I have to admit that I, like a lot of people, was happy to say goodbye to 2016 for various reasons. I’m ready to leave the negativity and animosity of the last year behind and move positively into the future. I love new beginnings and 2017 holds so much promise. I have no illusions that it will have its share of valleys but I’ll walk through them and then climb out of them. Without those valleys, you can’t really appreciate the mountains and the views you have from the top.
The year has already started off with awesome friends, great food, and some good football. The weather hasn’t been nice and sunny but that will change soon. I might mold and mildew before it does but since this area has been under severe drought conditions the rain is much needed and I will just be happy that it’s not snowing.
We’ll be putting the wheels to the road soon and continuing our travels. We’ll have been here ‘at home’ for two months by the time we do that and it will be time to go. It’s nice to have this home base where we can stay and rest, visit family, and not have to worry about having to leave because someone else is coming in and they need our spot. We feel very blessed that our family has this little spot that they are willing to share with us. We’ve laughed about living the dream in a travel trailer in the middle of a cow pasture but it’s the truth. It is exactly what we’re doing. It’s not big or fancy, but we have what we need and life is good.
I’m heading into 2017 with high hopes, great intentions, and realistic goals. I’m not necessarily making resolutions but am going to strive to do better, be nicer, work harder, and embrace the experiences and people that I encounter with love, patience, and thankfulness. I’m pretty sure that if I can do these things, 2017 will be a good year.
In 1843, frontiersman Jim Bridger and his partner, Louis Vasquez built a fur trading post in what is now Wyoming. The booming fur trade was on its way down due to the depletion of the beaver and the ever changing fashions. Around this time, the westward movement of emigrants began. Thousands of them would stop here to replenish supplies, horses, use the blacksmith, or just to rest before moving on westward.
According to the information marker at the fort, the original post consisted of two pole stockades, one of which contained two log cabins at right angles to each other. One of the cabins was divided into two rooms and was used by the proprietors and their families. The other cabin housed the blacksmith/carpenter shop and the trade room. The other stockade was used to corral the livestock.
The original post is no longer there but in 1985 and 86, a reconstruction was built based on diary accounts and is open to visitors. It was late on the day we were there and the post was already closed so we could only peek between the logs and walk around the exterior. The cabins are made of wood-chinked logs with sod roofs and must have been very cold in the winter. According to the archaeological evidence at the fort, the reconstruction is sitting about 60 yards northwest of where the original post stood.
As mentioned above, thousands of emigrants heading west traveled through this area. Fort Bridger was a crossroads for the Oregon Trail, California Trail, and the Mormon Trail. The Oregon Trail, which started in Independence, Missouri and ended in Oregon City, Oregon was a total of 2,170 miles. Fortune seekers looking for gold in California stopped in to replenish and rest before heading south on the California Trail. In 1847, the Mormon Pioneer Company, led by Brigham Young led the move of Mormons westward. They stopped at Fort Bridger and according to records, found the prices too high for their liking. From Fort Bridger, they left the Oregon Trail heading southwest toward the Great Salt Lake and Salt Lake City, traveling on what would become known as the Mormon Trail. The fort housed the U. S. Army between 1857 and 1890, leaving when the Indian Wars were over. Through the years, the fort also served as a Pony Express stop, Overland Stage and Transcontinental Railroad telegraph stations, and was a popular stop on the Lincoln Highway.
After Brigham Young established a settlement in Salt Lake City, it wasn’t long before thousands more Mormons followed him. Tensions mounted between Jim Bridger and the small settlements near Fort Bridger, eventually escalating to the point that Young sent the Mormon militia to the fort to take control of it. Bridger fled when he heard they were coming. While in charge of Fort Bridger, the Mormons built a large stone wall around the fort. In recent years, excavation at the fort has unearthed portions of this wall.
Things really came to a head in 1857 when newly elected president James Buchanan sent US Troops into Utah Territory. They were to enforce Federal Authority and install federally appointed territorial officers. Colonel Albert Sidney Johnston led the troops but before they arrived, the Mormon militia burned Fort Bridger to keep it out of the Army’s hands. It took a while but in 1858, tensions subsided and the Army rebuilt the Fort. It was used as a base for the troops in the west until 1890 when the Indian Wars ended. At that time it was closed and many of its buildings were sold and dismantled.
