September 26, 2017.
Derp would never see the sand dunes, even though it turned out we were camped at the base of one nearly 200-feet high. Having set three sequential alarms "just in case," when his first alarm went off at 4:00am, he bucked his usual trend and got up and out of camp relatively quickly. It was still dark, but we could hear him reving along the muddy roads for a good 20-30 minutes, so we were pretty sure he made it out alright.
Back to sleep for a few hours, when I woke again at 7:00am, it was cold. 24-degrees cold. Ice crystals inside the tent cold (from my breathing). Of course, there was ice outside the tent too, from the heavy dew.
But the sun was out, and that was great. So, all bundled up, I grabbed the camera and headed out to explore. I wondered how close we'd gotten to the sand dunes the night before, and whether I'd see any of the 50-or-so coyote's we'd heard. It turns out that we'd just reached the edge of the dunes, and it was time to climb them!
I ended up walking a full circle around camp checking out the situation. To our north and east were the dunes; south and west was sagebrush. Everything frozen - covered in ice crystals that sparkled like fleeting diamonds in the morning sun.
As the sun beamed down and I climbed up and down the surrounding dunes/hills, the world began to warm. As I looked down on camp, I realized two things: First - that those three trucks were the three that we'd see each day for the rest of the trip, everyone else having come and gone. Second - dang, those trucks looked good.
Monte would - later the same day - capture it well: "No better sight than a first gen's butt." Mostly right, if you limit the statement to trucks I guess.
For two hours I continued around camp. Each time I thought I'd head back, there was something "just a bit further" that seemed worth checking out. I was never disappointed. A mallard, sparkling green in the sun. Grand vistas of our camp site, CVTs perched on top of Tacomas. Flowering sage, covered in crystals. And finally - just as I was heading back in - a coyote.
Back at camp, I felt like maybe I'd already used up my picture quota for the day. Lucky for me, there was no such thing! We got to putting away camp as a Cessna flew low overhead, and headed out relatively early - to make sure that Mark had made it out safely and to visit the Boar's Tusk - the remnants of a volcano some 2.5 million years old.
As we reached the "main road" to Boars Tusk, mud conditions had improved dramatically from the night before, so we knew Mark had made it out. We'd later find out that he made it to work (bummer for him!) with no problem.
Shoulda held out 'till daybreak Derp! Could have seen those dunes :-).
At Boars Tusk, we considered a hike up to the base of the rock, but decided against it. We had a long day ahead of us and we were excited to hit our next stop - the petroglyphs (and hand imprints). So we booked it back out Boars Tusk, enjoying the badlands and some of the muddier spots on the trail!
Only a few miles away we reached the petroglyphs, which were about a quarter mile away from the end of the road. While it wasn't too steep, it was at 7100-feet elevation, so Mike got a head start up the trail as the rest of us took photos.
The petroglyphs themselves date back 200-1000 years, and depict bison and elk hunts, horses and more. Even more interesting are the hand marks - rubbed into the rock over centuries, they're eerie and cool at the same time.
As we wrapped up and headed back down to the trucks, we decided it was time for and early lunch. It turned out to be a fun one too, as we each had various bits more easily accessible than others. Happy to share, everyone ate a bit of their own, and a bit of everyone else's stuff as we lounged in our chairs in the sun.
And then we were off. A quick stop in Rock Springs for fuel and a CF card reader for Mike and then it was into Flaming Gorge, Igor piloted by a new driver!
Eventually, we came up on the Flaming Gorge Dam and Visitor Center, which we hoped we'd be able to get a tour of (but unfortunately had missed the last tour of the day). While there, we did get to see the largest fish ever caught in Wyoming however - a 54-pound lake trout pulled out of the reservoir!
Seriously, what is a trout doing at 54 pounds? Probably something nefarious.
By now, it was getting to be mid-afternoon, and we all knew that meant Mike was getting anxious about camp - specifically, would we reach it before dark?
We started giving him a hard time about that, until he asked a question we viewed as suspicious: "Do you eat pork?"
Now - of course we eat pork. We'd all thoroughly enjoyed Ben and Kirsten's breakfast-in-the-snowy-sunny a few days earlier. We'd all been eating meat at lunch and dinner the days before… So we wondered, "What's going on Mike?"
And then he said, "If we get to camp before dark, I'll make carnitas tacos."
And then he added, "With my salsa."
There was suddenly a new urgency to get to camp, and fast. Or at least, relatively fast and definitely before dark.
Around 6:15pm we found ourselves in BLM land once again, and we took a spur road off of the highway outside of Dinosaur, Colorado to look for a spot. With a few roads to explore, we split up and within 20 minutes we'd settled on a flat area that was sheltered and "meh" far enough from the highway.
We setup camp and then did something we weren't all that familiar with at this time of day - we relaxed and enjoyed the evening! It was a beautiful evening and a fabulous time.
Plus, there were tacos. With salsa.
Life doesn't get all that much better than fresh tacos eaten around a campfire, and so we each enjoyed several of the delicacies, with many thanks to Mike!
Talk that evening was mainly about the following day - we'd reach the head of the Kokopelli trail in Loma, and then make our way towards Moab. And, as we went to bed, we marveled at the night sky. Full of stars and the moon, that meant it was clear. And that meant we were likely to wake up in the morning dry - it really was coming true… "go to Moab; it's always sunny in Moab…"