Be forewarned. This is going to be our worst winter in 150 years.
My unsubstantiated opinion is based on nothing but a deep dread, the maturation cycle of fireweed and the abundance of wild berries. I’m filled with angst and a desperate urge to flee, to hit the open road, to pull the big circle before the first snow.
An old-timer once told me that he, his wife and their little girl had no indoor plumbing in Bondurant. They obtained water by hauling it out of the nearby creek. On wash days my friend would wear a wooden neck yolk to carry two pails of water at a time 200 yards to their cabin.
“Where’d you get the neck yolk?” I asked.
“Made it myself from some timber,” he said.
Ten to 20 trips were needed to complete the washing. Water needed to be heated over a wood fire, scrubbing ensued, hanging wash on the clothesline required wearing snowshoes. I believe they were climate hostages suffering from Stockholm syndrome.
“You should have all walked to San Diego,” I told him. “It would have been easier. You know sandals, sun beach.”
“Too many people,” was the answer.
I have visions of my friend, and now me, spending the worst winter in 150 years gnawing on roasted wapiti bones paired with flour dumplings.
I absolutely must embark on a socially distant road trip before the snow hits, potentially resulting in me sliding off the road, requiring someone to come by to pull me out of a borrow pit. I want out of here before I need to load my truck with chains, sleeping bag, a worn copy of “Moby Dick” and a life-saving can of Spam. My first stop will be Dubois, where I’ll get a slice of chocolate pecan pie to go at the Cowboy Cafe. Then it’s a total immersion of backcountry logging camps.
The oldest logging camps in the Dubois area were established in the early 1900s. Finding bits of amethyst-colored glass fragments is one of the telltale signs that you have come upon a logging site. In those days colorless glass was manufactured with impurities that resulted in its turning purple after years of exposure to sunlight. I’ve filled countless hours collecting purple glass, shark’s teeth and rocks in Dubois. Now I’m going to do it again.
After a few nights camping in Dubois I think it would be nice to fish the Popo Agie (pronounced Puh-Poe-zha) and head to Thermopolis to take in the sulphur waters.
The other option is to go to Afton. I don’t get to Afton much, but when I do I am dazzled by the 18-feet-tall, 75-feet-wide World’s Largest Antler Arch that was completed in July of 1958. Our Jackson Town Square arches are smaller and were completed in 1960. What the heck?
The big draw of Afton for me is not just the elk arch but instead visiting America’s only cold water geyser. This geyser is the largest of three known fluctuation springs in the world.
Native Americans traveled to this “Spring that Breathes” to cure their ills. Now it will be my turn. Its name is descriptive of its periodic flow that during the fall and winter turns on and shuts off every 12 to 20 minutes. No one can figure out why.
These periodic flows are most noticeable in fall and winter. I like going in the autumn, though if you go in the summer you can stop at Jacz Drive In, in Etna, where you can choose Burgerz, Wrapz or my particular favorite the Jacz Yak Attack, which is locally raised Yak meat topped with spicy sriracha, mayo and grilled onion. I know, who knew?
Every Wyoming road trip should include a stop at Daniel Junction for a cooked-to-order dish of deep fried gizzards. Another road trip must-have is the Cheese Wheel, a battered and deep-fried cheeseburger from the Dairy Land Drive-In, in Lander. Several summers ago I went with a friend to Lander specifically for the Cheese Wheel. When my travel companion opened up her piping hot Styrofoam container she stared silently for several seconds, looked at me with eyebrows raised and said, “Doreen, we got up at 6 a.m. and drove three hours for this?”
“Yes. Life’s simple pleasures!” I replied.
Since the Cheese Factory disappeared, Star Valley may not be the foodie’s paradise that Lander is. However Grover, Turnerville, Auburn, Freedom and Thayne have their charms, and as for Etna, it’s a hopping, growing town, which is hard to believe now that the feed store is gone but you can get self-serve chocolate and vanilla swirl ice cream cones at the Etna Trading Post, which is always worth a stop on the road to winter.