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lizs bags Laramie Peak!! TRIP REPORT
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WHO'D A THUNK IT??!?!??
“OK, this is the next installment of my recent trip out west. And, just like "Star Wars," I will now jump out of order and relate my final hike of the trip.
WARNING, warning, Will Robinson. It's long!!! So for the visually inclined, who like creative, crazy cutlines, go here:
And for the rest of you, who believe reading is not a dying art (and who can stand lizs' long-winded tails!)....
My fingers were crossed. I hoped my weeklong volunteer vacation recording rock art at Craven Canyon in extreme southwest South Dakota would end early, say, noon??? Tired from temps around 108 all week – and the sun reflecting on us from big rock walls – I’d decided I needed to get out of the Black Hills, aka “furnace,” for the last weekend of my trip.
I’d thought of doing Laramie Peak, which sits around 45 miles south of Douglas, Wyoming, and was about 2 to 3 hours from my current location. I’d been intrigued with Laramie Peak ever since first seeing it, a small triangle on the distant Western horizon, from Scottsbluff National Monument in Nebraska. The pioneers heading west on the Oregon and Mormon Trails had used it as a landmark. It took roughly a week to reach it from Scottsbluff.
Before the trip, I’d looked on the Net and found www.summitpost.org, which has all kinds of information on all kinds of peaks, as reported by those who climb them. Laramie Peak looked to have a fairly shaded trail, which also could be used by ATVs. It would be approximately 5 miles to the top, with elevation gain of roughly 3,000 ft., from around 7,200 at its lowest, around one-half mile from the trail’s beginning, to 10,200 at the top.
To compare, Harney Peak in the Black Hills is around 7,400 feet. It would be crowded and hot and, most likely, overflowing with hikers. Perhaps the 10,000 feet of Laramie would be slightly cooler and less crowded?
It said the top had towers and a helicopter pad. Hmmm… not the typical mountaintop. ATVs, at least in the past, used the trail to provide maintenance to the towers. (From what I later saw, I seriously doubt the ATVs make it all the way to the top these days.)
So…. the South Dakota project didn’t end till after 5 p.m. I was all packed and ready to roll. I had to be back in Minnesota by Sunday night. Should I go 2-3 hours in the opposite direction??? After driving around for 15 minutes in Edgemont, the Jeep was inextricably drawn westward. I hadn’t seen or been in Western mountains since 2000. It was time.
I traveled on the lonely roads from Mule Creek Junction to take a hard-surfaced road through the Lance Creek oilfield area. And, due to negligent map reading, I missed a short drive to the Lance Creek Fossil Area, whatever it is, to check it out. However, I had to get farther west.
Ending up on Highways 18/20, I went through some pretty lonely country, including the town of Lost Springs, incorporated and with a “Population of 1.” Ya gotta love the West.
It was an extremely hazy day. When I hit I-25 just south of Douglas, I couldn’t even pick up the vague pyramid marking Laramie with my digital camera.
Once in Douglas, I stopped at the Forest Service office, which was closed since it was late. However, a great FS employee who was in his truck stopped, unlocked the place to get me a map/brochure and made sure I knew which roads to travel to get to Esterbrook (a conglomeration of cabins outside FS land on the mountain) and on to the Friend Park FS Campground near the Laramie Peak trailhead. I sincerely thanked him for helping me (because my DeLormes was far from clear on the roads in that area) and he smiled just as sincerely and said, looking at my license plates, “Well, you came a long way to do this.”
I ate out, the first time in a week, and as darkness fell, I headed south into the Laramie Range. It’s a small range, surrounded by prairie. Part of the Medicine Bow National Forest, it’s physically separated from the southern Snowy Range, just west of the city of Laramie, by around 100 miles. That range is a bit better known, sitting on I-80. I’d been there before. Its high peak is Medicine Bow Peak, topping out at over 13,000 ft, with a few other peaks over 10,000.
Winding slowly, due to unfamiliarity with the roads, I navigated directly to Friend Park. While the Net had said the camping fee was $5, it was actually $10. I was slightly concerned, since all I saw were campers with ATVs on trailers… hmmmm. I found three walk-in spots with short trails and selected one.
By 11 or so, I’d set up the new, all-mesh Alps Taurus. Just like in the Badlands, this was another perfect night to try it out under the stars. I quickly went to bed….
…and then was up at the crack of dawn. I messed around making breakfast on the car camping two-burner Coleman. Then I made sure I had tons of water for my trip. I’d been carrying a 5-gal water jug, used to fill my 100-oz. Camelback, my 1-liter Camelback, my 32-oz. Nalgene bottle, a small Nalgene collapsible bottle… oh yes, and a Pepsi for lunch on top. The forest ranger had said to take lots of water, because he’d seen numerous people forced to turn around when they’d run out of water.
