Spring Time in Wyoming

Regardless of the dry, dry weather. Spring is here. The first birds to return to my locale are the Mountain Bluebirds. They’ve been here for almost a month. Their cheerful deep blue and sky blue feathers are a treat to behold.As the summer progresses, we watch them dart and dive after insects. It’s satisfying to watch them feast on the mosquito population!

Western_Meadowlark

Photo by Kevin Cole, Flickr

The real harbinger of spring for many Wyomingites, however, is the state bird, the Western Meadowlark. It’s distinct song is the hallmark of warmer weather.

In honor of the changing seasons, I have replaced my header image with a photo of Phlox (multiflora?) the lowland version, Phlox hoodii, is one of the first native wild flowers to bloom.

Warm, Dry March

It seemed like March was really dry, but I’m in a new place, so I don’t have years of personal experience regarding March weather in this location. According to the maps below, my impression was correct. We had good snow cover all winter, then it was as if someone just turned the clouds off. Almost no discernible moisture in March.

Prepitation March 20154 Wyoming

Wyoming  less than 50% precipitation March of 2015

Most of Wyoming received less than 50% of the long term average precipitation in March of 2015 (upper left image)

Yes, Wyoming is Desolate

Keep Wyoming WildSometimes I’m a little miffed at the way people describe Wyoming. Words like barren, desolate, and god-forsaken have been used. I recently read a best seller where the protagonist walks through Wyoming and dismisses it with a few sentences as ugly and trashy. The author then goes on to spend pages and pages describing a well known Midwestern city, so I’m guessing we just don’t see eye to eye on what constitutes beautiful landscapes.

After my first burst of defensiveness, I realized I should be glad. If Wyoming was full of manicured parks with trees evenly spaced, bucolic ponds, and rolling lawns, multitudes would flock here. Then it wouldn’t be Wyoming. Lack of humans is one of Wyoming’s best features as far as I’m concerned. Not that I dislike humans, I happen to be one after all, but with humans come human endeavors in the form of roads, buildings, internal combustion engines and NOISE.

Noise is what I try to get away from as much as possible. Quiet is what I crave.

In the past I might have said I crave silence, but I’ve discovered there is no such thing, but a few times I’ve experienced something very close. Like the time my family and I were sleeping in the open air, not so much as a tree branch to obstruct my view of the half moon sky. I’d fallen asleep gazing at the stars, but a sound had stirred me awake. As my foggy mind cleared, I realized it was my son’s deep breathing a few yards away. It was the only sound, so it woke me up.

Another time I was out looking for arrowheads. I heard some unfamiliar, enchanting birdsong. It wasn’t loud, but it was very clear. I followed the song up the hillside to find the source. As I topped the ridge, I found myself looking down into a drainage 500 feet deep and the birdsong coming from a wide, tree shaded spot on the creek about 200 yards away. Wonderful Wyoming quiet.

So, yeah, Wyoming is barren and desolate if by that you mean 360 degrees of horizon can be seen; or you can spend a whole day and not see another person, or hear an engine; if your cell phone or iPad’s wifi doesn’t work on every square inch of land, or you have to plan ahead because if you have a problem, it might be a long time before help comes.

Desolate Wyoming

God bless Wyoming and keep it wild.1

 

1 www.flickr.com/photos/library_of_congress/7118550051/

Up to the Task

line back dunHe’s been enjoying the faux spring of Wyoming: day time temperatures in the 50’s, the grass is turning  green, and the robins are singing. He’s feeling the sun on his hide. He’s feeling the green grass. A renewed, jaunty zing in his step. A renewed sense of energy and power.

He’s no “dead head.” He’s “touchy” by nature, but I can’t resist. You couldn’t knock him off his feet if you tried. His hooves are black hard and up to any rocky terrain.  His legs are straight and strong. He’s quick and confident. He’s aloof, but curious.

He’s full of himself, and he’s got me a little worried.

It’s not that he doesn’t like humans, it’s just that he’s not sure he can trust me.

“I’m not the bad guy who made you distrust humans. Really. I’m for you, not against you.”

He doesn’t believe me, yet. If he let’s me in, if I can prove myself to him, it will be a forever bond. I’ve had that bond in the past. It was a partnership in the truest sense. I want that again.

I hope I’m up to the task.

Adventure Reading List

I’m always looking for recommendations for good reads about early explorers, outdoor adventures, survival tales, naturalists and pioneers which have an authentic voice. I stumbled onto this list compiled by National Geographic in 2004.  Top 100 Greatest Adventure Books of All Times. 

I’m pleasantly surprised at how many I have already read, and looking forward to referring to the list to expand my library.

A Cow Horse I Once Knew

Here’s a good video from the Wyoming Office of Tourism highlighting some of the uniqueness of Wyoming and the west. There is a tall, lanky, pale palomino in that horse herd, reminding me of a horse I once knew. The story follows below.

We were working on a very large cattle ranch. The lanky palomino was in my husband’s string of ranch horses. We called him High Yeller. He was a veteran of cow horse work. He was getting up in years, long rides were too hard on him, so he found is way into my string of one.

I was new to cow work and I learned a lot from High Yeller, not the least of which is that even old horses can buck. High Yeller seemed to think it was part of his big-sky-cow-horse persona to buck; even at his ripe old age of 26. You could almost see him smile a smart aleck’s smile when he pitched and bucked.

