Image by ajschroetlin
More wide open spaces, and big rocks.
Taken on a trip to the Miracle Mile in Wyoming on the last weekend in March of 08 with a few of my pals. The fishing was no good because of the weather but it created ideal conditions for me.
So this place is somewhere my family has been taking me forever. My grandparents have a little Airstream trailer that sits up at the river year round. Propane heat, oven and stove. Roughing it, with a little comfort mixed in.
Conditions can be pretty rough, both in summer and winter…..and in March! It’s a long way out on dirt roads that see VERY little activity. If you break down it could be a day before you see anyone. On this trip we were reminded of just how vulnerable we as humans are to nature.
On Sunday, the day we planned to leave, we awoke to a little snow on the ground and pretty cold temperatures. It really wasn’t sticking to the ground though. The boys weren’t afraid and they tried their luck at the fishing again that morning. After a few hours they called it quits and we started to pack up and clean the trailer. My buddy really wanted to try and land a fish in the tough conditions so he went down to the river to try one last time before we headed home.
I joined him, to try and take a few photos of him fishing in the snow. As soon as we got to the river the snow picked up a little. Then a lot. He had barely gotten himself into the freezing cold water before he turned around and looked at me like, "Holy $ %@#, we should probably get out of here!"
And we did. We locked up the trailer and hit the road.
Now my buddies were in a 4 wheel drive Jeep and I was in a front wheel drive Altima. No chains. We drove in on dry roads and we were leaving in blizzard conditions. There are a few different roads leading out of the Mile and I had to choose which one to take. One road takes you up and over a pass but once you get over the pass the roads are paved and it’s the shortest route. The other way is pretty flat but it’s out on the plains and many times the road drifts over and it’s hard to see where the road is. Sometimes the drifts are 10 feet tall and then you’re screwed, for lack of a better term. So I thought we’d try our luck at the pass. Yeah, not so much. The first major hill and my car started spinning about three quarters of the way up. Luckily we hadn’t gone down that road long before we realized it was not an option.
We turned around, or rather my car did a donut and turned me around and we headed the other way. I’ve driven in white out conditions before but nothing prepared me for the journey I, and my trusty friends, would take. Just like I suspected the road was full of drifts and with the blizzard conditions visibility was next to nothing. For two and a half hours I followed a few little bushes sticking out of the road hoping that I was on the right path. Honestly it was hard to see if I was on the road or out in the prairie. White as white could be.
We made it off of the dirt roads and to a little town called Hanna. Now if you’ve ever been to Wyoming you know that outside of a few of the "major" cities, EVERYTHING closes down at 6pm on a Sunday. We rolled into town about 5:55. Just enough time for me to get a pack of smokes at the grocery store and trust me I needed them. The folks at the store told us EVERY road out of Hanna was closed. Hanna has NO motels. None. I was pretty sure I was sleeping in my car that night cuddled up to my furry dog.
At this point we needed gas too. I always fill my tank before I head out on the dirt roads because I know what can happen. No real gas stations in Hanna but they do have a few pumps that take a credit card. That works, if only the pumps worked. No luck.
So we decided to drive a few more miles to Interstate 80 because we figured that was our best option. Luckily the highway ramp wasn’t closed and we decided to press our luck and try and get to Laramie which was about 70 miles away. Laramie was the only gas or lodging available. I had less than a quarter tank.
Actually I-80 was the best driving conditions we saw but that really isn’t saying much. Visibility was a little better though. We made it to Laramie, and gas, and we were again told that all roads out of Laramie were closed. Hundred of semis, cars and trucks sat at on-ramps around Laramie. We decided to call Wyoming Dep’t of Transportation to see if Highway 287 was open. They said yes but probably not for long. We made it out of Laramie and got past the gates before they closed them. I’m not sure if that was a good thing or not, looking back.
By now it was dark, very cold, and the wind was blowing like crazy. My buddy took the lead because he had the 4 wheel drive and better headlights. The snow was whipping around and making it really hard to see. We had to drive a little ways, find a road marker, drive a little more till we spotted the next. Most cars in the other lane were stopped with their hazard lights on. We kept on trucking. Up and over the pass we went. We drove through piles of drifted snow. The wind howled like I’ve never seen it before. At one point it literally moved my car about 4 feet. Slid it right along the frozen ground. All of a sudden I was in the oncoming lane, or what I think was the oncoming lane. Scary stuff.
So we finally made it back to Fort Collins. The wicked conditions didn’t let up until we reached the city limits. A trip that usually takes three and half hours took almost seven!
Seven hours of hunching over the steering wheel to see out of the windshield. Seven hours of gripping that steering wheel like it was a piece of rope and I was dangling over the edge. 🙂
I’m glad I had a few friends that didn’t panic and knew what they were doing. I’ve never been so glad to be home from a trip.
Thanks for reading my story.