home on the range

I just arrived back from two weeks in Northern Wyoming. The main focus of the trip was helping out on a dinosaur dig (awesome, I know) in the Bighorn Basin, but we made time for some extracurricular exploration.

So, sit back, relax, and smell the prickly pear flowers….

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…and the lichens.
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In Wyoming, epic rainstorms also mean epic rainbows.
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We were blessed with the precious moment of bumping into a newborn white-tailed deer fawn in the wild.
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A hike through the Beartooths was a very, very good thing.
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Those clouds.
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The Bighorn Canyon is surely one of the best kept secrets of the West, giving the Grand Canyon a run for its money.

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Perhaps the highlight of the trip was the pig races. That’s right, the pig races. If you ever happen to be in Red Lodge, MT, make sure to make this your top priority. In fact, make a visit Red Lodge, MT your top priority and enjoy the pig races.

Grab a Moose Drool, pick a pig (Waltzing Fatilda, perhaps? Sausageawea is another good one. Hillary ClintHAM won’t let you down!), and watch the little pigs run their dear, little hearts out because they know that a treasure chest of leafy greens awaits them.

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and they’re off!

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will. do. anything. for. alfalfa.

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GORGE

We took a trip up to Cody one night for the rodeo…yeehaw!

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BA female rodeo stars

My favorite painting in the Buffalo Bill Center of the West:

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No Parking: Violators Towed Away

We cooked dinner every night in our little farmhouse.

Fried bread was made. And all was well.

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such calorie. very oil. many fry.

But that big sky, mmhmm.
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how to not see the wave at coyote buttes

Okay, so this was supposed to be the super awesome post with incredible pictures of The Wave. I was supposed to be posting pictures such as this:

Photo Credit: http://photoartkalmar.com/

no i did not take this picture *tear*sniffle*sniffle*

I was supposed to expose all of this top secret information as to how to venture out into the desert to find it. But, alas! The Wave gods did not reign down their glory upon us and we lost the lottery two days in a row. It is an experience worth sharing though as it is quite hysterical how you get to witness human passive aggressiveness at its finest.

The reason for all the drama is that only 20 people are allowed to visit The Wave per day. They give away 10 permits online in an online lottery that sell out months in advance and then they give away the other 10 in a lottery at some random visitor center. First off, they don’t make it entirely obvious where the visitor center is. It actually happens to be in a completely different state than The Wave itself. I am going with the underlying assumption that it is one of the many hurdles you are made to clownishly jump through just to get to The Wave all for the pleasure of those in power. It really is a wretch to try to include it in your agenda–mostly because you can become addicted to this lottery business and screw all your other wonderful plans that you had for your vacation to simply participate in this ridiculous endeavor.  Let me clarify that this lottery is much like dangling a blo0d-dripping zebra meat in front of a pack of emaciated hyenas. If you have ever seen the movie Jingle All the Way, you kind of feel like Sinbad for the time being.

The alleged reason for doing this 20-people-a-day thing is that US Bureau of Land Management has designated the area in which the land is found as a “Wilderness Area”. This lovely terminology was defined in the Wilderness Act of 1964 that was designed to set aside land that would literally, I quote the lady, “give people the feeling like they are in the middle of nowhere”. Okay, that’s cute. If we want to get all emo and be as dramatic as the actual wording in the Act: “an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain…” LOL. However, as hard as it is to try to refrain from bursting out laughing, I do somewhat appreciate the actual preservation of the place. I mean, after hiking the Narrows at Zion National Park or visiting the South Rim at the Grand Canyon, it is nice to visit a place that isn’t a circus.

get out of my picture

get out of my picture

Okay, back to the lottery: It all seems like a jovial atmosphere upon entrance of the visitor’s center, fake smiling upon all those in the room. But deep down, everyone is cautiously scanning each group of people. Counting. And recounting. And glaring. Common thoughts unleashed in one’s subconscious:  “Uggh, they were here yesterday, haven’t they moved on yet?”;“Whew, I think that guy is by himself.”; “Do they really have six people in their group? That is so inconsiderate.”; “Okay they come all the way from Tokyo, I guess I won’t feel that upset if they win.”; “OMG, that lady just said she has been to The Wave before. That is so unfair if she wins.” [among other varying immature subconscious whines]. 

