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Medicine Bow

Posted: Mon Aug 16, 2010 6:44 pm
by dbhguru

I've written another trip report. This one is on Wyoming's Medicine Bow Mountains. It is longer than the one on the Tetons and as I am pressed for time, I'm not converting it to a regular post, but leaving it as an attachment. Sorry, Ed.


Re: Medicine Bow

Posted: Mon Aug 16, 2010 6:58 pm
by edfrank
Wyoming Rendezvous
Part II – The Medicine Bow

By Bob Leverett


TV viewers of 1960s television may recall a popular western series entitled ‘The Virginian’, which was based on a 1902 novel of the same name by Owen Wister. The TV series was the third longest of its genre and still has adoring fans like Star Trek’s indefatigable Trekkies. Over the years, a half dozen movies have been made that are based on the Wister novel, which by-the-way, is credited with elevating the western to an all-American classical genre. At the very least, “The Virginian” seemed to have paved the way for other authors to gain fame and fortune writing about cowboys, Indians, gunfights, and hot, dusty places like Tombstone and the OK Corral.

What does ‘The Virginian” have to do with this article? Well, the location chosen for Wister’s novel is the country I am writing about. Why Owen Wister, a friend of Teddy Roosevelt, chose the small town of Medicine Bow, Wyoming, as the setting for his work is unknown to me. He did visit Wyoming and became interested in the Medicine Bow country and the historic Hotel Virginian. He also became fascinated with the Johnson County Cattle War, which is supposedly the basis for his novel. The brief cattle war actually took place to the north in the Big Horn country. Perhaps, Wister wanted to sever any assumed associations between the characters in his novel and historic personages to avoid re-inflaming passions. One never knows how long emotions simmer beneath the skin in blood feuds. It is well documented that Wister visited the famous Occidental Hotel in Buffalo. A dining area there is named the Virginian Restaurant.

Whatever the actual reason for settling on Medicine Bow as the setting for his novel, Wister handsomely succeeded in firing my imagination about that high, wide, and windy country near Laramie, and in particular, the snowcapped mountains that rise 30 miles west of that little college town. My interest is not the colorfully described human dramas that played out on the land, but the land itself, and in particular, the Medicine Bow Mountains, a range of the Rockies that lies partly in Colorado and partly in Wyoming. I do like western history, but in the end, for me, it us the land that holds the fascination. The name Medicine Bow is assumed to be of Cheyenne or Arapahoe origin. Members of those tribes found good bow making materials along the Medicine Bow River. I am uncertain what species they used. Let’s examine the Medicine Bow Mountains in detail.

The Medicine Bow stretch 100 miles from north to south and 15 to 20 mile east to west. The range is partly in Colorado and partly in Wyoming. Wyoming’s share of the range accounts for a little over 40 miles of the full 100 miles. The Medicine Bow reaches an altitude climax in 12,951-foot Clark Peak. Colorado claims that seldom visited summit. Appropriately enough, Wyoming’s highest point in the Medicine Bow range is Medicine Bow Peak at 12,013 feet, which is the lone 12,000-footer in Wyoming’s stretch. A number of other of Wyoming’s Medicine Bow summits lie above 11,000 feet, including an unnamed 11,762-foot peak, Old Main at 11,755, and Brown’s Peak at 11,722. The highest part of the Wyoming portion of the Medicine Bow is called the Snowy Range, affectionately called the “Snowies”. The Snowy Range part of the Medicine Bow is what I will focus on in this article.

On a big picture scale, the geology of the Medicine Bow is quintessential Laramide Orogeny, the uplift that occurred 50 to 70 million years ago, creating most of the modern Rockies. The Laramide Orogeny elevated and tilted ancient bedrock. Erosion stripped off the younger layers riding on top of the uplift to expose incredibly old formations beneath. Today, quartzite is the main rock composing the exposed summits of the Snowy Range – a particularly attractive type of quartzite dating to about 1.5 billion years. There are also darker colored ancient gneiss and schist in the northern Medicine Bow that date to 2.6 billion years. That is a 1.1 billion-year difference and worthy of notice. But with due respect to the rock elders, it is the youthful 1.5-billion-year-old quartzite that rules. In fact, the highly reflective character of this exceedingly hard metamorphosed rock is the real source of the name Snowy Range -- as opposed to lingering summer snowfields, which most would assume to be the origin of the name. Because of the high reflectivity of the quartzite, as seen from a distance, the summits always look like they are snow-covered. I was fooled when I first became familiar with the range. From distant perches, sometimes I was looking at actual snowfields and sometimes at bare rock. Regardless of which, they never failed to hold my attention.

