Monday, May 18, 2009

Green River, Blue Forest

I used to wish the standard workweek was three days and weekends lasted four; now I know I'd never survive it if it were a weekly occurrence.

Friday the 8th, Mom and I drove the Blueberry (Evanston Motor Co. loaned me an electric blue P.T. Cruiser with 9,000 miles on it to take out of town) to Ogden to shop. Thursday was her birthday, so we hit two craft stores (I needed art supplies), a Target, and two discount stores (I heart Ross and T.J. Maxx) in about four hours before we busted home to meet M and K for dinner at Don Pedro's.

Saturday was the 7:00 a.m. Jaycees' highway cleanup out by Pilot, which went fairly quickly due to a good turnout, but just made me despise humanity even more than I already do. We developed a dangerous game called "Tea or Pee;" truckers (and, to be fair, probably other motorists) have developed the sick and wrong habit of urinating in plastic bottles or jugs and tossing them out the window of the moving vehicle so they don't have to bother stopping at a truck stop unless they need fuel. Why not drop them in a dumpster the next time you do stop, people? Or better yet, STOP AND USE A RESTROOM. We also picked up a lot of empty cigarette packs (we can't get all the butts; there's no point trying), broken CDs, cans and beer bottles, napkins, chip bags, foil, chunks of cardboard, oil filters, broken bungee cords, clothing and rags, a pillow, hubcaps, tools, fast food debris, vehicle trim, awning arms from campers and R.V.s, and the occasional $5 bill or sex toy. We leave the neon orange garbage bags for WYDOT to pick up and flag items that might be dangerous, like the Arizona tea jugs full of cloudy urine, and hypodermic needles.

After the cleanup we all bathed (because EW) and got ready to camp. M and K bought their 35-foot camper late in the season last year and weren't able to use it before winter set in, so this was the inaugural voyage of the as-yet-unnamed home-on-wheels. It required a lot of preparation -- flushing tanks and hoses, locking and leveling, airing and securing, loading generators and propane tanks -- but eventually we got on the road after Kelly built the dogs an ingenious in-bed kennel for his big Chevy pickup out of PVC pipe, zip ties, and chicken wire. It looks a bit Beverly Hillbillies but works like a charm to contain the four dogs, two giant Labs and two good-sized mutts, none of whom listen very well when there's the great outdoors to explore. We got to our campsite at Slate Creek, just yards from the Green River, a few miles south of the Fontonelle dam, a bit late and found Mom waiting with hot coals ready in her little charcoal grill.

I have to say, I'm ambiguous about camping. I like running hot water and a soft bed, and I hate being damp, and it seems like you're always damp in a tent, no matter the weather or season. But the idea of camping is so appealing -- toasting marshmallows while the owls hoot, tossing sticks in the river for the dogs to dive after while you amble long and slow up the river bank, breathing fresh, clean air -- that I almost always go when invited, even if I remember how dirty I wound up the last time. When we got home I had enough unidentified debris under my fingernails to pot a plant in, and that was even with running water and a good bar of soap. But I was so tired I slept like a rock on the pull-out couch, and in the morning Morgan made muffins, eggs and sausage in kitchen far roomier and nicer than the one in my apartment.

Sunday was delightful. We drove up on a high desert plateau and turned the dogs loose to crawl around in the Blue Forest. The Blue Forest is the kind of thing that makes Wyoming so bizarre: a forest without trees. Or, a forest with trees, but you have to dig three feet down in the loose orange shale to get to them (mind the scorpions and fire ants), and when you find them, you find they're stone, beautifully preserved, sticks and bark and in many cases solid trunks that are five and eight feet long. Drillers in the 70's discovered this rare phenomenon, a place where ancient sediment perfectly fossilized trees that must have been on the bank of what once was a vast ocean; Wyoming was the sea floor. Not too far east of the Blue Forest is something called the Green River Formation, and a family in Kemmerer named Ulrich has a fantastic gallery out there showcasing fascinating, rare whole fossils of many kinds of prehistoric fish and plant life.

The sagebrush plain called Eden Valley is pitted with holes, some short and shallow, some the size of a grave, where people have unearthed petrified wood and hauled it away. You can't use power equipment; the law requires only hand tools, and you have to be able to haul what you find out in your vehicle, no dump trucks, and the quantity is limited. We found lots of interesting things to bring home, but my favorite are the small, flat, pink chips of wood that look like they might be from a dry cottonwood that died a decade ago; on closer inspection, they're solid rock, millions of years old. Some larger specimens have layers of blue agate or chalcedony, hence the name "Blue Forest," but there's no amber or other precious stones here, unless you count the wood, just orange calcite in crystals and blobs that I think are as pretty as amber.

After a weekend by the river in the desert we zipped to Mom's and swapped the camper for a pair of Henry's snowmobiles that have come to live with Morgan and Kelly, including my beloved little Polaris 600. The workweek flew by (with some angst and a lot of trauma due to my schedule change) and I wound up with a nasty cold and had a three-day weekend this weekend which consisted mostly of sleeping.

That's a lot of information to take in, I know. Stand by for photos.


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