Friday, July 24, 2009
Friday, July 24, 2009
Highway 231, Wyoming
On the way from
Medicine Lodge Archeological Site to
Legend Rock Petroglyph Wall
We are happy to be on a paved rode after Mr. Garmin (the GPS) took us onto tertiary roads in the Wyoming minefields yesterday. We were driving from Ten Sleep to Hyattville and we knew it would be gravel for 9 miles but Mr. Garmin wanted us to take State Road 117, which was a set of deep ruts in red clay. A fellow in the campground in Milwaukee had been through minefields when he go misguided in the same zone but we wandered through a Wildlife Management Area with a deep river and lush marsh. We’ve seen oilrigs and evidence of mining but happily we have not seen the open pits and slag heaps, which were such a part of back road Pennsylvania
If you want to go to Medicine Lodge you just have to believe you will get there. If you call ahead you get an answering machine with no useful information. The Wyoming 1-800-Camping said there were no reservable sites remaining for the next two weeks so have a back-up plan for camping. There were No Signs except things such as “Archeological Site, 0.5 miles) . The postmistress at Hyattville (population 46) gave excellent directions (take the Alkali road but don’t continue if it goes to hard dirt.) We arrived for lunch and immediately hung the hammock chair on a small cottonwood by a rushing stream in a narrow canyon. We ate lunch and then followed the waterway toward the main campground where we found a swimming hole made when the rushing stream hit a sandstone cliff face. The water was deep and completely clear and 58 degrees. It was delicious.
After another swing in the hammock chair we continued up the stream, into the box canyon and backwards through the interpretive trail, past similar encampments along red cliffs with swim holes and flat river bottom campsites. We saw an oriole.
The canyon ends at a red sandstone cliff wall, which has been continuously occupied for the last 10,000 years. The most recent 4,000 years was scraped off by the Taylors who built the luscious grand farmhouse, which still stands and also donated 12,000 acres of ranch to posterity.
At the final red rock cliff at the along the canyon there are 100s of petroglyphs and pictograms.We had waited for late afternoon and it was wonderful to see them incised in the walls so carefully and so detailed. The pictograms are very hard to discern but the petroglyphs are astounding in both their clarity and their ability to evoke the artist’s presence. One is huge – round shield hunters whose arrows are deeply embedded in a fat antlered animal (an elk).There was a petroglyph grasshopper! I got to draw a lot of nice pictures.
After our reverse interpretive hike we decided to move our campsite to the swim hole by the red cliff wall. We watched fish jump out of the water and eat bugs while we ate our dinner. I liked the idea that I was camping where people had been camping for 10,000 years. We saw a muskrat or some similar animal swim along the red cliff wall and out the other side of our little swimming hole in the mid-evening. After dinner we did hike up on top of the red cliffs and out onto the back plateau of the riverbed. There were a lot of mule deer unafraid of us.
July 21, 2009
Agate Fossil Bed National Monument
A lovely cool prairie day with a gentle breeze so I can sit in the van while Cary does the weekly conference call. We gambled on cell phone service at the national monument to make his call.The rangers have been very accommodating and set him up at a desk!
You have to want to get to this place and, honestly, it isn’t the best fossil beds I’ve toured.That’s because yesterday we got to see the Hudson-Meng Bison Bone bed, where 1,000s of bison bones are preserved in ancient mud. Of course, technically, the Bison bed bones are not fossils. They are not old enough. The bones pulled from Agate fossil bed are true fossils, 19 million years old. Unfortunately, the actual fossil beds are hidden under piles of rock and closed to visitors who might disturb them. The visitor center is lovely, the rangers knowledgeable, their displays well done but the actual fossil beds were bust. After the conference call we’ll do one more hike and that may have more fossils.
