Cragmama "Not all who wander are lost…" JRR Tolkien

Wyoming Adventure Part THREE – Last Days in Ten Sleep

On our last trip to Ten Sleep (in 2012), we only had 3 consecutive days in on which to climb (and we were so beat on Day 3 that we only made it til lunchtime.)  So this time around, we allowed more time.  After two incredible days at Sector Shinto and Superratic (summed up here in case ya missed it), a rest day was most definitely in order.

Happiness in Slavery 12b

This route is called Happiness in Slavery 12b…

We started with a drive high into the Big Horn mountains to West Ten Sleep Lake, where we enjoyed gorgeous views as well as a short morning hike down to the Ten Sleep Creek Falls.  We probably could have dawdled the day away here, but even layered in the warmest clothes we’d brought, we still weren’t prepared for the 38 degree temps we found at such a high elevation.  So back down we went,where the rest of the day could be summed up by the words “sleeping” and “eating.”

Happiness in dirt.  :)

This picture is captioned, “Happiness in Dirt.”

On Wednesday morning we found ourselves back at Sector Shinto, eventually, that is.  Our creek crossing shenanigans continued, as the creek was significantly higher after the previous day’s rain.  All of the rocks to hop across were either underwater or wet, and the fallen log now featured slick, icy spots.  While Big C is normally pretty fearless, the icy log was where he drew the line (which was fine by me, since I was not particularly jazzed on toting Baby Zu across the log in the backpack either.)  We decided that the guys would cross the creek and go ahead and get up there, while I drove back down canyon and hiked up the long way with the kiddos.  Thanks to LOTS of singing and some motivational huckleberry licorice sticks I’d bought in town, we made it to Sector Shinto not only with minimal whining, but a full FIFTEEN minutes faster than we’d done it the first day (it helped that our lungs no longer felt like they were exploding at the slightest incline…)

Sector Shinto

Wyoming Flower Child 5.11d – Though it was more difficult than the 10a to it’s right, this fun little number was a much more pleasant warm-up.  The holds weren’t nearly as sharp, and the business wasn’t until just before the anchors.
Dope Shinto 12a – CragDaddy and Third Man Caleb still had loose ends to tie up with the Left and Center Shintos, I made it my mission to tick off the other starred routes on the wall, starting with the dopeness.  Though easier than the other 12’s on the wall, this one is just as fun.  A sequency little boulder problem down low guards fun 5.11 climbing to the top.  Hanging draws I botched the sequence and pitched off trying to reverse the moves, but I sent 2nd go.
Wutang’s Wild Shinto Ride 12a – This was the last 12 on the wall left for me, and it was definitely a wild ride!  A tad sharp, but great (relentless!) movement with a glory pocket right that showed up at just the right time!  I needed a send to keep pace with my “35th (5.12) on my 35th (birthday)” goal, and while it didn’t go down without a fight, I onsighted it!  (Shout out to Crag-Daddy for hanging a few of the draws for me as he was lowering down off Dope…it definitely made things easier!)

Dope Shinto 12a

Dope Shinto 12a

Left El Shinto 12b

Left El Shinto 12b

Slavery Wall

Our last day in Ten Sleep happened to fall on my 35th birthday, and I couldn’t have picked a better place to celebrate than the Slavery Wall!  I started the day with 33 lifetime 5.12’s, so I only needed 2 more to reach my birthday goal of 35.

Steve sending Asleep at the Wheel 12a

Steve sending Asleep at the Wheel 12a

Asleep at the Wheel 12a – We’d been averaging 4 pitches a day (kiddos around + climbing as a party of 3 = quality rather quantity!)  So instead of “wasting” one on a warm-up, I decided to get down to business right away.  I figured this would allow me 2 burns per 12, rather than forcing me into a situation where I felt pressure to onsight (I’d also already done the stand out warm-up for the area, Beer Bong 10b, back in 2012.)    Asleep at the Wheel was great – and the first few bolts weren’t that difficult so it ended up being a decent warm-up anyway!  There were 2 definite crux sections, but great stances to suss things out before each.  I almost punted off the top, but kept myself together enough to tick it first go!  With 1 down, 1 to go, I was feeling pretty optimistic about my chances for number 35!

These kiddos are awesome.

