Part 30: Saratoga, WY to Flaming Gorge, WY


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The Trip

We had an awesome night at our remote camp next to the Platte River.  We had rain and a great electrical storm to provide entertainment.  Next morning broke clear and still so we broke camp and headed into Saratoga for breakfast at the local cafe and then headed west over the mountains.

The photos below are what we saw.

Several days earlier we noticed that our bike rack was ripping from it's mount.  The interesting part of this story is that this mounting was intended to hold the spare tire for the HiLo trailer.  The bikes are a MUCH smaller load so this setup would have had a very short life in the real world.  The tire mount is a great example of the generally poor build quality of the trailer and why we will be replacing it in the near future.

We applied a side of the road patch to the situation but we both knew that it would not last much longer.  We planned to repair it upon our return to La Junta for the air conditioning installation, but the trail would change our plans.

The fields west of Saratoga were irrigated and used for growing alfalfa hay.  The local population of antelope were quite happy about this fact and were hanging out in the fields as we drove by.

Antelope are wary animals and they saw us long before we saw them.  They watched us until we were about 200 yards away and then they bolted.

Higher into the mountain areas we saw reasonably big herds of 'lopes.  The buck is on the right of the photo above.  There were antelopes everywhere and I am sure this is the case right up to the opening day of hunting season.

We were headed to Jack Creek campground but were thwarted by a closed road.  So, we turned around and headed back down the mountain and then headed north toward Rawlins, WY and I-80.

Because of the direction we came into Rawlins, we were forced to get an extended tour of the town.  No offense intended, but Rawlins is a wretched little town with little to its name except hosting a railroad stop and a state prison.  I was happy to leave.  As we were trying to find a food store in town we were stopped by the busy Union Pacific main line and got the photo above of a long freighter heading east.

It took us 30 minutes to find the City Market but after a brief shopping interlude, we were back on the road.  We hit I-80 west and just out of Rawlins, WY we spotted this U1400 parked in the construction zone equipment area.  The sign says "Wilford Industries, Cheyenne, WY" on the door.

Despite it's myriad of faults Rawlins did have cell service which allowed us to get some information on the outside world.  The National Weather Service was calling for "Red Flag" conditions in the area due to high winds and the drought.  Red Flag means high fire danger and when winds meet dry grass bad things happen.  When we got atop a nearby hill on the interstate we saw a large brush fire north of Rawlins.  Indeed, in Rawlins we had seen water-drop helicopters leaving the area headed for the fire.

The interstate heading west was boring and except for an extended section of road under construction was uneventful.  We came to Rock Springs, WY and then headed south toward Flaming Gorge.  We had been to Flaming Gorge before, but always on the other side of the reservoir.  When we rolled into the camping area at Fire Hole, we were treated to the view above.

There were a number of nice hoodoos in the area, but the one above was the most radical.

View from the camp looking to the northeast.

To the northwest were more large mesas.

Our camp was basic but had several attributes that we were seeking: a (mostly) level pad and a hot shower.  Note the concrete structure to the left of Thor; this is a wind shelter.  The wind blows fast and hard here most of the time and there would be no hope of eating outside in high winds.

The luck of the draw gave us a nice full moon that night.  Lucky for us, the winds abated at sunset and it was a calm, cool night.

Next morning, we could see folks on Flaming Gorge Reservoir having fun with their water toys.

This pair of girls are getting ready to get pulled on their inflatable raft.

To the west of our camp there were large mesas that rose high above the level of the reservoir.

At a road-side bio-break, we noticed that the bike rack was failing past the point of no return.  The bikes are old, but we really did not want to leave them in the trail so we elected to return to Rock Springs and see if we could find somebody to repair the damage.  We stopped at a truck repair place and were told that the oil boom had resulted in generally full employment of the locals and that finding somebody with an open schedule would be hard.  The gal behind the counter did some research and suggested that we go to an equipment rental yard and see if they could help.  We were pleasantly surprised that they had guys available immediately and they went to work.  We devised a "cheap and dirty" solution and they attacked the issue.

The HiLo guys did not even weld all sides of the mount, thus the ripping.  The repair welder put a bead on all 4 sides of the mount and braces on the top.

For whatever reason I did not take a photo of the final repair, but no matter.  It was ugly and not up to my personal standards but it just had to get us back to San Diego.  And I am pretty sure that it will.

When the repairs were completed we got fuel and ice and headed back to Fire Hole. As we continued south along Flaming Gorge Reservoir we got nice views of the canyon areas.

The trail went up over high ridges allowing clear visibility of the reservoir.

We headed south looking for a remote camp on one of the many beaches on the east side of the reservoir.  About 25 miles of dirt did the job and we parked beneath an interesting stone outcropping.

To the east of our camp was a nice, wide valley.  Note the barren hills.

We went to the water for a swim and spotted these otters watching us carefully.

In the valley we could see deer grazing.  They perked up when I attempted to start our generator.  I failed at that attempt likely due to bad gas, which is odd.  We used the generator heavily just 30 days ago and filled the tank.  But, we had suffered excessively hot temperatures in the interim which likely caused the bad gas. 

Nearer sunset, more deer came down to the lake shore to drink and eat the grass.

The failures are starting to mount up.  There are other issues that we must address, but the items/subsystems have not yet fully failed.  Some of these issues will require external equipment to address.  The net-net of the situation is that the camper is not sufficiently robust to handle the beating that we have given it.  And, to be sure, we have been gentle so far.

From Flaming Gorge, we will continue south to an RV park as we need to do laundry and fully recharge the battery array.

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