Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Winding Down…

There really are no photos in our album that appropriately display how we are feeling about the nearing of the end of our volunteer camp-hosting time in Vedauwoo, WY.  So, we created one just for the occasion.

unhappy campers

And with that we’ll throw in a few last minute photos and nifty facts about our experience.

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We had some weeds behind our van.  They contained some pretty sharp pokey leaves.  So, we acquired some clippers one day.  Just as we went to cut them we noticed buds.  Next came these bad-hair-day purple flowers.  Then the butterflies and the bees and every other flying thing in the area.  In the end, we were very happy we didn’t cut them down.  They have continued to bloom the whole time we were here.
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The Clark’s Nutcracker!  One day these birds showed up and they made a point to let us know.  For a while we couldn’t get a good eye on them as they flew from tree top to tree top and held lengthy conversations with each other.  Every now and then we’d entertain ourselves by squawking back at them and taking turns.  Not long afterward a pair of bird-loving-photographers from England arrived.  We saw them out snapping photos one morning and boy were they excited.  Despite all of their worldly bird oriented travels, the Clark’s Nutcracker was here in Vedauwoo and it was the closest they had ever been to one.  Check out that beak!  This is a rather ingenious bird.  He’ll disconnect the pinecone and carry it to a ‘V’ in the branches where he can wedge it in and then crack away at that nut.
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Thanks to Tom & Viv for this awesome shot!
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Moose! The big attraction for non-climbers and other non-rock-appreciating folk visiting Vedauwoo.  At this point we believe we’ve identified seven different ones residing within our park boundaries. 
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Vedauwoo 08-31-12
As with the Nutcracker excitement, one of our favorite moose quotes goes something like this… “So, I’ve traveled to three of the major National Parks recently and it is at Vedauwoo that I see my first Moose!” 
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Our smallest resident on the left with Mama in tow.
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Vedauwoo 2012-09-02 (4) 
We were pretty proud that our park could offer something unique to rival the larger ones.  These guys kept folks entertained randomly wandering through the campsites, surprising them on trails and occasionally sticking their noses into their tents for an early morning heart attack (we mean, early morning ‘hello’).  Our fingers are crossed that our resident moose will stay within the park boundary once hunting season kicks in as we’d sure like to see the numbers increase over the years.
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One morning we discovered some leather tramps sleeping in the grass near our pay station.  And, no, we’re not talking about the above pictured cows.  These were people who choose hoofing it as their means of travel.  It only happened that one time but the point is the area is free range (for all animals).  Hence, the cattle guard at the entrance to the park.  On this day, one of the babies figured out how to skip the cattle guard by walking in the grass around it.  She then became very confused.  As we tried to figure out a way to corral her back to the other side, the mama cow (one walking toward us in the photo) decided that we humans just didn’t know what we were doing and she started Mooing up a blue streak.  We stopped walking and talking and she just ‘mooed’ and ‘mooed’.  Next thing you know that little cow ducked right under a fence rail and everyone went on about their merry and very quiet grazing.
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The mountain bluebird is beautiful.  The brightest blue you’ve ever seen on a bird.  This is not the mountain bluebird.  This is a Stellar Jay.  We believe they are named such because of their stellar ability to avoid being photographed!  Quite large, crowned with a black mohawk and behaving like a woodpecker they sure are a cool bird to watch.  We’ve recently seen large groups of Northern Flicker appear in the park.  With a malfunctioning zoom, we couldn’t get a shot of one though.
Vedauwoo  2012-07-18
All taped up.  Bring on the crack!  We can’t say that crack ever really became our friend this go around.  But we also can’t say that we didn’t give it the ole college try.  It’s just different.  Really, really, different.  And hard.  Really, really, hard.  We experimented with a wide variety of levels and would have to say that even at the lower rated ones Vedauwoo won every time.  After thrashing Nicole about really good and working her harder than some 5.12’s she’s been on, one particular 5.10 snatched up a favorite cam and wouldn’t give it back.  Dang cracks.  We want our crimpy, east coast, face climbs back!  Final score:  Vedauwoo 1  Us 0
Vedauwoo 2012-08-26
It is only August and the Aspen trees have started to turn.  We were talking to our friend Cody one day and he says, “So, let’s see, you’ve seen Spring, Summer and now Fall all in the course of four months.”  Our reply, “So you are saying that the other eight are winter?!”  We won’t be waiting around for his reply!
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Nicole’s favorite turn has started to turn.
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The rocks in Vedauwoo are not just piled up in cool ways, they also create many different tell-tale features like the clamshell, the turtle, the dog and in the above photo one of the more popular features called the Coke Bottle.
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Here’s a close up.  Do you see it in the center?

So, moving on… let’s run some numbers of our experience in Vedauwoo.