These kiddos are awesome.

 

This bull snake was pretty cool too!

This bull snake was pretty cool too!

Strut Your Funky Stuff 12a – This one was aptly named, for both climbing style as well as being number 35!  The footwork was definitely funky, and the crux for me was finding the footholds.  The feet were actually pretty good, but since most of them consisted of small pockets that doubled as handholds, they were really difficult to spot once you moved up above them.  I wasn’t taking any chances on finishing my goal, so I enlisted CragDaddy, (who had just gotten off the route), to give me a complete spraydown of the holds in real time as I went up.  Definitely a gift-wrapped flash, but I’ll take it!

With the pressure to send off my shoulders, I decided it was prime time to hop on the area classic – Happiness in Slavery 12b.  I knew it was probably too little too late in the day (and trip!) to send something so bouldery and pumpy (especially hanging draws!), but I didn’t want to leave Slavery Wall without experiencing it.  It was hard, for sure, similar to Great White Behemoth but with slightly bigger holds on slightly steeper terrain.  I mostly went bolt to bolt, and even so I was running on fumes by the time I clipped the anchors!  I would have loved to have seen how it would have felt on a 2nd go, but I guess it’s good to leave something to come back for next time!

Getting funky on number 35!

Getting funky on number 35!

What a great present!  After one 12 in Wild Iris (recapped here), and eight in Ten Sleep, I bagged my 35th lifetime 12 on my 35th birthday, woo-hoo!  Happy birthday to me!  And while the end of this day marked the end of our time in Ten Sleep once again, we all walked away pleased with what we accomplished.  Besides, even though Ten Sleep was done, we still had to make our way back to the SLC airport…and we still weren’t quite done with our tick list for the trip!  Stay tuned for the FINAL edition of our Wyoming Adventure (the one that actually takes place in Utah.) :)

Initial boulder problem on Happiness in Slavery 12b

Initial boulder problem on Happiness in Slavery 12b

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Wyoming Adventure Part Deux: First Days at Ten Sleep

If you’re new around here, I’m recapping our family’s recent exploits in Wyoming, a few days at a time.  If you missed Part 1 (the Lander edition), click here to catch up!  For the deets on our first few days in Ten Sleep, read on!

After an easy Saturday drive from Lander to Ten Sleep, we awoke on Sunday morning psyched and ready to crank out the long hike to the Sector Shinto wall in the French Cattle Ranch area.  After a quick warm-up on an uncomfortably sharp 10a (Great Green Gobs…), we turned our sights to the main objective for the day, and possibly even the whole trip, Center El Shinto 12b/c.

Shaking out before the business on Center El Shinto 12b/c

Shaking out before the business on Center El Shinto 12b/c

"CLIP IT!"

“CLIP IT!”

This 5 star classic is one of the most popular 12’s in the canyon, and for good reason.  This route is technical face climbing at its finest – very sustained movement on stellar rock, and recently upgraded to a b/c “slashie” in the latest guide.  The crux is about 2/3 up, and includes a really difficult clip from a core intensive stance.  Having dogged my way up it on our last visit 3 years ago, I was hoping it would go down pretty quickly, considering I’m a lot stronger now than I was then…but after taking a crux beating while hanging draws, my confidence was more than a bit shaken.  But knowing that the 2nd go is ALWAYS easier (draws are in, moves are familiar), I got on it again, hoping to at least make it through the hard clip this time before popping off.

Creek-crossing shenanigans...

Creek-crossing shenanigans…

I made it up to the crux a lot more efficiently than before, and assumed the tenuous clipping position.  I did NOT feel secure, and for a half-second contemplated grabbing the draw (how I’d made the clip before.) But my belayer shouted, “CLIP IT!”, so I did.  The next few moves were thin, but I got through them to a decent stance.  The upper bit wasn’t nearly as hard the 2nd time around, and before I knew it, I found myself clipping the chains.  Woo-hoo!

We still had time left in our day, so I decided I may as well take a run up Left El Shinto 12b, another must do on the wall. and another one who’s grade was changed in the latest guidebook (this time downgraded from 12c.)  The initial boulder problem off the ground was really thin and balancy, and actually felt harder than the crux on Center, but the rest of the climbing was less sustained and with better rests.  It was a fight to stay on in places, but I made it through to nab my hardest onsight yet (further confirmation that it wasn’t really 12c ;)).

