Casita Chronicles; Northern Wyoming Loop/ Big Horn Mountains_Part 1

Prologue; 

There is no higher yoga than Householder Yoga. I’m not sure if any enlightened masters said this or not, but this is what I’ve come to experience in my own life. Of course without the other practices of Kundalini yoga and meditation, I may not have realized this. This current Casita Adventure has brought this awareness straight back to the center of things. As I’ve been writing this blog for five days now partially to share our travel adventures and partially for my own personal journal, In the  re-reading of my words, I’ve discovered how hopelessly human I am. I haven’t kept a journal in over a decade, perhaps it’s time to get back to this helpful practice which brings one clarity about their own mind and condition. I’ve notices my quick to judge and get annoyed when my partner does or says things I find distasteful, disgusting or disrespectful. Yogi Bhajan, master of Kundalini Yoga taught that we are all one and often told his students, “If you don’t see God in all, then you don’t see God at all.” Some of my greatest lessons of this is being married to someone with a completely different background/ upbringing, a different belief-system, different interests and way of being/ doing things. It certainly may be easier if we matched in some of these areas, however  maybe the gifts wouldn’t be as great in the long run. In an interview with my parents for a local newspaper on their 50th wedding anniversary, my father said the key to marriage is you have to want to continue to be married. At the time he said this, I thought it was a simplistic attitude. However now in the sixth year of my second marriage, I completely understand what he was saying. We can always find something to be upset, annoyed, frustrated with another, that is the nature of our ego. It is the practice of neutral mind, letting go of fear and control where the rubber meets the road and a human can elevate the spirit to that of God, as we are intended to reflect.  So it is with this awareness that I humbly bow, pray for forgiveness for my failures, and for you the reader to keep an open heart in my regard, i am trying. More importantly It is with so much gratitude to my husband, Uriah Luallin that I have the blessings of traveling the journey alongside.

7-28-18;  We left Hot Springs at 11:30 am Saturday morning.  “half the day over” according to Mr.O.  I thought we did pretty good considering we hadn’t done any packing the night before. Things have been a bit tense as of late. Between the stress of looking for my lost cat Odysseus for the past two weeks, along with the beginning of the Farmers Market season, on top of the usual busyness I’ve created for myself, then add the refrigerator going out the day before our trip & whatever else is bothering Mr.O (one can only guess) all contributing to snappy communication between the once happy couple.  I guess the honeymoon is officially over! Driving west on Hwy 18 out of town with the varied shades of green fields spotted with yellow and black sunflowers quickly washes the mind clear. Time to release all the planning, doing, worrying, reacting and replacing that with the present moment! There is nothing better than enjoying the beauty of nature and opening to the joy and excitement of the unknown. Yes, as a practicing yogi I should be able to be in this later state in my daily life. A worthy goal that I do strive for. In these moments I can recognize how far off my path I can be. I guess this is why I take these opportunities to travel as often as I can. Stepping outside my daily life, I can see and feel the contrast in my body so clearly, which ideally will help me come back home sooner.

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We quickly entered Wyoming and the Thunder Basin National Grasslands. Taking back roads through the rolling plains as usual, Uriahs favorite. Antelope & sage brush in every direction for miles and miles as the sound of the wheels rolling over gravel lull me to sleep. I woke when we hit pavement a few hours later almost 100 miles of driving but as the crow flys we hadn’t got that far. We stopped for a snack along the road somewhere and continued west. Not really sure and not caring if we have a plan. Even with the slippery deep mud patches along the road I barely flinch anymore, a simple chuckle to myself as I think about the numerous adventures I’ve taken with this man, ” the last free man in America” or ” the high plains drifter” to name a few of his self-proclaimed titles. It’s sometimes the case that I’ve felt some fear and apprehension about taking these journeys but in my heart of hearts I do truly love an adventure and more than anything spending time in nature.  I am blessed and grateful!!