I drove to the trailhead (as opposed to taking the connecting foot trail from the campground), paid a $2 trailhead fee and took off. My pack probably weighed 15 to 20 pounds with all the water, raingear, lunch and other things in it. Why, that would be real backpacking for some ultralighters! LOL…
The trail first went downhill into the Friend Creek valley. It crossed the stream, where a sign said the elevation was 7,600 ft. (Say, that is more like a 2,500 ft. elevation gain! Don’t be robbing me of vertical feet here!) And it was basically all up from there. The trail was lined with – and the forest was full of – big granite boulders. Everywhere. As the trail would climb, chunks of rock would completely fill the trail, making for tricky and even treacherous walking. Rocks were uneven. Some were loose and would shift with weight. There was no skipping blithely along on this trail, well, not that I would do that anyway, but I do like to look around and not focus quite so much on the trail.
Almost right away, breakfast didn’t sit well and… you know. I had to make a stop in the woods. After that, I had to make sure to drink tons of water and try to hike lightly, for less jarring of my innards. That slowed my pace a bit, but I won’t lie. I was hiking slow and, as it got steeper, stopping perhaps every 50 ft. to huff and puff a bit and sometimes to just sit a little. Elevation and lack of good fitness caught up to me. (Heck, most of you have seen me puff on little Midwest hills, lol.)
At the 2-mile point, you reach Friend Creek Falls, a nice place to take a break. Some people turn around here. I, of course, kept going, my goal being nothing less than the peak.
I met two guys coming down the trail with packs. I asked if they’d seen the sunrise from the top and one responded, “There is nothing like a sunrise from up there. It was spectacular.” Cool! However, once on top, I wondered where the heck they slept?
Two ATVs had taken off when I started the trail. About three miles later, with a low roar, I heard an ATV coming. It was a friendly man who’d said “hi” to me in the Friend Camp – and given me a hard time because his daughter had just taken off on the trail with a fanny pack, while it took me an hour to gather things. (Yeah? Well, let it rain and snow and see who would have been prepared.) He and his wife and little pooch were coming up in a big ATV. They stopped to talk a bit. He said some places his wife had to get off, so he could get over rocks on the trail. She glared, said, “What are you trying to say?” and then quickly smiled and laughed.
None of the ATVs would make it all the way to the top. But I would. I saw a sign proclaiming “4.25 miles” (odd mileage markers here). Information had said the trail was 4.25 miles. Well, this was far from the end. People coming down told me, “Oh, you’re almost there.” But I wasn’t… and the trail got a lot steeper. I finally spotted the towers and thought, “Man, that’s still a vertical haul to get up there.” (On my way down, at the same spot, when people asked how much further it was, I responded, “A ways!”)
I went past the parked ATVs and then ran into the family on top. Wow, was this mountaintop ever strange. No flat place. All rocks. Big rocks. Jumbled rocks. I crawled around a little bit, when the father pointed my toward the helicopter pad, which he said people had signed. (I saw an old metal box on a building saying, “Mountaineering,” which I take it had been the register at some point.) I looked at where that pad seemed to half attached to the mountain and said, “No way!” Yes, my fear of heights started acting up a bit. Although, yes, I was brave enough to set up a self-portrait along the rock edge. I very, very carefully and steadfastly walked to edge to be there when the timer went off. No running here! Yikes!
The view was great. I saw what I thought were the Wind Rivers. LOL! The man told me it was Elk Mountain and the surrounding southern Medicine Bow range, maybe 90 miles to the south. Thank goodness I got that straightened out!
It was great to be on top of a mountain again. Once I’d hiked from 10,000 to above 12,000 feet in the Collegiate Peaks, but I didn’t make it to the top. And I’ve been on top of mountains, but ones you could drive up or reach with a very short hike. I liked it, but pondered if I liked it as much as I thought I would, enough of a “like” to make one think about moving west… or not?
It took me about 4 hours and 45 minutes to reach the top. Wow, that was a stunning 1-mile-per-hour pace, which had me figuring I better truck on the way down to make up some time. So I took off fast, almost running in places, letting my knees and trekking poles take the brunt of gravity and the rough trail. I went past the girl who’d been on top. It was funny because she was looking all over to figure out what the noise was before finally spotting my trekking poles on the uneven granite rocks. Later, when I stopped to rest, she came by and we talked some. I felt a bit better to find out her pedometer had given the distance to the top at 5.25 miles. That sounded a lot closer to what I’d thought, considering all that was left after the “4.25 Miles” sign.
