Thursday, September 30, 2010

Days 9 & 10- Hiking & An Old Friend & Hanz Can Open Windows Now

September 23rd, Thursday 8:40pm

Today we slept in a bit because of our hectic past couple of days. They were a lot of fun but it's pretty tiring to be packing up and moving around so often. We are definitely getting used to it but sometimes you really just don't feel like having to make everything in the travel trailer safe for the road, it can be tedious.

It's nice because we're just laying low in Cody for a couple days. I've been reading The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, which is a great book. I also bought the second book in the trilogy to have at the ready when I'm finished with this the first one.

When we were arriving in Cody yesterday afternoon we passed by an interpretive site just to the west of the city and near a huge dam that was built in 1908. Buffalo Bill Cody was the inspiration for the name of the city in Wyoming. I didn't know this but he was a Pony Express Rider and also a buffalo hunter, hence his nickname.

The beautiful Buffalo Bill Reservoir

We went through this tunnel to get to Cody!
One cool thing that we did today was to drive up into the neighboring mountains and go for a hike. It is absolutely gorgeous out here, especially if you get a bit outside of the city to the west or the north.

Shoshone National Forest

Great view of the Shoshone NF

Open Range Wyoming, I love it

Gorgeous Scenery

September 24th, Friday

Today I woke up around 7:30am and walked Hanz for a final time in Cody. We packed everything up, ate some breakfast, took advantage of the free showers and then hit the road. 

On our way out of the RV Park we passed by the campground host’s truck and it had a sticker on it which read, “’Wolves,’ Smoke a Pack a Day.” Oh Wyoming, some things I absolutely love about you but some things I just do not get at all. I mean seriously. Wyoming’s official policy is that they want to exterminate every single wolf within their state borders. It is so completely ignorant that it just baffles me. Do they not understand the vital roles that predators play in an ecosystem? And it is because of their extreme view that Federal Courts have had to say states obviously cannot be trusted to manage their wolf populations on their own so they put them back on the endangered species list. So now everybody loses. I’m going to state what I think about this very clearly: Montana should be able to manage its wolf population because it actually has more breeding pairs of wolves than the federal government says is necessary. But now the conservation and hunting communities are being polarized by extreme anti wolf groups like Lobo Watch. This particular group calls for the extermination of wolves by any means necessary, including poisons (which can kill anything that eats them, not just wolves, or does that not matter?) and this recent re-listing has just added fuel to their fire because Montana does have too many wolves. Humans have had such a huge impact on the environment that it takes longer for Mother Nature’s rules of equilibrium to kick in. If we let wolves go on being unmanaged they will continue to decimate ungulate populations in certain parts of the state, possibly to the point where those populations will be not able to recover for a long time. Of course, in nature this would solve itself because as the wolves ate all the prey they would run out of food and start to die off. Once their numbers got low the ungulate populations would be able to recover and then the wolves would recover as well and the cycle would repeat itself. This would take a very long time though because these wolf packs would just move to new areas as they killed off elk and deer and also then start preying more or livestock. When they start to enter ranchlands and kill off cattle and other livestock you are presented with a whole new set of problems. It doesn't exactly endear ranchers to wolves or other predators. This exacerbates the relationship between ranchers and wolves, neither of which can be blamed for fighting for their livelihoods.

We were planning on driving to Thermopolis (which a friend of mine says only exists in Bugs Bunny cartoons, lol) and camping there tonight but when we got there we found there was no camping in the state park and that it was a pretty undesirable place to spend more than about 30 minutes. It is absolutely rife with geothermal activity. Everywhere we saw signs advertising RV parks with hot springs, parks with hot springs, spas with hot springs! We went to the State of Wyoming Bath House which had pools both indoor and out that were fed by these natural hot springs. The outside pool was pretty cool because it was right next to these rocks where the water was coming out of the ground. Between Thermopolis and Yellowstone I’ve had enough sulfur, rotten-eggs smell to last me for a pretty long time. Oh and word to the wise, DO NOT GO INTO HOT SPRINGS WITH SILVER JEWELRY ON!!! This never happened at the natural hot springs at Jerry Johnson in Idaho but when I got into the pool in Thermopolis my silver ring instantly tarnished! I looked down at it and was like, WTF, are you kidding me?! It must have been a certain mineral or metal that was in the water, but I’m not quite sure which one.

One extremely cute development on our road trip is that Hanz has learned how to open his own window! Oh my goodness it is so funny. He’ll hop his little paws up on the side of the door, which has a little ledge with a cup holder in it and put his head up to the window, showing that he wants to stick his head out, and then he’ll pick his paws up and down, moving them around until he finds the electric button to lower the window! Tyler and I would be in the front seats talking and Hanz would be in the back and all of a sudden the wind would be rushing in as we drive down the highway and we’d look back to see Hanz’s smiling face in Tyler’s side-view mirror, eyes closed and snout sticking up to catch all of the smells.

We passed by historical signs marking the sites of the Sand Creek Massacre, which happened in 1864. This was an incredibly tragic event where basically 700 militia men from Colorado attacked, mutilated and murdered many friendly Cheyenne and Arapaho Indians, most of which were women and children. You can look it up online for more information. What a sad and terrible chapter of history.

Since we did not stop in Thermopolis we figured we would just shoot on down to Lander. Tyler was really excited to stop there because he has taken three NOLS courses which are based out of Lander and he had some great times there. The scenery is absolutely beautiful and if you are into rock-climbing you would definitely hold some appreciation for what it has to offer. I had only been there once before, a few years ago in March when it was still freezing and pretty much deserted. This time, driving down Hwy 497 the sparse, high desert, sage brush landscape dominated by the depressing Native Americans’ casinos and trailers was replaced by aspen stands and some conifers and cattle ranches. It was actually very beautiful arriving here. It was like the landscape just came alive. Once we got into Lander it was bustling with people, very different from my last experience. We soon found parking and went to the Garret Grill, a lunch place with great, locally sourced burgers and beer brewed literally next door at the Lander Brewing Company. If you like dark beer and are ever in Lander I HIGHLY recommend the Stout.

It so happens that I spent several summers at Camp Onaway, an all-girls camp in New Hampshire, when I was growing up. It was a truly great experience and one of my former counselors, Miss Annemarie, now worked for NOLS and lived in Lander. While at the restaurant, Tyler and I saw a group of people at some tables nearby whom we felt comfortable assuming were NOLS employees. I would every once in a while eye them as new people joined the group to see if Annemarie was amongst them. In a small town like this I knew they would at least know her but I was not truly expecting to just run into her. We were there for a while and I had not seen her so when we finished our food we went to leave. I was just about to walk out the door when I turn and see her out of the corner of my eye; No Way! We are planning on meeting up at some point on Sunday to catch up because it has been at least seven years since we have seen each other! It is crazy how time flies. I am hoping to go back to Camp Onaway for the Centennial celebration next summer and hopefully that will work out because every summer I have wanted to go back there but I’ve been working or interning or doing one of the many things that makes it hard to set aside a 7 week block of time.

After chatting briefly with Annemarie, Tyler and I got back into his truck and detached the trailer in Sinks Canyon. It is an incredibly beautiful site: the canyon walls loom overhead, we are surrounded by sagebrush and conifers and aspens and native grasses. A little ways down the road are numerous trails that lead to the river below. With our windows open we can hear the water rushing around and across the boulders in its path.  

The beautiful river by our campground in Lander

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