Well, the fires have begun their rampage on our new home state of Wyoming but we aren’t going anywhere… yet… thankfully…
After watching the Colorado based High Park Fire rage for a month or more in our backyard we’re now keeping a close eye on our local area. The other day, high up on one of our rock peaks we had a small fire which reportedly was started by lightning several days earlier. It was contained and put out rather quickly thanks to the fact that some hikers happened to come by right as it was taking a good hold on a dead tree. Needless to say we keep a close eye on the wooded areas after lightning now.
For those watching the news… The Laramie Peak fire is about an hour or two north’ish of us near Wheatland and the Squirrel Creek fire is about 30 or so miles west on our sister mountain called The Snowy Range. The Snowy Range is covered by the same Forest Service crews that work our area. So this one hit closer to home as we listened to familiar (and very tired and overwhelmed) voices on the radio the first few nights. We are happy to report that they are all safe and it is now fully contained.
The C-130’s flying loads of water several times a day from Cheyenne to Squirrel Creek run a flight pattern right over our park so we get a good view of the action. Monsoon season has begun and should help out the wildfire issue. So far, the definition of monsoon in this area means that we get a beautiful morning followed by a late afternoon drizzle (update… we actually had three full days of rain… monsoon over?). It is said that in the fire damaged areas though heavy flooding can occur so fingers crossed there is just enough rain to help the fires and not so much as to cause new problems.
Speaking of fires… distant smoke shows are still creating some unique settings for us. One afternoon, the smoke was thick enough to block the sun to a point where you could pretty much stare right at it. Sort of like a smoke-eclipse.
On the animal side of things, we were hanging out the other night chatting it up with the local sheriff when she asked if we’d seen any elk yet. We told her that we hadn’t but we’d seen lots of moose and pronghorns (antelope). This story should also be prefaced by the fact that we also had a conversation about how slowly we drive our Forest Service truck on the local dirt roads because is rattles and slides around too much. The sheriff then left for her evening rounds and about ten minutes later came speeding back into the park and then our campground at a rate that made us think something terrible had happened in the dispersed camping area. She jumped out of her car and announced that a herd of elk were down the road six miles and we should get in her car because (and we quote), “I’m sure I drive faster than you do.” Next quote, “Oh and one of you has to ride in the cage.”
Darlene was all too happy to oblige a ride in ‘the cage’ on the way there and Nicole got ‘locked up’ on the way back. On the six miles of washboard dirt roads to get to the elk heard there is a lot of rattling going on in that vehicle and the person in the cage can see lips moving but hears NOTHING! Comparing stories afterward we both got a kick out of the fact that we spent our time trying to find ways to reach the rifle and shotgun to the left of us or trying to touch (scare) to the other one of us in the front seat through various ‘holes’ in the design. (Note: We did not succeed at either so it appears the security factor is intact.)
It was getting dark by the time we arrived so photos are not great but you’ll get the gist. It was a large herd and the location was quiet and still so we were able to listen to them call to each other with some really neat sounds.
And while we’re on the subject of animals… Gopher, Groundhog and Prairie Dog babies have started to poke their heads out for the first time. These two are just outside the van window so we watched their first ever venture into the great wide open. It consisted of a day or two of peeking out, then crawling an inch out, then two, then three, then four, each time followed by rapidly returning deep into their hole at the slightest noise. Before long, cars didn’t even phase them and they would come out, stand on their hind legs and call to each other if they hadn’t returned.
They sure are cute which makes up for the fact that they and the rest of the ‘adorable’ local rodents are pooping all over our engine compartment. Their current state of cuteness has ensured that we haven’t even attempted a “chewed” wire inspection yet. When that day comes though, there is a likelihood that we won’t find them so cute after all.
In the recreation realm, as our boss stated to our friends, “They don’t get to town much, do they?” Which translates to… We are really enjoying our current location. We’ve discovered a wonderful place to read down by the creek and have managed to get in some rock climbing with Lou and Dale at a new area that boasted the most amazing views from the top of the cliff. Nicole has also created a tick list of climbs she wants to accomplish before she leaves.
The other day we were involved in a High Angle Rescue situation in our Box Canyon area. A visitor to our campground was scrambling around high up in the canyon when he slipped and broke / dislocated (it looked bad) his ankle. Knowing that we were experienced climbers, the sheriff came by and asked us to help out so we grabbed our climbing gear and headed up. We were first on the scene with two medics who assessed the patient as we rigged some safety lines and such to keep the patient safe until the rest of the crews could make the ascent. As the rest of the crews arrived it became quite a spectacle with flight nurses, medics, chainsaw crews (who went crazy blazing us a fresh new path down the mountain as we prepped for the descent), high angle rescue team folks, ambulance folk and… we, the everyday climbing camphosts. It was truly amazing to see so many people working so efficiently to take this man down the mountain safely and deliver him to the waiting helicopter. Once our new path was cleared (sorry trees, it was just easier this way!) we assisted the local high angle team in the very long descent of both the patient and his remaining three family members. It took several hours and we were exhausted afterward but the experience was really amazing.