The dawn arrived gray and chilled, and only with a herculean effort was I able to exit the warmth of my sleeping bag so as to begin my day. I hastily donned my clothing and packed up my camp. Starting my car I gave a silent prayer of thanks for this campground, although it was damp and cold, situated as it is on the north face of Green Mountain in Wyoming. Operated by the Bureau of Land Management out of the Lander Field Office, the Cottonwood Campground would offer excellent opportunities to escape the Summer’s heat. However, in the midst of Autumnal chilling, escaping the heat was not my concern. I took a look at the aspen and conifer, and then I drove off on BLM Road 2411 continuing uphill instead of returning back the way I had come the previous evening.
Reaching the summit of the mountain I found a large flat sagebrush steppe surrounded by forest. I pulled over at a location that allowed me to look south over the Great Divide Basin, where I could see far out over dozens of miles. The wind blew steadily and I retained some of the chill from my hasty departure so I continued driving on. The road slowly turned from southbound to westbound and then to northbound when it began to descend. I pulled over at a picnic and campground that seems to have been created by a cooperative agreement between Fremont County, the State of Wyoming and the Department of Interior. This place is called Green Mountain Campground or Picnic Ground, and there seems to be some confusion about its exact designation. The maps show either, and on the ground it seems to be permissible, according to the signage, to stay the night. Regardless, nobody else occupied the area when I appropriated a picnic table and made myself a quick oatmeal breakfast and concomitant cup of coffee.
Continuing down the road I was greeted by a fine view of the Granite Mountains across the valley below. I drove down to U.S. 287 and turned to the right. Driving a short distance I soon turned to the left on the Agate Flats Road, which carries a dual designation of Fremont County Road 268 and Bureau of Land Management Road 2404. This is the same road that I took earlier in the week to visit the Granite Mountains Wilderness Study Area near Lankin Dome. However, this time I stopped on the south side of the Sweetwater River near the northern boundary of the BLM property and walked around the weathered granite outcroppings. I found this area to be fairly peaceful and low key. Studded with limber pine, I enjoyed scrambling over the various pieces of rock that rise above the sagebrush steppe.
My trek took me on a circle starting across the road south of Jamerman Rock, an alcove of sorts if one considers the sagebrush steppe to be a sea of sage. Crossing to the west side of Jamerman Rock I found a nifty little meadow that sat above it all, ringed with rock, where I could see out across Agate Flats to the north and the westward extension of the granite outcroppings adjacent to the Sweetwater River. The wind whipped by, blowing inexorably from west to east, and I stood fast, looking out with my eyes but soaring with my soul. The big sky and open country seem to go on to infinity. Walking across some flats southwest from Jamerman Rock I saw a herd of pronghorn grazing away. The barbed wire that the livestock industry strings out across the landscape has hindered these animals movements especially, and they seem to be generally mistreated. Nonetheless, this country looks much the same as it must have since the end of the last ice age, excepting for the absence of much of the megafauna.
I returned to the car and then back to U.S. 287-Wyoming 789 were I turned to the east and followed the Sweetwater River along its meandering course, past additional ramparts of the Granite Mountains. I kept on following the highway as it departed from the Sweetwater River drainage, the Ferris Mountains to the east rising up into a mighty bulwark that intrigues me. I decided that I would have to once again pass on by these granitic masses and continue on through Muddy Gap and into the Great Divide Basin, another area that I should explore more of. The miles slipped away swiftly as I cruised along at seventy miles an hour, crossing Separation Flats and then rising again to exit the basin. Reaching Rawlins, Wyoming, I stopped to have lunch at a Thai restaurant and found the food delicious. I then left town on Intestate 80 eastbound, co-signed here with U.S. 30 and part of the old Lincoln Highway. I kept on going until I reached the exit for Wyoming 130-230 and turned southward again. Happiness overcame me at the leaving behind the heavy truck traffic. The very northern end of the Medicine Bow Mountains could be seen eastward to my left, rising up from the rolling flat sagebrush expanse. Elk Mountain is the name of the eminence that delineates the mountainous terminus, and as I drove along the steppe, parallel to the North Platte River, the tall peak slid on past until I reached the town of Saratoga.
The citizenry of Saratoga, Wyoming, has generously endowed the public with access to a hot springs. Called Hobo Hot Springs by some, there is a large pool with pleasantly hot waters. I slid into the waters and could walk or swim across to points where the water was nearly unbearable. The bottom was sandy and I enjoyed heating my toes and soles of my feet in the hot grains. What a fine stop to make during my long drive! Driving again, I passed the junction of the two state highways and continued south on Wyoming 230 to the town of Encampment, Wyoming. I drove a short distance out of town on Wyoming 70 and turned onto a short series of dirt road that leads down a tight gully ending in a sharp curve where the road abuts against the Encampment River. Here I found the Encampment River Campground, managed by the Bureau of Land Management’s Rawlins Field Office. I chose a site and swiftly set up camp, noting to myself that the winds so common in Wyoming seem to have abated here. The situation was salubrious and I eagerly anticipated my final exploration of the day.
Adjacent to the campground is the river for which it is named. There is a designated trailhead here and the trail crosses a large bridge. From the said bridge’s far abutment the trail turns right and follows the river upstream in a deep, narrow v-shaped canyon. In many ways this area constitutes the foothills of the Rocky Mountains in these parts. In the river bottom grow cottonwoods and some spruce. On the slopes above grow sagebrush and some other conifers on the northern faces. I hiked up a couple of miles or so and found a place to sit and watch the waters slip by. The evening came on as I rested until I made up my mind to finish the day. I hiked back along the trail I had just ascended and recrossed the bridge back to the campground.
Just as I arrived at my site the dusk settled into the country and the clouds above took on a hue of dull rose. The Moon shone as well but the alpenglow filled the little valley with pervasive color. The chill also set in as the Sun set and the fire I had started warmed and cheered me considerably. No wind and dry wood made for a strong blaze and I whiled away another couple of hours watching the flames jut up into the darkness, the flickering light casting odd shadows among the cottonwood. The stars came out, at least the ones bright enough to shine through the thin layer of wispy clouds. I heated a can of soup and supped near the warmth. After the flames died down into embers I began to contemplate sleep. I eventually wandered over to the tent and slipped into my portable den, made comfortable with a wealth of heavy blankets. It had been a good day, full of adventure, and I slid off into slumber at peace with the world.