I already shared my adventures while camping in the Bighorns, including a surprise moose sighting. I would like to back up and tell you about my travel into the mountains and why I choose to camp there instead of other possibilities. Then, I will tell you about driving out. Here is a hint:
As I zoom by the Bighorn Mountains in Northern Wyoming to my minister training in Billings, Montana, I can see the mountains are dramatic. Even from that distance the unique geological formations—sharp slabs of uplifted rock form the front foothills—are visible. I decide to camp there on my way back to Southern Wyoming.
I head back towards the Bighorns the second my training is over! Because the mountains rise so sharply from the plains, I know the road is a doozy: winding, steep, and scary as they come. I am nervous enough driving such a road, but pulling the camper was a potential challenge. I decide to be a big girl and breath normally and proceed calmly, even when the road barely clings to the mountainside and drops off hundreds, maybe thousands of feet.
The exposed geological strata that I see from the Interstate a few days before must be important, because for the first few miles up and into the mountains on those steep roads, signs educate me about the name, composition, and age of the rock and soil layers. I see the signs only through my peripheral vision, and my attention is glued to the road, which continues to rise quickly, through stunning scenery. At every switchback was a “scenic view” turnout.
Finally the road levels off and I relax. Deer are everywhere along the side of the road, a charming sight but their presence makes for hazardous driving. Soon, I see my destination: Silbey Lake Campground. I choose this spot because I like camping near water, but also the campground has some sites with electricity.
Of, course, I have to back up, into the site first. Oh my. I have never successfully backed up Half Moon. I manage to wiggle my way in after 10 times backing up, pulling forward, turning a bit more, backing up again. Inch-by-inch I get there, and I imagine that all the nosy old folks are sitting in their campers watching. I half expect to hear clapping when I finally get in the site.
I set up and plug in. Wow! I turn on all the lights and the refrigerator, then set up heated mattress and a small lamp. The heater fan works great but night temperatures will not be that bad, so I leave it off.
As I kick back, I realize how lucky I am. Four state parks with reservoirs are less than 70 miles from my house. Rocky Mountain National Park is 3 hours southwest, while the Black Hills of South Dakota are 3 hours northeast. The southern side of the Bighorns are 4 hours. Sigh, time to relax and ponder my good fortune.
What goes up must go down, so my sense of peace ends when I start back down the road for home. I had tried not to think about it while camping, but the time had come to tackle the winding road again. I gave myself a little pep talk about being a big girl and learning to be relaxed on steep mountain roads. I tell myself to go slow and just ignore the impatient people behind me. I mentally rehearse emergency situations and visualize what to do (flat tire, then head into the mountain and stop, rather than be wobbly and close to the edge). I remember reading about using the transmission to slow down instead of the brakes, which can fail with constant use, especially when pulling a camper. I follow all my own advice and am surprised how relaxed I am. Going slow works for those winding steep roads and when I got to the bottom I expected to hear more clapping. Nothing.
Once on I-25 I cruise comfortably and take the “business routes” through Sheridan and then Buffalo. They are beautiful and situated right at the base of the Bighorns. Although not far from me, this is a different Wyoming–more like the western side of the state. I learn that the area has a significant population of Basques (from Spain) who still raise sheep in the region.
Back at home, I do some research about the geology of the Bighorns. Apparently the western side is as dramatic and beautiful as the eastern slope. I think about when I can go again, maybe this fall to see the Aspens. I should be able to go next summer to attend a local bluegrass festival and investigate all the roads in and out of Bighorn National Forest. I would go back this winter for snowshoeing, but that is not something to do alone.
As for now, Half Moon and Flying Cloud rest happily in my driveway. Tonight I ordered a cover for the camper, which will protect it during the winter. Because of our winds, I bought a heavy-duty cover that has a tie down system.
In the meantime, I wonder, where will I go next? I don’t usually head out in the crowds on Labor Day weekend, but if I go on that Monday, campers are already starting to head home and I might find some quiet. Or, maybe I will camp on a friend’s land in the Laramie Range near home. I might even head 60 miles north to Douglas, which has some camping nearby and many historic sites in town that I want to visit.
- Moose and Heated Mattress (janesjournals.wordpress.com)