She moved on and soon so did I. Then the inevitable happened with my terminally weak ankles. I turned my left ankle on a switchback. It was more than the slight turn you can catch. But not a horrible turn. Yes, it hurt. I thought about it and figured, “Well, what can I do?” I left the boot on and took off hiking, a bit more gingerly the rest of the way down. I passed the girl, who’d caught up to mom and dad, and all were soaking their feet at Friend Creek Falls. Briefly, I considered it. Nope, while it would feel good on that ankle, without the boot it would probably swell up a lot. So I continued on.
I finished the trek around 5, about 2.5 hours to come down the mountain. My plans to visit Fort Laramie National Historic Site were out. (I’d forgotten that hiking a mountain is an all-day affair.) I got into the Jeep, headed for a long drive east (and would spend that Saturday night sleeping in the back at a Wal-Mart parking lot in Chadron, Nebraska). It seemed somewhat anti-climatic, yet I kept stopping as I drove east, to look back at Laramie Peak, taking pictures and smiling as I thought, “I climbed that.””
“Wow, that was long! I'll read it over the next few months. hee hee
Sounds like a blast! Hope that ankle is OK....”
But I always heard that longer is better?!?!??
“Thanks for your your TR and your pictures, Lizs. It was interesting, but you sure make the Reader's Digest look good. LOL. Hope your ankle does not give you any problems.”
“TT is free blog space. :D I haven't figured out of liz uses us for her first or final draft. ;-)
Liz, why in the world would you sleep in a walmart parking lot? How's the ankle”
“Great TR Lizs! All reports should be written as well.”
“great trip report and pictures nice views the helicopter pad looks a little scary-”
“I really enjoyed reading your TR. And I read the WHOLE thing! Thank you for sharing.”
“I have always appreciated your tail Lizs.
That was a great report. Where do we find the photos that accompany it?
“What?! Stovie didn't get up there and paint a proposal to me? Damn, I must be losing my touch. ;o)
Sounds like fun, lizs. I wish I could get out there with you!”
“My bad.... I found them. Great photos too. Too bad you didn't have more time and an inkling to come just a wee bit further west.”
“Pathie, actually that probably was an almost-first draft for my column. With a little more added (LMAO! BU TRUE! ;-P) I can make two weeks' worth of columns and run twice as many photos in the paper. I mean, everyone deserves to see that helicopter pad. >8-O
Sunny, girl, I looked all over again for painted proposals to you, but alas, found none. :-(
Hobbit, you appreciate my TAIL???!!? LMAO! I guess you can join Stovie in that, as he always trying to get secret pics of my tail. LOL! (although I think my tail is mighty skeery!!!!! >8-O)
EDIT: CRAPOLA!!! I spelled it "tails," didn't I??? LMFAO! Don't type stuff up late at night after drinking beer. :-)
last edited: 7/31/05 12:21:20 PM”
“Thanks for the report Lizs.
Git that story done soon. Your gonna have a busy week with the 4 day WD festival. Wish I could be there.
Opps... you included a comma in your summit post link. http://www.summitpost.org/”
“hey, the goat, yeah busy busy freakin' busy!! this weekend is the Happy 150th Sesquicentennial here (parade to cover in an hour), then Buffalo Bill Days next weekend, THEN WD!!! I was gone four weekends, and now I have four weekends to make up for that, to work, at least some portion of! grrrr!
AND.. I heard the people had fun at the lake!! lol... I talked to Jan yesterday.
As for my ankle, I guess it's just way too used to being sprained and way too used to being walked on right after being sprained. It's really pretty good.
However, one week ago I had a chance to catch up to the lorax and tagalong in Manitowoc, on the shores of Lakes Michigan (tagging with the Scenic Shore 150 bike ride for leukemia/lymphoma and hanging with riders spalpeen and Dr. Atomic, whom some of you have met! lol)
the lorax and tagalong hauled me to some piled-up rocks on the lake to geocache Sunday a.m. and all of a sudden I realized I was on pretty precarious footing, and not even wearing high-top boots! And only one free hand because I was holding the GPS. Then I could feel just exactly how fragile that ankle was. LOL! I managed to not turn it again, thank goodness. (And thanks to the lorax and tagalong for helping me score three geocaches in maybe an hour in Manitowoc. :-) YEAH!)”
“Oh yeah, and about sleeping in a Wal-Mart parking lot.... It was around 11 p.m. and I was in Chadron. I needed to head a good hour and a half north to get on I-90 OR go 100 miles east to Valentine and then head up to I-90 from there.
Didn't want to either travel that long stretch to Valentine or through the Rez on a Saturday night by myself. (I once had a freaky experience in I-80 in Nebraska and I wasn't even alone then!)
And I was almost out of funds, LOL! So the free Wal-Mart lot looked good, next to the RVs.I have a nice set-up to sleep in back of the Jeep, although I normally do that at Interstate rest stops. Plus, I woke up early and just rolled into the driver's seat and hit the road. wunnerful, wunnerful!!”