I learned how to ride through a bunch of expectant heifers on that yellow horse. Anyone who does a respectable job riding the drop pen knows you have two goals in mind: One, get the heifer to the calving shed before she starts calving, and second, don’t get her riled up. Get her there at a walk if you can.

Reaching those two goals simultaneously is a practice in patience, perseverance, and skill.

I was mostly lacking that third quality, but High Yeller had it in spades. If you watched closely you’d see High Yeller never made eye contact with the heifers as we slowly walked through the herd looking for the tell tale signs a heifer was soon to give birth, but the instant I let him know I had one I wanted to take, he was on that soon-to-be mama like glue.

From the second High Yeller put his eye on a cow, she was his. I swear he was dominating her by the look he gave her. If she looked left she saw High Yeller, if she looked right, he was there! I never had to do anything more as we took the heifer to the shed. I just sat there and watched Yeller do his thing. The heifer never thought about running or darting off. She knew it was pointless. So there we were, taking her to the shed at a nice slow walk.

High Yeller made it look like I knew what I was doing. I’ll always thank him for that.

 

Gear: Columbia Omni Heat Outer Shell

This outer shell is part of an interchangeable system that includes an inner fleece liner. I only have the outer shell. I found it on a clearance rack, and since I knew it would spend most of its life at the bottom of my backpack, its compressibility was the key selling point. Since I bought the jacket. It’s become one of my favorite things.

The coat has Columbia’s OmniHeat inner liner: a shiny material meant to reflect body heat back onto the wearer. I admit, I thought it sounded like a gimmick.

It works. I happily eat humble pie.

The shell I own is so old I can’t find a photo, but it looks most like the current Lhotse Mountain jacket (the outer shell only), which also has OmniHeat and OmniTech, a waterproof, yet breathable material, and underarm vents.

Now on to why it makes my favorites list. My opinion is that if you’re going to carry an extra layer, it should serve many purposes while being packable and light. This shell can be compressed and stuffed into its own zipper compartment of 8 by 8 inches.

For that extra layer in an emergency situation or unexpected change in weather I want three main things: Wind resistance, water resistance, and a hood. This shell has all three. It’s also longer than a jacket- finger tip length, which is important when trying to stay warm. There’s nothing worse than a jacket that rides up when bending over to light that life saving fire, letting the below zero wind blow up your back.

In my experience a good hood can keep you from losing body heat better than a million scarves, gators and hats. The hood can be cinched down around the face, providing lots of protection, and keeping wind from going down the neck. I believe Columbia calls this a storm hood.

Added bonus features make this shell great for use during outdoor activities where you want a little wind or sleet protection but still need ventilation. The zippers along the ribcage open up to allow ventilation. Zippered pockets are sleek, (no flaps) and secure. Final bonus: the material, while wind and water resistant, is quiet.

Rookie Photographer

After having my DSLR camera for more than a year, I’ve decided it’s time to delve into its finer capabilities, ie, quit using all the auto features. I used to do a pretty ok job back in the day before digital, setting my own aperture and shutter speed, but it’s been awhile and digital has its own idiosyncrasies compared to film.

One of the scenarios where I get consistently mediocre results are shots in the snow. The colors are just never quite right. So, while fooling around with setting and such I shot these images of our horses running through the snow (my nemesis: action AND high glare snow). While the results were not what I hoped for, I ended up liking the effect of the blurry movement.

I’ll keep trying. It sure beats worrying about how much film I’m gobbling up.

wyoming horseshorses wyoming snowwyoming winter horses

Gear: A Few of My Favorite Things

Have you ever been using a piece of gear doing a job, or recreating, or traveling and thought, “I love this thing.” Well, I wanted to share a few of my favorite things. These aren’t paid product reviews, (Not that I’m apposed to the idea. Ahem.) these are items I have used over the years and they do what they are supposed to do in a simple, strait forward manner. Which, to me, is all the better.

My Dakine Heli Pro Backpack

HeliPro Backpack, Back country pack

Let me just say upfront; Dakine stuff is well made. Simple. Who doesn’t love something well made? No buyer’s remorse.

The Heli Pro was designed for kick-ass skiers/snowboarders who get dropped out of helicopters onto mountain tops. The life of my Heli Pro is decidedly more tame. I picked this up at Wind River Gear in Dubois, Wyoming.  Other than the excellent materials, what I love about this pack is the way it FITS. With a volume capacity of 18 liters, this pack is on the small side. It’s not meant for overnight outings, but it’s narrow contours are perfect for nordic or back country skiing. Your arms swing free without brushing against the pack, and the pack does not shift on your back. A padded layer against the back makes for all day comfort. The waist strap is wide with some padding without being overkill. There is a version specifically designed for women. I’m not sure if I have the women’s version, but the shoulder straps curve in and fit snug over my shoulders.

Even with its compact size, there’s enough room for a water bottle, the requisite fire starter/first aid packet, an extra pair of gloves, a light outer layer, snacks, and even a few tea bags and backpacker stove. What more does one need?

Oh, did you say you’d like to strap your skis or snowboard to your pack?  Check.

Did you say you’d like to strap an ice pick or avi shovel on your pack? Check.

Hydration system compatible? Check.

There’s even a fleece lined pocket for your sunglasses or snow goggles or small camera. Smile. Check.

P.S. I don’t think they make this exact model anymore, but there’s plenty to choose from at dakine.com