Shuffling off to Buffalo, WY

Before going to Casper, WY we took a little detour to Independence Rock, just outside Casper. This 130-foot tall granite landmark was the July 4th schedule objective for the Oregon, Mormon and California wagon trains that pushed west. Over 500,000 settlers traveled this route from the 1830s to 1870s. Many of the pioneers carved their names into rock and some can still be seen today.


We then proceeded to Casper and stopped for lunch at The World Famous Wonderbar, Casper’s only micro-brewery. In Casper’s earlier days you could ride into the bar on your horse and get a beer for both you and your horse. The place has recently changed owners and is going to be shut down for a remodel and, unfortunately, the brewery will be closing. Could be a good place to start one….


Heading west out of Casper we passed Hell’s Half Acre, which really covered several acres. This colorful area was a beautifully eroded rock formation that does not justify its name.


We camped for the night at Boysen State Park in Tough Creek CG, with a beachfront spot along the reservoir.


The next day we drove up the beautiful Wind River Canyon to Thermopolis, WY. Thermopolis is known for two things: the Wyoming Dinosaur Center and the Hot Springs.

We visited the Dinosaur Center and even though we’ve seen a lot of fossils recently, this place was impressive. They had many unique fossils from around the world, not just from Wyoming and the US.


This was a fossilized horseshoe crab, and the 100 feet of fossilized trail it left behind before becoming part of history.


Many of the folks working in the lab on the restoration of the bones there were quite old. I guess a few folks commented on this because the sticker I got from there said, “Fossils working on Fossils – Wyoming Dinosaur Center” – lol.

The Thermopolis Hot Springs gush out of the ground and into the Bighorn River at a rate of 3.6 million gallons per day at a temperature of 135 degrees. The mineral content of the water is very high and produces the very interesting rock formations.


Over the centuries, the layered pools formed and created a beautiful landscape rich in color.


In 1909, the folks built a stone tee-pee spring vent structure and over time the calcium and mineral rich water created a colorful mound that is still venting water out the top and growing.


The State Park has several pools that you can use for free. We soaked our bones in the mineral waters that are kept around 104 degrees. It felt great, but you had to get used to the sulfur smell.


We then drove back down the Wind River Canyon to camp for the night. We had to pass through a series of tunnels carved in the rocks along the road.


Our camp spot looked right up the canyon entrance. The BNSF railway track was on the other side of the river from the road and cut through the canyon in its own tunnels. The rushing water and occasional train made for a really great place to camp. You felt the rumble of the trains in the ground long before you saw them weave in and out of the canyon tunnels.


Since we had to drive through Thermopolis again on our way north we stopped and soaked in the hot springs one more time before leaving town. We had a lot of discussion on how to get our own hot spring for our next house.
We stopped at the Washakie Museum in Worland, WY. Named for a great Shoshoni chief, the museum had a lot of the local history, including the Cattle Wars, bones from mammoths and bronze statues of Chris Navarro as a short-term exhibit.



Our next stop was Ten Sleep Brewery, just outside Ten Sleep, WY. They had great beer and definitely get the best brewery setting award too.


We then climbed up into the Bighorn Mountains and camped at Lake View CG, overlooking Meadowlark Lake. It was noticeably colder since we were once again near 9,000 feet in elevation.

We dropped down into Buffalo, WY, which turned out to be a busy little town for only 4,600 folks. We spent the afternoon there before climbing back up into the Bighorn Mountains to camp for the night at Middle Fork CG.
The campground was along a small brook and the aspen leaves are turning due to the near-freezing temperatures at night.



We dropped down into Buffalo again the next day and we’ll be here the next two weeks while I complete a Journeyman level blacksmith class in the local forge. Staying at an RV park in town for two weeks may be tough, but it’s walking distance to the forge.

For those “Longmire” book and TV fans out there, author Craig Johnson lives nearby in Ucross, WY and (according to one of the local shop owners) Buffalo is the real life town that Durant, WY is based upon.


Buffalo has a small, but historic Main Street. The Occidental Hotel and Saloon was rated the best western hotel saloon in 2009 by True West magazine. A few of every animal you could possible shot is stuffed and hung on the saloon walls, including a longhorn steer that was a longtime member of one of the local ranches. There were Pronghorn and Buffalo heads I wouldn’t mind having from the bar.


We’ll immerse ourselves into the local activities for the next two weeks before our migration south. Maybe we’ll even be Longmire fans by the time we leave – lol.

Wyoming – The Land of Pronghorn

Wyoming is a place with wide open plains filled with Pronghorn and beautiful mountain ranges. It’s said there are more pronghorn in Wyoming than people. They are a beautiful animal and while we’ve seen quite a few all over the west, we’ve seen more herds in our travels through Wyoming.


A pronghorn mom and her two kids are a pretty common sight.


We traveled into southern Wyoming and the Medicine Bow National Forest. We camped the first night at Lost Creek CG and then made our way west to Snowy Range Pass at 10,847 feet. The alpine vegetation, stark mountains and beautiful lakes make it a great place to visit, even if you are two miles up.



