Sunday, December 15, 2013

Research Vacation in Dubois

Togwotee Pass
After dropping down from the Togwotee Pass on the continental divide in the Absaroka Mountains, I drove into Dubois, Wyoming and fell in love with the place. It is the quintessential picture of a western town. Take away the paved asphalt roads; you are visually transported back in time, or in a scene from a Western movie! With names such as Whiskey Peak, Painted Hills, Wind River and the Badlands, It looked like a place where you would expect to see John Wayne crowned with a ten-gallon hat, sauntering down the wooden sidewalks.

I visited the region in order to do some research for my fiction book, I am currently writing. Because it is a period piece, set in the Great Basin of Wyoming, I want the era to remain true, even if my characters are purely fictional. I made it a research vacation. I also made time to tour the picturesque region staying in several areas of Wyoming. Dubois became my favorite and I stayed an extra day longer than I originally planned. My only regret is that I did not have more time to spend there. I definitely want to return some day and explore further.
Wyoming's big sky
The Dubois Museum proved useful, the director gave me many tips on where I could further find the material I was looking for as well as having items on hand that I could see, such as equipment and clothing of the era.

I had the pleasure of staying at the Longhorn Ranch Lodge and Resort three miles east of the town of Dubois. The cabin I stayed in had all the rustic charm, yet remained warm, cozy, clean, and quiet. It came equipped with a kitchen where I could cook meals when I wanted to stay in and write. The screened in back porch, became my writer’s paradise. This is where I sat at the table with my laptop and looked out at the Wind River that meandered through the area. Kono liked the porch too, especially when I allowed him to jump up on the benches where he could view outside. As I wrote, I looked up from time to time to view the river and the Badlands beyond.

I loved this cabin by the river.

I wrote for many hours in the screened-in back porch.
Kono, sporting his new summer haircut, enjoyed the view.
The cabin came furnished with a most comfortable bed!

I found simple pleasure in walking Kono along the river that wound through the cottonwood-tree-studded resort. My late spring visit meant the place remained almost void of campers and motor homes, and the river ran high in its banks.

The resort's cottonwood trees with the Badlands behind.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Friday, November 22, 2013

Which Way Did I Go

Originally posted: 06/20/11

Wyoming plays host to a sleeping super volcano, located in Yellowstone Park, where the earth bubbles, spits and spews, and occasionally lets out some fowl-smelling stinkers. Signs warn of the dangers; people are killed or injured every year, either messing with the local animals or stepping off the beaten path. Moreover, I paid 25 dollars for this thrill ride!

It was worth every penny spent. I went in several times, since the pass is good for more than one day. The first day, I went through the gate after following the Grand Tetons for hours and wound around in one section of Yellowstone Park. A few days later, I needed to drive from Dubois to Cody, Wyoming; fastest way to get there was go through the park. The direction signs confused me and I thought the northeast gate was the east one. When I exited the park, I saw the sign "Welcome to Montana." I took a wrong turn somewhere and my four-hour trip turned into a seven-hour one. The good thing was I traveled through incredible country; I would have missed it had I left out the east gate.

On my last day in Wyoming, I needed to travel to Missoula, Montana, my final stop on my journey. Back through Yellowstone Park was the most direct way from Cody, to get where I was going. It was also the last day of my pass to get into the park. This time I was going to pay better attention to the signs and the map of the park, so I wouldn't end up in Idaho or back in Wyoming. I traveled to the east gate and waited patiently in a long line of cars, to go into the park. When it was my turn, the park ranger looked at my pass, then looked at me and said, "Which gate did you get your pass from?"

"Um, um." I hesitated. Was this a geography test? "Where the big mountains are?" I offered him a smile. What if I gave him a wrong answer? Would he take my pass away and make me pay again? Then I remembered. I came in from the south side of the park, and I was here on the east side—the gate I was supposed to exit from a few days ago, but drove out the Northeast one by mistake. "Oh wait! I bought it at the south gate!"

He handed me back my pass and said, "That's right," waving me through. I breathed a sigh of relief; I passed the test. As I continued on my way, I was reminded by the scenery that big mountains are everywhere. “I'm high up in the Rocky Mountains, in the caldera of a super volcano! Whee!”

Geysers in Yellowstone Park

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Whatever Floats

Some days it pays to go fishing, or crabbing, or sitting on the dock, just gazing. I miss those days when I had more time to sit, ponder, and fish. I need more time to relax and enjoy life. This isn't a dress rehearsal, unless I can reincarnate. In which case, I want to come back as a pier post. I can sit all day and gaze out over the water. No one would judge me when I spend time lost in my daydreams. I will conjure up pirate ships, watch endless sunrises, and sunsets. The worst that will happen to me is a boat will bump into me or children carve their initials into my side.