With mountains come rivers and the Medicine Bow has its share. The Laramie River drains the region along the eastern flank of the mountains. The Laramie receives the Little Laramie, which heads in the Snowy Range. Monica and I made it to the head of the North Fork of the Little Laramie River. Also, as previously mentioned, the Medicine Bow River heads in the Snowy Range.

When one thinks of the Rockies, the continental divide comes to mind. Despite the Medicine Bow’s higher altitude than the Sierra Madre (the next range to the west with Bridger Peak at 11,007 feet), the entire Medicine Bow range lies east of that long, winding ridgeline that channels water to either the Atlantic or Pacific Oceans and in one case to the Arctic by way of Hudson Bay. The continental divide emerges from Colorado’s Park Range into southern Wyoming and follows the crest of the Sierra Madre, which is considered by geologists to be Wyoming’s part of the Park Range. The divide then continues north and splits to create the Great Divide Basin – a featureless alkaline desert region that could easily sour one on the whole State of Wyoming, if that is all they saw. The town is not very far from the eastern split of the divide. In truth, most of us have no idea where the continental divide runs until we see a sign at a high mountain pass.

What about the fauna? In terms of large game species, the Medicine Bow is home to black bear, mountain lion, moose, elk, deer, lynx, and coyote. A host of smaller critters call the region home, including marmots in the high country, but one is not likely to see concentrations of large animals such as can be encountered in Yellowstone. Campers are spared the fear of meeting up with Ursus Arctos horribillis on trails, or being visited by that most feared American predator in campgrounds. However, Grizzlies once roamed all parts of the Medicine Bow. Their presence is incompatible with ranching, and I doubt grizzlies will ever be reintroduced, and even if they were, they would not be tolerated. As a point of interest, the American Grizzly is thought to be a descendent of the Ussuri Brown Bears from Asia that crossed the Bering Straits around 100,000 years ago. The huge bruin is believed to have worked its way into its current range only 13,000 years ago. It was an Alaska resident for most of the 100,000-year period previously mentioned.

Interestingly, there was a subspecies of bison called the mountain bison that once inhabited the Medicine Bow Mountains. Old bones have been found in the tundra confirming the animals’ use of the Medicine Bow high country. Not much is known about this now extinct animal. It apparently was the smallest of the three sub-species: plains, mountain, and woodland bison. There are a few woodland bison remaining in Canada, but the mountain variety has moved into the pages of history.

The flora of the Medicine Bow is typically central Rockies. Lodgepole pine, englemann spruce, blue spruce, sub-alpine fir, ponderosa pine, rocky mountain Douglas fir, and quaking aspen are most of the tree species one sees. The sad aspect of the flora is the immense damage that is being done by the outbreak of at least four species of beetles that are killing whole stands of trees. The die-off is unprecedented and related to the stress, which mature trees experience in times of prolonged drought and rising temperatures. Very cold winters kill off lots of insect and beetle pests, but long cold winters with extended periods of 30 degrees below zero are becoming a thing of the past. The species of flowers one sees are too numerous to list, but Colorado columbine, glacier lilies, lupine, marsh marigolds, Indian paintbrush, and bluebells held our attention on this visit. The colors are mixed up well. Whites, yellows, reds, pinks, blues, and purples present themselves as a heterogeneous mix. One can easily identify 25 to 40 species of wildflowers in a relatively small area.

