August 30, 2018.
Sometimes we just get lucky - and this morning was apparently one of those times for me. I mean sure, I situated my truck for success the night before, and I'd brought the camera into the tent thinking there might be an opportunity to capture a bit of early orange hue, but I never thought I'd get the display that I did, while still warm under my comforter.
It started as it so often does - just a hint of brightness along the horizon and deep purple highlights on the clouds in the sky. This is the moment, I thought to myself as I snapped a few shots.
But then, as I lay there, camera put away, just enjoying the colors and thinking about how easy it was going to be to fall back asleep for a couple more hours since I was still cozy - BAM! The earth turned a bit, and the sky lit up like a candle. These are the types of sunrises I treasure - the pinks and purples got deeper, and then the orange came out to play.
The camera obviously reappeared, and the raised platform of the tent made for an amazing tripod to capture the moment with a slow shutter. ...and then, it was back to sleep. Well, to be honest, it took a while to fall back asleep at that point, so excited I was to have seen such a spectacular display.
When I finally opened my eyes again, it was like a repeat of the previous morning - the sun now over the ridge, light and warmth spilling into my tent and warming my feet through the covers. Such a pleasant way to start the day. I dressed and climbed down the ladder to explore - having parked on the edge this time, it didn't take long to find the spot I wanted to hang out, looking out over the valley below and to the ridges in the distance.
I even saw this little guy doing the same thing as me - soaking in the sun and the views. Smart little marmot.
Knowing that I'd slept in later than usual, I headed back to camp and ate a quick breakfast of Cheerios and blueberries. It was the first cereal of the trip, and the first Cheerios (likely) since The De-Tour, and man - it was great! I couldn't wait for the next morning when I'd get to enjoy another bowl.
Everyone else was waking up by this point and ready to get moving - our first destination something a bit different than normal. We'd seen Copman's Tomb on our drive in the evening before, and today our plan was to head that direction and then hike out to the tip for an amazing view. Of course, it's hard for us to get out of camp before 10:00am, and it was 10:15am when we checked our radios and made our way along our ridge, towards the ridge that was Copman's Tomb.
In less than 30 minutes we'd arrived, and we lined up the trucks at the trailhead "just so" before heading off - Monte @Blackdawg promising Mike @Digiratus that there were only two slightly uphill sections in the 1.5 mile hike and that the rest was basically flat or slightly downhill.
As we headed out on foot, we got the full scoop on the ominous name of our destination. An early pioneer, Wolfgang R. Copman didn't discover the ridge or canyon, but loved it when he found it, spending much time on and around it, reveling in it's grandeur - so much so that he wished to be buried there when he died. Apparently quite vocal about his wish, he told everyone who would listen and soon the outcropping started being called Copman's Tomb by locals. The name stuck and was later officially named Copmans Tomb by the U.S. Geological Survey. Ironically, when Copman died in 1907 his wish to have his ashes spread on the mountain top was never realized - according to his great great grand daughter, the family simply never got around to it. And, when his wife Betty died, his family buried his ashes next to her in the Greybull, WY Cemetery.
When we arrived, it was clear why Copman had fallen in love with this place. We did as well as we explored the high walls and peered down at the sections that had clearly fallen away thousands of years ago. A long way down - 10 seconds or so for a horizontally thrown rock - we were sure to hang on to our wide angle lenses, that's for sure.
Eventually we pulled ourselves away, knowing that we had a bit of a hike to get back to the truck. Turn's out the mile-and-a-half that Monte had promised was one way, and I'm sure if you asked Mike he's let you know that it was uphill both ways. At any rate, the uphill portion was definitely concentrated on the way back; the mid-day sun and thin air at 8,875-foot elevation not helping the situation either.
Mike kept at it, and along the way we ran into a group of riders, out exploring the area. They of course commented on the trucks we'd parked at the trailhead, a bit of longing in their eyes. In the end, the round-trip hike was a 3.1 mile jaunt, with 500 feet of elevation gain.
Once back t the trucks, we re-hydrated and got underway towards our next stop - another place we'd passed on the way to camp the night before - Granite Pass. Of course, there was plenty of ribbing on this section of the trail - Mike giving Monte a hard time for the marathon he'd just completed, and Monte defending himself with mixed success.