I know. I will come back as a fish, deftly dodging the angler's hook. I can see it now. Playfully nudging her transparent fishing line, I tease this fisher out of her daydreams. She stirs a bit in her canvassed folding chair. After a hard whap on the string with my tail, she screams with delight, "I got one! I got one!" Swiftly yanking her pole upwards, to set the hook, she frowns. The string is limp and lifeless. 

No, I got you! Snickering as only a fish could do with a few released bubbles from my mouth; I wait until she sits down again and wanders away in thought.

Initiating the slow tease again, I know she is wary now. It won’t be easy enticing her out of her daydream and back to this line I now lovingly caress with my fin. I nibble at the colorful small toy at the end of the line, until she stands up. Now I have her full attention. I continue the tease; watching her stand motionless above the water. I nibble some more and she doesn’t move. Again, not a stir from her. I am bored! One more time, I pull the toy with my teeth. I start to laugh as I watch her body jerk; her hands bring the pole straight up. Fooled her again! 

What the? A tug on my cheek lurches me forward in the water as a sharp jolt of pain shoots up into my brain. Ugh, she got me! She got me! 

I hear her snickering, as I become air born. “Fool me once shame on you, fool me twice, not this time.”

Maybe I'll come back as a boat, and just float.

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Adventures in Camping

I haven’t gone camping in a long time, but this year I bought a few items to make it more comfortable to camp out in the back of my SUV. Except for sleeping, I wasn’t going to spend much time at the campground on the Long Beach Peninsula because I was here to tour coastal gardens with friends.

I bought a Coleman air mattress made to fit the back end of an SUV. At the time I thought it would be fun to grab the dog, fill the cooler up with food, and take off for a camping trip a few times in the summer. The Long Beach garden tour adventure would be a good test to see how I would do. I quickly discovered that an air mattress takes up most of the room in the back of a vehicle, which meant shuffling things around so that when the air mattress was in use I could stretch out to sleep and have enought room for my Australian Shepherd too.

A couple of neighboring campers kept walking through my campsite, so I asked them if they would go around, “For privacy,” I said, politely setting boundaries. They apologized and I went back to shuffling and stuffing items here and there around the vehicle. Just before I climbed into the back, I wondered how I was going to lock myself in. I blame my poor thinking on being tired, that I didn’t think to use the fob to lock up. Therefore, I opened the side door for me to climb in, flipped the lock on the front door, and shut the back door behind me.

If I can have a good night’s sleep while camping, then I don’t mind roughing it. Success! It was very comfortable and warm and I fell asleep immediately. At around 4 am I woke up with pressure on my bladder. I tried to ignore it and fall back asleep, but my body kept pestering me! Finally, at 4:30 I knew I wouldn’t get back to sleep until I took care of business. In a half awake state, I reached over the front seat to the driver’s door, unlocked the car, and then reached for the passenger door. When it opened, the car horn shrieked, ending the early morning quiet, and announcing my stupidity! I grabbed my keys out of the netting and thought if I put them into the ignition and started the engine the noise would stop. The horn kept honking as I turned the key, but the car would not start. I fumbled around with the keys in the ignition while manually flipping the lock switch on the door. The alarm fell silent.

Phew, now I really need to pee! I opened the door and the car horn started blaring again. Quickly, I shut the door, fumbled around with the keys in the ignition, and couldn’t get the alarm to turn off. Then it stopped. How do I get out of my car? Just then, the alarm went off again, did a couple of rounds of ear-numbing honking, and then stopped. I needed to unhook the battery; anything to keep it from starting up again. I knew I was waking people up all over the campground. There was an unmistakable sound of a tent door being unzipped nearby, reminding me of the unfortunate campers in tents that were jolted out of sleep. The alarm went off again! They must be at a point of wanting to lynch me. Oh gees Debbie, use the fob! I hit the unlock button on the fob and the alarm quit.

I quietly got out of my car and waited to see if the alarm was going to go off again. My dog was whimpering in bewilderment, but the car remained quiet. As I locked it up, my bladder reminded me why I was standing outside of my car at 4:30 in the morning. I turned in the direction of the bathrooms, and ran!

Saturday, November 16, 2013

West Seattle Farmer's Market

Heirloom tomatoes
It's all about the texture. Piles of vegetables, buckets and buckets of colorful flowers, home-spun signs and lots of stuff to nibble on—it's the charm of our local farmer's markets. 

I was on a garden tour with a group of garden bloggers from around the country, as well as two who came from England to join us! We pulled up in our buses and flooded the market with our bodies and cash. For lunch, I had a cold soup and a delectable pastry and also bought a bagful of Rainier cherries to snack on for the rest of the day. 

I loved the organic produce offered here. Everyone is talking about buying local; well, here it’s at this market and organic too! I can spend my money locally, eat quality, fresh fruit and vegetables and positively support the local economy. 

