Yes, vacations have to end sometime. I’ve returned to the world of hot and humid and sticky (but beds and bathrooms) from the world of cool dry mountain air (but tents and canned goop for dinner). It’s an interesting tradeoff.
Two days of driving out, first the long haul to Rapid City (nice little downtown, some good restaurants, but way too many tourists and too much trashy tourism), then the slower drive through Wyoming’s Black Hills and Devil’s Tower, then that first wonderful of Bighorns while still out in the sagebrush flats and Sheridan, which hasn’t changed much since last year (why would I expect it would?).
Then up to Tie Chute, with several days having the place all to myself (and Ken, of course, the very chatty and considerate camp host). The campground was relatively uninhabited most of the time and the few campers were friendly and considerable (none of the screaming and messes that will be there later in the summer). With only one day left in my reserved time I just really didn’t feel like leaving so I found it was possible to stay another two days (in my spot, one of the two best in the campground, which I think is one of the best in the entire Bighorns). Despite what appeared online as huge demand in point of fact most people stopping there had no reservations so it’s still too early in season for that. Of course there were frequent thunderstorms and rain showers, even two nights below freezing where my water container had an inch of ice the next morning (and made me glad I’d taken my old backpacking winter grade down sleeping bag as backup). So nine nights altogether. The new tent was huge improvement over last year’s use of small backpacking tent. And the GoZeebo, esp. given this was the first year I’ve ever had any mosquitoes was a big improvement (not having to sit in car when it rains). So my equipment upgrades helped a lot, compared to last year, but mostly I did have better weather. I also enjoyed the Elk View Inn a lot more than Bear Lodge (had good local IPA and Moosedrool, plus great fries). And all my weight loss effort, mostly accomplished through exercise, meant I was well prepared for some fairly aggressive hiking and I managed to record 42 miles of hiking, some of it with substantial attitude gain.
So all in all a big success, but somehow the whole adventure still wasn’t as satisfying at I’d hoped. I think I’ve just set the bar too high now, Wyoming has to be the two weeks of the year that makes up for the other 50.
On the way back I drove up to Billings (where I used live, something I kept telling myself, wow, 50+ years ago, hardly recent history, plus I’m old enough to have lived somewhere and remembered it (was driving by then) yet it’s that long ago). Then through Red Lodge and Beartooth Highway, the most beautiful driving road in the country (some sports car club with exotic and expensive cars (so far out of my league I don’t even know exactly what they were) thought so too). Then into Yellowstone, which was incredibly beautiful for a couple of hours until I hit the mobs whereupon, once again, the place was parking lot with just too many people. I was happy to get out! Down through the Tetons, but so delayed by traffic in Yellowstone (at least one 2 hour, 5 mile long jam, where I reversed and took alternative route) that I had to drive non-stop for hours to get Riverton before my already-reserved motel would close for the night (did just barely make it). Then another long day across the desert part of Wyoming ending up in Scottsbluff, having fun using my MiFi to get weather reports and thus dodge baseball-sized hail in Torrington, Wyoming. But by Scottsbluff, even though just on western edge of Nebraska it was clear I was back in the flats and humidity. So even the last day (mostly I-80 with some geodashing) was just the long push home.
And now what? Summer is too crowded to go anywhere. These long road trips cost too much gasoline. And local trips mean seeing nothing but corn in the dripping heat of summertime. Might as well just go into hibernation until fall where at least I can go outside again, but then it will be as brown and dead and drab as the Wyoming desert. So nothing until next May where fresh green and decent weather make it worth being outside. Pretty bad to live in a place where it’s only pleasant outside for two months per year (vs northern California that came close to 12 months a year, you guys have no clue how lucky you are, as I too used to take it for granted and only learned how wonderful it is when I lost it).
I’ll try to get my thoughts together why this year (my fourth visit to Bighorns) didn’t work out quite the way I hoped and/or why I don’t get the restoration of spirits I used to.
But while disappointing in some ways (again, most disappointing compared to my expectations than absolute as, in fact, it was a good trip) this is still the best part of my annual cycle now.