"I'm going to speak my mind because I have nothing to lose."--S.I. Hayakawa

Friday, November 10, 2017

The Wyoming Journals, Ch. 4: Lessons Learned the Cold Way

Ch. 4:  Lessons Learned the Cold Way

I’m curled up on the front bench seat of a 1981 Ford Bronco, freezing my tush and toes off, when I realize this trip to spend time with my long-lost cousins* at their annual elk hunt in Wyoming is going to be a learning experience.   To wit:   Those little packets of air-activated heat packs don’t work a darn if you wait until your feet are frozen before you stick the patches under your toes.

That lesson, uncomfortable as it is in this incident, can be forgiven.   I’ve never used them before because, in Alaska, I’ve never had to.   I always had appropriate clothing and boots when I ventured out.

I am not sure this is the actual mountain top where we parked, but it gives you an idea of the terrain.

This morning, the first day of elk hunting, I think about the brand new North Face insulated boots that I’d bought on sale in a sporting goods store in Ft. Collins, Colorado, when Chris and I were on our way from Denver to the Snowy Mountain range in southeastern Wyoming.  Why I didn’t put them on this morning is beyond me.   The temperatures weren’t that bad and I figured I was tough enough to wear my hiking boots with wool socks.

I am not.   I am cold.   And groggy from the high-altitude meds I am taking.  I bugged out of the hunting blind mid-morning and scrambled uphill to a wind-swept mountain ridge where the Bronco is parked.  I don't start the vehicle to get warm because it is a cranky starter.  I curl up in the fetal position and try to go to sleep while outside a blizzard with white out conditions is screaming down the canyon with nothing to block its path except the Bronco.

I think I did fall asleep, because I am surprised when my three cousins arrive at the vehicle and pile in out of the poor weather.  No visibility, they sa7/.

We go back to the warm motorhome and eat the sandwiches Chris prepared for us at 4 A.M.  A couple hours later, after the storm abates, Bud says the game plan is to return to the blind where he will wait while Bob and Chris go up the canyon a way, climb down the side of the mountain and (theoretically) move any elk in the area across Bud’s line of site.   It will be difficult terrain, he says, and suggests I remain in camp.

Sounds good to me.   I settle into Bud’s recliner with my Kindle and try to read.  After a few paragraphs, I fall asleep.   And again and again.   Finally, I snuggle into my sleeping bag and take a nap.

Later the sun is out, the temperatures are nice and the wind has died down. I dress in warm clothes and  walk up the valley to a place called White Rocks.  I am embarrassed to admit that I have to stop several times to catch my breath as I walk a gentle rise (I joke that it was only a 20-foot gain in elevation, but that might be more fact than humor).

Weathered and eroded by wind, water and blowing sand, these iconic sandstone formations can be seen from many points in these mountains.  I am on a birding mission and, seeing something winged and feathered, I climb to the base of this incredible rock and make my way along its base.  

Soon, I come to a natural indentation in the base of the rock and movement catches my eye.   We don’t have chipmunks in Alaska, so I am fascinated with this little critter.

Back at camp, my cousins form a three-cousin search party and set out to find me.   They know where I am, so there isn’t much searching to be done.

 The following photos were taken by Chris on their afternoon hike down the mountain.


Chris and Bob

Bob and Chris

Bud waiting in the blind for an elk to walk in front of him.

My cousins didn't know they were lost.   They thought I was, living up in Alaska


  1. In regards to the first picture, that is where we were parked for your nap. That is called Prospector Point and is a little over 9,250 feet. This was another great day in the mountains.

  2. I always get cold while sitting waiting for the elk to come. Then they give me a hard time when I show up with my fluffy pants and coat and boot covers that take up so much space. They should be happy I'm not complaining that I'm freezing my butt off, right? I can't win. LOL!

  3. Nice blog! I am with ya, freezing the toes and tush is not fun at all.

  4. Brrrr, here I sit in Alaska and this post about Wyoming makes me COLD! The 20 foot rise could also have affected you because you were ALREADY up in elevation. Nice looking cousins, cute little chipper!!! Hugs. Patti and Cap

  5. Your feet get cold and YOU are cold. YOU know better than to go out improperly dressed with warm feet because your top notch boots are warm from your boot warmer. Go figure huh? The things we learn here Gullible. I swear to the good Lord I did NOT know nor realize that we do NOT have chipmunks up here in Alaska. I'd ask you IF you are sure about that but I know you KNOW your stuff as to wildlife. As I write this in the Loussac Library you have made ME cold. More Smiles from Patti and I.