We stopped in Wright Wyoming, not sure if we’d hit any other towns with stores to pick up a few last minute provisions. This part of Wyoming was the most uninteresting and distasteful to me thus far. The entire area was built upon the coal and oil extraction industries. Nothing more than a few stores, shops and housing for the workers. The desolate land was covered with oil rigs and machinery for miles. Every so often their were road barriers that we deduced are to prevent people from driving when there are huge snow storms, it must get pretty cold up here. Concluding that some people will do anything for work. By late afternoon we stopped once more in Kaycee, Wy. They had a general store where Uriah asked directions to get to the ‘Hole in the Wall’, where Butch Cassidy and his gang hid out. I guess there was some sort of agenda after all. It turned out that not only did he miss the turn for another site he wanted to check out, but now it appears we will be missing this one too. The women at the store explained you have to get permission to cross the private land in order to get there which just wasn’t practical this time of day. Another women in the store shopping suggested we take the Slip road as there are some nice places to camp along there. We took her advise and headed out before dark. Luckily we were able to follow the minimal instructions and found a lovely valley to camp for the night. Mr. O made a few adjustments to the pump and I made dinner before taking a short evening walk with Kiowa. It is very quiet here, much quieter than even our small little town. I can definitely get used to this.

7-29-18; A restful night sleep except for having to kick the dog off the bed at one point. Last night I realized I left my camera battery charger at home, bummer. I love taking pictures and especially with the new camera Uriah got me for my birthday last year which has a great zoom and usually captures what I want pretty good. It seems like I always forget at least one thing on a trip. Just another chance to practice non-attachment. Luckily I have some other devises, so all is not lost.  Coffee meditation was very serene and afterward Uriah went up the escarpment to do his yoga practice while I enjoyed mine in the valley. It felt so good to take my time and not feel that nagging apprehensive rush of needing to finish to get somewhere by a particular time. Another contradiction of living in a dualistic world.  After our leisurely sadhanas, I made breakfast and we discussed our options. Turns out our tire has a slow leak…par for the course on a ‘Casita Chronicle’ adventure, or should I say life with Uriah. Our spare truck tire is low as well and we have a limited amount of air in the air tank he brought along. Luckily, Mr. O realized that the Casita spare tires are the same size, this the spare trailer tire can replace the leaking tire. After discussing how to deal with that situation for a bit the subject turned to our relationship issues. With having the space, time and no commitments or pressing issues we were able to clear the air and talk about the underlying causes of our lack of graceful communication. I think we achieved an understanding and hopefully we can enjoy our vacation with a renewed sense of staring over.

Mr. O got right to work on fixing the tire with minimal assistance, I got to work on cleaning up and preparing the camper for departure, a natural rhythm of the road that brings us back to balance.  Now the only decision left to make is to continue on dirt roads forward on the spare or back track to the highway. After about 20 minutes Mr. O said “its time to go”,  onward and upward which meant taking the risk and continuing on, his sop (standard operating procedures). For those reading this that don’t know Mr. O, Uriah Luallin was in the military and loves to use the language of those times. We had no idea how upward we were heading, in about 4 miles we probably climbed about 1,000 ft in elevation. We had left Kiowa out to run and since it was so steep we couldn’t really stop so he had to run the whole way.  Finally nearing the top where it was level enough  we pulled over to wait for the dog.

I was surprised we made it and hoped the dog would too. As we waited for Kiowa to catch up, Uriah called his son while I checked out the divide. We seemed to be at the top of the continental divide and it looked like a pretty good storm was brewing. Once Kiowa arrived heavily panting I urged Uriah to get going. It was quite beautiful up there with large pine trees, rocks, short brush of the tundra but that storm was making me a little nervous. Then Mr. O noticed his truck was leaking water from under the engine. After looking that over for a minute even he felt the need to move on, so down the road we went. It took Kiowa nearly 30-40 min for his breath to return to normal.  Just as steeply as we had climbed, now we were descending down an equally pitched road. It reminded me a bit of driving into and out of Death Valley, but in this case on a dirt road, not paved.  All the while I marveled at the dramatically different ecosystems we traveled through in just a short 3 hour day. This is how long our journey on the Slip road took and as I now realize many days later, our actually time in the Big horn Mountains. At the bottom we entered a beautiful valley. There was a deep canyon to our east that we wanted to explore but it appeared to be all private land. At the bottom however, Mr. O noticed a little parking area and suggested we stop to go for a short hike. It turned out to be a perfect circle drive BLM parking area to a trail head and a perfect place to stop for the night.

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4:30pm seemed a little late to be taking a hike, but after we talked to some climbers that we’re about to leave the area and checked out the map, it looked like Canyon Creek Trail was not all that long. We quickly prepared ourselves and enjoyed a late afternoon hike. The weather couldn’t have been more perfect and the trail was a wonderland of beauty. As they warned the trail starts out very thick with brush mainly thistles, but it went along a small creek between two large canyon walls. We crossed over a little meg-shift bridge and the other side was far easier to walk. Cows rutted the trail pretty good through large tree- size sage brush. The Juniper trees had berries the size of grapes, it was truly delightful! It was the kind of magical experience that we have come to know and enjoy so well.