The Medicine Bow River has considerable value to Native Americans. The Cheyenne, Arapahoe, and Kiowa are known to have used the area. The river heads at North Gap Lake in the Snowy Range and flows into the North Platte. Logically, the mountains to the south, which are the source of the river, would inherit the river’s name and indeed they did to become the Medicine Bow Mountains. At least, this is current thinking. In terms of the town of Medicine Bow, taking its name from the river, that human settlement had its origins with the Union Pacific Railroad around 1870 when a water pumping station was built. The stop was also used for coal-loading. The town later became an important cattle-holding location, and still later, the town became a stopover on the new Lincoln Transcontinental Highway. But in time, the economic winds of change blew in a different direction and left the town stranded. Medicine Bow joined the ranks of other western towns that were born, flowered, and withered. The West is peppered with ghost towns that chronicle booms and busts. However, for the lucky, rebounds are possible. A huge wind farm in the area identifies the Medicine Bow country as a place of perpetual winds. There is also a coal-fired gasification plant being built in nearby. Although today Medicine Bow is still home to only about 300 souls, energy projects could change the town’s fortunes. The future Medicine Bow could be sprinkled with monotonous housing developments and strip malls – the prairie gods forbid. I wonder if the school children of Medicine Bow are taught about their town’s colorful history and take pride in it? I hope they are and do.

The climate in the Medicine Bow country is quintessential Wyoming. The town’s weather is fairly typical of Wyoming’s high plains. Medicine Bow’s citizens have experienced temperatures as high as 97 degrees Fahrenheit and as low as 46 degrees below zero. The year around temperature is a cool average of 42 degrees, because the town sits at an elevation of 6,554 feet. However, moving southward and into the mountains, the climate really gets nasty. A ski resort on the eastern side of the range is located at 9,090 feet elevation at its base and records an average of 252 inches of snow per season. The upper part of the Snowy Range likely receives around 300 inches.

The preceding statistics are not merely interesting factoids for me. I am interested in all mountains, but I have a personal connection with the Medicine Bow Mountains that dates back to May 1968. It is a connection that developed quickly and has endured for 42 years and I suspect will continue, thanks to my wife Monica. I am able to share my love of the Medicine Bow with Monica as I was with my deceased first wife Jani. Both women developed an independent connection to the mountains and the lore that surrounds them.

In Part II of the Wyoming Rendezvous, I will present in a series of images some of the attractions of the Medicine Bow region that call me back. As I think back, the initial attraction of Medicine Bow was one of a practical nature. The Snowy Range provides people with an easy introduction to the high country, courtesy of State Route 130, which was completed in 1926 and designated the Second National Scenic Byway. Route 130 is often listed among the 10 top scenic mountain drives in the country. I’m unsure of what the criteria is, but I would cast a favorable vote for Route 130 as being at least in the top 20. Taking I-80 From Cheyenne to Laramie and picking up Route 130 there, I could drive to the top of Snowy Range pass at 10,847 feet and step out on the tundra. It was like one-stop shopping. Everything I need was close by. I spent weekends exploring the alpine lakes and climbing the summits. I could hike around in fabulous scenery for 6 or 7 hours, hop back in my car and return to Cheyenne. The Medicine Bow became my inexpensive ticket to the high country.

Medicine Bow’s Story Told in Images

When I think about the Medicine Bow country from our home in Florence, Massachusetts, I instantly visualize alpine meadows, forests, lakes, and rocky summits. When I lived in Cheyenne, I remember often stopping to admire the far off peaks of the Snowy Range as seen from the nearby Laramie Mountains or even from more distant summits in northern Colorado. The Snowy Range stood out boldly on the horizon, showing off its garments of white. When visiting the Snowies, I would usually first drive directly to a spot just off State Route 130 at about 10,500 feet altitude. It is the location of an alpine lake that lies at the base of a precipitous rock face called the Diamond. I am describing pristine glacial Lake Marie. Visitors to the Snowy Range who cannot walk far are blessed by the closeness of this shimmering blue gem. The small lake’s entire shoreline is only about a mile in length. Reaching it is a short, easy walk from a small parking lot that leads to the top of a hill overlooking the lake. Lake Marie is the destination of photographers who want to get in, take some quick shots, and leave. Their published images can appear as though they had trekked for miles in the wilds of the Canadian Rockies to get their shots. Lake Marie has that kind of look.