The actual lottery starts around 8:30AM. There is no point in getting there early because it is of no advantage and they don’t even start picking the numbers until 9AM. Therefore, you can show up at the lottery at 8:59AM [as one obnoxious hipster couple did] and cause everyone to lose their minds, dispensing long, heaving sighs and a susurration of disapproving grumbles.

Anyways, they open up the “lottery room” at 8:30AM, but before they herd you in like a pack of mules, they give you this “ARE YOU SURE YOU WANT TO GO OUT INTO THE DESERT AND PROBABLY DIE” speech to try to scare everyone away. Of course, no one runs away and everyone barrels over each other to get into the lottery room. On both days that we tried our luck, there were over 60 people. However, apparently it frequently is over 100. Rumor has it the record for trying 11 days in a row.

You fill out your lottery entry (which takes about 37 seconds) and then you must sit in a room with all of your arch-nemeses for the next 29 minutes and 23 seconds. One appropriate way to pass the time is to do a “wave dance” (one such as this would probably do) the The Wave gods; however, we must have been a little out-of-tune because this critical step in the process didn’t really seem to work for us. If you are lucky and have the nice lady park ranger, she will tell you a bunch of interesting facts about The Wave like badass album covers that have been photographed there and what not. [Making a friendly suggestion to Alt-J ∆ to shoot here if you are going to keep up with the whole An Awesome Wave theme].

from wikipedia

Scale the Summit-Carving Desert Canyons

Pink Floyd @ the Wave.

http://www.sfae.com/index.php?pg=302187&c=5

i need this hanging in my room

Then, after what seems like decades, they announce which number you are going to be and throw all the balls with little numbers on them in this little spinny-thing. As each moment of glory is unveiled, two of the following scenarios unfold before you: [1]screams and yelps of joy and gladness from the group chosen usually followed by a makeout session if it is a young traveling couple [2] huffs, puffs, and looks of utter disdain cast towards the group chosen followed by everyone secretly devising a plan to slash the tires of the group chosen. You are pretty much totally screwed if the group called is of six people because that already uses up 6/10 permits. If it is a group of 2, you don’t feel too hateful at first because all is not really lost until 2 or 3 more rounds. On one of the days, the first three chosen were groups of 2, leaving 4 remaining permits. The last number drawn was a group of 6 and the group is supposedly supposed to banish 2 members of their group. You didn’t hear this from me, but I’m pretty sure it goes without saying it would be easy to sneak 2 people in your group into the desert.

Welp, there ya have it. In a flash, all the hype is over and you feel totally feel cheated and feel that the entire universe is against you. You briefly gossip about all of “the chosen ones” and then pick yourself up and try to think of something to do for the day if you are planning to show up again the next morning. I tried to take is as a sign that The Wave gods thought the timing isn’t right and I am supposed to come back another day.

Probably when it is not 118 degrees.

what i have learnt from the desert

Photo by: Rocio Ng

I left with my friend on a long roadtrip through southern Utah and Arizona. You know, one of those go-have -a-life-transforming-experience-in-the-desert trips that are much needed after too many #thisiswhyimsingle moments. So here I am, sitting somewhere on the border of Utah and Arizona at a campgrounds that goes by the name of “Crazy Horse”. Rocio just finished making me eggs on our little stove and I haven’t showered in days. While there are many adventures to share, one hike in particular seems worth indulging upon.

I bought this hiking book written by David Day called Utah’s Incredible Backcountry. After selecting a hike to the Golden Cathedral (located in Escalante National Park), I am not quite sure we knew what we were getting ourselves into; however (as most Laurelbury Tales go), we somehow made our way out of it. I have never been so in the middle of nowhere in all of my life. And being more acquainted to living and hiking in the jungles and forest, the desert was an entirely new frontier.