From the lookout at the pass we could see a couple of fires near the Wyoming – Colorado border to the south. We dropped down out of the mountains and into Laramie, WY for a bite to eat and to explore around.


We visited the historic Wyoming Penitentiary that housed many of the early criminals in the west, like Butch Cassidy.


The 6 by 8 foot cells were not much to call home. They put many to work making brooms in the factory on the premises.


We then drove back up to the pass and camped at Surgarloaf CG, near the pass. It was a beautiful spot when you looked to the north.


But when you looked to the south, the wind had whipped up the fires so that the skies were filled with smoke. We thought we would wake to a smoky site, but it rained nearly all night and created a crystal blue sky in the morning.


We hiked around the area, which gets to be tiresome quickly at 2 miles up.


The crispness in the air and the fall colors on the ground let you know that this area will be under snow again soon. We saw that the campground didn’t even open until 21 July this year due to snow.


We dropped out of the mountains again and traveled to Como Bluff, WY, where in the 1880s a huge amount of dinosaur bones were uncovered. The walls of the museum there are actually made out of dinosaur bones. Every paleontologist must just cringe when they see this – lol.


We then headed north and passed by Sinclair, WY and the Sinclair Oil refinery. Being in the middle of dinosaur country, I guess that’s why Sinclair gas has the green dinosaur, an environmentally friendly gas.


We made our way to Seminoe Reservior and the North Red Hills CG in the Seminoe State Park. This time of year it’s pretty easy to get a great spot.


In the evening, the wind began to howl and the clouds at different altitude were moving in opposite directions. I can imagine what a winter storm must look like in this part of the country. I cooked some great bison burgers outside and we had a cozy evening in the warm Roamer listening to music. Glad we weren’t tent camping.

In the morning, the clouds were still wrapped over the mountains.


The road north towards Casper, WY was beautiful.


The wind was gone so the clouds were more like an eerie fog bank as we climbed through the mountains. We lost count of the number of pronghorn, deer, turkey and other animals that were out along the dirt road.


Once the clouds began to break up, we stopped at Alcova Reservior and Black Beach CG, just south of Casper, WY. Again, it’s hard not to find a great spot.


We’ll be heading north for a little while before we turn south and head home for the holidays.

Our Green River Expedition

With our truck back in working order we dropped into the Colorado side of Dinosaur National Monument where the Green and Yampa Rivers meet. We wanted to go down last year but the clay in the road makes it impassable when wet, and it was raining when we arrived.

This year, the sun was out and the skies were blue so we headed down the hill and into the beautiful valley.


The dirt road runs through the Yampa River valley to the east for 40 miles.


Once in the valley, we turned to where the rivers meet. The land near the river confluence was purchased when they made the national monument, and the original homestead buildings are still there. It’s a pretty spectacular place for a home, but it is nearly 100 miles from any town.


There are petroglyphs high up along the canyon walls from the Freemont Indians that date back a 1000 years when the canyon floor was 30 feet higher, washing out more with time to their current level.


We camped at Echo Park CG for the holiday weekend, along the Green River, just downstream from where the Yampa River joins.


The campground sits at an 180 degree bend in the Green River. We hiked up both sides from the campground. The right side leads to the confluence of the Green and Yampa Rivers.


The left side is the outflow of the Green River into a beautiful canyon that continues into Utah and eventually joins the Colorado River. The campground is in the trees at the bend in the river and the road in is through the slot in the canyon wall.


Afternoon storms rolled in for the weekend so we left Echo Park after a couple of blustery nights. The Ranger suggested we not drive out the way we wanted on the 40-mile Yampa Bench Road due to the rain and the fact that we would probably rip the muddy road up pretty good with our rig, so we’ll have to come back at least one more time to do that route. We easily drove out the way we entered and camped the night at Steinaker State Park outside of Vernal, CO again. They too had a lot of rain, where a few campsites became mud washes, causing a change of plans for a few holiday tent campers and creating an open spot for us.

We met up with Lou and Nancy at Flaming Gorge, which is also the Green River about 50 miles upriver of Echo Park. They are now full time RVers and were arriving from a week or more of fishing and biking in the Grand Tetons area after selling their house. It was good to see them both again.


We all stayed at the Red Canyon CG, which is a beautiful spot right next to the rim. The campground was nearly empty being post-Labor Day and mid week. We were treated to some spectacular sunsets over the gorge after sharing some pretty good meals together.


We even caught a bighorn sheep family making their way over the rim at sunset. Their coats are the color of the rocks so you need to look closely to find them.


Lou and Nancy headed south on their next adventure while Pam and I followed the Green River downstream back into Colorado.

We drove the back roads along the Green River to John Jarvie’s Historic Ranch. Jarvie was a Scot who immigrated to the US and eventually opened a store along the Green River in the 1880s. His first house was a dugout that he later used to hide notorious outlaws and friends, like Butch Cassidy. While the outside doesn’t look like much, the inside was roomy and fully furnished with a kitchen, sitting room and bedroom.