In the vicinity of the lake, Englemann spruce are scattered along the way and there are always abundant alpine wildflowers. Lingering snowdrifts are only yards away. The photographic opportunities are endless. On our recent visit, I observed what I took to be a professional photographer. He carried very expensive looking equipment. I wanted to approach him and ask him a few questions about his equipment and what he was looking for in terms of photographic composition, but he was preoccupied in thought and intent and my approach would have been intrusive.

I will begin the photograph journey of the Snowy Range with two classic images of Lake Marie. Two shots are included to give a perspective on what one sees by shifting position slightly and/or using a telephoto lens to highlight the size of the two prominent features, Lake Marie and Old Main.

I am always fascinated by how the lingering snowfields in the high country accent the picturesque rock faces. Of course, the snowfields are appropriate to the Snowy Range. And there is always one at the base of Old Main - the peak in the center of the above images. This precipitous mountain rises to an altitude of 11,755 feet. I have been on its top at least a dozen times. By contrast and hardly noticeable, the rounded summit of 12,013-foot Medicine Bow Peak lies beyond Old Main. Medicine Bow Peak is visible in the above images just to the right of Old Main. A trail from the Lewis Lake Picnic Area takes you to the top of this highest point in the Snowy Range in only two miles. The elevation gain from the starting point is a modest 1,300 feet, but it seems more, because the trail is steep and people have gotten injured misjudging the steepness of the snowfields. One second you are standing and the next second you are in an uncontrollable slide. But with care, the route up Medicine Bow is safe and the rewards from the summit are many. Marmots are a frequent sight. Ptarmigans are also seen on occasion.

Of the two summits, Medicine Bow and Old Main, the latter is the scenic eye-catcher. The face of Old Main was glacier carved, as was all the Medicine Bow high country. At the base of Old Main, the rocks are piled high as testament to the power of moving ice. The next scene shows the rock-strewn base of the mountain. Most of what is shown in the foreground is weather-resistant quartzite. It is probably the most attractive quartzite I have ever seen. On the rocky lower slope, you may notice small patches of green. It is technically called Krummholz and consists of dwarfed, gnarled sub-alpine firs – trees that would be 80 feet tall at 500 to 1,000 feet lower in elevation. An occasional tree will grow upright – pencil straight, as you can seen in the center of the image. How one tree here or there manages to stay vertical in that extremely severe climate with its heavy snows and howling winds is a mystery to me. Sometimes it happens because the eddy currents dump snow in a protective fashion around, but not directly on the tree. I don’t know if anyone has done studies of these micro-snow climates. I suspect they have.

One of the most striking scenic spectacles of the Snowy Range is the 1000-foot high Diamond -- a rock face high and steep enough that it exhibits a commanding presence when viewed from any direction. Climbers from nearby University of Wyoming hone their skills on the Diamond – not to be confused with the great icy cliff also named the Diamond on 14,255-foot Longs Peak in Colorado’s lofty Front Range.

As a struggling amateur photographer (and I do mean struggling), I look for ways to accentuate compelling terrain features, but imposing rock faces can be so dominant that virtually any shot seems to work – until you view the result on a computer screen, and all you see is rock. It could be a hundred or a thousand feet of surface. Something is needed for scale. I had to learn that lesson the hard way.

The Diamond gives photographers many angles with assurance that all shots will capture a showy snow-rock-sky combination. However, I like to frame my shots with trees where possible. No surprise there, I suppose. The next shot is of the Diamond. I borrowed a couple of Englemann spruce to frame the Precambrian peak quartzite.

The Snowy Range high country is a blend of intimidating cliffs, blue lakes, glistening snowfields, trickling streams, dainty alpine flowers, and dwarfed trees, framed against an expansive azure sky. One superlative scene replaces another, and all can be experienced in a compact area, because the Snowy Range is about quality, not quantity. Other ranges of the Rockies exceed the Snowy Range in size. For example, the Sangre de Cristo range in Colorado and New Mexico runs for 220 miles. The San Juan Mountains in southwestern Colorado covers 10,000 square miles. But sitting on the shores of an alpine lake in the Snowy Range makes these larger mountain-scapes irrelevant. You feel as though the entire beauty of the planet surrounds you from where you sit.

