September 25, 2017.
The rain we'd known was coming did in fact come, but it passed by 7:00am the next morning as the sun and blue sky revealed themselves through the clouds. In what was becoming a ritual, I got up and explored the area around our camp before the rest of the crew got out of bed.
It was always exciting to see where we'd ended up the night before!
In the distance, some abandoned structures dotted the badlands - not part of the ghost town of Gebo, but likely mines abandoned long ago.
Closer to camp, evidence of the high winds was obvious, honeycombing the sandstone in dramatic fashion.
After exploring, I headed back to camp where everyone was starting to stir. Mark was first out of his tent - likely because sleeping on the ground was less comfortable than the RTTs on Igor and the Red Head - and started making breakfast. The racket he created soon roused everyone else and for the first morning on the trip, we all broke out the kitchens to enjoy a warm meal before we hit the road.
As we did, we marveled at the morning, and remarked that if we'd known the weather would turn nice when we traded Frankenstein for Igor, we'd have done so days ago!
Off to a late start, we headed back down the road towards Gebo, which we'd read about online the previous night, was an old coal town established the same year that Kirwin was abandoned - 1907. It remained an active town until 1938 with over 20,000 people living in the area. As the town was abandoned over the years, it fell into ruin until 1971 when it was (mostly) bulldozed, except for a few buildings and the cemetery.
The chain-link-surrounded cemetery was where we were headed next, and one by one we each entered and reacted to it in the same way - "oh my, these are all children." With 40 or so graves, all but three were under 5 years old, with the majority being days or months old - it was a sad situation that showed us just how hard life in Gebo must have been.
Eager to move on, we got back in the trucks for the short jaunt to the outskirts of Gebo. The remains of several homes still stood, and we spent time noticing the details - root cellars, floor joists integrated into the rock walls - these had been well made back in the day.
We explored the rest of Gebo as well, noticing the materials and style, remarking how cool it would have been to see it in its heyday.
We left happy to have stumbled upon this cool find, and excited for what lay ahead since we could see the weather was starting to clear. Our trip now was southernly - first to Thermopolis, and then on to Lander where we were going to have lunch (at what turned out to be 3:00ampm). From there, we were unsure of our plans but knew we'd get it figured out!
At Thermopolis, we got out to explore. The worlds largest mineral hot springs, over 3.6 million gallons of water flow out of the spring every day. It's no wonder that several resorts have sprung up around it, each harnessing some of the water for soaking tubs, pools, and even water slides!
Also at Thermopolis, a few young boys were in the parking lot when we pulled up. "Wanna trade?" they asked about our trucks. We mostly ignored them, except to make sure our trucks were all locked. As they pulled away, we got one of our best laughs of the morning - one guys car backfired every time he reved it. Boys :-).
Hungry and with two hours of driving to Lander, we climbed back into the trucks and headed out. In Lander, we'd meet up with Brett @BossFoss (and his cousin Hunter) and Marc @SconnieHailer (plus his wife Jen and new baby Calvin) for burgers and a conversation about our next steps.
Because, as Mike had pointed out earlier in the day, as much as we wanted to save The Tour, we'd been stymied by several trails and were now nearly "done," a week ahead of schedule. Still, we weren't yet willing to call it "The Broken Tour," because man - that was depressing! A few weeks later, we'd name it "The De-Tour," with hopes of "The Re-Tour" next year.
But for now, we decided that we'd hit the Killpecker Sand Dunes and then make our way down to utah the next day. That would get Mark one more trail for the trip (he had to be at work by 9:00am the next day), and we figured that where there were sand dunes, there must be sun and warmth. Right?
Wrong. instead we got mud and the coldest night yet, and Mark never got to see the dunes. But let's get to that part of the story in a little bit… As we sped down the muddiest mud that was Killpecker trail, the sun was getting low on the horizon; the colors were incredible, and to top it off, we saw four herds of elk.
The vastness of the space was also incredible - a road at the bottom of the valley headed straight, as far as the eye could see. All mud of course, but pretty from way up here.
And as we drove, the light got orange-r and red-er. Rain and mountains in the distance was highlighted in rays of gold. The sky was nature's canvas, and we soaked it in.
As the sun set, Derp came over the radio, "hey guys, let's hurry up, I came for sand dunes, not more mud!" Of course, if we'd learned anything by now it was that we almost never made it to camp before dark and tonight was no different - it was 9:00pm again when we finally decided to stop - not quite to the end of the GPS track, but close, and as far as we felt safe going in the dark (traction in the mud was so bad that Mike slipped into the ditch on the side of the road…though he was able to self-recover).
Unsure of road conditions further on, Derp decided to stay the night - he'd leave at 4:00am the next morning, and get to work an hour late - but at least he wouldn't be stuck in the mud all night.
So we setup camp and got a fire going under clear skies.
Of course, nothing on this trip was going to be easy, and those clear skies meant cold skies - the coldest we'd have on the trip at 24-degrees overnight - but that was something we'd only have to deal with in the morning.
As the coyotes howled literally all around us, we were off to bed around 11:30 so Derp could get an early start, and hopefully not get fired the next day!
Derp would never see the sand dunes, even though we were camped at the base of one nearly 200' high.