From Alcova, we headed toward Bighhorn National Forest. The Bighorns are a range of mountains that are in northern Wyoming/southern Montana. The highest point is Cloud Peak, which reaches 13,166ft. We didn't have wonderful weather for this- which was a bit of a bummer. We'd also planned to camp, but didn't do enough research prior to arriving. Always do your research. Even when you don't feel like you have to. When we arrived at the camp ground, it was full. And we had no cellphone service. After that, we drove around a bit, but with no clue where to camp and weather moving in quickly, we decided to cut our losses. We drove through the National Forest until we came to Buffalo, a very small town. By that time, we'd been driving for hours and hours and were both feeling pretty tired. So we made a pretty painful choice and changed the plan- we'd keep driving and go down to Medicine Bow Peak. Find somewhere to camp there, and that was that.
What it meant to keep driving, was that we just drove hours upon hours just to drive through the Bighorns. We had to retrace many of our miles to go to Medicine Bow. And after a couple hours, we found ourselves back in Casper. With hours ahead of us. Sometimes plans don't work out. This was one of those times. It was silly to think we could roll into a place that was new to us, having done very little research, and just expecting it to work out. Especially in Wyoming, where the wild is much more wild and the people are few and far between. I think up to this point, we'd driven about seven hours straight. With about three to go. And then we'd have to find a place to set up, get camp put together and make food. It was going to be a very long day. Our original plan was to drive to the Bighorns, set up camp and hike forever. Massive bummer.
Not all trips go as planned. And it sucks, but it's okay. Generally, when things go wrong, you can chalk it up to two things: not doing research and weather. This is an example of both of those things happening at once. So now that you've had some backstory to this excursion, take a look at some of the photos from it. Because at the very least, the scenery was magnificent.
Before we drove into Bighorn National Forest, the Wyoming landscape started to become more rugged and way, way less populated. We started to see signs off of our dirt road say that once the first snow hit, the roads would no longer be maintained. This made us laugh a bit- this first snow could literally come at any point! Where we live, it's already snowed a couple times. I cannot imagine what life would be like if the first snow meant that road maintenance would be done. Wyoming is wild. The road began to climb. For a pretty long time. And then it dipped down into a very large valley. People lived here- but it was not apparent where. We just knew due to signage and the hundreds upon hundreds of sheep roaming around the hills and meadows. I don't believe I've ever seen sheep being farmed, and it was really surprising. They are noisy as can be. It was mildly surreal and very tranquil. With the storms brewing not too far off, it reminded me of Ireland. Certainly not what I imagine from Wyoming.
Once we crossed into the National Forest, the landscape changed and we had some very pretty views of the southern Bighorn Mountains. They were beautiful and many of them were still covered in snow. I wish we could have explored them. The storm started to build and grow darker and we didn't have much of an option, but to leave. So unfortunately, that's what we did. Our drive continues for five hours. Five hours of... not much to see. The parts of Wyoming we drove through in these last few hours are very reminiscent of Nebraska. I could tell Jon was getting exhausted when he didn't care about what we listened to anymore. I think I fell asleep for a bit. Quite a lot different than a day of hiking through new mountains!
We finally got to Medicine Bow National Forest and were greeted by... a building storm. This one much bigger than the storm in the Bighorns. We could tell it had recently rained, but this new storm hadn't hit yet. It was beginning to surround us on all sides and in the distance you could tell it was coming lower. Shit.
We parked the Jeep and had one of those horrible talks where we both admit that we're too tired. That the day had not gone as planned and we were not feelin' it. Too much driving, too much sitting, too much gas station food. Too much work to do, to set up a camp, take care of Bivy and then be trapped inside the tent for who knows how long.
Sometimes that happens. Sometimes, even with the best intentions, everything sort of crumbles. The storm was moving in quickly. The temperature had dropped nearly 10 degrees in a handful of minutes. We both knew what we had to do. But so didn't want to do it. More driving. We were three hours away from home. What that meant was that in one day we were going to drive about 13 hours. That is 10 hours more than we'd planned.
We drove to Medicine Bow Peak, walked around a bit and it started to rain. Shortly after that, we saw a moose, but didn't see it early enough to get a photo. Another bummer, but oh well! We knew we'd made the right choice when we got out of the mountains and saw what was coming for them and what we narrowly avoided. With no time to spare, they mountains became invisible. Enveloped in dark clouds, pouring rain and gusty winds. This surrounded us and lasted for a couple hours. Nearly our whole drive home.
When we entered Colorado, it was still storming and pouring. But we saw many rainbows, which was nice. It's hard to have plans unravel and to see beautiful places from the seat of a car. But it happens.
When was the last time you under-prepared? Or the last time weather showed you the door?
"Rainbows apologize for angry skies." -Sylvia Voirol