You know when you are in the mountains gaining elevation because your ears “pop”. You know you’re in Wyoming when you open your car door and it nearly rips out of your grasp. The wind, like taxes and death is a truism here. A Conoco gas station, with an obvious sense of humor had banners posted, “Free Wind”, which we thought odd at first…and then we got out of the car! As such, we were treated to as much “Free Wind” as we could take, while fueling up and stretching our legs, before we retreated back to the still air of our car’s interior. We are on our way to South Dakota for a pheasant hunting trip with our deer hunting clan, a 3-plus days drive. Normally we would be deer hunting, but alas we were not successful in our draws for the opportunity to hunt in either Utah or Wyoming. Being the cheap SOB’s that we are, we camped the night before in Utah at Sand Hollow State Park, an OHV and fishing park. We lucked out and arrived just before the entrance gates closed (and are locked) at 9pm. We were directed by the Ranger (after paying the $25 “primative”camping fee) to “camp anywhere on the sand” to our left, after the “three flags”. Just after the flags, we drove off-road onto the rust colored red sand dunes crisscrossed with narrow ATV tracks, and thought better of setting up in this area. Upon returning to the park road we consulted the park map and meandered further down the now dirt road where we made a hopeful left turn onto a sandy, brush flanked, path that we hoped led to the water’s edge. A maze of paths carved into the sand and brush appeared before us. A left turn, a right turn, another left and a right. Watch us get ourselves lost we laughed, and suddenly the soft, rutted, sandy path opens to a flat opening with a shiny aluminum picnic table and the water’s edge. We took this as a sign, that we had “arrived”, and set up camp. In the near distance we could hear the sound of ATVs motoring about, and see their headlights where we had originally pulled off, and were pleased with our decision.
After an “okay” nights sleep, we pack up and hit the road. Wyoming is this day’s destination. Just after night fall we make it to the North Platte River, famous for it’s rainbow trout fly fishing. We find a BLM campground called Pete’s Draw. The campsites are gianormous and flat…like most of Wyoming. The North Platte River meanders below us.
We set up underneath the permanent awning just in case the approaching storm arrives a little earlier, as would be our luck. The temperature guage of my FJ read 38°…and because our truck is “broken” we, as the night before, are relegated to tent camping. Joy. Joy. We, however, are prepared for cold weather… mostly. We set up quickly, then fire up the JetBoil for a steaming hot Mountain House meal. It is pitch dark, and ironically, we have 4G reception…go figure. We listen to a radio app on Paul’s phone as we eat, and notice that there is not a breath of wind. Ah yes, the calm before the storm. It appears that there will now be a high probability of no fishing for me tomorrow morning. Grrr. We crawl into our tent as the temperature drops to freezing. As is customary, and inevitable, at my age, I soon awake uncomfortably cold, and realize it’s time to pee. Clumbsly I exit the tent and am treated to a clear sky full of stars, milky way and all. Once my bladder is relieved, I gaze skyward and drink in the splendor of the night’s twinkling tapestry until literally frozen with delight. Back into “bed” I crawl, where sleep returns once I thaw out. I awake once more near 4am to the vestibule door, that we failed to stake down, flapping violently against my head. Yup, no fly fishing today I confirm to myself, and fall back to sleep.
Soon the morning’s sunrise, and the incessant honking of geese beckons us to arise. The wind gusts through our campsite, reminding us that, yes, we are in Wyoming. For us, it is bitter cold. It is near freezing with the wind chill, and our exposed fingers are rendered near useless as we fumble to take down our tent and pack up. A hot cup of coffee, a day old donut and a freezing splash of water on our faces, and we are on our way once more, taking note to return earlier next year and fish to our hearts delight. As we head towards Casper, we check to see if we can make the Sunday morning mass. We arrive at Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church, just in time for the 830 service. We find it ironic that we have driven all this way and end up at an Our Lady of Fatima, of which we too have in our town. After church, we scan the church bulletin, and take notice of the Knights of Columbus “Annual Gun-A-Week raffle”, and chuckle. For the briefist of moments we imagine moving here. Nope! Too much wind. It makes my hair all staticy…drives me nuts. We remark to each other how different the recreational culture is between here and our home. Our Parrish’s Knights of Columbus raffle giant TV’s and surfboards. Back on the road once more, we traverse the wide open countryside dotted with oil rigs and pronghorn. Periodically, at intersections, rail crossing style gate arms stand tall biding their time till the winter snows call them into action and their purpose as road sentries.
Blonde rolling plains of knee high grass eventually morph into jutting rust red plateaus and soon black dirt and the forested knolls of the Black Hills of South Dakota appear. Signs for Devil’s Tower National Park alert us to a possible side trip, but for us it is too cold and the skies are too grey and dreary to make that an enjoyable side trip, at least for now. A rain/snow storm is a-coming and once we reach Rapid City South Dakota hotel points will be redeemed.