Yesterday we drove into the Ogala National Prairie and went to pasture 27 to look for rocks.We found lots of agates and crystals and other fine rocks. The pasture appears to undulate in a sea of waving greenery but as you walk into it you find rocky exposures where the fine old rock samples are exposed. You will be reassured to know that a person can collect up to 70 lbs of rocks a day from National Forests and Prairies, without consequence. We did not collect 70 lbs but we are working on replacing all that we sold in Pennsylvania. From Pasture 27 we went down to Toadstool Park where the sandstone deposits have eroded faster than the clay on top leaving funny pedastals of stone. The clay is old river bed and rich in fossils. We saw rhinoceros ancestor footprints, stretching almost ¾ mile along the trail. It is always a fine day to get to scramble about on great rocks. The undercuts are full of swallow nests and the swallows swarm in great clouds out and back from their homes.
From Toadstool we went along to Hudson-Meng and the bison bone bed, stopping on our way at a “homestead” called the Cook Shack. The little restaurant was closed but a woman stuck her head out the screen door to say she did have pie and ice cream and sasparilla floats if we wanted. Since we are on holiday we enjoyed peach pie, strawberry-rhubarb pie and a float for lunch. It was fine. The restaurant is part of a small old ranch which included an abandoned school. The official state of Nebraska registers for the school were still on the shelf. The book is a state form, the teacher completes it annually to satisfy the state and give the next teacher some idea of where her students were at the end of the year. One entry read “due to the harsh winter, we only had 5 months of school this year.” One young woman had trouble with her arithemetic for every year of entry. Another young man “could not be persuaded to attend school regularly.”
Hudson-Meng was a covered, cooled site which was a relief after the heat of the day. The origins of the bone bed are controversial – a mass hunting after “herding” the bison up a waterway? Disease? Famine? There is evidence of spears in the bones of the bison so it seems much more likely that they were hunted. The shear volume of bones is astonishing. Conditions here are such that they can dessicate the bison meat rapidly so they could preserve the meat for winter. They “tan” the bison hide by using the animals brain. The guide said (in an off hand way), every animal can be tanned with its own brain. Oh yea, my mother taught me that too!
While on the hike ouside Ft Robinson we got covered with these grass weed seeds that had little arrows to embed themselves in your clothes (see my sock, right).
It got so windy while we we away hiking that our tent fly ripped. After only 22 years (bought when rebecca was born, immediately clawed by a cat). Fortunately duck tape came to the rescue, and now our tent looks appropriately ghetto, (that's for you sammy!)
Monday, July 20, 2009
We are camped in a park on the site of the old Fort Robinson. Fort Robinson was the scene of many horrific events in the history of the country, repetitive demonstrations of man’s inhumanity to man. Crazy Horse was murdered here and several other massacres occurred. German prisoners of war were brought here because there could be no escape. K9 dogs were trained here for many years.
Today the Fort is a quiet, serene resort in a valley surrounded by lovely rose colored sandstone buttes. We are camped next to an official graveyard (I’m sure that there are other, innumerable, unmarked graves around us but our site is quiet and shady.
Nebraska is home to a treasure of fossils. Yesterday we saw two complete Columbian mammoths who died with tusks locked together in combat. Remarkable.
On our hike up into the buttes we saw three long horn sheep. My family will appreciate how long I have scanned the horizon for a long horn sheep. Now I just need to see a moose (and an antelope). We also saw naturalized sunflowers in great swaths along the hillsides.
When we came into Nebraska we were given a free fly swatter from the ‘host’ at the campground. It was a portent of our experience of Nebraska. Nebraska might well be called the grasshopper state but, if you don't like grasshoppers, the state is not lacking in flies, gnats, mosquitoes, and very large striped green beetles which dive bomb into our lantern in the evening (see photo).
Saturday, July 18, 2009
I74, Goal: the Mississippi River.
The state of Illinois is one huge field, 2/3 is corn and 1/3 is soybeans or something involving numbers in the millions of acres. It is not the custom to fallow any fields out here which seems very difficult for the soil which was compact in the field they recently turned from this practice.
There are many wonderful silos and farm machines and pieces of useful equipment. Also, windmills. It is really remarkably windy here. The wheels on the farm equipment are tremendous.
July 16, 2009
My favorite town we have been thru was Ipava . We’ve also been in Colcehster.
Tremendous farm machinery is all around us, sometimes folded in upon itself and carried on an equally tremendous orange truck that says “feeds and grains.”