That evening as we sat around reflecting on our day, I realized that I had just had what was probably my strongest climbing day ever – first 12b onsight, and first time bagging two 5.12’s in a day.  Crag-Daddy noted that my lifetime 5.12 count was up to 29…we had 3 more climbing days in Ten Sleep, and if I could keep up my two-a-day pace, I’d be sending my 35th 5.12 on my 35th birthday!  As cool as that sounded, I thought it was probably a little ambitious for a road trip goal, but I kept it in the back of my mind just in case…

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CragDaddy on his way to onsighting Tricks for You 12a.

The next day we hiked in to the Superratic Pillar, this time via the upper parking lot.  Although shorter in distance, it ended up taking the same amount of time to get there due to some creek crossing shenanigans.  We started on Tricks are for Hookers 11b, a fun climb that ended up being a great warm-up for our next route that was just to the right – Tricks for You 12a.  Tricks for You was an engaging and enjoyable journey up the center of the wall.  Nothing too powerful, but very methodical movement with calculated footwork.  We both sent 1st go (and props to the Crag-Daddy for his first 12a onsight!)

Caleb getting draws up on Great White Behemoth 12b

Caleb getting started on Great White Behemoth 12b

Meanwhile, our “third man” Caleb had been around the corner hanging draws on another 5-star classic – The Great White Behemoth 12b (or “12b+” as it reads in the new guide, whatever that means!)  And while Behemoth was in many ways just as technical as Tricks for You, it was also much more powerful and bouldery – big moves off small pockets and tiny footholds.  I went bolt to bolt to start with, and while I didn’t struggle too much with any individual move, the thought of putting the whole thing together seemed beastly intimidating, as there was a lot of sequencing that needed to be executed just right.  But since I’d put in the work, I knew I owed myself a 2nd go.

Guy beta

Guy beta

Girl beta...I promise my elbow is not out of joint, its just a weird photo angle!

Girl beta…I promise my elbow is not out of joint, its just a weird photo angle!

Round 2 on Behemoth started out surprisingly smooth, and soon I was at the last hard sequence.  I completely forgot my beta, but thanks to accidentally finding a hidden foothold, I muddled through it, and latched the hold our crew had dubbed the “5.10 jug.”  (Without considering the pump factor, from this point the last 20 feet of climbing was probably no harder than 5.10.)

“I’m gonna send it!” I thought to myself as I shook out, took some deep breaths and waited for some feeling to come back into my forearms again…but I quickly realized that I was pumped beyond the point of repair.  The pump clock was ticking and I needed to get moving.  You know those old school arcade racing games where the clock starts ticking down, down, down, and then you hit a checkpoint that gives you +5 seconds to get to the next checkpoint, and so on?  The last 20 feet of Behemoth felt exactly like that, as my sending mantra quickly morphed into “Oh sh#$ I’m gonna blow it!”

Trying hard not to punt off Great White Behemoth 12b

Trying hard not to punt off Great White Behemoth 12b

I was redlining the entire way, and just when I felt like my hands were going to involuntarily open up, I’d hit a hold that was just good enough to buy me a few more moves to the next decent hold, and so on…until I finally came screaming (literally) into the anchors.  I was in grave danger of punting off with a handful of rope when I remembered there was a good stemming stance to clip from…PHEW!  And thus went the Great White Behemoth…which, at 2nd go, was probably not the route I’ve worked the hardest for overall, but it’s a definite contender for the hardest fight in a single go.  I was incredibly excited that it went down, and also super psyched to still be on pace for my “35th on my 35th goal!

The requisite "Christmas card photo with stunning background" shot.

The requisite “Christmas card photo with stunning background” shot.

 

While that may have ended our climbing adventures for the day, the hike out was anything but uneventful. Remember the creek crossing shenanigans I mentioned on the way in?  We had to find a different way across this time, because as we came down the hill and around the corner, we came face to face with a large bull moose about 30 feet down the trail!  It was definitely a little unnerving, as thick brush on one side, a creek on the other, and a big hill to our backs didn’t leave a lot of room to get out of his way should he get feisty!  Thankfully he seemed more curious than concerned about us, and after posing rather stoically for the camera, went back to his grazing while we bushwhacked around trying to find another way to get across the creek.  In the process, we discovered that our handsome friend had a lady friend as well, which added even more drama to a sketchy log crossing over shallow (but frigid and rushing) water!