He then built his home and store out of railroad ties that were floating down the Green River. The railroad company floated them down the river as an easy transportation means to get them where they needed for the railroad. I guess they never noticed the 100 or so missing ties that made his house. He was eventually shot by robbers in 1909, but his place marked the crossroads for this part of the country so it’s maintained now as an historic site on this beautiful spot of the river.


Just south of Jarvie’s Ranch is the north side of Dinosaur National Monument and the Gates of Lodore.


The Gates of Lodore is a beautiful rock canyon that the Green River cut through on its path south into the monument.


The campground there is also the launching point for rafting trips on the Green River. We saw a group heading out down the river while on a hike.


Maybe another river trip is in our future….


We also ran into the owners of another EarthRoamer there and got some great ideas for storage and organization. We then said goodbye to the Green River and headed north into Wyoming.


We made our way to Fossil Butte National Monument near Kemmerer, WY. Pam has a couple of framed fossils from her Dad that were from here so we decided to check the place out.

The area used to be a huge lake and the fossils are found in what’s referred to as the “18-inch layer” that was created many millions of years ago from the sediment of the lake bottom.


There is an interesting point the Rangers make about the recovered fossils. Unlike dinosaur bones that are in a museum together, and may span millions of years, the recovered fossils of fish, plants and other animals from the lake bed are more a snapshot in time of both the flora and fauna since they are all relatively close in age.


When they split the rock to get at a fossil, there is a layer of rock still covering the fossilized remains that must be painstakingly removed with a wire pick to expose the fossil. The commercial fossil hunters harvest the fossil rock slabs in the summer and finish the removal process once the snow covers this part of Wyoming.


We hiked to an ongoing excavation in one of the park quarries. Here a Ranger was documenting all the fossils in a section of rock before they chipped off the next layer and continued the count. She was on 4300 and something when we arrived. The fossil fish were small but easy to see. The largest fossil imprint we saw in the rock turned out to be a turtle turd – go figure.


We camped the night up a dirt road just outside the park on a stretch of BLM land. The spot was up at about 8,000 feet and had a pretty amazing view in all directions.


The next day we hiked to the original quarry where most of the early fossils were found. It was the 100th anniversary of the national parks so there were many folks at the visitor center, but nearly none on the trails. It seems if you hike a couple of miles out along any dirt trail, especially if there is a hill, you will run into less than 1% of the people in any park. I’m glad we’re still part of the 1%ers on the trails.


The old quarry trail passed by the original camp house that the fossil guys lived in while they dug for the fossils.


The last section of the climb into the original quarry is steep so there is now a beautiful staircase of pressure treated railroad ties that lead you to the spot.


We needed to stop back into Salt Lake City to pick something up at Pam’s brother’s house. Pam was having some vitamins she ordered online shipped to his place, while more importantly, I was picking up a section of railroad track that Pam’s brother uncovered during a fall garage cleaning that will be a future blacksmith project.

We camped in the Unitas, just into Utah from Wyoming, and a little further south than where we camped on our way out of Salt Lake City about a month ago. It’s getting noticeably cooler at night and the leaves on the trees are turning already at the higher altitudes.

We had a great view of a meadow from our camp spot and saw a young bull moose come out of the trees in the evening to munch on a willow in the meadow. He then walked across the entire meadow the next morning as we were having our coffee. There were also two Sandhill Cranes that I surprised in the morning and squawked their disapproval across the meadow as they left.


We just spent the one night in SLC, but had a great dinner Saturday night and a tasty Sunday brunch at the Alta Lodge up Little Cottonwood Canyon before we hit the road again. This was the view from our table on the deck at the Lodge.


We thought we would make our way to Dinosaur NM next, but stopped for the night at Starvation State Park in eastern Utah. The Indian Bay CG there was nearly beach camping and very beautiful.


No lengthy trip is going to go without any issues and ours happened as we climbed into Dinosaur NM. A truck coolant line blew and drained all of our coolant out of the engine, which rapidly overheated in the climb. We coasted back down to Dinosaur, CO, isolated the hole in the line, refilled the cooling system with something and limped back 30 miles to Vernal, Utah and the nearest Ford dealer.

They were able to get us back on the road after a coolant drain and service, and even fixed a recall notice for the truck we had not seen yet. We ended up in the local Steinaker State Park for a couple of nights due to their maintenance schedule, but it was a nice place with water and a dump station (it’s the little things in life).

While in Vernal we discovered the Vernal Brewing Company that made some pretty good beer and food. I went for the Allosaurus Amber (had to given the area), while Pam preferred the She’s a Peach, peach wheat ale.
We toured the Utah Field House of Natural History, with its collection of dinosaurs and fossils found in the local area.



We didn’t want to take the rig into a remote area until we were sure it was truly fixed, so we camped at Green River CG in the park for the night just to be safe. Had a good Ranger talk on rattlesnakes and even got a pipe cleaner, bug-eyed snake as a parting gift from the talk.


We’ll head out tomorrow to where we originally were heading when we lost our coolant. It should be nice there for the holiday weekend, if there is a spot left.