There is some discrepancy as to who owned what part of the land from 1890 until 1897 but at that time, Mary E. Carter received a patent for 160 acres of land from the US indicating her ownership of the property. She was the first official civilian owner of the property on record after the military. She was the widow of William Alexander Carter, a sutler (or storekeeper) in Johnston’s army troops. They had stayed at the fort all of these years rebuilding and restocking and keeping it going, building quite a successful business. They built the first schoolhouse in Wyoming in 1860 to educate their children as well as the other children living at the fort.
Mrs. Carter passed away in 1904 and the land was distributed according to her probate. There is a small cemetery on the grounds behind the Commanding Officers Quarters. It was established in 1933 and the remains buried here were re-interred. It is named the Carter Cemetery but not all buried here are Carters. Virginia Bridger Hahn, was Jim Bridger’s daughter by his second wife, a Ute Indian. John Robertson was a trapper that arrived in the area in the 1830’s and was said to be instrumental in persuading Jim Bridger to establish the trading post.
In 1933, the 38-acre site was named a Wyoming Historical Landmark and Museum and many of the buildings were rebuilt and restored. Today, it is open to the public as an interpretive center. The day we were there, we got there late in the evening and although the buildings were closed, there was a ‘honor jar’ for the entrance fees to the fort at the gate. We paid our fee and wandered around for quite a while, enjoying looking through the windows and reading about them.
Walking along the grounds of Fort Bridger, I spotted a small area of ground surrounded by a white, wooden fence. As I walked closer to it, I realized that it was a grave. Who was so special that they were buried in this field and had had their grave so well kept? I could see a large sign standing a little higher than the fence and once right next to it, realized that it was between two white picket fences. The actual grave, with a white marble marker, was within a second, smaller fence.
Thornburg was a dog named after Major T.T. Thornburgh, who was killed in a battle with the Ute Indians in 1879. The dog had survived the burning of a wagon train during the battle and ended up at Fort Bridger. He became devoted to the company freighter, Buck Buchanan and was a favorite of many of the people that frequented the fort. In 1888, he was kicked by one of Buchanan’s mules and died from his injuries.
He was not only a favorite among the fort dwellers, but considered a hero as well. He not only caught a commissary thief, warned a sentinel of marauding Indians, and saved the life of a soldier in a knife fight, but he also rescued a small boy from drowning. It’s no wonder that Thornburg has a special burial place.
We spent a night at Ft. Bridger on our way to Teton National Park last week. It was late afternoon before we got there and it was past the normal working hours. However, the gate was open and the honor jar was out so we dropped our entrance fee in the jar and wandered around for a while. Although none of the buildings were open, we could read about them and look in the windows.
One of the more intriguing things (to me) at Ft. Bridger was the Black and Orange Cabins.
There wasn’t much information about them there and according to the signs, they were from the 1930’s. But, were they built there or were they moved there? Were they original or reproductions? There was nothing there to answer my questions so I did what we do these days; I turned to Google and did a little research.
In 1909, Mrs. Margaret Rochford bought a portion of the Ft. Bridger property from the Carter family who had bought it in 1895. On this piece of property stood the Commanding Officer’s Quarters that had been moved from its original place at the fort. Mrs. Rochford used the building as her residence and a hotel. The Black and Orange Garage Camp Cabins were built about 1926 as an extension of the Rochford Hotel. They were a less formal accommodation than the hotel and had an adjoining garage for people to park their cars.
The nation was prospering and had become more mobile due to the popularity and accessibility of the automobile. People were traveling for fun and recreation, not just to move from one place to another. People needed places to stay when they were traveling and visiting tourist attractions. The Lincoln Highway spanned the US from coast to coast and passed right in front of Mrs. Rochford’s property and Ft. Bridger. The Black and Orange Cabins provided a place to stop for the people traveling along the highway in Wyoming until about 1936. Evidently there were a lot of these type motor camps all along the Lincoln Highway and Route 66.
The cabins originally had oil lamps but were converted to electric lights at some point between 1926 and 1936. The original wiring is still in the cabins although it is not used.
The cabins had a DC electrical plant called the Light Plant that provided electricity to the cabin complex and hotel.
