Rattlesnake Mountains, Middle of Nowhere, Wyoming


Another day and another night is upon me. I am deep in the [Shirley] Mountains of central Wyoming, between the Pathfinder and Seminoe reservoirs near the Miracle Mile. I think it is called this because it is a miracle anyone ever found it. I know it is in Bighorn Sheep territory because my girlfriend in college, Liz Glass, volunteered to study them for the BLM back in 1995.

I don’t think I’ve been here before, but it does look familiar even though a lot of the drive in was not as I recalled it. I recall the Miracle Mile section being right along the river between the dam and the short strech of river until the Pathfinder Res. started, but on this drive in, was a long hill climb through the wildlife protection area and no camping due to protection of the M[organ] Creek area for drinking supply. The only one drinking water up here is the animals, although it could be for the BLM station above the dam. It is not like this is Bullrun in Oregon, protecting the water supply for half a million people.

So back to where I am. What I was remembering was a torturous winding dirt road with cliffs ready to cave in on you. Also, I recall the mountains not so large and not so isolated. Sure this is Wyoming where everything is isolated, but I am fucking in isolated, remote mountains, more so than I think I have ever been. Once I reached the top of the unexpected mountain pass and the end of the protected no camping area, there were three choices; turn around, go further into the completely unknown down a equally steep hill that took me to where I was, or finally veer right onto a two track and hope their was a camping spot close. You guessed it, I chose the last option, not the brave, blaze on into the unknown, but not the chickenshit, tuck tail and retreat either.

Morgan Creek Wildlife Habitat Management Sign just south of road summit.Unbeknown to me, the two track had no flat stopping spots, nor any locations to turn around either for a least a mile of very rough, very narrow, sandwiched against rock faces and crowded by trees until opening to a mountaintop meadow and a barbed wire gate leading out of the protected area.

Opening the gate, consciously pulling the wire back out of the two track versus just laying it down and driving over it, which is what traditionally done, to assuredly avoid puncturing a tire, I proceeded through but only as far as needed to locate an area large enough to put down my tent free of rough sagebrush.

I am in here that is for certain, about 40 miles or more from the civilization, if you want to call it that, of Sinclair, Wyoming, and at least five miles from the BLM/Bureau of Reclamation housing. I can sence the remoteness and it is easily just as remote as the ‘bush’ in Alaska.

Seminoe Reservoir from summit in Shirley Mountains, looking South.As of course it was getting dark, the sun long having already set, the first thing I did after getting some water on the Coleman, was scan the area with the million candlepower spotlight I have for any native residents. Having had this battery powered light for close to three years now, it has never been charged, although now it is needed to get a little boost to energy as its intensity is not as it has been in the past. Of course first perimeter scan reveals a pair of eyes about one hundred yards at the edge of the meadow where trees start. In the days last twilight, they could be a smaller deer or potentially a fox or coyote. All I know is that I am most certainly in mountain lion country and I am hoping not grizzly, as this is remote enough to be home to the top bear, but I think they are more to the north. Seminoe Dam at dusk, Miracle Mile is downstream from dam.Those eyes were enough to put me in scared mode. I don’t scare too often, but the mind races and reverts to primal instinct rapidly on its own. This meant scanning the hill above me and the entire area about every minute or two with the light. The tent is within inches of the two track, the truck parked at an angle within four feet of the tent door, and I have completely surrounded the tent…
Just had a scare that was nothing but the grasses rustling on the tent fly. The heart beats harder and the ears are ringing.

…with miscellaneous supplies as tripwires and boobie alarms if something comes near investigating the invasion of its territory. I am laying in the tent, and within reach is my river knife, which I did just grab a moment ago. This is erie out hear to say the least and I am spooked whether this is rational fear or otherwise, I cannot honestly say.

Daylight takes away the scary unknown factorBefore retreating to the tent, I replaced the batteries in my headlamp and even though it has three LED bulbs in it which I didn’t think got weaker in brightness as the batteries died, it was 100 times brighter after the replacement.

So I could be sleeping in the back of my truck on top of the divider and below the canopy, but I did that as a last resort yesterday on the roadside at a crossing of the Green River about an hour south of Jackson, but I felt claustrophobic, as though I was in a coffin, and slept like shit until I opened the back hatch so that I could ‘breathe’.

There are no mosquitoes here and other than the pair of eyes I saw earlier, there is only the sound of a few crickets and the sporadic breeze rubbing tent fly against dried stalks of mountain grasses. I occasionally hear a jet pass 20 some thousand feet over this location at roughly 8500 feet in elevation.

Awoke this morning completely free on any invaders during the night. Around six a.m. the remenants of the nights fog were passing through the meadow and the nearby peak was veiled in a blanket of mist. A heavy dew covered the landscape and the sun slowly began to burn through the moisture with the breeze peaking up from the differences in temperature.

Morning Fog burning offI’ve set things to air out, filled the sun shower and waiting for it to heat up for my first shower in three days since being in banks. Baby whips just don’t cut it as a means to feel fresh after cleaning up. I think that explains why I used to use the phrase ‘baby whip fresh’ with much sarcasm intended.

As I wait out the warmer water, I’ve walked towards the southeast edge of the meadow, the location of the menacing eyes of last night, and then scrambled to the top of the knoll, that is the peak of this mountain and picked my way flip-flop clad as always through the sagebrush and undergrowth along the ridge to ah outcropping of rocks overlooking the basin to the north.

I can see two rock piles out in the valley, where years ago we were chasing after some elusive mountain sheep, only to realize almost to late we had ascended much higher than we thought when a thunderstorm came racing in, bolts of lightening crashing around us on that completely exposed outcrop, and Liz and I beat serious feet getting down and into the relative safety of the van.

Oddly, as I can recall this incident vividly, I don’t remember driving in as far as this to get there, yet there were no other mini-mountains on my drive in last night to have been the location.

The clouds have moved in, so much for the warm shower, and was a pretty stiff breeze has died to absolute calmness. Grey streaks of shade reach from the clouds to the basin floor, and all the is to hear is a distant gust, the squaws of magpies below my vantage point, the flicks and songs of little chickadees, and the random passing of a bee. There is the chatter of a ground squirel or chickmunk, the bee circles around and there was just the distinctive song of a robin.

Odd, never had to prove my being somewhere I actually was before, see comment below...Two of the noisy magpie just fly by heading west and I am in amazed awe of the complete lack of ticks around here. My six sense, the Tick Sense has yet to be triggered, yet I wandered through prime habitat for them and nothing!

The sound of a vehicle climbs the dirt road I did not want to descend last night and it reminds me that time waits for nobody, I have wind turbines to see yet to day.

[edited: for spelling and proper naming, see below]

[edited: after “finger pecking” this on my palm pilot on the ridge, I descended and walked up the two track, finding some fresh hoof tracks on the dust of the road, and looked toward my truck, and the “two scaring eyes” of the night, revealed their owner as this harmless little guy here, who was inspecting my camp while I was away.

The scary eyes of the night, revealed in the daylight.

2 thoughts on “Rattlesnake Mountains, Middle of Nowhere, Wyoming

  1. It’s so less scary than a dark alley. I was appalled while reading this account of a grown person experiencing fear in a place I find total solace. But then, after reflecting on it, was relieved. I like it there because I can go there and not see any other humans. Please recount, time and time again, what a intolerable, frightening place it is.

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