We actually never made it to the Golden Cathedral–let’s just mostly blame it on the 110 degree heat and the fact that we didn’t even get started until noon because I am a newb and didn’t know to rent a vehicle with 4wD to drive down the back roads to get to the trailhead. Therefore, it took us 2 hour to drive 26 miles in our poor little Nissan Versa that we named John Wayne. There was basically no turning back at that point so off we went. Six sweaty hours later, the hike goes down in my “Top 5” list of life-transforming experiences. You know, like the Grinch had; I think my heart grew not one, not two, but three sizes that day. Something about throwing myself into a barren wasteland allowed me to learn a little about life and a lot about myself that day:

[1] Deserts are a good place to tell who your true friends are. Hiking in the desert alone would be a seriously idiotic aggressive move. Aside from the fact that you are hours and hours from help and you would likely shrivel, die, and be eaten by vultures if something were to happen, hiking through extreme terrain is good way to test whether or not you chose the right person to undertake this endeavor. Are they deathly terrified of blood or are they willing to cut off shredded skin and clean wounds when you slice your finger on a rock? Are they willing to provide soothing words in times of distress when your partner is overheating or are they more interested in taking photos of lizards? Are they going to break out into tears when the trailmarkers are nowhere in sight or are they going to break out into a desert dance and keep spirits high? (In case you were wondering, I happen to be the latter to all of the aforementioned questions).

[2] Deserts are a good place to test whether you are really in as great of shape as you think you are. In regards to number 1, you may or may not have to carry not only your pack up a huge cliff, but also your partner’s. Up a huge rocky cliff. In 114 degree heat. In the baking sun.

[3] Deserts are a good place to see if 9 years of Girl Scouts counted for anything. It did.

[4] Deserts are a good place to learn to learn what “scaling a cliff” means. There was one moment on the hike in which we reached the “you have got to be freaking kidding me” point. It would have been nice if David Day had mentioned that some climbing experience or equipment would be nice skills for this hike. But alas! None of which we had. Maybe it was the heat, maybe it was the burning passion in our hearts, but onwards we moved. Immediate lessons learned: crabwalking is not an effective strategy for taking on vertical rock; bear-crawling is a very effective strategy for taking on vertical rock; when it comes to the actual “scaling” part with about two inches of ledge to spare (also representing the distance between life and death), babysteps are not an effective strategy for this challenge. Little-shoulder-sitting-common-sense-Laurel was screaming, “For crying outloud, Laurel, it is all about getting that good footing.”; celebratory I-just-scaled-a-mother-effing-cliff-and-lived-to-tell-about-it dance will ensue upon completion; and finally, I should probably start doing push-ups if I am going to be doing this on the regular.

[5] Deserts are a good place to see who and what you think about as your life flashes before your eyes. In relation to number 4, scaling a cliff for the first time over an open canyon in which you would fall hundreds of feet to your death if you falter in the slightest, you have a tendency to recall who is actually important to you and who is not. [Note: Don’t worry Jade, you were definitely on the mind.]

[6] Deserts are a hopeful landmark that there still remains wilderness that has not been destroyed by the disgrace of humanity. As painful and stress-inducing as it was to drive up the extremely rugged roads in poor, little John Wayne, I find refuge regarding the human race in that they will never pave these roads in the interest of keeping the environment as natural and non-interruptive as possible. Escalante and the surrounding deserts are one of the few places left on Earth in which a human has never walked upon. And that is really freaking cool. If you really want to get away, go to the desert. You will be fully-exposed to the elements.  On a related note, I saw some of the cooooooooooolest wildlife I have ever seen. Favorites include a kit fox (OMG), desert hare, and dozens of lizards. Still waiting on a rattlesnake, tarantula, gila monster, and condor.

After recovering from nearly withering away, it was hard to get down from the high we felt from the day. The wild west has something about it–it does something to you. Good, bad, and ugly–it brought out the wild at heart in me.