Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Scenes from Wyoming

So I've completed 7 of the 10 states on this journey: Virginia, Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri, Kansas, Colorado, and now Wyoming. At the completion of each state I've compiled a small photo summary, so here goes Wyoming.

My (somewhat) trusty steed. At the beginning of the trip I decided I would name my bicycle Rozinante after Don Quixote's horse. A beautiful name for a loyal companion and I have grown to love him more day by day. Here I have allowed Rozinante to rest before climbing over steep gravel hillsides in search of the famed Twin Creek Ranch, a Ranch like no other, high in the valley, surrounded by steep crimson walls of sandstone, with a bright ribbon of green grass and happy cows winding back and forth to the valleys mouth. As Rozinante and I rode up into the hills, we thought that finally we were beginning to see the true Wyoming.

And yet another egg mobile. If you haven't read very much yet about egg mobiles (or perhaps I haven't written enough), here is the concept. Animals, just like us humans, find it difficult to retain their health if they are forced to live on the same patch of ground amongst their own feces. The area becomes unclean, and also picked over, devoid of fresh grass, insects, and any of those things that provide life. In order to grow healthier, happier laying hens, while at the same time allowing nature to heal and mend herself from their impact, a new system has been developed by which the hens are moved every few weeks to new ground by means of an egg mobile. Now an egg mobile is simply this.....a contraption, a jalopy if you will (though in this case I mean a trailer), that contains laying nests (little boxes filled with fresh hay), that can be moved using a tractor or a truck. Once moved onto fresh ground, the chickens are fenced in with an electric feather net, although this is primarily to keep predators out as the chickens often flap in and out of the feather net at will.

There the chickens happily pick about eating grass and bugs which is extremely healthy for a chicken. Then once the area has been thoroughly pooped upon, voila, you hitch up the hen house and pull it on to fresh ground. These systems are simply called egg mobiles. Don't you wish you had one?

It may not be obvious what you are looking at. This is Xena the goat being milked by Andrea Malmberg, the matron of Twin Creek Ranch. I was so excited about going to milk the goats I could hardly contain myself. And I even gave a few tugs of the teat myself. The ritual of milking is incredible, not to mention the fact that ...now you have very fresh milk. The next day, after the milk had been chilled in the fridge I took a big swig. I was really looking forward to it, as I love goat cheese, but had never had goat milk. It was delicious. Not goaty at all (though I do recommend brushing your teeth not too long after). I was so enthused with everything goat that Tony responded, "I see goats in your future."

The great thing about these goats is they roam totally free among the mountains, eating only wild plants, which apparently improves the flavor of the milk. They are also milked outside which is why I was able to get this great photo.

Ok, if you're not into farms but are into nature and wildlife. The next several pictures should appeal to you. This was my first glimpse (and photo) of the Teton Mountain Range in western Wyoming. Suprisingly of all the pictures of the Teton's this was my best one. A few hours after this photo was taken I had climbed to the top of Togwattee Pass (one of the highest passes of the trip) and there found a beautiful, crystal clear lake. The sun was going down so I decided to camp there. It became my most beautiful campsite yet and believe it or not the very first time so far I have built a campfire (it's been warm up until now). I slept wonderfully. The next morning I awoke and felt confident and daring and .....went for a swim in the lake. There is no question it contained the coldest water I have ever submerged myself into. I swam for about 15 seconds before I began to lose feeling across my entire body. I exited the lake and had the most amazing tingling feeling, almost like burning, and goose bumps even beneath my eyebrows. A fantastic experience....and one that left me feeling feverish later that night....and a lingering sickness that I am shaking off even now. Oh well.

Within 20 minutes of starting my first full day in Yellowstone we spotted two coyotes playing in a field next to the river. Nice and simple. No explanation needed.

The first day in Yellowstone you are just dazzled by the abundance of wildlife. Then by the second day, if you can't get within twenty feet of them you're just like, "Hey, look another buffalo." This one was probably only 35-40 feet away. Neat huh?

Bull Elk crossing the river. Looks nice and serene, but actually this Bull Elk was flaunting for a posse of twenty or more semi-professional photographers. These Elk have grown so accustomed to being photographed that they actually bask in the attention. This fellow here waited on the bank, teasing us all, until he was quite certain he had our undivided attention. Then he strutted across the stream, exited, was towel dried by his harem of she-elk, then took a bow before exiting the stage....or something like that. It actually was pretty fantastic.

So that last Bull Elk photograph was taken from a distance of 70-80 feet. This one here, a mere 40-45 feet. I could practically smell his prairie grass breakfast. Neat huh?

The day after leaving Yellowstone, I pretty much expected I'd seen all the dramatic wildlife I was gonna see. To my suprise, I looked up the hill and saw this gang of Bighorn Sheep peering down at me. Distance from lens to creature = 55 feet.

I am now in Montana. A mere 3 states left to journey. It has become quite cold. The first day through Yellowstone was in the '20's with snow. I was travelling with 4 other bikers and we covered an amazing 74 miles in these conditions.

Stay tuned.....this trip ain't over yet.



  • 9/21/2006 10:03 AM Anna Erickson wrote:
    Your pictures are just amazing. Makes me get all tingly and itchy like I GOTTA GET OUT THERE!!! Don't forget that I have a wonderful friend in Missoula who would be a prefect contact for you. Happy Trails, Justin.

  • 9/21/2006 5:53 PM g wrote:
    Welcome to the majesty of big sky country. Say hello to it for me.

  • 10/6/2006 3:41 PM Stan Blanchard wrote:
    I have looked at yout photography and you do a great job. Sometimes it is very difficult to make the photographs look interesting and you have done very well. Always ask yourself what is the story I am trying to tell with the photo.

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