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An easy way to get us back on track as the loving couple we once were. This is the life we had envisioned for ourselves and where all our differences are swept away in the wind. The simple pure joy of being outdoors is our recipe for love and happiness. After a nice dinner Mr. O falls fast asleep before nightfall. 

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7-30-18;  A much needed deep sleep. I think I dreamt most of the night and didn’t wake till around 7am, that’s sleeping in for the Os. Even after coffee meditation I wasn’t jumping out of bed. Every once in a while a hard working girl needs to lounge and linger. It felt so good to just relax!!   Yes, friends and family, I’m listening. Mr. O took off on his Monday morning run up the canyon he wanted to explore last night, a predictable move. I stayed behind and did my yoga practice in the parking area. It was a little more challenging in the full sun, but I made it through with even a few insights for my upcoming workshop. Mr. O returned right about when I was finishing up, in perfect timing another par for the course with the O’s. Upon their return Kiowa found something in the bushes and pursued a hunt. I quickly found myself being annoyed again that Mr. O wasn’t controlling his dog. I know it must be instinctual for the dog,  but he had a full bowl of dog food at the camper so I felt bad for what ever prey he was after.  We packed up and headed down the road and after only a few minutes the dog was whimpering to get out. We pulled over at the nearest pull out where he jumped out and searched for grass to settle his tummy. I wondered if he was ill from what ever critter he went after and perhaps killed and ate.? Our first stop for the day was in Ten Sleeps, a small town population 260 and the home of Jalon Crossland, a local favorite musician. There wasn’t much there but a few hotels and shops, no real breakfast place to speak of, so we kept going. It did have a real nice vibe though kinda reminded me of Crestone, Co.  On down the road the landscape turned back to brown desolate rolling hills where the grass and sage brush struggled for survival. It was about 30 miles of not much but oil rigs. It didn’t appear that many were even operational. I wondered if the oil extraction made the land dry and harsh or if it was already that way and why they chooses that area to drill being that it was not good for anything else. We reached the town of Worland, Wy. in about thirty minute. The population here was more in around 5,000 plus, so a few more options to get breakfast/brunch. We eat at a place called Maggie’s, down home cooking and very filling. I also stopped at the BeeHealthy Health food store, for a few specialty items. It’s starting to feel hot and the combination of a full belly and heat slipped me off to sleep as we headed toward Thermopolis, Wy., the home of the worlds largest mineral hot springs. It’s time like these that I am very grateful for Uriah whom does all the driving. We arrived at the state park around 2pm and found a nice shady spot to rest and nap. The large state park is a beautiful sight with three different mineral springs pools to choose from, two are more developed with slides that cost money and one is free to the public. The only caveat in the well kept free one is that you can only soak for 20 minutes at a time with at least a two hour brake in between, apparently “for our safety”‘ as the pools are 104 degrees F. The main mineral in these hot springs is sulfur but it is not as smelly as some others we have visited in Colorado. We soaked our 20 minutes at the very end of the day before they closed at 5:30 pm and finished with a nice clean shower. Back at the camper we just relaxed and read for a bit. I can’t remember the last time I did this and again am appreciating and listening to how much my inner being is loving doing not much of anything. The dog whom had been tied up was getting antsy so I took him for a little walk around the park. It truly is a gem!! Not only are there huge sections of green grass spotted with large shade trees, there are numerous picnic benches, places to park, bathrooms, playgrounds, volley ball and horseshoe pits, walking trails, gorgeous flowers beds, an amphitheater, which by the way is hosting a free concert tomorrow night so we’ve decided to stay another day.  I walked Kiowa around the back of the two pools and discovered that the outflow poured into a informal soaking pool which eventually poured into the Bighorn River. The parking area back there that we hadn’t even noticed you could tell was a favorite spot among locals. The dogs were all off leash and the kids we happily playing in the confluence of the warm water joining the cold.

