Friday, February 22, 2013

Mountain Ice

A Question for You: When you see ice cascading down the side of a steep, rocky mountain like a frozen waterfall, what thoughts go through your head?

We'll come back to that later, but first...

When my hubby and I got married and moved to Wyoming for the first time, one of our favorite things to do was to go driving. We would take a day (or half a day) and head out in the car with the dogs and go exploring. We liked looking for wildlife, taking pictures, getting out and hiking with the dogs, picking out places we'd like to live and so on. We haven't done a lot of that lately, for a couple of reasons: 1) Gas costs $3.21/gallon (that figure is already outdated...) 
and 2) Kids don't sit in the car for long periods of time quite as well as dogs do. But, this past Saturday was just a beautiful, clear day, and we hadn't done a family activity in a little while, so off we went! In the car with snacks, boots, hats and coats... and The Wheels on the Bus cd... we made a stop at the store for batteries for the camera and a stop for gas and we were on our way.

I refuse to bring the portable DVD player along when we do stuff like this. Sure, we usually have to endure some degree of whining, but I feel like when we go for drives like this if we just stick the kids in front of a movie for the whole time then they aren't really a part of the activity. And if there's nothing to see in the car... they will look out the windows! It is amazing how much they notice, even with as young as they are. They will comment on stuff they see and ask questions about it, ask questions about stuff that we are talking about that we saw, etc. Our son is just over three and a half, and he knew that we were driving down a road that was unfamiliar to him, because about ten minutes into the trip he started saying that he didn't know where we were going, he didn't know this road, and he was worried because he didn't know how to get back home. (Of course we reassured him that daddy knew exactly where he was going and how to get home.) Lately whenever we get in the car and start driving, he'll tell us where a certain road that we're on goes (to the storage unit, to the post office, to his friend's house, etc.), and he's rarely wrong! They really do notice more than you'd think! On our trip this day, we had stopped at one point and I was taking some pictures of a group of deer that were pretty close to the road. I was not thinking about what our daughter was doing in the backseat, but when we started to pull away she waved and said, “Bye-bye, deer!” She's not even two yet, but she can spot a deer in the sagebrush like you would not believe! (We see them regularly right beside our apartment building, so she has lots of practice. She's even spotted them on days when I have missed them!)
I took this picture right from our apartment window a few days ago:

As we drove, we saw:
Bighorn Sheep (Just some ewes this time. At this time of the year most of the rams have started to move back up into the remote mountain regions since the breeding season is finished.)

Pronghorn (I caught these critters as they were going under a fence. It was funny watching them. They lined up single file and went through one at a time.)

Mule deer

Whitetail deer, red-tailed hawks and chukars. (Sorry, I didn't get pictures of these guys.)

We also picked out a number of places that we would really like to live! We dream of having a place with a few acres so we can garden and raise a few animals and give our kids the country life like we both had growing up. There's just something about it...

The scenery was just gorgeous, especially as we got back farther into the valley. It always is... but I love it even more with all the snow on the mountains.

It was a really windy day, and one tall snow-capped mountain was covered by a haze of blowing snow. It was really wild looking.

Coming back to our previous question about the ice, I personally would think, “Wow! Look at that – how beautiful!”, or something along those lines, and then I would probably take a picture of it. In fact, that's exactly what I did do. However, there are some people in this world that see something like that and say, “Cool! Let's climb it!” Which camp are you in???

If ice climbing sounds exciting to you, you might want to come to Wyoming in winter! You may not have known that our area is a popular destination for ice climbers, but it's true – we're not just known for rodeo! As we drove, we passed by a number of vehicles parked along the road and at the trailheads. We drove through a small campground and it was pretty full – including some tenters. I mean, it was a nice day... but it was still pretty COLD (especially up in the mountains), and it was snowy – not my idea of camping weather. When we got to the end of the road, the parking lot at the trailhead there was full of vehicles. Apparently it was a great day for ice climbing. (We did find out later that it was the weekend of the annual ice climbing festival.)

We stopped there for a little while so that I could get out and take some pictures of the mountains. It was a great day for taking pictures, too! As I was exiting the car, I mentioned to my hubby that it would be neat if we could see some people ice climbing (at first glance, we didn't see anyone on the mountain). While I was snapping away, he was watching the mountain. There was one large ice formation that we could see pretty good from where we were, and after a few minutes he rolled the window down and told me that he thought he could see someone moving up there. We had forgotten the binoculars, so I zoomed my camera in as far as it would go, took a picture, then reviewed it and zoomed in even more and lo and behold...

Climbers! I'm willing to bet you didn't spot them in the picture at the very beginning... but if you did – good for you! You must have eagle eyes!

Here's a zoomed out view of where they were climbing. Pretty impressive, I think!

Those guys look pretty tiny compared to that massive mountain. And the distance they would have had to hike from the parking lot is pretty impressive in and of itself! (And this was probably one of the closer climbs to the parking lot, since it was the only one we could really see.) I wish we would have remembered to bring our binoculars. I would have liked to sit there for a little while longer and watch them climb. But, we turned around and headed back home.

We had been planning to get out of the car and go for a short walk near that parking area, let the kids tromp in the snow a little, but our son had fallen asleep and it was pretty chilly out there so we decided to skip it. An hour later, when we got home and he woke up, he was horribly disappointed. I felt so bad. I didn't know he was counting on it so much. There were tears... We'll have to get out again soon. Unfortunately the kids and I have all been battling colds for the past week or two, so we've been spending a lot of time cooped up in our little apartment. I think we're all going a little stir-crazy. Time to get healthy already!!!

So, all in all our trip took less than three hours, we drove about 100 miles round trip on pavement and gravel, we saw gorgeous scenery, people involved in extreme sports, four species of big game animals and several different types of birds... Have I mentioned that I love where I live?!?

For the Lord is the great God, the great King above all gods.
In his hand are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to him.”
-Psalm 95: 3-4 (NIV 1984)

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