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At the end of the trip, we all sat around and talked about which days were our favorites of the whole trip.  For me, it was a close call between the two days I just described – amazing climbing that shattered PR’s for both Crag-Daddy and I, and a spectacular nature encounter!  Pretty hard to beat, although there were others in our crew who voted for what was yet to come, so don’t forget to come back next week to check out the recaps from the rest of our time at Ten Sleep, as well as our brief exploits in Logan Canyon!

 

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Wyoming Adventure Part 1: Around Lander

Caleb checking out the moves on Poker Face Alice.

Caleb checking out the moves on Poker Face Alice.

If you’ve been regularly following this blog, you may have noticed that it’s been pretty quiet of late.  That’s because our family spent 10 days frolicking around in the wilds of Wyoming.  And then recovering from said frolicking.  And now finally getting around to writing about said frolicking.  Since summing up the whole trip in one blog post would probably make my head explode, I’ve decided to break it down by area, starting with our first stop in Lander.

Day 1:  Wild Iris and Popo Agie Falls 

With so much climbing looming before us, we’d intended this day to be somewhat of a “warm-up”…but it ended up being one of the longest, most action-packed days of the entire trip!  We climbed at the OK Corral area, which had a nice short approach, and a great selection of routes from 5.easy to 5.hard to choose from.  Since our time here was short, we were pretty picky about sticking to the heavily-starred routes in the guidebook.

Red Ryder 10a – Good intro to Wild Iris limestone.  Cool holds and cool moves.
Winchester Pump 11b – We were all feeling the pump by the top of this one, but all sent 1st go.
Rooster Cogburn 12a – This one looked pretty doable, so I intentionally didn’t look when everyone else was climbing, in order to preserve my onsight chance.  (Non-climber note: An “onsight” means to send a route with no falls or rests on the rope on your first try, without any prior knowledge about the route.)  There were a couple of cruxes, but with good rests in between, linking the moves wasn’t all that hard.  Onsighting a 5.12 had been one of my goals for the trip, so it felt really good to get that out of the way on Day 1!

Steve on Rooster Cogburn 12a

Steve on Rooster Cogburn 12a

Tribal Wars 5.11b – After proclaiming all the previous routes as soft for the grade (I think our actual words were, “If that 12 were at the New, it would only get 11c!”), we had to eat our words on this one!  Probably the best route we did at the Iris, Tribal Wars featured a tricky technical crux on the face before some steep, pumpy climbing to the chains.  The technical crux gave me no trouble, but the overhang had me breathing pretty hard – the moves were longer than I was expecting, on holds that weren’t quite as good as I’d wanted (although some locals told me I missed a few jugs hidden in the sea of pockets.)  By the time I got to the chains I was pretty desperate, but managed to hold out for the onsight.

Me shaking out before the overhang on Tribal Wars 11b

Me shaking out before the overhang on Tribal Wars 11b

Not wanting to blow our forearms out on the first day, we decided to call it quits (especially since by now the whole crag was in full sun and it was pretty hot.)  However when we got back into town, it was a little too early for dinner.  Being amped for exploring our new environs, we opted to head to Sinks Canyon to hike to the infamous Popo Agie Falls water slide.

In hindsight, this endeavor was far too involved to be attempting with two hungry kiddos that were still on Eastern time…but all’s well that ends well, and it was definitely worth the late bedtimes!  Even if you aren’t interested in taking the plunge, the hike is still a must-do in the area.  The distance to the best viewpoint of the falls is 1.5 miles (with gorgeous scenery the whole way), with another half mile to the slide.  The slide itself is about 15 feet long to a drop of about 10 feet into a deep pool that has redefined my understanding of the word “cold.”  A far cry from the bathwater temps we southerners are accustomed to in August.

