Friday, July 29, 2011

Cedar Mountain - Part 1

A little over a month ago I participated in an annual community hike to the top of Heart Mountain.
Surprisingly I ended up traveling most of the trip with a local school teacher and one other person, and we instantly bonded and enjoyed each others company during the long ascent on that hot Saturday trek.
The school teacher and I have stayed in touch and yesterday decided that we and one of her friends would together tackle Cedar Mountain.
I knew very little about the mountain but can see it from my house and have spent many evenings this past Summer watching the sun slowly set over the top of it until it eventually disappears into the night.
Even though I knew that it would be a very hot day I was looking forward to both the challenge and the adventure of a long walk.
For those who don't want to read further the hike could be summarized this way:
2800 feet of climbing.
Some rocky and dusty trail walking but mostly very steep and continuous gravel road switchbacks.
2 1/4 hours and six miles to the top
1 3/4 hours and six miles back down to the bottom.
Screaming lungs and battling heat exhaustion on the way up and screaming legs and feet (and still battling heat exhaustion) on the way down.
Almost no shade.
Very hot.
All kinds of fun..............

The picture above was taken from the top of Cedar Mountain and looking down over Buffalo Bill Reservoir.
Looking out towards the Northfork and Wapiti and eventually heading towards Yellowstone National Park.
The only thing I could find out about Cedar Mountain before heading out were reviews of Cedar Mountain horse riding stables.
Reading the reviews I knew that the trails would be very rough and rocky.
Trails here in Wyoming are a world apart from what I am used to, having spent so much time on trails in both Tennessee and Alaska.
We veered off and on trails constantly for the first 15 minutes of our trek yesterday trying to find the most expedient way up the mountain, before finally coming to the conclusion that the most direct route was to stay primarily on the gravel roads.
What was so strange about this bush wacking experience (as well as my trail running and mountain bike experiences on BLM land) is that you can always see for miles.
In Tennessee and Alaska you can be five feet from a road and not even know it is there. 
A compass is a must.
You never really lose sight of roads or trails or major landmarks here, so our free-range explorations off and on trails was without risk of getting lost.
Different.  But it certainly makes life easier...............
My two traveling companions yesterday.
Compared to these two ladies I was carrying a heavy pack.
I carried a 44 with me, bear spray, kabar, first aid kit, space blankets, light jacket and hat, headlamp with strobe function, cell phone and camera, in addition to water and food.
I am not certain if they thought it was all overkill but I felt safer bringing it all with me.
A black bear was darted recently within the Cody city limits.
A grizzly bear was hit by a car also recently as it ran across the Belfry Highway.  They believe it was making its way to Heart Mountain.
Grizzly bears are seen all the time in both the Southfork and Northfork.
And truthfully I have done too many races where everything was trucking along just fine until the split second moment when everything wasn't fine anymore.
The climbing began immediately and never let up the entire journey up the mountain..............
Heart Mountain always visible in the Cody landscape.
As usual it seemed to follow us at every turn.
Always a familiar and comforting landmark even though there was little chance to get lost on this particular trip........... 
I have driven along this stretch of highway many many times since we first arrived in town in the early Spring, but have never seen these holes in the ground until yesterday.
You can't see them from the highway and when I asked my companions what they were I was told "cauldrons".
I had no idea we had cauldrons in Cody.............
The scenery was gorgeous and we could see for miles in all directions............... 
If you click on the picture once you can see Newton Lakes (click twice to enlarge even more)..........
My legs didn't bother me on the way up, but by the time we were half way up I began to struggle with the heat.
I would have given my first born child for some shade - if anyone wanted a 6 foot blond haired, blue eyed, married 27 year old son.
Trucking on, loving the views, enjoying the effort, committed to making the top, overheated.
Thankfully we all seemed to be traveling at similar paces and were a well matched threesome, and we all had the same goals...............
There were no hard woods at all.
With no trees in the parking lot at the bottom of Cedar Mountain we gradually found more and more pine trees (Christmas trees) as we continued our climb.................
In the shade along the side of the dirt and gravel roads we had been traveling I found these small and very fragile looking white flowers.
I took a picture of one flower with a bee resting in the center and then moved my camera to another flower.
Surprisingly this camera-hog of a bee again moved to the flower I was taking a picture of.
There were many different kinds of flowers that we saw as we continued to climb - large clusters of small white daisies, and other large clusters of un-named and unknown orange, purple, and red flowers.
Unlike in Juneau where field upon field is completely covered in beautiful wildflowers these were simply in large clusters dotted throughout the hills around us.............
A brief stop to drink increasingly warm water, to take a picture, to stand for a brief moment in the shade (yes shade!) of a pine tree and continuing on.
We were all in good spirits and still climbing................
The landscape around me is already, at the end of July, beginning to turn brown again.
I was told yesterday that usually by this time in July everything is already completely brown.
Green is lasting a little longer this year because of the abundance of snow last Winter and the very wet Spring we had.
Such a short growing season...................
There are two handfuls of radio towers at the very top of Cedar Mountain and (as it turned out) spectacular views of the Northfork and the reservoir.
Before making one last short climb up to the towers I took this picture of my two fellow hikers.
Truthfully between the heat and the schedule of one of my companions we were not certain that we would actually be able to make the top of Cedar Mountain yesterday.
We all wanted to make the top but were flexible enough to commit to turning back if we ran out of time.
Thankfully we did not run out of either time or energy.
More to follow......................

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