It started off innocently enough. We spent a couple of hours after I left work packing and organizing, preparing for any sort of weather (you never know this time of year), bringing more food than necessary, yet trying to keep our load relatively small. We found out around noon that Julie didn’t know if she’d be able to go because of a last-minute obligation for Friday morning. Luckily, we’ve got a car now, so we just packed her up and got on the road. We drove through northern Colorado and southern Wyoming, marveling again at the bustling metropolis that is Cheyenne, Wyoming’s largest city at about 50,000 people. After a gas stop at the normal station, a few rain showers, and several games of “I’m thinking of something,” Chris and Amber caught up to us at Howard’s, the little gas station/general store/motel/fireworks merchant located at the freeway exit just where we turn off to go to the cabin. We’d made the 200 mile trip in less than three hours (very good time indeed) and got revved up to dirty up the car for (likely) the first time in its existence.
As it turns out, that part of Wyoming had 2-3 inches of rain the day before we drove up. There was also rain on the day we arrived, and the somewhat-maintained 20-some miles of dirt road had become mud and muck in quite a few places, with puddles that were really leaking lakes in parts. Huge rivulets of water cut grooves in the road, and the cars sank into the muck for most of the drive. Less than five minutes in, the car was filthy, matching our friends’ car, another small sedan. The highlight of the drive in came when we happened upon a herd of antelope or deer, more animals than I’d ever seen together in a group up there. They got spooked by the cars and ran alongside us at a good 30 miles per hour for over a mile before running off across a field. It was kind of amazing. Parts of the drive made Hulk grip the steering wheel white-knuckled, culminating in the last turn-off after which there was no more maintained road. Shortly thereafter, our cars kind of slid off the road and we decided to park there and hike in.
It was rainy. It was muddy. It was nearly dark. Amber was sick, so she stayed in the car while the three of us put on our packs and bundled up and started the 2 mile hike in to the cabin, over some hills to avoid some of the road and cut the trip a bit. Of course, the shortcut involved some trekking through some marsh, and my hiking shoes are neither boots nor waterproof, so they were soaked in just a few minutes. When we got back to the road, we trudged through the mud, trying to stick with the side of the road (we were less likely to sink and add more mud to our already caked shoes). It didn’t always work, so with every step we were lifting mud and guck, and it took longer than it should have to get to the cabin. When we got there, and we crossed the bridge, we realized that the water was really high – feet higher than I’d ever seen it before. We made it into the cabin and I started the fire (Yes! I started a fire!) in the woodstove, while Chris and Hulk got the fourwheeler out of the shed and hooked up the new trailer. I thought they were well on their way to getting Amber when they suddently burst into the cabin and took off their clothes, and Chris stuck his feet in the fire. After a minute, they told me the harrowing tale of attempting to get the fourwheeler across the ford and it getting stuck, and of being swept downstream, and of their fears of frostbite. I was glad I’d gotten the fire going.
“You’re going to have to go get Amber,” Chris told me, “because we have to get that fourwheeler out of the creek and I still can’t feel my toes.” So I took off my dry clothes and put my wet, muddy ones back on, and I emptied out my backpack of clothes and added a heavy cabin jacket and I trudged the two miles back to the cars.
I bet very few of you reading this have ever hiked miles through mud alone in the night in rural Wyoming. It’s a very weird, almost surreal experience, and one I hope to never repeat. While I wasn’t worried for my safety (at least, not really), it was a long time to be walking (well, slogging) alone in the dark with only a headlamp, trying to walk on the least muddy and sink-y parts. Luckily, Amber had realized we’d been gone too long, so she’d turned on the parking lights and that gave me a goal when I crested the hill and could see the warm orange glow in the distance. Also luckily, Hulk had forgotten to lock one of the car doors so I was able to get in and get some food, booze, and a few other things for that night and the next morning into my pack, grabbing some of Chris/Amber’s stuff so her pack wasn’t so heavy. Sniffling and tired, we trooped through the marsh, over the hill, down the mudsoaked road. We crested the last hill and heard the fourwheeler, that Chris and Hulk had managed through sheer force to wrangle out of the swollen creek and somehow managed to get started. It didn’t do us much good (though he did take our heavy packs), and Amber gawked at the creek as we hauled our stuff over the creaky footbridge.
When we all settled in a bit and ate ravenously, Chris discovered that the water wasn’t working. One of the lovely things about the cabin is its amenities – a showerhouse with a water heater, electricity, running water. This trip, the water decided to act schizophrenically, sometimes going on for 30 seconds or a minute, a few times running for several minutes (during which time we filled up every available container). Normally, this wouldn’t have been an issue – we’d just have gotten water from the creek and boiled it. But the water in the creek was brown and full of all kinds of particulate matter from being so full and running so fast and churning up the bottom – nobody wanted to drink it even after it was boiled. So we didn’t get showers, made mad dashes to the sink to brush our teeth, and spent most of the weekend dehydrated, washing dishes as well as we could with the little water that came out at random intervals.
So the next morning, Chris goes out to the cars to collect the remainder of his and Amber’s stuff. He drives back and unloads, Hulk hauls it across the bridge, and I climb on the fourwheeler to go out and get our stuff. Chris drives really slowly and carefully up the road navigating the ruts as best as he can (the road is still really muddy), my jeans getting spattered and the trailer rattling along behind. We get to the cars and realize that one of the wheels has FALLEN OFF the brand new trailer. Chris goes back to find it while I unload the car, and he brings it back and we put the wheel back on, only to realize that there’s nothing actually keeping them on – just wheels on an axle, no pins or wires or caps or anything to keep the wheels on the axle. We loaded up the trailer and I climbed on backward to watch the trailer and yell at Chris if the wheel came off again.
I doubt many of you who read this blog have ever had to sit backwards on a fourwheeler, watching to make sure a wheel doesn’t fall off a trailer, while driving over fields and down super muddy roads. It’s a good thing I don’t get carsick, because I might have barfed if I did. And of course the wheel came off again – twice, in thick muck and ruts. Each time, we pulled the heavy stuff out and I lifted up the trailer using my body weight as leverage while Chris put the wheel back on. After a very slow trip, we made it back to the cabin, unloaded the fourwheeler, and hauled everything by hand across the bridge.
So, that was the beginning of the cabin trip. Luckily, it got better. Julie made it the next day with Skippy, and Hulk had a great birthday, and the water came on enough times that we managed to get everything cleaned up (eventually) and I even got an almost luke-warm river water “shower” with the solar shower bag. The road dried out, and with one slight hiccup (Julie had to tow us out of the muck we’d gotten stuck in), we drove home with no mishap. I’m still exhausted from the events of the trip and I somehow screwed up my back again, but I’m glad nobody got seriously hurt and we had a successful, though unusual, trip to the cabin.