Yum-yum and win-win!

Flower bouquets

Rainier cherries

Organic produce

Organic produce



More bouquets


Thursday, November 14, 2013

Castle Gardens Wyoming

Castle Gardens

I loved Wyoming! I only wished I had had more time to explore further. I dropped down from the white blanketed Rocky Mountains to the painted canyons of pure rust-red, or striped rust-red and beige—postcard perfect scenes near Dubois. The Wind River winds through the canyons and hillsides, which are covered in huge boulders. My first destination would be Castle Gardens State Park.

Castle Gardens

As soon as I got off the main highway, I found that many side roads are unpaved. I discovered this the day I drove to Castle Gardens located on the Wind River Reservation. This isn't a garden surrounding a castle—it's a small canyon of pure white and red sandstone rock formations. I wanted to visit the petroglyphs that were chipped into the rock, so long ago. 

To get there it meant I had to travel twenty-nine miles on a dirt road with gravel and dust flying from the tires. The best speed I found to travel on this road was between 20 to 25 miles per hour. You can't speed over 40 miles an hour on any of it. On the more rustic parts, you seem to be travelling over tractor tire ridges that set your teeth chattering and the whole car vibrating. I felt like I was at a Motel 6 back in the day when you could put a quarter into a slot next to the bed and the whole bed would vibrate. That was supposed to simulate getting a back massage. When the vibration stops, your body wants to know, "What the hell was that?" As I travelled down the road receiving my faux massage, it seemed like it took forever to get there. However, the trip proved to be worth the time.

Encountered an antelope on the dirt road
Pronghorn Antelope Encounter

Along the way, I watched pairs of antelope running, or more like bounding away as quickly as possible. Accept for one loner, who appeared not to care that I was on the road close to him. I slowed down and then stopped. Fortunately, I had my camera in the front seat. What luck, to encounter such a beautiful animal! She nibbled brush on one side of the road, and then crossed over to the other side while I happily clicked the shutter hundreds of times. She then wandered back into the middle of the road and walked away from me. I slowly drove my car behind, being careful not to spook her. 

She stopped and looked back at me and I stopped and continued to photograph her! Eventually, she wandered off. I had enough photos in my camera to remember her by, so I too wandered on to my destination.

Big Sky

 Living in the land of tree-plenty, I’m not used to barren landscapes, so it struck me how much bigger the sky appeared. The flatness of the landscape except for outcroppings of rock magnified it even more. In spite of the barren land, I found a lot of beauty there.

Backside of the canyon doesn't give away its secrets.
You can't see the canyon from the road. For miles I looked for signs of it and finally spotted it shortly before turning the corner and dropping down into it. I drove down into a canyon surrounded by pristine, pure white sandstone rocks that stood as tall sentinels capped in rust. I stepped out of the car and into a magical land. The stillness made me a little nervous as Kono and I seemed to be the only living beings here.

Sky Signals Above Castle Gardens
I strapped Kono's backpack on him and loaded it with a couple of water bottles for us to drink. After strapping my gear on my back, we set out following the shrubs and small rocks marked with plastic ribbon showing the way through the steep walls, rocks and washes, eventually finding the ancient petroglyphs that the first people of this region left, eons ago.

Kono with his backpack.

Crossing the washes made me a little nervous. It’s definitely a place you don't want to be in when a flash flood occurs. A wall of water roaring down upon you without any warning could ruin your day quick! We crossed them in a hurry.

One of the washes that crisscrosses through Castle Gardens.

There were chain link fences placed around the petroglyphs to protect them. It's hard to believe that there are people out there that deface these historical and sacred treasures. It was difficult to photograph through the chain link wire with openings smaller than the width of my lenses. I spotted some areas cut out in the fence I could photograph through without wire interfering. That is, if I stood six feet tall! Whoever cut the holes in the wire grew a lot taller than I did. I didn't bring a step stool to help me reach the high places, and I left my bolt cutters at home. I would have to crop out the wire shadows on the edges, so I adjusted my compositions to accommodate what I couldn't change.

Chain link fence protects petroglyphs from being vandalized.
I soon forgot my nervousness of being by myself with Kono miles from anywhere. The birds sometimes sang, and the wind would occasionally whistle through the canyon. Surrounded by such serenity I didn't want to leave. I wondered what the ancient ones thought when they came to this place. Did they spend many nights camped out in the shadow of the canyon rocks? Did they come here alone, like me on a warm spring day? Did they hear only the sound of the birds, or the wind whistling through the canyon?

I let my imagination move with them. They walked the same pathways, sat next to these rocks, and chipped out expressions of their lives and visions.

 It is my hope that the state of Wyoming will one day replace this sign that says "made by indians" with something more respectful such as the tribe's name (if known) or at the very least use Native Americans.