It was all in good fun, and before long we were out again looking around - well, most of us anyway, Mike was staying put this time.
As we pulled up to Granite Pass, we should have been thinking about lunch - it was 1:15pm after-all, but instead, geocaching was on our minds. See, this is a place that one of us (guess who) had been many times over the years, and he was quick to count the seven or so times he'd signed the logbook for the cache.
But once that was done, lunch was the furthest thing from our minds. Granite Pass was amazing - it reminded me of a uni-color Doll House from The Maze - pillars of granite rising out of the grassy surroundings, the sun catching them and creating patterned shadows on the ground.
We were like kids in a candy store. Again.
I was the last to straggle back down the hill - everyone else having returned to the trucks a few minutes before. Granite Pass behind us, lunch was once again on our minds. And we'd have it an hour or so later, in a grassy camp site next to a creek. The perfect place for a turkey-avocado sandwich, potato chips, a ripe nectarine and discussion of what was to come - a night at Moraine Creek.
And so it was, with little fanfare that we headed out again - sure that we'd get to camp before dark, and excited to enjoy the landscape that was one of our favorite the year before.
Along the way, we made a quick pit stop at the splash dam - a structure used to move logs downstream to mills in the early 1900s- something of definite interest to Dan @drr, who inspected the structure for soundness. Definitely not up to his current-day standards.
Over mountains and through valley's, we made our way to Woodchuck Pass - a splendid series of high meadows that stretch across the landscape. The road was rocky here, and we were having a blast splashing through the mud and recalling places where, in the snow last year, we'd scraped skids and thrown snowballs at Frankenstein.
At one point, Monte, in the lead, called out "oncoming motorcycle," which was a relatively normal thing to hear him say. But then, "and another" rang out. "And five more." Turns out there was a whole swarm of the little buggers, trying to navigate their way down one of the rockier sections. As we waited off to the side of the road so they could pass, the dumbest of them decided the trail was only a suggestion, and took off across the field, cutting the corner. Hive mentality kicked in, and the rest followed.
There wasn't much we could do at that point though - the damage had been done, and it wasn't like we could teach them the trail manners they'd never learned growing up, so we continued on - stopping often to soak in our surroundings.
"This is my picture, if you want your own it'll have my butt in it!" -Monte
Still, before long we reached Moraine Creek - only 4:30pm, it was the earliest we'd get to camp all trip, and we were cool with that - it is truly a beautiful place. Dan got his hammock setup again, and the rest of us took to positioning our trucks and deploying our sleeping arrangements. And, as we'd done already a few times on the trip, I broke out the chainsaw and harvested a downed tree for a nearly endless supply of dry firewood.
And then, as though the "Tour gods" were looking down us, the weather started to move in. You can imagine that after a day of full sun, this was most surprising indeed, and hearkened back to our last night in this beautiful place - when we arrived to sun and left with 4-inches of snow on the ground.
Monte quickly turned on the ham radio to listen to the weather report, and we discovered that sporadic thunder and lightning were forecast for the area until 11:00pm that evening. So we put away our chairs and donned our jackets, ready for a bit of rain - a few thunderstorms weren't going to put a damper on our enjoyment!
As it turned out, the cells nearest us passed just to the north and just to the south, sprinkling us with a bit of rain for a few minutes but not more. Within half an hour, it looked as though the worst of it had passed, and the sun was back out - casting a golden glow across the meadow.
Our chairs came back out, and we gathered around the campfire which was - as usual - the centerpiece for our nightly celebration. Dinners were made and eaten - tacos with fresh guacamole for me, and similarly delicious eats for everyone else.
In time, the sun made its way below the horizon and the day ended in much the same way it'd started - with a beautiful display of color in the sky. As we marveled after the last remnants of light, campfire talk turned to trucks - suspension in particular - something I'd decided was my next upgrade.
Eventually of course, we tired once again - the wood we'd cut and split outlasting our eyelids - and retired to our tents. We went to bed content - happy that the storm had passed without incident and looking forward to the plan for the next day - to run the trail that had changed everything the year before: Boulder Basin.
Of course, nothing's ever quite that simple, is it?...