself was better than the Field Museum in Chicago. We were both surprised and pleased at the quality and quantity of the exhibits. They even displayed the Thermopolis archeopteryx! To be so close to an actual archeopteryx was amazing! You could easily se the actual bones, whcih looked liked original remains. The one found in Germany is kept in a vault and is only shown during special occasions.

Both of us would highly recommend this place to anyone visiting the area! Clear skies.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Traversing the Red Desert

Our good friends Tom and Sara, had expressed an interest in coming on down to see the Red Desert. So it was with gladness that we received an e-mail from Tom about a visit and a possible tour.

We met them in Green River, at the pedestrian bridge, not where we had planned but one must be flexible. The traverse was to go from the LeBarge Road, east to Farson, followed by a loop to Boars Tusk, the White Mountain Petroglyphs, The Killpecker Sand Dunes, Steamboat Mountain, and Black Butte, (Too much for a day?).

Anyway, we headed North to Wyoming 28 where we made our first stop at the Morman Pioneer Ferry over the Green River. The dogs decided that a walk was in order so we strolled along the river. The bright green vegetation of the riparian floodplain contrasted with the harsh desert landscape. We glassed for birds but didn't notice any that we could recognize. After taking an image of Tom, Sara, and Benson on the ferry I asked Tom if they had any ancestors of the Morman faith. Got a definite negative on that.

Continuing on we drove past mile after mile of sparse clumps of sagebrush covering the barren landscape. Of all the deserts we have seen, the high desert of Wyoming might be the least inviting. Nowhere was there any sign of abandoned homesteads, until we reached the irrigated section around Farsen and Eden.

Heading south I missed the turnoff to Boars Tusk so we made a u turn and then headed east along a deteriorating county road. As we neared a blowout, (a place where the wind had eroded the road and then filled it with fine sand), I slowed the truck before plunging into the sand and getting stuck, (hmmmmm I forgot the tow rope).
Luckily four wheel drive got us out and Sara easily negotiated the bad spot in their Blazer.

As we topped a ridge, Boars Tusk, the Sand dunes, and Steamboat Mountain suddenly appeared. We stopped for photos and a herd of desert pronghorn raced away from us, sensing perhaps the soon to open hunting season. The road then headed down to the intersection where we turned south and then east to view the petroglyphs.

It was with disgust that we discovered recent vandalism as people had carved their names over the tops of the ancient sand pictures. perhaps that was why we had to walk a ways from a newly erected gate.

Afterwards we returned to the vehicles and then drove past Boars Tusk. I saw a road that I had never driven so we headed to the Sand Dune Wilderness study area where I promptly got stuck in a sand dune that had migrated across the road. The Killpecker sand dune field is the largest moving dune field in the US and is the second largest in the world!

At the Dune Off Road Vehicle area we were surprised at the large number of vehicles parked and at the number of four wheelers and dune buggies, probably twenty in all, ( A lot for Wyoming)! We ate lunch there and talked about multiple use and Moab, Utah, and conservation in general.

Back in the vehicles we left the sand dunes and headed to Black Butte. There we drove around the butte, which is actually an ancient volcanic neck, about half the size of Devils Tower. White posts marked the spots where peridot claims had been filed. One can only hope that the mining does not harm the beauty of the columnar jointing, thrusting into the desert skyline. Returning to the main road we passed an ancient stone house, really a ruin, much more primitive than lunas jacal in Big Bend National park.

As we passed some standing water we saw our first wild horses. two stallions standing proud among the forbidding landscape. Were they wondering if we would try to round them up or just watching us raise clouds of dust as we drove the road.

Blowout after blowout filled the road and we churned up huge billowing clouds of dust that blinded us. Tom and Sara's Blazer acted up as the air filter became clogged and thoughts of what it must be like to race across the desert filled my head. It was with relief that we neared the Jim Bridger Coal Mine and power plant and the road improved.

Being a little short on wisdom I turned the truck west along a new road, at least for us, and we were rewarded with a unique sight as Renita spotted a herd of desert elk bedded a few meters from the road! They were so much redder in color than Yellowstone elk, a subspecies or a product of the desert sun?

Taking a fork to the left we hoped to reach Superior but the road forked again and again, before narrowing along a steep acrophobic series of switchbacks! It was again with a deep feeling of relief that we safely reached the bottom! Did I say there were no guard rails? Renita and I decided it was not a road to take the fiver along.