This was located in a building behind the cabins that also housed the outhouses for men and women and is still there. It contains the original battery system and generator for the electrical system.
Around 1936, the cabins were abandoned due to the Depression and decrease in tourism. They were left empty and forgotten until 2008 when the Wyoming Department of State Parks and Cultural Resources renovated them. They rebuilt the entrance arch that had been removed sometime over the years as well as the office building that had burned in the late 1970’s. Evidently, it only cost about $1.00 (which equals about $13.75 today) to stay in these cabins.
One of the cabins was furnished inside with reproductions of furnishings and clothing from the era of use. We were unable to enter the cabins as it was locked up but could look through the window to see the way things were set up.
There was a house in the parking lot of the complex that was built around 1930. As it was getting dark, we didn’t explore it at all. An antique Ford truck is parked in the ‘parking lot’.
I was very glad to be able to find out something about these cabins because they really piqued my interest. They are a unique part of history that we don’t hear much about today and have a story to tell. I’m very glad that the State of Wyoming decided to let their story be told instead of razing them down and erasing that chapter.
We’ve been in the Flaming Gorge area since Tuesday and although the weather has been a bit of a challenge half of the time we’ve been here, we’ve enjoyed our time here. It rained two days and today it was cold and very windy so we stayed in and figured out some things about the RV. Like how the heater works. We also managed to get the internet working and binged on the new season of Longmire!
We did have two really nice days and were able to get out and do a little exploring. This is our second time here; back in June we visited this area for a couple of days. We stayed at the Red Canyon Lodge that time and really enjoyed it. We stayed in one of the cabins there and were quite happy with the accommodations.
Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area is located in the Ashley National Forest which is located in northeastern Utah and southwestern Wyoming.
Flaming Gorge was named by John Wesley Powell because of the flaming red color the walls of the canyon turned when the sun hit them. Powell was a US soldier, geologist and explorer. He explored the western US, mainly the Rocky Mountain region. He is most famous for being the first known recorded white man to travel through the Grand Canyon. This 1869 expedition also took a three-month trip down the Colorado and Green Rivers. Lake Powell, a very popular reservoir on the Colorado River in Utah and Arizona, was named for him.
The Flaming Gorge Dam was built by the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation from 1958 to 1964. It is 502 feet high and 1,285 long. It forms the Flaming Gorge Reservoir which extends 91 miles into southwestern Wyoming. The reservoir and the Green River are huge fishing, boating, and rafting areas. There are many places to camp and wildlife abounds.
From August 15 to November 30 fishing is prohibited in some areas to protect the kokanee, a type of sockeye salmon. This is the time of year that the kokanee spawn and to protect the species, fishing is prohibited. Kokanee are a landlocked salmon that migrates into freshwater streams from the lakes and reservoirs instead of into the Pacific Ocean. One of the best places to view the fish is at the Sheep Creek Bridge at the north entrance of the Sheep Creek Geologic Loop. This is located about 5 miles south of Manila, Utah on Hwy 44.
The Sheep Creek Geologic Loop is not only a good place to view the salmon running but can be a good place to see the bighorn sheep that the area is named for.
The loop is a 10-mile section of road that connects back into Hwy. 44 further south near the Dowd Mountain Overlook turn off. We drove the loop on the only really nice weather day that we had and were lucky to see a small herd of bighorn sheep as well as some breathtaking fall color on the south end.
The Uinta Mountain Crest Fault runs through this loop and is easy to spot as you drive through the area. The jagged, twisted rocks that rise up and tower over most of the road as you drive through are evidence of the violent displacement of rock over the centuries. They provide a great contrast to the brilliantly colored trees that grow along the base of them.
On the south side of the loop, the aspens were in full fall splendor. It seemed as every time we came around a curve there was another stand of bright yellow aspens with the occasional red or orange tree thrown in.
Even though we’ve really only had two days to explore the area, we’ve been very blessed to see some of God’s great artistry. It’s been a good stop to kick off our RV adventures.
It took a while but we’ve finally taken the maiden voyage in the 5th wheel. After picking it up last week, we had to return to Parachute to get our stuff out of storage. We spent several days unpacking things and getting them settled in place. We also had to familiarize ourselves with how things work and get use to being in a much smaller home.
