Part 21: Jackson Lake, CO to Ten Sleep, WY


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The Trip

We left Jackson Lake State Park and pulled over in a parking lot to check a fluid splash that Kathleen spotted.  The problem seemed to be a clogged breather port on the transfer case.  I removed the breather and cleaned it out -- it was clogged with black paint that had been used to paint the frame of the truck back in 2010.  The problem has not happened until now because the engine improvements allowed running at higher speeds and therefore higher temperatures resulting in increased pressures in the transfer case.

Once we checked things out and added a small amount of oil to the transfer case, we headed west toward Longmont and Poudre Canyon.

The Photos

The photos below are what we saw.

Poudre Canyon outside of Ft. Collins was a narrow road next to the creek.

In a stark reminder of last summer's flooding, there is a cable bridge to allow access to the opposite side of the creek in the event of an emergency.  Because of luck of the draw, we were attempting to find a campsite in the canyon on a Friday afternoon.  Given our proximity to "the city" and the presence of an asphalt road, we had minimal luck until we reached an RV park.  We spent the night there and despite rain, we had a nice night.  Next morning brought brighter skies.

The RV park had an interesting old tractor and a pioneer building on their grounds.

We traveled up Poudre Canyon until we hit Poudre Falls.  Though not all that large a drop, the water flow provided a spectacular scene and plenty of noise.

The falls entered a narrow channel with very powerful currents.

We turned onto the dirt and headed north toward Wyoming along the Laramie River.  Many miles into the trail we spotted this Stewart and Stephenson truck that was part of a Colorado National Guard contingent that were supporting a "youth at risk" outreach program.

I had to get a photo of the S&S next to Thor.  The U.S. military imported a set of 1017As as prototype vehicles which is a fancy way of saying that they were stealing Mercedes intellectual property on the design.  It is not a coincidence that they look so similar.  One of the guardsmen told us that S&S faced a lawsuit over the issue and one of the terms of the settlement was that these trucks could not be sold on the commercial market.  When we were done with our photo shoot, we continued north.

We stopped along the side of the road for lunch.  Our pull-out was Laramie River that had trout.

We crossed over into Wyoming and the area became open range (stock on the highway).  The road was in excellent shape allowing 40 mph speeds.  The valley was lush with the water from the Laramie River.

We continued north along the Laramie River until we hit Wood's Landing, then we headed north over Sheep Mountain and into the Centennial Valley.  From the north end of the Centennial Valley we headed west into the Snowy Range portion of the Medicine Bow Mountains.  Just past Snowy Range pass we stopped for a few photos.  Snowy Range pass is at 10,800 feet and the surrounding peaks are nearly 12,000 feet.  There was plenty of snow remaining on the slopes.

Note the size of the cornice in the notch between the peaks.  When this fails, it will result in a spectacular avalanche.

These smaller cornices will fail as well in the near future.

Mirror Lake was right next to the road and there were a number of people there taking in the sights.  We continued down the west slope of the Medicine Bow mountains and found a camp at Ryan Park and spent the night.

The Forest Service camp at Ryan Park was more than acceptable, but a bit buggy with mosquitoes.  Next morning, we rolled into Saratoga, WY for a supply stop.  We had lunch at the local cafe and then headed west into the hills on the dirt.  There were many areas where there was loose stock on the road requiring defensive driving.  Cattle are not known for their superior reasoning abilities and we had more than one attempt to bold in front of us at the last second.  Thor would win that contest, of course, but it would result in grill damage and likely cause me to pay the rancher for his losses.

In the old days, lost cattle were found from horse back.  These days, the horse is named "Honda" and runs on regular gasoline rather than hay.  This fellow was searching for a specific cow, but I am not sure if he found it.  We are 30 miles from Saratoga in the hills in a remote are at this point and have another 70 miles or so to hit civilization to the north.

The area looked like pretty good cattle country, at least in the spring when things are green.  There were very few trees except at the higher elevations.

When I finally thought we were in a remote area, we saw this oil storage facility.  The tanks store oil from the surrounding wells until it can be trucked to a distribution point.  We continued north past Wamsutter, WY and then north through the Great Divide Basin toward Crook's Gap.  Along the way, we passed several uranium mines and a refinement mill at Chain Lakes Flat.

We found an overlook point near Crook Gap and made camp for the night.

From our campsite, we could see down into the Sweetwater River valley which was the path of the Mormon Hand Cart expedition.

To the east of the campsite we could see Sheep Mountain Mine on the flanks of the Green Mountains.

The western terrain is harsh on animals.  I spotted this partial skull next to our camper.

Looking south east from our campsite, we could see Bare Ring Butte on the horizon.

On the map, we spotted a petroglyph site at a place called Castle Gardens.  We left the main road and headed east 5 miles from the "main" road to the site.  Unlike the rolling hills of the surrounding area, the Castle Gardens area is a small fault and uplift that resulted in a cliff.

Like many uncontrolled petroglyph areas in the west there was some graffiti.  But at least these more recent glyphs were well done.

Some of the exposed formations were quite dramatic.

Some of the petroglyphs were rather novel compared to others that we have seen in the west.

The symbology employed in these petroglyphs seem unique compared to the Anasazi regions.

The stone was quite soft and it was easy to make lines using sticks and sharp rocks.

These sets of glyphs were interesting in that there areas that were ground flat to prepare for the actual carving of the patterns.

We ate lunch at Castle Gardens and then continued north past the geographic center of Wyoming, through Moneta to the poison gas areas near Lysite.  At Lost Cabin there was an oil refining facility.

North of Lost Cabin, we headed into the Bighorn Mountains and passed through several hogbacks that have been breached by rivers.

We followed the Nowood River and found many nice ranches.

The Nowood River carved a huge notch in the eastern flank of the ridge.

The river banked a hard turn and cut right through the ridge.

The road through the notch followed the creek.  The walls of the notch were very steep.

The lower reaches of the Nowood River valley had nice fields with both cattle and sheep and red cliffs similar to southern Utah.

We ended this segment of our trip in Ten Sleep, WY at the only campsite in town.  We were told that the Ten Sleep Saloon had great steaks so we went to check it out.  It was a big night in Ten Sleep as it turns out; they were out of steak so we had a pizza instead.  In fact, it was a great pizza.

Next, we head to Cody for a major resupply and to visit our friends Bob and Sandy.

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