The next series of photographs reveal glacier lakes that are easily accessible from either a road or a trailhead. Monica and I hiked to a couple of glacier lakes at the base of 11,722-foot Brown’s Peak, a mountain that I had climbed in the late 1960s. I once lost my beagle Shy when returning from a climb and had to search for a couple of hours before we reconnected. Shy was one happy dog. She made one long leap from the ground while running into my arms. I’ve never forgotten that. She had chased one marmot too many, but alas, learned no lasting lessons. The next weekend it was back to business as usual. Well, she was a beagle.

Monica and I approached the two hidden lakes through an old growth forest of Englemann spruce and Sub-alpine fir. Neither of us was in a hurry. We were nearly two miles above sea level and still not fully acclimated. The mosses were deep and reinforced the obvious -- the Snowy Range holds far more moisture than the dry Wyoming plains. The higher precipitation and lower temperatures create a vastly different climate and makes the Snowies a mountain jewel that contrasts to the semi-arid to arid climate characteristic of the surrounding high plains.

As we climbed through the forest, there was little hint of the alpine country that lay a short distance ahead of us. We were surrounded by a spruce forest that emitted a heady aroma. I could have found much to keep me occupied in that microhabitat, but we moved on. Then, there it was – East Glacier Lake– a small gem that lies at an altitude of 10,750 feet and is one of the headwaters of the Little Laramie River. I was struck by the clarity of the waters and the range of reflections in the early morning calm. Some reflections were sharp while others were shadowy and indistinct, yet strikingly appealing. It was like impressionistic art.

The image below is of East Glacier Lake. The ridge sloping upward is that of Brown’s Peak.

After walking by East Glacier Lake the trail climbs slightly, going through a thick forest of stunted forms. Most visitors probably don’t think much about the possible ages of stunted trees, but they can be quite old. Size does not indicate age. Growth rates are agonizingly slow and the high altitude conditions can inhibit insect outbreaks and other pests, so that the trees are left to struggle with the elements for two to four centuries. However, this scenario may be changing as I recently learned that Colorado’s bristlecone pines maybe facing a new threat. Such news is always disturbing, but I fear that we are destined to be bombarded with the bad, with little offsetting good, as the climate warms and we import more invasive plants and alien insect pests.

As we hiked along the trail, Monica enjoyed the alpine wildflowers. There were many species vying for attention. We had already set a personal record for the number of identified species for ourselves in the Snowy Range. Our campsite on the North Fork of the Little Laramie River was loaded with species. At 9,200 feet, the campsite was high, but not alpine. The forest was well established with little hint of what an elevation gain of a thousand feet would lead to. But on our glacier lakes hike, we got to observe the change over from forest to sub-alpine to alpine take place with only a 250-foot elevation change. The answer lies in the terrain. Ridge position affords extra protections. Timberline is always irregular. It can vary by a thousand vertical feet on the same mountain.

In the image below, we have reached West Glacier Lake and Monica is taking a rest. Actually, she is doing more than resting. She is communing. I have come to understand that my wife relates to places better when she is able to spend time in quiet meditation. Absorbing the sights, sounds, and tactile sensations cannot be done when loping along trying to set a distance or time record. It has taken me a long time to learn this lesson, but I think I’ve finally got it. Knowing a place requires meditating in it, which can be accomplished just sitting quietly by a stream or lake and gazing into the water and listening. The peaks and lakes of the Medicine Bow have the power to induce strongly meditative states for the sufficiently attuned. Perhaps the abundance of brilliant quartzite rock has something to do with it. I’m sure my psychically gifted friends would say so. I don’t really know, but there is an added qualitative dimension that expresses itself if one sits quietly and absorbs the sights, sounds, and skin sensations. The result is transformative. That is enough for me.

The alpine lakes of the Medicine Bow take on a variety of intriguing colors. As with all alpine lakes, they reflect the deep blue of the sky on clear days. But at other times, the variegated hues of the rocks, white of the snowfields, light green of the grasses, and dark greens of the spruce and fir combine to impart an indescribable range of colors and reflectivity. Changes in atmospheric conditions and sun angle provide a color palette as wide as one can imagine. I am only now coming to fully appreciate the endless variations on the theme that make each visit to these lakes a unique experience. The challenge I have presented myself is to digitally capture a representative sampling of colors and that requires repeated visits. I can live with that. The next visit is already in the planning stages for Monica and me.