Finally, five days later, we secured everything, hooked it up to the truck, and headed north. Our original destination was Yellowstone but all of the campgrounds there have closed for the season and we really didn’t want to dry camp (not have water, sewer, or electric hook-ups) for our first try at this. So, we found a great place near Flaming Gorge to call home for a few days. The route took us over Douglas Pass which isn’t fun even when you’re not pulling a 36 foot 5th wheel behind you. KB referenced The Long, Long Trailer a few times as that Dodge was working hard to get us up that mountain. But, it did a great job and successfully got us over the mountain and smoothly into the park.
I said in my last post that I am not a camper. Another thing I am not, is a good flagger/traffic controller. Unfortunately, since it’s just KB and me, one of my jobs on this adventure is to stand at the back of the RV and give him directions. Things such as ‘turn left’, ‘turn right’, ‘straighten up’, and maybe the most important one-‘stop’. Problem is, I have to watch the back of the RV, all of the hook-ups, trees, picnic tables, etc., give instructions into the walkie talkie-remembering to press and release the talk button at the correct times, and make sure that the whole time he can see me in his side mirror. I’m not really very good at multi tasking. Really not good at it. It was not pretty but we did manage to get it backed into a spot without hitting anything. I’m sure that the more I do it, the better I will get. Practice makes perfect, right?
Leveling this beast is another *fun* thing that has to be done before we can call it a successful parking job. It’s a little bit of trial and error but again, we managed to get it done without killing each other or tearing anything up. Another one of those practice makes perfect things, I’m sure. Once level, we can let the pull outs out. We have three; the kitchen area, the living area, and the bedroom. All of those twists and turns and ups and down getting here? Yep, it knocked a few things out of place and a couple of the kitchen drawers had fallen out-thankfully, nothing was broken and there wasn’t a big mess to clean up. It didn’t take very long to get everything back in place and get dinner going.
Today was a beautiful day and we got out and about this afternoon for a little while. We were blessed to come up on a few pronghorn grazing near the lake. They were right on the road as we drove up but quickly ran into the field nearby. This is a big ranching area and there are cows and horses everywhere; nothing unusual about that! However, these two beauties were hanging out right next to the fence so we stopped so I could get a shot of them. The brownish one walked right over to the gray one and they both looked right at me like they were posing for me. Then, after I had snapped a few shots, she nuzzled the other one as if to say, ‘it’s okay, she won’t hurt you’.
So far, I would say that the maiden voyage is going well. We’re sort of playing things by ear as far as where and when we’ll go next. The weather is going to be a big factor for us as we don’t want to be driving in snow, especially on unfamiliar roads…at least not yet, we don’t. The wind has picked up and there is supposed to be some weather moving in so we’ll see what tomorrow brings. Hopefully, it will be just a little rain although I can tell that the temperature has already dropped significantly but not enough for it to snow. It will be interesting to see how this little RV handles the rain and wind. Almost as important, how will we handle that?! We haven’t figured the heater out yet but we might get a crash course in that before morning. We do have a little space heater and I already have the electric blanket on the bed so we’ll be fine. Yep, this southern girl doesn’t fool around when it starts getting cold! Today marks a week that we’ve been in our new home and so far, so good!
It’s been almost exactly six months since I checked in here and so many things have occurred in that time. Winter was very long and cold but once summer arrived, it arrived quickly and hasn’t let up since. We stayed close to home for the most part during the winter and early spring months. However, in May we took the trip of a lifetime to Peru and Machu Picchu. It was our first family vacation with the four of us in almost ten years!
I plan to post a lot about that trip in the future but today I’m catching up on what’s happening in our lives. The last five weeks have been a whirlwind. We sold our house very unexpectedly and are preparing for the next adventure. We’ve always known that God would send the people meant to buy it when the time was right. We just thought we’d have it on the market and be ready to sell it. HA! Not so. Since we were not prepared for this, we really didn’t know what to do or where to go; we had no plan in place. For the first time in our lives, we can actually do what we want: there is no company telling us where we have to move and no job dictating where we will live. One of the positives of being retired!
