0530. That’s too early … especially as our night in the back of an old Chevrolet station wagon was so comfy. But needs must … we had 95 miles to do today. The ‘campsite’ was JD’s garden and it was a wonderful cross between a fairy grotto and a scrapyard which surrounded her trailer home. She even laid on coffee and bacon … and all for no charge (we did leave a donation). The constant kindness of strangers in America never ceases to amaze and impress me.
Muddy Gap beckoned. Straight into a chilly headwind and back over the Continental Divide once again, the landscape was bleak, barren and oddly beautiful, broken only by the occasional natural salt pan. We were following the Oregon Trail alongside the Sweetwater River. I impressed Paul and Mike by informing them it was made by fur trappers and traders pushing west in the 1830s and that the route was used subsequently by settlers, the Pony Express to deliver mail and religious groups like the Mormons to escape persecution. (I didn’t fess up that I had just read it on an information board)
As we continued north and west the geology changed, with outcrops of bare rock now hemming in the river, dictating its route. Uranium was discovered in these rocks in the 1950s and Jeffrey City exploded into being … for about 30 years … until the demand collapsed. Its Split Rock Cafe was a welcome sign of life … but for the first time ever, there was no welcome … just perfunctory service and an uneasy feeling … not even an offer of a coffee refill. Outside, we all wondered what we had done wrong? Did we smell much more than we realised? Did they not like English accents? Or was it just a local cafe for local people?
If we thought the natives were unfriendly, their mosquitoes were in a different league … mutated by the local radioactivity levels, they could fly at Mach 2, pierce armour plating and empty you of blood in 30 seconds flat! Or so it seemed. And oh boy, did they itch. (Paul wouldn’t let me photogragh the 20 odd bites on his bum as proof.) Anyway, they chased us the next 10 miles to a roadside rest area, where an almighty storm with hail the size of marbles did for them … as it would have done for us without the shelter.
The haul up to Beaver Rim was done to the accompaniment of massed scratching of legs, arms and bottoms. Beaver Rim is a massive escarpment which has been eroded over millions of years resulting in the geology being laid bare for all to see. I’m not a good enough wordsmith to do it, or our excitement at seeing it, justice. It was stunning. As was the 5 mile descent through it.
The geology just went on and on changing as we approached Lander, it being reflected in the names of the features we passed … Blue Ridge, Red Canyon Rim, Green Mountain, Dallas Dome. Dallas Dome? … sorry, that was where Wyoming’s first oil well was sunk in 1884 just south of Lander. 95 miles done, we deserved a reward … and lo and behold, the town had a micro brewery. ’nuff said.
Today’s miles: 93
Miles since First Landing: 2807