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Crag-Daddy and I had gone back and forth about whether or not to bring Big C’s PFD (for the sole purpose of this water slide)  It was bulky to pack, and we even sure he’d want to do the slide.  He can swim, but not good enough to trust him in a situation like that with so many unknowns.  But boy am I glad we brought it, because he didn’t hesitate one bit!  When he bobbed back up his eyes looked pretty terrified, but by the time we got to shore, he was grinning from ear to ear, and that’s all we heard about for the next several days!

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Day 2 – Wild Iris Main Wall

We did the trek to the Main Wall on our second day, which although beautiful, we all felt was grossly underestimated in the guidebook (30 minutes?!?…although it could have been the elevation talking.)  Out of the whole trip, this is the one day that could have had better planning.  We did a lot of moving around, with not a lot of climbing to show for it.  We warmed up on Take Your Hat Off (5.10b), which was an excellent, engaging route.  Then we hopped on Arizona Cowgirl (5.11c), which felt a lot easier than either of the 11’s we’d done the previous day.  Our next stop was Hot Tamale Baby (5.12a),  an interesting route with a bouldery crux that Crag-Daddy put up just before a random hailstorm (?!?) rolled through.  With the weather being a little sketch, and not knowing if the upper sections of the route would be wet, Caleb and I both decided to toprope this route.  Afterwards, we kept moving up the cliff, but didn’t see anything we liked, and ended up hiking back to the parking lot.  In hindsight, we all wished we would have stayed and tried to send Hot Tamale.  Or stopped further down the trail earlier that morning to try Wind and Rattlesnakes (5.12a).  There were just SO many routes, and backtracking with the kiddos would have been a pain, especially since we were committed to end at a reasonable hour this time.

On the hike out, with Main Wall in the background.

On the hike out, with Main Wall in the background.

Our main goal for Wild Iris was to get acclimated to the elevation as well as reacquainted with limestone on our way to Ten Sleep.  I had hoped to send a 12 there, and having it go down as an onsight was icing on the cake.  The water slide was amazing, a memory that I hope my son will be old enough to remember, but if he doesn’t, we at least have tons of photo evidence!  On Day 3, we did the tourist-y thing at the Sinks Canyon Visitor Center, stocked up on food, and headed east to our main objective of the trip, in the sleepy little town of Ten Sleep (so stay tuned…)

Steve fighting through the crux on Hot Tamale Baby 12a

Steve exiting the crux on Hot Tamale Baby 12a…dont let the skies fool you, the hailstorm came 15 minutes after this picture was taken!

Huddled up to wait out the storm!

Huddled up to wait out the storm!

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Tenaya Demos: Triangle Rock Club and Stone Summit

Tenaya Tarifa in action out in the Linville Gorge

Tenaya Tarifa in action out in the Linville Gorge

One of my responsibilities as an athlete for Trango/Tenaya is providing shoe demos for various climbing gyms.  Most recently, I spent a Sunday in Morrisville, NC at Triangle Rock Club, as well as an evening at Stone Summit in Atlanta, GA.

For me personally, the TRC demo marked the longest I’ve been separated from Baby Zu, who’s still nursing several times a day.  She did just fine at home with her brother and Super-Dad!  Both kiddos came with me to Atlanta, along with my mother-in-law.  While I was at the gym, they got the chance to spend time with an aunt, uncle, and two cousins that live in the area.

For Trango, a demo serves several purposes.  It promotes brand awareness – I often talk to people who have never heard of Tenaya shoes and/or think they are a new company.  It also makes it possible for a Colorado-based company to make personal connections with climbers from all over.  But most importantly, a demo allows climbers to learn about, then try out for themselves, what are, in my opinion, the best rock shoes on the planet!

You don’t have to have a lot of climbing experience under your belt to realize that finding the right climbing shoe is easier said than done.  First of all, there’s the size issue.  How should they fit?  Should I size down to allow for stretch?  Is it okay that my toes are scrunched up?  Often an uncomfortable fit is due to a sizing error (generally too small!)  But sometimes certain shoes just don’t fit well on certain feet, even if the “size” is correct.

Then there are the more specialized issues.  Which shoe is best for bouldering/slab/cracks/multi-pitch?  Smearing?  Edging?  Which shoe is the most versatile?  These are all pieces to consider when solving the puzzle of which climbing shoe(s) are best for you.