After much discussion and lots of thought and prayer, we bought a fifth wheel and are planning to load Jackdog up and travel for the next year or so. I’ve been making lists and more lists. My lists have lists but we’re marking things off every day. We are going through, getting rid of, and packing up every thing. We have sold a lot of our stuff and plan to put the rest of it in storage. Not only is this a lot of work and very time consuming, it can be very emotional. We’ve accumulated lots and lots of things. Some of them are going in the boxes to be brought out again when we settle somewhere and some are not. It can be hard call to make because I love my things and the smiles and memories they evoke. I am a sentimental soul I have to admit. But, eventually the time comes where we have to let go of things and move on. Let someone else put them to use and enjoy them.
When I really think about what we’re doing, I have to wonder if we’ve lost our minds. Maybe a little bit but we are very excited about this adventure. Everyone has been very supportive and some have even expressed that they are a little jealous. I’ve always thought that I would like to do this and now is my chance to find out. I expect that we are going to get on each others nerves at times, have some mishaps learning how everything works, and hopefully laugh through it all. I think we are going to have the time of our lives, see some beautiful places, meet some wonderful people, and be closer than ever. Literally.
I have to let you in on a little secret…I am not a camper. I have camped maybe three times in my life. I don’t ‘rough it’. I like air conditioning and comfy beds. I am really not an outdoor person. You can already see where this is heading, right? Between me and Jackdog, KB is going to have his hands full! We won’t hit the road for real until mid-September and don’t have a specific itinerary yet but we do have a ‘bucket list’ of places we want to visit. We’ll start there and see where the road takes us. Don’t be surprised if we show up in your neighborhood! It won’t be six months before I come back and check in, I promise. I expect that I’m going to have lots of stories to share!
I’ve been in Houston with my dad at MD Anderson this week and we’ve eaten most of our meals at the Rotary House International Hotel where we’re staying. But, tonight we decided to venture out and eat at Lucille’s, a little restaurant in the Museum District that the locals love and recommend.
Lucille’s is owned by two of the great-grandsons of Lucille B. Smith, Texas’ first African American Businesswoman. One of those great-grandsons, Chris Williams, is the head chef. You can read full story here. She has an amazing story and accomplished things in an era that were virtually unheard of for women, especially a black woman.
Scattered throughout the restaurant are photos of Lucille with many of her customers and fans; Joe Louis, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Lyndon Johnson among others. Her hot rolls were famous and served in the White House and on American Airlines flights for years. She created Lucille’s All Purpose Hot Roll Mix as a fundraiser for her church in the 1940’s and within 30 days was able to donate $800 to the church. It was the first hot roll mix to be marketed in the United States. At one time, the orders for her mix was over 200 cases a week in grocery stores.
The food is, in one word, excellent. Tonight’s soup was Lobster Bisque and if it wouldn’t have been quite rude and made such a spectacle, I would have licked the bowl. If you’re so lucky to eat here on a night when this is the soup of the day, order the hot rolls first thing so you will have something to ‘sop’ up the dregs of the soup so as to get every delicious morsel of it. I’m serious. It is that good.
My dad had the Shrimp and Grits which was excellent and since we had gotten smart and ordered the hot rolls to go with our meal, he was able to enjoy every little drop of it. I ordered the Yard Bird which is a fried half chicken and it was the tenderest, juiciest chicken I’ve had in a long time.
I don’t normally eat fried chicken but it was highly recommended by a friend so I thought I’d give it a try. I’m very glad I did! The sides were steamed greens (turnip greens) with a dill relish and macaroni and cheese. Both were very good although a bit high on the strong taste meter. Turnip greens are generally not my favorite greens but these were very good. The mac and cheese had truffle oil on the top which gave them a very unusual, rich taste.
We topped off our dinner with homemade Lemon Meringue Pie. We shared a piece as we were both pretty full from dinner. It, like everything else we had there, was excellent. There was just the right amount of tart to offset the sweet of the meringue.
The staff was very friendly and knowledgable about the food. Our waiter, Micheal, was attentive but did not hover and allowed us to enjoy our meal without being interrupted a dozen times. He recommended an excellent wine, The Engineer Pinot Noir from Ernest Vineyards in Sonoma.
Overall, it was a great food experience but more than that, it was wonderful to get out and enjoy a good meal with my dad. The fact that it was in a restaurant rife with history was just a plus. If I had to guess, Ms. Lucille is smiling down and very happy with what her great-grandsons have in carrying on her legacy.