There is also a walking trail that follows the river which we did not take, but likely takes you into town. When we returned and checked back in with the Sargent, we decided that we were so relaxed and full from our brunch that we didn’t much feel like cooking or eating a big meal, so we just had a snack and relaxed some more. Actually, I had no energy at all and just wanted to go to sleep by 8pm, which is more Uriahs typical behavior. This is when he realize that it was time to find us to find a campsite for the night. The only amenity not available at the park is camping.  The park ranger at the pool had given us numerous tips of where we could camp free, but in the end Uriah used his usual instinct and followed a county road and in this case deadened at private property with a turnaround. It was so isolated, that we just camped there at the turnaround for the night. I felt hot and drained and quickly fell asleep, only being woken up once with the dog barking at a car that drove by.

7-31-18; We awoke early to the sound of our loud barking dog, the same truck I assume heading in to work for the day. Again, I didn’t feel too motivated to jump out of bed and probably went back to sleep for another hour or so. Mr. O made a stiff pot of coffee after my yesterday’s complaint about it being too week. After an enjoyable coffee meditation we packed up and headed back out the county road. The plan was to head back to the park, drop the camper and scout out a new campsite for tonight, however on the way out, Mr. O’s natural curiosities got him checking a few more roads one in particular that seemed like a perfect camp-spot until we realized we were back in the state park. It turns out that the park has an addition 600 plus acres that house a heard of buffalo, hiking trails and lots of pull outs for viewing, but you aren’t allowed to camp anywhere in the state park. We couldn’t help but wonder if the Buffalo came from our Wind Cave herd. We followed another county road that went along the Big Horn River and indeed we found a suitable pull out about 5 miles out of town. With that figured out, we headed back to the park. I suggested we find a place a little more secluded so that Kiowa wouldn’t bark at every passer by and for a change he conceded to my idea. We found the perfect out-of-the-way spot with some huge trees to do some more resting and relaxing. Actually, I decided to do my yoga practice first, while Mr. O did his upper body exercises. We finally got around to eating our first meal of the day close to noon, then took Kiowa on another walk around the park. This gave me the opportunity to show Mr. O all the lovely places I saw yesterday plus we also checked out the river trail for a tiny bit. On the trail i was delighted to see that Thermopolis also has a Rock painting & hiding group.

Back at the camper we hung out some more writing and enjoying our shady spot at the park. I may have forgotten to mention the main reason we decided to hang out in Thermpololis one more day, was because the beautiful state park has a very nice amphitheater & stage which will be hosting a free concert tonight. ‘Socks in the Fry Pan’ they call themselves, a bluegrass band from Ireland, with a name like that it is sure to be a fun time. Soon we headed back to soak before Mr. O goes for his massage. I hadn’t realized it at the time, but the musicians were there soaking. I thought I detected an Irish accent but wasn’t in an outgoing mood at the moment to strike up a conversation. After an hour or so, I did end up having a conversation with some other travelers from Portland Oregon. They were with a group of women rock climbers that camp for weeks in an area near Ten Sleeps. They along with a few others ignored the 20 minute rule as by now we all felt like regulars. Uriah never did come back as was the plan, so I eventually headed back to the camper were he sat typing on his computer. After a nice meal out, we headed to the amphitheater to hear the live music. They were much better musicians than I was expecting for a free show and I couldn’t help but wonder how they were able to bring a band of that quality to their small town. I inquired during the brake giving me some ideas for our farmers market gigs. The three or should I say, “tree” as they pronounced & made fun of themselves were very funny in addition to being very talented players. The fiddler and button accordion player were apparently brothers and the “terd” played guitar. Check out our Casita Chronicles facebook page https://www.facebook.com/CasitaChronicles/ for a short video of one of their songs or alternately you can find their page directly on facebook.

There was no dancing until the last song back at the camper, what ever happened to our perpetual honeymoon? Exhausted from what I don’t know, soaking for an hour in sulfur hot springs I guess, I was all too ready to pack up and head to our pre-scouted campsite. However, Uriah wanted to check the camper lights to see if they were operational but they were not. After about 30 -40 minutes of fiddling in the dark, I suggested that perhaps I could ride in the back of the camper and shine a flashlight out the back window in case anyone was behind us. This gave Mr. O the idea that we could probably just leave the flashers on since they were working. Flashing the entire 5 miles down East River Rd we traveled to sleep on some BLM pull-out. It seemed a lot nicer that the shooting range a few miles closer to town. Come to find out however that it was a dead animal dump as Kiowa quickly found and rolled in. This made for a smelling nights sleep, but luckily I was too tired to notice.