Climbs that Nicole dominated = 2
Climbs that dominated Nicole = too many to count.

Pieces of climbing gear lost = 1
Pieces of climbing gear found = 4

Number of weddings at the Gazebo = 4

Number of dogs lost (that we knew about) = 3
Number of dogs found and returned to owners = 2

Number of humans to be rescued on our watch = 3

Number of domesticated rats lost or released into the park = ??
Number of above that we rescued = 1 (Thanks, Teresa!)

Total miles driven doing our daily work over four months = close to 2000
Most miles driven in one busy day of doing rounds and making a presence = 24

Of our ‘found’ or left campground items:
Ones we found the most of = spoons, hats and tent stakes
Second place = sunglasses
Other random objects = gas grill, numerous toys, dog leash, lots of rope, bandana, two blankets, few jackets, dish detergent, onion, twelve pennies, two quarters, a dime and three nickels (who says volunteering doesn’t pay!), baby bottle, stove fuel, 3 pairs of socks, wool winter cap, windbreaker, skewer, sippy cup, container of bb’s, horn, radio, microphone cord for movie camera, dozen golf balls, pocket knife, axe, antique fire starter that looks like a gun and surely things we’ve forgot.

Number of times Lou ran the Turtle Rock Trail = too many to count
Number of times we walked the Turtle Rock Trail = 1
Number of times we sat by the water instead of walking Turtle Rock Trail = MANY

Number of harvest moon rises we saw = 1
Number of amazing sunsets we saw = how many days were we here?!
Number of incredible cloud formations we saw = see above answer!
Number of seriously windy days =apparently not as many as usual but enough for us!

Wyoming Joke:  What happens when the wind stops blowing in Wyoming?
Joke Answer:  Everyone falls down.

Daily question: Do you know what the weather is going to be like?
Daily answer: It’s Vedauwoo… rain, hail, snow, wind, sun, cold… one or all of those.

Alternate question:  That sky looks really bad.  Is it going to rain?
Alternate answer: It’s Vedauwoo… Maybe.  Maybe not.

Popular question:  Did you order this wind?
Popular answer: Yes, we have a dial back at the van.  We turn it up when we are ready for you to leave.

New words learned = 1 (Virga)
Essentially, it means rain that evaporates before it even hits the ground.  See how the dark vertical rain lines are cut off.  This is taken right behind our van.  Back home it would have been definite that the sky was going to open up and flood us good.  Here, we received about five drops on this day as it blew on over.

Frequently asked question:  Have you been able to see much of the area?
Truthful answer:  No, but why would we want to go anywhere else when it is so beautiful in Vedauwoo.

All time favorite question: The water says “Not Potable”.  Can I still put a fire out with it?
Our response:  A polite “Yes, you can.”
Favorite after-the-fact response (from Sparky Pants): Sure, but don’t use a pot.

Great friends and camphost buddies, Lou and Dale, departed Aug 29.  It sure was wonderful having them share a portion of this experience with us.
Sad to see them go.  They left us with some great memories.  One of which was the sunset from an overlook Dale discovered.  Originally we thought this was an old CCC trail.  As it turns out, it is actually a trail that was cut back in the late 1920’s for a play created by a UofW drama teacher.  The play was named Vedauwoo and was held on an outdoor stage high up in what is now called Box Canyon. The trail was designed for the 500+ actors as well as the audience as a way to approach the stage and to move around the area during the performance.  After this play the area adopted the name of Vedauwoo.
Vedauwoo 2012-09-01 (3)IMG_1008 We shared the trail with our friend, Tom, one day. He liked it. Two days later, we went again which is why Tom has two different outfits on.  If he were that vain he would have changed his hat.
Vedauwoo 2012-09-03 Overlook The reward at the top of the hike is a panorama view of the valley.
With all of the hi-jinx going on, Viv decided she’d stay safely at the bottom.  She had some company from a local fella.  (Don’t tell Tom.  She told us she was going to read.)

Tom and Viv have a garden back home.  One day, they brought us a summer squash that was about twelve times the size of the ones we buy at the store.  And then there was this…
The mother of all Zucchinis! 
Well, we take off six days from now on Sep 10 so we should probably get to the preparations.  Most of which include saying goodbye to some really amazing new friends. 

Sure hope you enjoyed our brief summary of our time here in Vedauwoo, WY.  If you are every driving I-80 through Wyoming, it is highly recommended as a stop off point for a few hours, the day, a week or more.  If you are into dispersed camping, the dirt road just past the park entrance offers 21 day stays!

Most important tip that we have for campers coming to Vedauwoo:
No matter how long you plan to stay … Pay by the day!
It’s Vedauwoo.  You never know what the weather will be.IMG_3548
One thing is guaranteed though… The sky will always be AMAZING!