Feb 20, 2011

The assault on Bomber Mountain - 5, Buffalo to West Tensleep Lake

We pressed to the quaint town of Buffalo, Wyoming, a clean hamlet shivering under the shadows of the Big Horns.  The population tallies less than the altitude; the sign greeting visitors reads: Welcome to Buffalo.  Elevation: 4,050. Population: 3,638.
We trolled for maps and a few odds and ends at the Sports Lure on main street Buffalo, a well endowed mom and pop joint with racks of testosterone.  I couldn't suppress belching out a Tim the Tool Man Taylor grunt when I stepped in the door.  Lots of heat: Beretta, Browning, Remington and Winchester, check.  Bear skins, flint and steel, gunpowder, serrated gutting knives, moccasins, archery weapons, yes.  Tampons, lip gloss, diapers and scrunchy hair tie thingies?  Nope.

Next stop was a local thrift shop/grocery combo, let's call it a throcery.  Picture 1973 purple plaid polyester bell bottoms on the thrift side, expired Little Debbie Banana Pudding Rolls on the food partition. It seemed an odd mix, but there must be a market for shoppers grabbing a starchy leisure suit with that blob of ring bologna.  

Fish and Sherpa discussed at length whether we should go to the other store across town for a better food selection.  I was getting impatient and barked, “We are here to climb a mountain, not to find the most homey grocery store in town. Let’s get what we need from this crusty place and move out!!” They froze, then tucked tails between legs, then quickly scurried inside to purchase expired Little Debbie Banana Pudding Rolls.  Surprisingly, Sherpa acquired not a single pair of disco slacks. 

With food rations topped, we began the steep ascent from Buffalo up to West Tensleep Lake outside the Cloud Peak wilderness area of the Big Horn National Forest.  It was a scenic 60 minute climb from 4,000 feet at Buffalo up to West Tensleep Lake at 9,000 feet.  Native Americans named this lake for distance; it sits about a ten night's sleep from some (unknown to me) town or lake.  

Whispering rain loosened into a downpour, the grade angled 10% as the wheels slipped on the front wheel drive Pontiac.  Fish slowed, shifted to third and chugged to the clouds. 

We'd stalked the weather in this area for a year via a web cam, it hadn’t rained for weeks.  Heavy clouds were unloading this day, we hoped it would cease soon.  No glory in setting up a tent in the mud.

We pulled off Highway 16 onto gravel and headed the final miles up to the West Tensleep Lake campground.  The rain slowed, with drizzle and haze smoking the mature pines lining the lane.  Heck, might as well show you:

Dumbo, the baby mule deer with wind sails greeted us.  I told Sherpa it was fake, a lifeless Disney animatronic.  I just hoped it would refrain from lifting its leg and urinating on my tent like that Badlands mouse. 

The odometer stopped spinning at 920 miles.  Props to Fish and his iron biscuits for handling all the driving.

We slopped into the muddy campground, the last groomed area we’d see for a week.  A dull rain trickled, ceased, then reluctant sun rays poked through.  We needed to prop tents and boil noodles before dusk.  

A moist 40 degrees, I hoped the clouds were spent and stayed quiet the rest of the week.   

Tents up, both gas stoves rolling chicken & noodles and bellies soon distended, we searched for rotting wood to light a fire against the chill.  No dice, the kindling, bark, my socks, everything was soaked.  

We noticed a young family in the spot next to us starting to pack up and head out.  We were curious why they were leaving at night, so we strolled over to visit.  

The dad said “Our little one is fussy and the camper is leaking. We are heading back home.”

I said “Hey, don’t worry about your little one crying, he's not bothering us.  And besides, we are loud, too.  Fish here snores like a warthog and I randomly scream like a spider monkey.  

His toddler wailed bloody murder.

In a pathetic attempt to make them feel better and maybe startle the kid into a smile, I erupted with my life-like monkey call, “UH AAAAHHH AAAHHH AAAAH!!!!"  They liked it, even the crier shut his trap for a few seconds and grinned. Then he resumed his miserable screaming. 

They departed and said we could take possession of their fire.  Yes to heat!  We lit a branch and transferred fire to our ring before dousing theirs. 

Tired and shivering, I glanced at the temp gauge in the tent.  36 degrees and falling.  I wondered what level of frosted wrath momma nature would hand us higher up in the mountains.  Would my 25 degree bag...zzzz...be stout...zzz...enou...zzzzz...

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