In the next image, I present my interpretation (no better than anyone else’s) of a set of landscape features and how they complement one another to create a this-world, greater universe feeling. The small inlet, foreground rocks, and patches of marsh marigolds provide contrasting shape, texture, and color to the reflective water behind. The dark green of the Krummholtz on the sloping ridge beyond contrasts with the patches of lingering snow. The composite scene is fairly intimate. But then these features meet the dark blue of the sky beyond that suggests an infinity of undefined space. Somewhere out there may be another blue-green marble with life, but could we reach it? The blue infinite sets off the alpine country and the tenacious life it supports as a unique environment, contrasted to the void beyond. I leave it to readers to expand on this theme.

The second highest elevation in the Snowy Range is the rightmost point in the photograph below. It is an unnamed summit that rises to 11,762 feet above sea level. Its namelessness has shielded it from attention of people who only climb the named summits. What would a name add? There are plenty of worthy souls who could contribute their name to the isolated peak and then its rocky summit would grow in popularity. Would that be a good thing? I don’t know. I’m content with its anonymity.

The lake at the base of “Anonymous Mountain” is South Gap Lake, which appropriately enough is counterbalanced on the north side of a pass by North Gap Lake. In July 1968 my mother and I climbed to the pass and surveyed from our vantage point both North and South Gap Lakes. North Gap Lake is the source of the Medicine Bow River. My mother was 58 years old at the time and her life-ending bout with breast cancer was still years into the future. That small slice of time, shared with my mother in that grand location is the stuff of memories. So when Monica and I hiked to South Gap Lake, memories of my mother stirred and I felt the connection to the Medicine Bow revived, and as strong as ever. Somehow, I had come home – or at least part of me.

The string of glacial lakes following the fault-block that gives rise to the striking scenery on the eastern side of the Snowy Range are fairly accessible. Other lakes are dotted over the landscape and require extended hikes, yet none of their locations would challenge the intrepid explorer. The whole landscape feels accessible. However, the friendliness and accessibility of Medicine Bow’s high country is deceptive. When winter comes, the winds howl and the snow piles up. Route 130 is seldom open before mid to late May. I recall that in June 1968, after Snowy Range Pass had been opened up, a late spring snowstorm closed Route 130 down. Snowdrifts can linger until late August. Occasionally, small patches of snow will remain until new snow falls. Were that to happen year after year, a new mountain glacier could be the result. But that will not happen in the changing climate of today. However, surprisingly large drifts were evident along the path we took to South Glacier Lake. The following image shows a snow bank that was still 15 to 20 feet deep as of July 24th.

In the next scene, the pyramidal mountain on the left is 11,398-foot Sugarloaf , which is joined by a saddle to the Medicine Bow peak massif that rises to 12,013 feet. Old surveys list the elevation as 12,005 feet. Maps often list old survey elevations, so I checked with for the latest information. I presume the elevation they give is for the new NAD 88 system versus the old NGVD 29 model. It is not clear. By the way, the trail to the summit of Medicine Bow Peak zigzags across the snowfield high on the saddle. You can see the crest of the snowfield. People have been injured on that snowfield. The northeast side (right side) is very steep. The overhanging snowfield on the upper right is treacherous. People venture out on them and sometimes fall through to their deaths. Such an accident happened while I was stationed at F.E. Warren AFB, Cheyenne, Wyoming. News of that accident put the fear of the Almighty in those of us who climbed on Medicine Bow Peak.

As a final image taken of the alpine country, I will present a closer shot of Medicine Bow Peak. The body of water in the foreground is Libby Lake. Most of the small glacial lakes like Libby are deep in the center – certainly over 100 feet and probably more. They have fish, but I doubt that many people catch more than a trout here or there. That is just fine with me. The larger lakes with more fish often attract a noisy, obnoxious sort of camper who can spoil the peace and tranquility of the camping experience.