We heard hoot owls calling back and forth around the lake and coyotes, a very large number of them, but all far away. Finally stars. The big dipper and the milky way and shooting stars. It was difficult to decide between small shooting stars and fireflys high above us. Fireflys (and mosquitoes and other wild life) were in abundance. The deep forest meadow where we camped (alone) was twinkling with fireflys.
We got very wet. Dew began to fall when we arrived and condensation continued lightly our entire night. The wood was very wet, thoroughly wet, and I had to go into the woods to take twigs and kindling from low in the pines to find dry wood. Then the fire burnt very slowly, perhaps the ?white pine is full of slow burning sap?
It was an excellent, though smokey fire and kept away most mosquitoes. I had only about 12 bites in the morning, even with bug repellent. By morning the tent and the fly were full of water, the chairs as well. The picnic table cloth was not only soaking wet but it was full of mud tracked by the raccoons who came and gnawed at the stove in the mid-night.
The goat milk is made into six different kinds of cheese currently, from a soft chevre to a montchega (a Spanish hard cheese). Each requires a different set of cultures to inoculate and different conditions of temperature and humidity. The cultures come from Europe and each cheesemaker uses a slightly different combination. Apparently the milk changes throughout the seasons, somewhat dependent on the feed. The whole operation is done under very strict standards of cleanliness since ambient microbes from the environment can disrupt the quality of the cheese. Some of the cheese rooms are very high humidity and others are very cold. The process can be speeded or slowed with small changes in the temperature. It was all very marvelous.
Cary knows Leslie because they are both compost experts. It makes me laugh to see her working with a new set of microbes but still using the same principles and concepts.
The farm is 39 acres with some of the land in alfalfa, some in hay, and a fair amount used to pasture the goats. The goats prefer weeds and high growing plants but to get a consistent milk they favor a controlled pasturing.
Leslie’s husband Wes showed me a core soil sample which demonstrated black loam (the O horizon) down almost 3 feet and good soil down another 3 feet. Illinois has beautiful soil.
Cleveland to Champagne Urbana Illinois.
Up at 6:30 and on the road by 8:00 but wandered through downtown Cleveland, going North to the Lake and back through industrial lowland Cleveland before we got on the highway. Cleveland has stunning architecture and even the old factories and warehouses near Lake Erie are full of fancy brickwork and great woodframed windows. There was still a lot of work happening in downtown Cleveland, despite all the dire economic data we see.
Cleveland Heights, where Po and Terre live, has hundreds of tremendous homes stately with stone and wood and stained glass windows. Po and Terre’s house is full of fine woodworked details inside like great built in window seats. Every detail of their house is beautiful, a celebration of life, birds, words, colors, ideas, sounds, and flavors. In the morning we biked about looking at grand homes and fine gardens. In the evening we walked around a small lake, watching big catfish snurfle about in the muck at shore and a great blue heron floating along the banks. We saw several tremendous trees. In fact, Cleveland Heights has a remarkable number of excellent trees because they are “field grown” meaning they have grown without any competition from surrounding forest forces. My favorite was a huge beech just a few blocks from their house.
The drive to Indianapolis was long and we were irritable. Egg salad sandwiches at a rest stop helped revive us enough to do the final hour of the five hour drive. Cary made a satellite connection for a conference all and did some other work while I did a walking tour of art deco buildings downtown. Looked in the Borders for the book about hikes in Wyoming that I’ve left behind but all they had were the most standard travel books: Fodor, Lonely Planet, nothing interesting.
The highway is both tedious and fascinating. I saw an 18 wheeler of tiny piglets sticking their noses out the slats. I saw great huge metal pipes. Now It is very very flat and our mileage has improved from a low of 16mpg to 24.6 mpg. We’ve paid $2.85 and $2.35 a gallon. We saw a station which had $2.18 a gallon but the gas was “E85” which, apparently, reduces your miles per gallon by 8% so, in the end, it isn’t any savings.
Mr Gramin (the GPS) has been uneven today and we have decided it is like having a third person on the trip. We reprogrammed him so that he shows north as up, instead of up being the direction we are headed in the moment. It is suprising how much we rely on the paper maps despite all of our new age tools.