September 20, 2017.
Most of us were awoken at 2:00am by Mike's radio blasting when Ben calling over the ham radio to see if anyone was around. I say "most" because Mike slept right through it! Of course, no one was getting out of their tent and into the snow to reply so Ben had to make do with the description of the camp site that Monte had communicated the evening before.
Oh, and there was that "sign" that he'd written in the snow on the road. Hours ago, as it continued to come down.
So when Ben and Kirsten (and the pups) rolled in at 2:38am, we were all a little surprised. At that point, we did roll out of our tents to give a warm welcome before heading back to bed, happy to know that they'd arrived safely.
Ben was the first one up in the morning, and after his dogs discovered our nearest neighbors (who also had dogs and were a little…strange), we chatted for a while before everyone else moseyed out of bed. Though we'd gotten ~4" of snow the night before, it had stopped around 6am, and both our campsite and the canyon we found ourselves in were amazingly beautiful.
A warm breakfast (made correctly this time - and no plate to wash!) really hit the spot as we all took stock of our gear and got things brushed off and put away (dry snow is way better than rain - the tents were nearly dry as we put them away).
Ready to go around 10, we had a quick discussion to decide our plan of attack for the day - would we go to Goose Lake, or just skip that and head up Sunlight Basin and then out and over to the Pryor's, essentially writing off a few of the trails Monte had planned?
Or, would we go to Moab?
Yes. It was day 4 of 14 - on a trip where we'd been warned that it could be cold - and Moab was floated. In fact, Ben may have discussed it with Kirsten before they even left home. But we weren't there yet. We still wanted to make The Tour work.
We hadn't had enough pain and suffering. Yet.
We did however decide that with another 6 inches of snow that running Lulu and Goose Lake were probably not the smartest moves, so our plan was to run up Sunlight Basin, and then head over to the Pryor's.
Heading up Sunlight was beautiful. The road was easy and it was overcast, but it was easy to stop and take pictures of the white.
Along the way, there were several creek crossings, and even one place where the creek had washed out the road for a good 100 feet or so - great fun for all of us, and a photo op for Monte who had raced ahead. Ben also got a pic before heading in…
Though long, it was a shallow ford and we continued on through several more crossings - each time taking the requisite "poser" shots because well, we like our trucks.
And then, over the CB, we heard our first "moose" call. Several hundred yards up the hill, Devin had spotted a pair - so it was time for a few animal glamor shots.
The moose were obviously rarer, but boy if the dogs aren't cuter (Milo in this case).
The end of the trail wasn't much further along, though on our way we did run into a few interesting tidbits. There were the five or so trees that Monte had to clear with his axe. And that of course required a few "lumberjack" comments and whistles. And there were the tracks in the middle of the road, questioned by our tailgunner and identified as "A very special type of wildlife, known as 'hunter'" by the guy breaking trail.
We ended up running into those hunters at the end of the road where we all turned around for the trek out. They were hunting moose. We didn't mention the ones we'd seen.
Driving out, we headed back through the crossings and made good time - we were all ready for lunch and began discussing where we'd eat - ultimately deciding on a large bridge and gorge at the head of the valley.
Waiting for a couple trucks to catch up, we got a good look at large, medium, and small Tacomas. Clearly, I need some bigger tires.
As we reached the head of the valley, we left the snow behind, for today. And that meant it was time for truck pics!
It wasn't far to the bridge, and that of course meant…more truck pics. But only a few by us. Most of them were taken by a minivan full of Chinese tourists who were obviously infatuated with our rigs. They took pictures from every angle. They were smiling. Waving.
We weren't celebrities. But our trucks were.
Eventually, they packed up into their minivan and headed up towards Dead Indian Pass, while we continued to take in the gorge…
And then we too headed out - it was too windy for lunch so we decided to eat in a town called Bridger, but not before stopping at the pass for Ben and Kirsten to soak it in (since they'd not seen it the previous day with the rest of us).
And that's when it happened. The celebrity of our trucks was just too much for the minivan occupants (who were now with us at the pass).
Well, not all our trucks. Just Frank. With Devin still on board. Thank goodness there was some quick camera work by Monte to catch it!
Check out that pose! And the photographer! Priceless.
Our day made and after a good laugh, we rolled out towards Bridger - everyone's spirits up as we recalled the hilarity of the entire situation. And as we drove, the skies cleared. The sun shone. Red dirt and golden grass gleamed. It was turning into a great day.
Who needs Moab with weather like this in Montana? We'd obviously made the right decision.
In Bridger, we refueled and found a city park where we decided to have lunch. It was perfect, until I opened my kitchen box to find the dish soap had exploded over everything. That made it hard to make lunch, so while everyone else ate, I proceeded to rinse soap off of everything.
Our bodies refueled, we headed to and into the Pryor's - snow free and mostly dry. A new type of landscape, we were hitting bits of ledge, patches of forest, and big vistas. This was what we'd expected.
And we'd have it for all of one afternoon. This one.
And of course with these vista's, we had to stop and check out the canyons - especially interesting because that's where most of the trees were growing; more sheltered from the snow and wind that blankets the area in the winter. Everyone was out of the trucks looking around and taking it in.
Not long after, we rolled into camp at the base of the Pryor's. Big, flat, dry, and relatively sheltered, it was a great site. And, for once we got to see it when we arrived - before dark!
Spirits were high as we opened up and aired out the tents, and as we made dinner and gathered around the (propane, since we were back in Montana) fire.
Dinner for me was marinated flank steak, mashed potatoes, and salad. Oh, and Mike broke out a couple avocados and made guacamole with his salsa! We passed around chocolate chip cookies I'd brought for everyone and recounted how crazy the weather of the last few days had been.
We all agreed - unusual for this time of year, and we were glad that it seemed to be getting better. Afterall, we still had 10 more days of adventuring.
Little did we know when we hit the sack early that those 10 days of adventure would dwarf the first four!