For anyone who has ever pondered these 1st world problems, YOU SHOULD GO TO A DEMO!!!  A shoe demo gives you the opportunity to not only TRY ON multiple styles of shoes, but also TRY OUT the shoes on the wall (or sometimes even on real rock, depending on the venue!)

Stone Summit Demo last week

Stone Summit Demo last week

Here’s how it works.  Check out the demo schedule below, and choose an event close to you.  Go to it.  Strike up a conversation with the demo guys/gals (we’re all pretty cool, if I do say so myself…)  We’ll get you set up with the right size/style of shoe.  CLIMB!  When you’re done, return the shoes.  Go home and wait for a coupon code in your inbox that can be applied toward your favorite shoe at the demo!  Easy enough, right?

Here’s the schedule…

Craggin’ Classic Salt Lake City, UT (Aug 28-30)
Craggin’ Classic Smith Rock, OR (Sep 4-6)
Craggin’ Classic New River Gorge, WV (Sep 18-20)
Rocktoberfest Red River Gorge, KY (Oct 9-11)

Hopefully you can find an event near you!

 

 

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A Belated New River Gorge Recap

Standing tall on Stretch Armstrong (5.12a)

Standing tall on Stretch Armstrong (5.12a)

With a shoe demo in Atlanta last week (more on how cool demos are next week!), I was too busy to do the write-up for our New River Gorge trip the previous weekend, but I figured better a week late than never!

The New was forecasted to be hot…and humid…but not QUITE as hot and not QUITE as humid as the southern crags in our neck of the woods, so we made the trip.  Summer conditions at the New (or pretty much anywhere in the Southeast) are never all that great, but our main goal was to get plenty of mileage on tall, technical routes to help get us ready for our upcoming Wyoming trip.

Our first day was spent at Kaymoor.  It sure was great to be able to spend the day there and not have to think about Lost Souls (5.12a)!  Instead we kept right on walking to the 7-11 Wall, where all 4 of my routes for the day were new to me!

First Steps (5.10c) – Definitely a full-value 5.10!  Fun climbing that goes on and on and on.
Tony the Tiger (5.11c) – My foot popped in the crux, so I lowered off and fired it second go.  I stalled out for a loooong time trying to make the reaches to the good blocks over the roof, but thankfully had enough left in the tank to clip the chains.
Bimbo Shrine (5.11b) – Flash, woohoo!  Good climbing, with some definite spice in some sections.
Tit Speed (5.11c) – Maybe it was because it was the end of the day…but the opening moves on this felt crazy hard for 11c!!!  Holy reaches, Batman!  It’s a looooong lockoff to the holds under the roof.  Plus, above the roof there’s a scar where it looks like the clipping hold at the 3rd(?) bolt has broken…what’s left is not much bigger than a credit card.  I worked out the moves pretty quickly, but hung/fell a couple times.  Would love to get back on it again soon, preferably before I forget how to do the long move down low!

Baby Zu focused on a boulder problem at the base...

Baby Zu focused on a boulder problem at the base…

Day 2 started out at Cotton Top…but ended at Bridge Buttress due to the AMAZING amount of tangible moisture in the air (I guess due to all the tree cover?)  Our warm-up (Cottonmouth, 5.10a), felt ridiculously insecure and manky, and Psychowrangler (5.12a) was a joke.  So we bailed and hit the Bridge, which was still in the shade somewhat and felt a lot drier.

We started out on Let the Wind Blow (5.12a).  No one sent, and no one felt like trying it again, so we moved over to Stretch Armstrong (5.12a).  Now THIS climb was AWESOME!  We all wished we’d hopped on it earlier in the day before the sun started beating on it and our fingers were cooked.  Really unique movement that was (you guessed it) pretty reachy.  After bailing at the crux and dropping a toprope, I figured out something that I THINK will go down in more friction-y conditions.  It involves a super high smear and rocking up, up, up until I can catch a little crimper before taking a good whip.

As of today there are only 7 more days of heat and humidity left to endure before we’ll be basking in the higher elevations of Wyoming!  The blog will be relatively quiet, but be ready for a barrage of social media pics, because the scenery is absolutely spectacular!

Catching toads...with quickdraws (he didn't want it to pee on him!)

Catching toads…with quickdraws (he didn’t want it to pee on him!)

 

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