Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Wyoming or Bust!

There comes a time when a man just has to do a road trip with his son. This is my time, and my story. Bob Rhinesmith passed away about 15 months ago - my step-father from the time I was 9 years old. The same fellow who matter-of-factly suggested that it was "time for me to go" when I moved back into the family homestead after college for a couple of months. That was some pretty straight-shooting from a solidly grounded man. Best advice I ever received.

We're spreading his ashes in the Bighorn mountains west of Buffalo, WY tomorrow. All of Bob's kin and many grand-kids are here. Etho and I are ready, having already paid our road dues on the trip up from San Diego.

The first leg found us leaving around 10am on a Saturday, and heading through Las Vegas and St. George, UT onward to Zion Nat'l Forest. Wow - what a great choice! Zion is unbelievably beautiful, with red rocks ablaze above. I'd done some research and determined that what we really needed to do is hike the Zion "Narrows", where the Virgin river carves its way through the mountains and affords the intrepid adventurer an opportunity to "hike" up river.

After being turned away for a campsite at the Nat'l campground, we found a place 1/4 mile from the entrance. The campground was on the same river, just a bit slower and more narrow at this point.

Ethan barely helped erect the tent, then was in his bathing suit and in the water. I love his free spirit! Really cool that our campsite neighbors had just come from Thayne, WY and live in San Diego - lots to talk about!

The next morning we rented some Canyoneering boots from Zion Adventure Co. for about $18/ea. These are truly the ONLY way to go - they are little 4x4 vehicles for the feet, made by the same 5.10 folks who make exceptional climbing shoes. A walking stick added to the mix and we were off for the free shuttle to the river.

Etho and I had an awesome time: hiking, cruising through the river mostly ankle deep (but sometimes waist deep), and later bouldering up a finger canyon. He was in heaven, despite the minor cuts and cracked shins. The water was cool, but not frigid as we were told was the case earlier in the season. We were fast, sure-footed, and covered massive ground compared to our flip-flopped or Teva'ed cousins.

Still, it took most of the day and it wasn't until about 2:30 that we found ourselves at Oscar's having burgers and burritos. We were actually exhausted, but I was determined to get as far up the road towards Salt Lake City as I could; which turned out to be Provo. We did have energy enough to see WALL*E at the local mall, then searched for a hotel at which to crash. Marginally clean, but comfortable enough for our lazy butts.

The next morning saw us on the road somewhat early, and through SLC to "Kaysville", where my old Linspire pal Tom Welch now lives with his wife Holly and 4 kids - Preston, Parker, John, and Rebecca. Great to see Tom again - he's good friends with my work-mate Tony Corbell.

After Kaysville, Ethos and I hot-footed it to Rawlins, WY and - with no real destination in mind - ended up at a sweet campsite on Alcova Lake. What a beautiful spot. Dramatic, mind-blowing lightning storms all around us when setting up camp, and a few drops here and there, but otherwise dry through the night. We played Scrabble in the tent before bed - the first time Ethan had played - and finally called it around midnight.

I snapped awake at about 4:45am and quickly saw that dawn was on the horizon - a perfect time to take pictures. I quickly hustled the camera, Tony Corbell tripod, and a couple of lenses down to the water and experimented for 30 minutes. Nasty bit of dust on one of the lenses, but the images are pretty danged cool.

We had the whole day to kill and only about a 4-5 hour drive to Buffalo, WY, where I now write this missive. We stopped at a gas station/store in Mud Flats and signed our names to their wall as a memento. Ethan got a kick out of that.

Hung out in Casper for a couple of hours waiting for our Zion Narrows film from a cheapo digital camera, to be developed (at a Walmart SuperCenter no less!), then had a nice relaxing lunch in Kaycee, about 40 minutes south of Buffalo. Classic small-town diner with old people, patriotic flags and dead animals on the wall. Nice though.

I'm glad we arrived into Buffalo in the early afternoon, ahead of the rest of the family. Gives one a chance to chill out and check out the environs. About the time Etho and I were heading to dinner, the gang rolled in, really everyone: Bea, Richard, Pam & Pat, Bobby & Theresa, Kim & Glenn, and Tamara & Justin. And oh doctor, so many kids! ;-)

So... this is the big Cowboy country of Wyoming. Pretty damned great. Lot's of diesel pick-ups, 99% of which are American-built. Cows. Horses. Fences. A rich pioneer history gravitas that you can just taste as you roll through and absorb the land.

Ethan and I are less than half-way through our father/son road-trip, and it's been solid so far. Just like my step-father.

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