The final shot I will present was taken the second night we camped in the Medicine Bow. We were at the North Fork Campground setting at 9,200 feet altitude. We had wanted to camp at 10,800-foot high Sugarloaf Campground, but it was full. Reservations in advance are a must. As a consequence, we had to settle for a campground at a lower elevation. Initially I wasn’t happy about that. I had my heart set on camping at timberline. Nonetheless, after two dud campgrounds, we lucked out on our choice of campsite at North Fork Campground. On our first pass through, I was not pleased with the choices, but then we took a second campground road and several possibilities presented themselves. Our site was only a few yards away from the North Fork of the Little Laramie River, which pleased Monica mightily, since we could hear the bubbling sounds of the stream as we ate and slept. She still talks about her spot on the bank near our tent and its abundance of showy wildflowers. Monica is essentially a water person, and the campsite met her expectations. I was fine with the location too. And we had a bonus. The mosquitoes were among the most laid back we’ve encountered. Monica collected only one bite. I got 4 or 5. That is not bad for the mountains in the summer time. We almost liked the little bloodsuckers – which probably sounds zany. It is hard to explain.

As the sun set, the sky fired up and I got out the digital camera and clicked away.

I will close by mentioning that I’ve included the above image as a special tribute to my wife in acknowledging her love of camping. Along with canoeing, camping is her favorite outdoor pastime. Monica loves to find a favorable site, set up camp, and absorb her surroundings a bit at a time. I’m learning to enjoy the down time of camping more than I ever could in the past when getting to the top of a mountain peak was an overriding priority. In those days I missed a lot of good outdoor living and now hope to make up for lost time – at least for a few years. I have a feeling that the Snowy Range is going to be instrumental in my journey to camping nirvana. Monica and I will return to the high country, set up camp, and absorb the healing vibrations of Wyoming’s incomparable Medicine Bow. The name, itself, suggests healing properties.

Re: Medicine Bow

Posted: Mon Aug 16, 2010 11:43 pm
by James Parton

What a wonderful report. You document a place so well, I can really learn from you. The place is so beautiful. While we do have high altitude type forests here in the higher NC mountains we have nothing truly alpine. Mitchell or Clingmans Dome need 1 to 3 thousand feet more altitude. I can see myself sitting at the edge of one of those pristine lakes and like Monica, sitting there meditating on every sight, sound and scent. But friend, you have done the next best thing. Taking me there with your words and images. Thank you.


Re: Medicine Bow

Posted: Tue Aug 17, 2010 8:05 am
by dbhguru

Thanks, buddy. I very much enjoy sharing these places with my ENTS friends. There is so much in the natural world to enjoy, East or West, North or South. I'm looking forward now to getting down to business and plan the Oct 14-16 Forest Summit and ENTS rendezvous, but trip memories linger. I'll still do at least one more of these trip journals. I plan to concentrate on southwestern Colorado. I'll put it together in a couple of weeks.

When I'm on the road, I often don't have good Internet service or I'm too busy just enjoying a place to do a thorough trip report. But, once I'm home and comfortable in my downstairs space, I feel compelled to write and share. I review the trip images, call up place memories, and research a few facts. The rest just happens.

Here are more images from Medicine Bow. The first shows Monica as we hike past Lewis Lake.
Fields of dainty alpine flowers constantly catch the eye. In any one location, you can see anywhere from 5 or 6 to over 20.
The Diamond and other points along the cliff region constantly call out for just one more image.
Monica is a birder. You'll often see here scanning with her binoculars. All bird reports come from her.
This was the first small remaining patch of snow we crossed. I thought I'd better capture it. However, we later encountered big drifts. My fears were for naught.
Everywhere you turn in the Snowy Range, it's an "Oh My God, this is so beautiful!". You can literally stand on one spot and click away all day. South Gap Lake is a favorite of mine, partly due to the gorgeous quartzite.
Here is one last shot of South Gap Lake.
Medicine Bow Rules!


Re: Medicine Bow

Posted: Tue Aug 17, 2010 10:20 am
by James Parton

Your pictures also remind me of how much I hate work. My job takes up so much of my time I have trouble finding time to get out and then what little time I do have I usually have to attend to family matters and errands. But without a job there is no money and then I still am stuck. The forests constantly call me...