When I was in Breckinridge for the International Snow Sculpture Competition, I was invited to go along with some friends to do some dogsledding. Unfortunately, the time slot was full when we tried to add me to the group but I was able to go along and hang out at the jumping off point, meet the dogs, and take some pictures.
Good Times Adventures offers snow mobile tours and dog sledding adventures. They are located just outside of Breckinridge and are easy to find. The staff was great; knowledgable, friendly, and very accommodating. The scenery is gorgeous and next time I go, I’m doing one, if not both, of the adventures offered!
My friends had a great time and although one of them fell off of the sled and into a tree, thankfully not breaking anything (just badly bruised), they all said they’d do it again.
The dogs are just beautiful animals and you could tell that they are well taken care of and love what they do. We were allowed to meet them and pet them; they were actually very playful. One of them was quite interested in trying to eat my boots and take off with one of the ladies scarves. Gave us a great laugh.
This week is the International Snow Sculpture Competition in Breckinridge, Colorado. It started on Tuesday with a shotgun start at 11 a.m. and ended Saturday at 10 a.m. MST. There are sixteen teams from all over the world competing, building amazing works of art from enormous, 20-ton blocks of snow. Measuring 10 feet by 10 feet and 12 feet tall, the blocks are constructed through a collaborative effort of the community of Breckinridge. It takes 3 days to construct the blocks for the competition.
Not only does it take a multitude of volunteers to build the blocks of snow, but, it takes a lot of people to remove the excess snow as it is carved away. Tools from shovels to mini dozers are put to use.
Each team works approximately 65 hours, sometimes through the night, to finish their sculptures. There are huge floodlights set up at night and enormous screens to block the sun during the day. They work in all conditions; temperature fluctuations, sunshine, snow, clouds, and wind. They have a deadline to meet and they work very hard to meet it. They aren’t allowed to use any electric or gas powered tools, only hand tools.
As you walk along and watch them work, it is amazing at how complex some of them are and how precise the artists are in carving the snow into the shapes that will eventually be a symbol of some meaning.
They all have a clay model to work from and some of the concepts are mind blowing when you think about them creating them from snow.
There is meaning to each and every sculpture and it’s obvious that a lot of thought has gone into them.
This sculpture was my favorite but I’m partial to elephants so that’s no surprise. It was carved by the U.S. Loveland team and is titled, Bolting from Extinction. The idea is that nature doesn’t know extinction, only transformation. It won the Bronze medal today!
There were two Mongolian teams and one of their sculptures was titled Lion and Butterfly and it was shaping up nicely when I was there on Thursday. The lion was easily recognizable.
The other Mongolia team had my other favorite; The Happiness of Family. It is an underwater scene with a sea turtle family on coral. The mother is teaching her babies how to swim. Here, one artist is smoothing the mother’s shell and the other is scraping the excess snow from underneath her neck.
Probably one of the most complex designs this year was by the USA Vermont team. It is titled Rhonda and her Recycling Robo-Octopus. It is a homage to American ingenuity. Rhonda is a fourteen year old math and science whiz kid that invents a robot-octopus to clean up the ocean floor. This was the Gold Medal winner this year!
Snow can be a finicky medium to work with and sometimes the sculptures aren’t stable and will collapse. This year, both German teams lost their sculptures to collapse before the judging. How heartbreaking that must be! At the end of the competition, medals are awarded to the three best sculptures. There is no monetary award although the teams are given travel stipends and lodging. They do get a lot of recognition and prestige in the international snow sculpture community as well.
Four years ago, I attended this event quite by accident when we went to visit friends there for skiing. I don’t ski and was planning to just wander around town for the day exploring. I happened upon the sculptures and was fascinated by them. I was there the week after the sculpting so didn’t get to see the artists at work. Last spring when we moved back to Colorado, we made a list of things we want to do and places we want to visit while we’re here. Going to the Snow Sculpture Competition and seeing the artists at work was one of my contributions to that list. I’m really glad I thought about it and actually did it because it was so interesting to see the sculptures emerging from the imagination and hands of the artists. You can read more about this year’s competition and the winners here.