September 24, 2017.
We woke up in Monte's driveway without having been rained on at all the previous night. Glorious.
Ben and Kirsten had taken off early - around 7 - since they had a long drive in front of them before work the next day, and we got word from Glenn (who'd stayed at a Super8) that he too was taking off, and that Derp could keep those gas cans…but not more excuses for showing up without extra fuel.
Ready for some downtime, the rest of us took it easy, happy for both the break in the weather and the mud-free ground.
I made breakfast in the driveway - the last of my eggs, sausage and strawberries, and even used a plate, knowing that there was a kitchen sink just inside the back door that I could use to clean up! Mike and Mark headed to the local coffee shop, where - as luck would have it for Mark - they were big on the country music. And Monte and Devin - with a real bed - slept in.
It was noon when we started thinking about getting back on the road, but we knew that there was some ham and CB radio tuning that we wanted to do - and where better to do it than here with Monte's dad (the expert)? So, we all got our rigs dialed in using his fancy tools, and he even made a new mic for Mark, who'd previously been able to listen but not talk.
Oh well, that'd been nice while it lasted.
Finally, at 2:30 we headed out - first to the grocery store to provision, and then south. First towards Kirwin, an old mining ghost town, then towards Lander and the surrounding area, and then ultimately to a new adventure in Utah.
But, we're getting way ahead of ourselves.
On the road to Kirwin, we passed a herd of farmed buffalo, and then our first stop was at the abandoned Double-D Dude Ranch - our first of three ghost towns for the day - where we also aired down for the remainder of the relatively-easy-but-still-bumpy road to come.
From there, we continued up the valley through snow, early fall colors, and several wide water crossings. A beautiful drive really.
At the end of the road, we found Kirwin (and a logging operation that was tearing the place up) and as we got out to take a look - a quarter mile stroll across the creek - it started to snow.
That didn't stop us - well, except for Mike, who stayed in his truck to enjoy the warmth - and we set out to see what had been left behind when the town had been abandoned in 1907, after an avalanche from the 12,000-foot peak behind town swept away a cabin and the general store, killing three. That was the point at which the remaining 200 occupants decided they'd had enough of the harsh winters and lack of gold, and packed up their things for the last time.
One of the coolest buildings was the cover to an old mine shaft. While the shaft was long-boarded-up, the machinery used to pull gold-poor ore out of it was still largely in-tact. A big steel barrel that the ore would be loaded into, as well as the gears and pullies that were used to raise and lower it were easily accessible.
Trying our hand at the levers, we discussed how these would have worked - probably along with some leather belts that the levers would have engaged, these wheels would have acted as clutches between a steam engine and the ore barrel.
As the snow-fall got heavier, we decided it was time to head back to the trucks and find a place to camp for the night.
The plan had been to camp at one of the campgrounds back down the road, but we weren't sure we wanted to deal with the snow again, and a quick CB vote meant that we rolled by them without even slowing down. We'd head south, destinationless, hoping for warmer weather.
It was at this point that I mentioned how I "wouldn't mind" a hot spring. I had no idea that Thermopolis - the world's largest mineral hot spring - would end up being just 30 minutes from the spot where we ended up camping for the night.
So we headed east (on our way south to Lander), and once again Devin worked her Google-fu to find us some BLM land where we could camp. Even better, there was apparently a ghost town (Gebo) on that land - our third of the day! - that we could explore in the morning.
Of course, having left Kirwin around 6:30pm, it was dark by the time we arrived near Gebo at 9pm, and as is often the case with BLM, there were hundreds of roads that crisscrossed the land, so we split up to find a good camp spot. Mike ended up finding everything interesting - first a set of "small buildings" that his headlights illuminated coming around a turn, which ended up being a pretty creepy cemetery we'd explore the next day; then a camp spot on high ground that would turn out to be overlooking the valley the next morning.
Happy to be in camp - and without rain or snow - we setup tents, started a fire, and got to making dinner. For me, it was a second night of chicken and mushrooms (with salad) followed by cookies that I shared around. It was our second wood fire of the trip, and the first fire that wasn't ended by rain or snow. We soaked it in until midnight, knowing that the rain we'd been running from all week was coming our direction.