August 1; According to the Irish brothers, summer is over! I’m glad I don’t live in Ireland and still have a least a month to enjoy it. Despite having a stomach ache last night, Uriah got up and ran the draw we camped in. I did my yoga practice far from the carcasses amidst mainly dirt, rocks, sage and cheat grass. When the boys returned I was just finishing up and we headed back to the park for one more soak before grabbing some coffee and heading out of town. Uriah reported he had found a sickly fox with cub up the draw, I knew just whom to tell. After two days and many conversations I felt that I had gotten to know Cathy, the seasonal state park employee whom runs the spring. Though initially she and Uriah had been talking up a storm about where to camp and other sites in the area, it was I that had the continual personal conversations where I learned that she was a lover of animals. She has 5 cats,  a couple dogs, horses, ginny pigs, a pet skunk and apparently used to have chickens until someone called the cops on her. They don’t allow chickens in the city. After I told her about Odysseus, she even offered to give me one of her cats, a year-old grey one that she claimed was a trouble maker. She reminded me a little of my last cat Cougar, but Mr. O said “NO”! When we arrived to soak one last time before leaving we told her about the baby fox that probably wasn’t going to make it unless someone would go get it and bring it to some type of rehabilitation center, she knew just the person/place to take it, if she is able to retrieve the animal. It may seem cruel to take the pup from its mom, but after hearing Uriahs account of the mother fox not moving an inch when he went up toward it, we were all pretty sure it had a disease and was not going to last or be able to raise its pup, so it seems like the right thing to at least attempt. I thanked her and gave her my contact number to let me know what happens. We drove into town for coffee at the Storytellers bookstore. The coffee was pretty good, they had internet and a clean and pleasant atmosphere. We didn’t dawdle too long as the dog was in the truck and it was starting to get warm. Uriah headed directly back to the truck as I took a quick stop into the local health food store, Natures Corner as I had promised the owner of Beehealthy in Worland. She was right, it was a very nice store with a huge selection including a little cafe in the back. I grabbed a few things and kept moving as quick as possible. When I got out to the camper, Uriah was talking to the sheriff! Oh no, I could only imagine that someone called the police on us for leaving the dog in the car, even though it was a short time, the windows were down and we left him water. By the time I reached them they were discussing politics and it seemed like a very friendly chat. I found out afterwards that some guy whom saw us camping thought we stole his dog. Uriah said the Sherrif thoroughly checked our camper, tags etc. but after we were cleared their conversation turned to politics. Next stop Legend Rock Petroglyphs. It was way out on some BLM roads and not a huge site, but the various petroglyphs from various time periods were pretty interesting. (photos of the actual petroglyphs will be posted on the Casita Chronicle page, taken with Uriahs camera.

It was pretty hot so we didn’t stay long. Driving on toward Cody  we made one more stop in Meeteetse, Wy. Pop 327. Yup that is the real name of the town but we never learned how it got its name. We visited the museum which mainly had photos and items from a massive wealthy ranch and also the world famous Meeteetse Chocolatier. It was started by a young cowboy whom needed some money to ride in the rodeo. His successful business bodes organic chocolate with no preservatives and an environmental mission statement, my kind of place. The walls were lined with his mothers beautiful mosaic art.

 

And yes the chocolatet was to die for! They were so fresh that they don’t keep well, so sorry we didn’t buy any to bring home. We finally made it to Cody about 4 pm. We stopped at a big city grocery grocery store for water and a few more groceries. Then looked around for a camp spot. We settled on a dirt road just over the Shoshone River & highway leading toward Yellowstone. It wasn’t my ideal spot next to other campers, the power lines and sound of the rodeo echoing in the background, but it will do.

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After a nice home cooked meal, I took a walk on the horse trail as Uriah worked on the lights. When i returned at dusk, he was still hard at worked.  I offered to help and did my best to obey his every request, but apparently not as quick and as efficiently as he’d prefer. You have to remember that Uriah’s vehicles are one of a kind. He has prefabricated, “jerry-rigged” if you will,  all seven of his vehicles in one way or another. Between turning on blinkers, hitting the brakes, etc.. i was writing this blog.  On his last request with the engine still running, i didn’t hear him and when i didn’t respond the volcanic angry Uriah came out. It was at this point where I really wondered what we are doing together anyways. It seems like both of us continue to react and be frustrated by the other for one reason or another.  When it really became dark, he finally conceded to stop and come have a little desert and get ready for bed.  A wicked lightening storm came in so Kiowa jumped on the bed and we allowed him this luxury for his safety & comfort.

Stay tuned for part 2 upon our return.

   

 

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