Up, down

Sinks mouth

The most scenic view was OUT the cave….

We began the day by checking out one of those minor mysteries of the world. In this case, there’s a river rushing down a mountain, and it gushes into rocks where it has carved a shallow cave, and, in the back (of course), it disappears from view!

The name of the river, and, of course, its canyon…I had a hard time remembering how to say it correctly if I looked at the way it is spelled. The pronunciation (if I have it right): poe-POE-zhuh*. [Yes, scroll down* if you want to see the WhiteMan spelling that I found so troublesome, but get the pronunciation in your head first.]

Rise trout

Pretty fish.

About a quarter-mile down the canyon, there’s a large spring-pool…which the Powers That Be have stocked with trout, with a handy trout-food vending machine on the overview deck (25 cents). And the critters rise with gusto even if you just make a tossing motion with your arm. Great fun, teasing fish. And these are well-fed, unculled, gigantic, yummy-looking trout!

Enterprising scientists have put dye in the cave-water, and discovered the does indeed feed the lower pool…. The mystery is that it takes a full two hours for the dye-water to appear below.

These places are called the Sinks and Rise.

Popo Agie downcanyon

With that curiosity burdening our minds, we continued up the drainage to where the road turns to sidewind up the canyon wall and leave the drainage. There we parked in a trailhead lot, and began to ascend on foot.

The whole climb, both in car and on foot, one side of the canyon is tree-covered and green, while the other is comparatively sere. The green side is north-facing, and retains the moisture from its snow-load longer and better, allowing far more robust vegetation to thrive. A display claimed that there is more biodiversity on the dry side, however. Where the trail runs.

I kept thinking of that as we climbed. Insects. Heard some birds. Saw no rodents, mammals, even lizards. Maybe because I found the walk so taxing. It was. We climbed. And at a good altitude for us flat-landers. Still, we stopped when there was shade, and sometimes even in the sun. Pant pant.

Our reward, or at least where we turned around…a split in the river, with waterfalls on each side. Actually cascades over rounded boulders. Not as dramatic as we were expecting. Still, we are quite proud of ourselves for making the hike. [Fitbit gave me 67 flights for our altitude gain (GoogleMaps and our GPS track suggests it should have been 82); I think it shorted me on minutes of effort (only 74; felt like WAY more).]

Popo Agie falls

The sections of running water left and right in this photo are the two parallel river-sections.

We shared the trail with horses, and even saw three enter our route a few minutes ahead of us as we began to descend, and from afar heard the squinching of the leather saddlery. They seem to leave road apples in the same spots, at least sometimes, so you can see several stages of desiccation at once (science). And, if you ask me, the animals disproportionately chose trail-narrowings to make their deposits. I’m sure that’s my bias, developed as I stepped around the apples….

We took Forest Service drive through the southern Winds, as this range is affectionately called, which has as its spine the continental divide. We did cross the divide at the southern margin, and saw the trail-crossing at the historic town of South Pass City (some 30 still standing structures from the 1860s–70s), which also has a less-historic part where people still live.

Carissa mine

Carissa mine, near South Pass City.

While many white folk crossed the pass and moved on, some stayed and mined. Yet, the immense scale of the building complexes is dwarfed by the landscape.

Red canyon

If you’re into naming, and humans as a group are, could you really name this other than Red Canyon?

* And the way it is written: Popo Agie. The “A” kept erroneously invading my pronunciation….

Up, and back

Long miles of distant vistas sometimes with a nearby creek or river, punctuated by interesting stops. The long miles permeate my memories, but I’ll give you the fun stuff from two notable stops, Gentle Reader.

Scottsbluff terrain model

We started with a big climb to the top of Scotts Bluff, or the Prius made the climb. We merely sat. This vertically exaggerated model is in the vistor-center-museum. The actual feature an eroded 740′-high ridge of alluvial and aeolian deposits that are relatively soft, but a hard limestone caprock has allowed them to be preserved, although they of course continue to erode away. The survey marker that was installed on the “highest point” is now sitting atop a metal pillar that sticks above the surface over a foot in the air….

Scottsbluff view ENE

Here’s the view to the ENE from the top, a slight pano. That’s the town of Scottsbluff (yes, different spelling) there in the haze. The ranger thought it might be smoke not typical haze. I can’t say. We never smelled smoke, but saw the haze for miles.

Pullman RR car kitchen

If you ever wander through Douglas, Wyoming, you must stop at the Chamber of Commerce visitor center. Sweet people and every state highway map from the area. Also, lots of RR cars to look at—and two to clamber through! Here’s a Pullman kitchen! Cleaned up but not restored—soooooo special. Even the duckboard is on the floor, just like the carpeting is in the adjacent hallway that bypasses the kitchen….

Pullman RR car dining area

They used plastic dishes and plastic toppers, but the visual flavor of the dining section is preserved. The decorative details, like the rug and the carving of two deer on the bar at the end (brown zone, sorry no detail in this shot) demonstrate the care taken to make dining pleasing even as the wheels click-thunk over each rail-joint.