Once we reached Superior the road had been oiled and we took a blacktop to Interstate 80. sixteen miles from Rock Springs. We relaxed at a Starbucks where we traded traveling stories with Tom and Sara as they entertained us with tales of their spring trip to France. Clear skies.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Running the Canyon at Flaming Gorge

There was only one stretch of Flaming Gorge, that we hadn't traveled, from Sheep Creek to the dam. This stretch has canyon walls that rise 1500 feet above the lake . So, as a last hurrah we drove to Sheep Creek Boat ramp and headed down the lake.
Joining us in our voyage of exploration were Pam and Roy, Renita's sister and brother in law. As we left the Sheep Creek bay we boated past a huge island, called Kingisher Island, alas we didn't see any Kingfishers. The water was green blue and clear as the we ran south. Protected from the wind, by the steep canyon walls, the lake was almost glassy and I increased the throttle as the canyon walls sped by.
Wider than the canyons at Yellowtail/Bighorn Lake, it was easy to open the boat to wide open throttle, but I resisted the urge so we could sightsee along the way.
The trip to the dam turned out to only be 15 miles so it took about half an hour to reach. Along the way we passed several boat camps, the Red Canyon Visitor center,( Perched on the canyon rim above), and nearing the dam the Ceder Creek Marina and Dutch John Campground. A boat was jigging macs and the angler in the bow glared at us as we passed, (I did slow down and gave him a wide berth, or at least as wide a berth as I could as we threaded our way past two islands. The depth finder read 418 feet as we neared the dam face. We were surprised, or at least I was, that there were no barriers to the dam. When we toured it earlier we had to go through airport like security,(the security gave Renita a hardtime as she had her diabetic kit with her).
After a brief cruise along the dam face we headed back upstream, passing Kingfisher Island, traveling through the lake cutoff and then headed down Horseshoe Canyon. There the speed limit is about 4 mph as its a wakefree area, so we serenely glided pass the shear canyon walls and ate lunch, marveling at the exposures of the aeolian deposited Navajo Sandstone. This four mile stetch took about an hour, but was probably the neatest and narrowest part of the canyon.
As we left the canyon storm clouds threatened, so we ran to the boat ramp where we quickly loaded, just missing getting caught in the rain. A fine day and a day of discovery in the spirit of John Wesley Powell. Clear skies.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Catch of the Day!

Shortly after we retired, we couch surfed as we waited for our fifth wheel to be built. One of the couches we surfed was at Renita's sisters house in Keosauquia, Iowa. So it was a pleasure to have Pam and Roy come visit us in Wyoming and to couch surf with us!
Now they are both new retirees so the first order of business was to get Roy a Golden Access pass! we went to Manilla and stopped at the Forest Service office.
Roy seemed kind of chagrined about the whole deal but I was excited as the pass is the best deal for camping and visiting Federals parks and museums. Our pass costs 80 bucks a year and his is 10 bucks and a lifetime pass.
After that we went and drove the Sheep Canyon Geologic loop, where eagle eyed Roy spotted bighorn sheep resting on the hillside. After enjoying the view and eating lunch there, we returned to Manilla and shopped at the grocery store! Pam managed to find a tee shirt so all was well.
Wanting to take them salmon fishing, we bought licenses on the way home and the next morning we got up early and towed the boat to Anvil Draw, where we planned on fishing.
We first boated to the pipeline. It's always kind of neat to see the long pipeline with its suspension bridge hanging over the red rocks and the blue waters of the gorge. Shortly after arriving there we put two poles out and the downriggers were set, Pam saw the pole tip wiggle and grasbbed the pole! The fish didn't get on the hook. We did get more bites but they were small and we couldn't get a hookset.
Frustrated we decided to move. The night before we had talked with neighbors who were fishing uplake from us so we drove north and fished another spot with no luck. Now we were marking fish but they weren't big ones so we fished a couple other spots to no avail. We weren't worried as we had salmon in the freezer but darn it we wanted to put Pam and Roy on salmon. Driving futher up the lake, almost to Holmes Draw(foremerly Squaw Hollow), we spotted the neighbors two boats, Jody and John, and started to fish outside their trolling pattern. Sure enough a pole went off and Roy caught a nice kokeenee! The depth finder was marking really nice fish and now it was Pams turn! She grabbed the pole and started to reel. The pole thrashed as she fought a really large kokeenee to the boat. The fish dove deep but she kept the pressure on ad was rewarded with a really big kokeenee. It was a large male and was developing a spawning hook on its jaw! A beautiful fish! Soon Roy caught another big male. These fish were the biggest we had boated all summer! After a break for lunch we returned and immeadiately Roy caught the biggest one of all! Not only was its jaw hooked it was also developing shoulders.
It started to rain and we pulled in the poles, ony to find a little salmon on the homemade downrigger. No wonder the tip had been slightly twitching! Reaching the boat ramp Renita and I loaded the boat wile Pam and Roy looked for turitella fossils. They found a lot including the highly valued black turetella,(It cuts and polishes beautifully and is used to make jewelry. I was so jealous)!
Returning home we cleaned the salmon as storm clouds moved in. Lightening flashed and the wind whipped the lakes surface into whitecaps. We just got off the lake in time! Fresh grilled salmon takes mighty fine! Clear skies.