Part 5: Steamboat Springs, CO to Afton, WY


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The Trip

We spent the night at one of the state parks north of Steamboat Spring just south of Columbine, CO.  We were surprised when our buddy Bob showed up with his LMTV.  Several days earlier, he bowed out due to insurance problems with the truck but he got it resolved and found us using our SPOT transmitter.  Due to the long distance traveled and the steep grades, we arrived at our camp late in the day.  The park was crowded, so in the end we had to split the group to find campsites for all of us.  We re-joined the following morning and headed north toward Wyoming via the dirt roads.

The photos below are what we saw.

The path north from Columbine was in reasonable shape.  Katleen and I were "tail gunners" so we were at the rear of the group.  In front of us was Bob's LMTV with Alaskan camper.

On the northern slopes of the mountains there were still some small patches of wild flowers still in bloom.

The trail went through small stands of aspens customized with the required graffiti.

Near the 3 Forks Ranch we allowed a truck hauling a stock trailer to pass us.

The main ranch house for 3 Forks is a sight to behold.

Crossing a bridge near the Three Forks house, Kathleen got this photo of the river.

We worked our way north on county roads until we hit I-80, then turned west.  When we pulled into a rest area, we could see that storm cells were following us.  The tendrils of rain lashed the hills turning dusty roads into thick, slippery clay mud.

During a fuel stop we discovered that there was a big forest fire south of Jackson Hole so we had to factor that into our plans.  As it turned out, the road closures did not impact our selected route.  But, the large size of our group combined with heavy summer tourist travel made finding a campsite problematic.  Kathleen located a potential site south of Green River, WY on Flaming Gorge Reservoir.  So, we pointed the trucks south and headed toward camp.  As we crested the ridge south of Green River we saw another storm cell to the southwest of our route.  It was moving toward us.

We hit the turnoff and left the pavement and went onto the dirt again.  On the top of the highest ridge, we got a view of Flaming Gorge to the north of us.

A bit further east, we could actually see the water in the reservoir.

Meanwhile, on the western horizon, the storm cell moved directly toward us bring winds and dust.

Kathleen and I were tail gunners and when we rolled into "Lost Dog Camp" we were surprised to see that Vince had gotten stuck in the lake muck.  The rear sank right to the tool box.

After a few discussions, the decision was made to use our biggest vehicle to tug him out.  Tony brought his 6x6 LMTV around and hooked up a strap.

Tony pulled Vince's truck with no issues, but the truck continued to sink into the muck with the right side digging deep.

Most of us doubted that the truck was in any danger of rolling, but it still was uncomfortable for Vince.  Note the dirt piling up in front of the rear wheel.

As a precaution, a winch line was hooked to Vince's roof allowing a counter-balance action if required.

The 24,000 pounds of Vince's truck dug halfway to China.

We got lashed with rain during our extraction exercise and we were a bit worried about what the rain would do to the trail.  The path into camp showed evidence of pervasive "trenching" by previous travelers.  Those trenches were now solid, but could easily become an issue if more rain fell.  As it turned out, we only got high winds but no rain.  In the photo above, you can see rain tendrils on the far mesa after the cell passed us.

The setting sun broke through long enough to provide a nice rainbow.  Note the whitecaps on the lake from the strong winds.

We had a nice night, although it was a bit buggy.  Next morning, we broke camp and headed back the 20 miles of dirt to the main highway to return to Green River.  The clay-based soil of the road produced huge clouds of dust as the trucks rolled over it.

Bob was suffering air system issues and his braking system went kaput requiring some road-side repairs.  The problem turned out to be contamination in the air brake controller.  It was taken apart, cleaned and reinstalled.  While not working perfectly, it worked good enough. 

From our repair site, we could see some snow left on the high peaks of the Unita Range in northern Utah.

To the west, we could see the TRONOX mines on the horizon.  Once the repair was in place, we headed back to Green River, then west on I-80, then north.  Destination: Afton, WY.

One of the members of our group, Tony, is a pilot and owned a place produced by Aviat Aircraft in Afton.  The arranged for us to camp at the airstrip and get a tour of their facilities the following morning.  Above is one of their most popular configurations which is "the Husky", a bush plane that is capable of rough-field landings at very slow speed.  And, best of all, it can take off on undeveloped, very short runways.  Note the tundra tires.

We parked our trucks, then went to the local Mexican restaurant for dinner.  The place was packed, and the service suffered accordingly, but the food was great.  After our feast, we walked back to the airport and set up our chairs for a "therapy" session.

Next morning, we prepared for the tour of the plant.  Our campsite was on the apron next to the runway.

We saw a number of Huskies in various stages of construction.

Mark, an engineer, had some thoughts on the internals of the Husky.

This is a pancake 4-cylinder Lycomming power plant.

A rear view of the power plant.

Every Husky is available with a ton of options; essentially a pure-custom plane except for the airframe and controls.  This model had plenty of avionics to support navigation.

This Husky has most of the power plant installed.  Note the Colico clamps used to hold the sheet metal skin in place until screws or rivets are installed.

A raw airframe under construction.  The clipboard has the build configuration information.

Another raw airframe awaiting landing gear.

The factory tour was very interesting.  Big portions of the wings are covered with high-tech fabric rather than sheet metal, but those technical advances make the planes both light and strong.

When we finished the tour, we headed north, then east into Jackson Hole for a re-supply, then north into Yellowstone.  As expected, due to the heavy tourist traffic, we got skunked on campsites.  In the end, we had to travel west on a dirt road about 20 miles into the National Forest to find a campsite for the group.

Tomorrow we head into the park itself for a look around.

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