Of cottonwoods and the (N)Platte

Cottonwood group

I became focused on the cottonwoods today. Groups tended to indicate a home and cluster of ranch buildings.

Cottonwood solo beeves

Solos tended to be in grazing land…. [I am being kind; I probably shot fifty photos of cottonwoods today.]

NPlatte wide shallow

Of course, the real ecological focus of this area is the river, here the North Platte. This is a LOT of water for mid-August. We heard that somewhere north and west of here they got 8″ in something like an hour the other day. In pockets, we have seen flooding in fields. It’s spotty, though—but everywhere seems especially green.

Eroded greywhite

Hmmm. Not everywhere. We’ve been seeing blowouts since the Sandhills. When I worked there, people said the bison made some of them. Since the bison have been gone a good long while, I’m just not sure. This seems more like an eroded slope, however.

UP coal train

Wending among all of the above: coal trains. This is the famous Powder River coal that may keep you warm this winter. We usually count two engines in front (east end), and one pushing the train from the west end. The west-bound trains of empty cars are longer with usually two or three engines. Seems to me that the engine count in the Powder River Basin might become deficient.

Lost…in thought

Doubledecker bridge

Massive industrial architecture, the aesthetic grace not offered through color and finish but instead (merely—mostly) through form and iteration, continues to amaze me.

River meets river

For a moment, I watched this river-meets-river scene and thought of the Selous and a tributary. It was long ago and far away when I was there…and the landscape looked sooooooo-very-different. (Critters, too….)

Verrrrry special

Big but not THE big spring

Found mention of this sizable spring down a Not-Too-Long path, and decided to route ourselves by the trailhead.

After parking, we tested the temps. Hot. Humid. But, we said, if we go slowly….

Not far from the lot, we discovered that this was the Poison Trail. We found vigorous growth of PI and PO—I saw both—framing our route, which was not brushed out widely, and which meant we risked being brushed. Wisely, despite the H&H, we both wore long pants, which offered some protection.

The trail, despite repeated assertions otherwise, went not quite to the spring, instead ending at the river below the spring, from which the spring-mouth could not be seen. I made the final scramble very carefully, as the mossy rocks were Very Slippery.

The sunshine caught the green-blue water as it surged forth from the Underworld, and I swear even the cicadas quieted.

I found a flat rock just a centimeter higher than the water level and washed my pressure points and brought down my core body temp a bit. Witnessed by a little unpruned crop of watercress.

Time to walk out, uphill mostly, past the slippery rocks and PI/PO beds.

Big Mo dusk

We found another great dusk sky, which even my iPhone could capture.

For the second evening running, I thought the dark, dark blue above looked like a velvet skyway.

Unplanned timeshift

Sunset construction zone

Sometimes, and thankfully only SOMEtimes, things take WAY longer than you expect…to get taken care of, finished, completed—done, in the parlance.

And that’s basically okay in the greater scheme of things, it just forces one to adjust going forward.

Which, perhaps in paradox, can offer an unexpected, happy opportunity.

As today played out, we found a stunning sunset…we might otherwise have missed.


ATL sunset

Just to change it up, this low-light photo is from sunset/dusk.

Old news

Tax free weekend

Back-to-school tax-free weekend…not sure why a wedding-dress shop is advertising this…. Pretty sure wedding dresses, trains, and tiaras are not tax-free…. Did hear that umbrellas (?) remain taxed.

NYT snail

Found this (oops; out-of-focus) snail catching up on her/his reading…an old issue of the NYT.

Early activity

Blue moon

I was out early enough to view a carry-over of July’s blue moon. Saturday morning…pretty quiet. Not even many runners and exercisers until I’d been out a while.

I only saw four vehicles on about a half-mile of The Busy Street, the last a toenail-tired red jeep* that I thought maybe was headed to the Fire Station. Yup. New shift arriving early….

Among critters, I kept seeing sparrows, here and there, busy. I usually don’t much notice the sparrows, overshadowed by more colorful robins, jaybirds, cardinals, and the like. I did come across a trio of young mockingbirds later, acting, I thought, like teenagers (scrabbling, throwing off energy).

* Heep de row. Or similar. In a John D. MacDonald Travis McGee tale.

Lacy bubbles and a snoozing moth

Wave on beach dock

Before the rain arrived in late afternoon, I went down to the beach. See how the sky is already anticipating the incipient precipitation?

The wind has kicked up the waves, and they are toying with the dock. Love the bubbled, lacy look of the thin and thinning leading-edge of the wave on the sand-shore. It’s only there a heartbeat before gravity triumphs, and the cycle launches again.

Moth on daisy

As I was returning to the cottage, I discovered this moth artfully resting on a daisy. If I’d paid more attention I would have gotten a less blurry shot.