I’ve been known to refer to myself as “Sillie Nelson,” just before breaking into Willie Nelson’s song, “On the road again, just can’t wait to get on the road again.”
Do come with me down a ribbon of highway as I pick up where I left off on “Coming Down From a Rocky Mountain High Part 1”
Gemini (that’s Jim and I), our son Dean and his wife, Jyl, and granddaughters Amelia and Grace) left Medora that Tuesday morning just a bit melancholy. We enjoyed every minute of our too-short-a-stay there, but now it was time to set our sights on Cheyenne, Wyo., just 502 miles pretty much straight south of Medora on U.S. Highway 85.
Cheyenne is a special place for Jim and me. It’s where we met 50 years ago when both of us worked for the Boeing Company. He transferred to Cheyenne’s F.E. Warren Air Force Base from Whiteman AFB in Sedalia, Mo., and I transferred from Minot (N.D.) Air Force Base to F.E. Warren. Before our years with Boeing on the Minuteman Missile Project ended, we had lived and worked in Cheyenne three separate times.
Among our fondest first memories – fish biting faster than we could re-bait our hooks; a lobster dinner at the Little Bear Inn for $4.95 a pop and hot apple pie with rum sauce at the Driftwood Café on a Friday night. By the way, the Little Bear Inn and the Driftwood Café still exist.
We love to revisit Cheyenne so it’s pretty sweet that our nephew, Chuck, his wife Chris, and their two sons, Zach and Nate, live there now. Our son, Troy, his wife Sheri, and grandchildren Elyn and Ethan would catch up with us at Chuck’s house. They had not been to the family wedding in Mandan or to Medora as Elyn, a Cracker Jack softball player, had a tournament that weekend.
Cheyenne is pretty handy – it’s only 100 miles from Denver where another nephew, John, lives. And an hour-and-a-half west of Denver was our final destination – the phenomenal condo in Keystone that I had locked in the night I was top bidder at Concordia Academy’s gala fundraiser dinner.
Chuck and Chris welcomed us royally to their home. We gathered around their huge dining room table to savor whole roasted chickens and pork roast done on their new convection grill. And for two evenings, as the sun was setting, we sat on their deck, loving our togetherness, listening to the waterfall in their backyard and watching antelope play in the open field beyond their fence. We were thrilled that John came from Denver to join us.
I haven’t done much of it in my lifetime, but one thing I truly love is hiking in the woods and mountains. I was thrilled when Chuck and Chris asked if they could take us hiking at Vedauwoo. I did not know about Vedauwoo. I did not know what beauty awaited us.
Known to the Arapaho Indians as “Land of the Earthborn Spirit,” the rock formations of Vedauwoo (pronounced vee-da-voo) attract novice hikers like us as well as experienced rock climbers. Vedauwoo is located off Interstate 80 between Cheyenne and Laramie and for westbound travelers it is their first introduction to the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest and its more than two million acres of public lands.
On this day, the air was calm (Wyoming can be windy) and the temperature not too hot when in single file 10 of us followed the Turtle Rock trail. Elevation is 8,280 feet here. We stopped to focus our cameras on beautiful wild flowers and the incredible rock formations above the trail.
Here is a collage of the wild flowers we encountered as the wind whistled in the Aspens surrounding us. The last photo is some sort of wild mushroom.
I read that the trail circling Turtle Rock at Vedauwoo is the most popular trail in the Cheyenne area. Only about 30 minutes from Cheyenne, it’s a mesmerizing mix of geological artistry that only God could have created and stabilized.
On weekends in the spring, summer and fall, they say the trail is thundering with the footsteps of college kids, senior citizens and young families toting toddlers. And on a weekday you just might have the trail to yourself which was the case with us.
The well trodden trail is about two and a half miles long with only a slight elevation gain and loss. It drops about 100 feet but comes back up a couple times. The circle is just right for a two hour walk and it was amazing to see that the feet of the littlest among us, almost 3-year-old Nate, kept right in step with the rest of us until nearly the end when he ascended to the shoulders of his daddy and fell asleep.
At trail’s end, we settled back into our vehicles positively invigorated and talking about the ice cream shop we would stop at when we got back to Cheyenne.
All too soon, our delightful stay at Chuck and Chris’s came to an end. The same thing happened there as had happened in Medora – we left feeling a tad bit melancholy.
One leg of the trip remained. The Keystone condo was awaiting our arrival so we had to say goodbye to Cheyenne and our loved ones there.
Stay tuned for Part 3.