“Keep your doors locked, and your shootin' piece handy. I've had a few skeery experiences myself whilst driving truck through the midwest.”
“The only trouble I ever have while sleeping here and there in my vehicle has been from the police. Not that it is much trouble. Glad to see flashing lights when I hear a tap on the window. I've learned to keep my ID handy when I sleep in the truck.
...Lizs, about Jan...
The report that we've gotten thus far is that fishing sucked this year. July isn't a very good month on that lake anyways, but this year was a bit worse than the previous few years. The algee bloom this year is really bad. Heard the kids were getting rashes because they were swimming in the lake. Even had to take one kid to the doctor.”
“Wow Lizs--you do get around! I've always wondered what that peak looked like seeing it from a distance--thanks for hiking up there and saving me the trouble. The only thing that would have made the TR better would have been a lightning storm!
That's a Rocky Road up there, too!
BTW, I once got a speeding ticket in Valentine, NE, (about midnight) just trying to get through there as fast as I could!”
I've been eying the Laramies for a spell - the first 10ers enroute west.
The (SHA-dron) Wal Mart. Cool!”
“enjoyed your trip report and the pictures. you are really brave to sleep in a wally world parking lot!”
“Great trip report, Lizs.
No need to shorten your prose :)
You are a RACONTEUR!
You have the ability to put this reader along side on your hike, travels and travails :).
Keep up the GREAT work, kiddo :)”
“So does that mean, highcountry, thatI blow things up????!? LOL!
cyndee, sleeping in a Wal-Mart parking lot does not require bravery. It's all lighted and I was right by 3 big ole RVs. Now on that night, setting up a tent in the boonies at Toadstool Geologic Park (25-odd miles from nothing on the horrendously windy plains, least it was windy as hell that night)... or driving through Pine Ridge Rez by myself on a Sat. night... or driving over 100 miles on the nothingness of Highway 20 to Valentine, Neb -- now that would have been brave! Braver than I am!
I understand you are going out that way somewhere later this summer. What's planned for your trip?
Aero, LMAO, yeah a lightning storm on top of the Laramie Peak would have been a beeyatch!! From talking to the girl I met, it sounded like it's not a typical Rockies range, and does not necessarily get the brief, every-afternoon rain/thunderstorm.”
“I think because it's isolated, they don't get those big thermals building like they do along a bigger range of mountains.
Hey! We have to get you out on a Montana trip one of these days!”
“I love lizbaby's TRs.
I'll look at the pix tonight.”
“lizs-we will be flying into slc and traveling up north to the grand tetons, yellowstone, hopefully glaicer and then down through idaho. i want to hit the alpine slides in jackson and do some rafting and horseback riding. i think we will only do day hiking or if possible short overnites. the knee surgery is next friday and will be leaving sept 10 for our trip. i'll load up on the pain meds and go in for some cortisone(spelling) shots on both knees.”
“This Webshots album for Laramie Peak has like 450 hits so far this week. I wonder what's up??
Also, I never saw this until this week.. A cool note related to the album from around four months ago that shows sharing this stuff can really mean something to someone:
"I have lived in Wyoming most of my life. Many weeks of my childhood summers were spent at the base of Laramie Peak. I took hiking it for granted. I'm bad at photography, so really have few good photos. Since I was about 12, my family knows that my ashes are to be allowed to blow in the wind from the summit. When I last went up in 1992, I conceded to my family that, unless they charter a helicopter, I would be happy if someone could at least keep my urn full until stop at Friend's Falls! Your album is wonderful! Many shots that captured perfectly the beloved memories in my heart! I have just one shot taken in 1973 at Friends Falls with a herd of church camp friends. Shot is terrible, there was no sign up and I don't remember any of those kids! So, if you are the hicking chick at the falls, hope you don't mind that you're now part of my screensaver. My family jokes about hiring somebody to deliver me to my dumping grounds. If my family hires an ATV ash dumper to race up my sacred and peaceful path OR if my family gives up while in the outhouse at the base...well...I guess I won't be able to roll over in my grave, but I simply WILL NOT rest in peace! Your falls picture shows them the destination's clear marking and beauty. You're just like a Price Is Right Girl or Vanna White! Your bright and perky smile makes the walk seem no more than a trip around the block. LOL! THANK YOU FOR GIVING ME THESE IMAGES TO ENJOY AND RELIVE THE PEACE & JOY OF THIS MOUNTAIN! Wyo. Woman P.S. Not Wyomingans...Wyomingites LOL!"”
“Cool stuff Lizs. You're right though its werid how one of your albums can pick up alot of hits on some weeks. I just wish they could show you what pictures were viewed and downloaded.”
“some how i thought there would be snow. great pictures lizs!”
“Nice report, lovely pics!”
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