September 22, 2017.
It was 5:22am when Mark rolled in, and curled up in his passenger seat for a couple hours of sleep - that is, until Ben found him around 8 and he headed back into town for coffee and some crazy energy drink - the breakfast of 25-year-olds!
The rest of us stirred late - again, hoping the rain would stop, and then accepting our muddy fate - exiting our tents to perhaps our least beautiful camp site yet. And smallest - separated into the green team and red team the night before.
As we were getting ready to go, Mark returned - light on sleep but high on energy. His truck - on 35's that stuck out several inches beyond the fenders - was already covered in mud, but that didn't slow him down a bit.
Unfortunately, we also discovered that Zane was being called away for work. Lucky for him, it was in Arizona. Which, we were reasonably certain, was sunny and warm!
Within 30 minutes, we were ready to climb into our dry trucks and go - in search of adventure (which we'd find) once again. Our first stop was Devil's Canyon Overlook - an amazing convergence of the Bighorn and Devil Canyons narrow, winding, colorful canyon cliffs that tower 1,000 feet above the Bighorn Lake.
It was truly breathtaking.
An amazing echo chamber, we had a blast yelling and carrying on, with conversations that were 5 or seconds delayed but clear as day. And then, Monte got out the elk bugle.
Smiles resulted, all around - perhaps none more-so than Devin!
Spirits raised, we decided we'd head up the Bighorns to Hunt Mountain road, and eventually to camp just past Antelope Butte, in a high-mountain meadow.
But oh, how we're getting ahead of ourselves.
The closer we got to Hunt Mountain road, the foggier it got. And colder. And snowier. Eventually, we turned off the highway onto the road, and we took a minute to eat lunch. And that gave Glenn and Mark a chance to air down.
And then we were off. And just like the day before, the weather only got whiter. In fact, where we thought we couldn't see anything the day before, today we could see even less.
Monte remarked, "Well guys, it's déjà vu from yesterday. I'll tell you that it's quite breathtaking when you can see!" To which Glenn replied, "It's actually a bit butt puckering."
Of course, the rest of us already knew of Monte's "drive-by-GPS-killer-instincts," so we just enjoyed ourselves and the trail - spinning tires through the snow, and eventually some of the deepest mud we'd encountered so far, which by the end of the trail meant that certain of us (with 35's that stuck out way past our fenders) couldn't see our trucks.
Devin wasn't pleased. "Monte is doing all the setup and getting everything out of the truck," she said. And that seemed more than reasonable to the rest of us, 'cause that woman puts up with a lot. 🙂
It was at the end of the trail that I also noticed that one of the bolts holding on my bed rack had come loose - the nut having backed off (and likely fallen behind the bedliner). Luckily for me, Mike had a bag of nuts, and the first one I grabbed was a perfect fit. In a few minutes, and after a few pics of some heavy machinery at the end of the trail, we were once again ready to go!
Then, miraculously, as we headed into what Monte promised was one of the most beautiful areas of the Bighorns, the clouds started to part, and the sun came out.
We. Were. So. Jazzed.
We stopped several times for pictures along the way, enjoying ourselves in the sun, and letting the dogs run about in glory as the snow melted.
Oh, and there was a near disaster between a moose and Ben's truck. But it was only a near disaster so we continued on!
And then, we reached our camp site. Only Monte knew it, so when he told us, and it was just 5:15pm, we were all stunned. How could this be? It was still light. The sun was out. We were going to be able to dry our tents. And, we were positioned in the valley so that we'd get morning sun the next day.
It was glorious!
…for about 15 minutes, until the fog started rolling in.
But that was still just fog, and we weren't going to let that get us down. We built a fire and ate our dinners - Ben and Kirsten had some amazing sausages that they shared with Mike; Glenn ate a pork chop the size of Montana, Devin whipped up foil-wrapped delicacies for herself and Monte, I had cheese tortellini with cauliflower and meat sauce, and Derp dropped a chicken breast directly into the fire (luckily, he had a second he could wrap in foil first).
In all, spirits were high as we gathered around the fire for conversation.
The topics that night were varied - the trip so far and trucks were of course common topics, but it was Glenn's first real night in camp as well - so like me a few nights before, he was subjected to several probing questions about himself, his truck, and how the heck he found himself with this totally awesome, obviously fun, clearly beautiful set of folks…especially given that he drove a third gen.
And then, as we'd become accustomed to on this trip (but still hated), it started to snow.
Naturally, that resulted in a few choice words about the weather, and then we resigned ourselves to washing dishes and covering up things we wanted to keep dry. Well, except that Glenn couldn't cover up his tent.
Fire chat continued until 9:30 or so, when the snow started coming down harder and wetter, and we decided it was best to get warm in our tents and hope for the best in the morning. After-all, we were on the side of the meadow that would get morning sun, right?