Well, we’re here, and what a wild ride it turned out to be, at least through the first half of Wyoming. We were hoping that the storm would have passed before we left Thursday morning and it had, but just barely. The snow had stopped and the sun was out, but the wind was busy rearranging the snowfall when we got into Wyoming. I think at home we must have gotten about 18-inches of total snowfall on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, but because it was wet and heavy it settled out to about 11-inches at its maximum and was down to about 8-inches when we left.
We cut the corner from Fort Collins, Colo., to Laramie, Wyo., taking Highway 287 rather than go north to Cheyenne and then west to Laramie and beyond on Interstate 80. If the weather is good 287 is a little shorter. The key part of that is “if the weather is good,” and when it isn’t the stretch from Fort Collins to Laramie can be challenging, locals who have driven that road know what I’m talking about.
Highway 287 follows what was once the old stage route west, known as The Overland Trail, and in places some of the early road beds are still evident. We were OK until we got to the high ground beyond Virginia Dale. There the snow was blowing, drifting in places and we had to bust through some pretty good drifts. At one point we had to stop to make some adjustments to the tarp that was covering the load of empty packages we were hauling back to California and let me tell you, that cold Wyoming wind gives you a whole new appreciation for the concept of wind chill.
There was a lot of truck traffic coming south on 287 and when we got to Laramie we could see why. Long lines of semis were parked along the Interstate because apparently the road was closed between Laramie and Cheyenne. Some of the Denver bound truckers had decided to see if they could sneak around it.
The roads continued to be a challenge all the way to Rawlins; sunshine and dry roads alternating with places where the wind was piling drifts across the road. At Rawlins there were another 200 or 300 eastbound trucks parked on the side of the road and we learned later that eastbound I-80 had been closed, then later that both 287 and I-80 in both directions had been closed behind us.
We sneaked through though as we had hoped, and once we rounded the bend at Elk Mountain the snowpack lessened and the roads were clear. The wind continued and the new hazard became watching for the blocks of snow and ice, some quite large, that had accumulated on the trucks and were dropping off as the temperature rose. We had some ice accumulation of our own on the front end of the trailer and both sides of the truck and we didn’t drop the last of it until we had cleared Salt Lake.
Miles has characterized the trip as “desperately seeking summer” and that pretty accurately sums it up. The weather warmed as we went west and the first blooming fruit trees appeared in Winnemucca, half way across Nevada. The snowpack is really down on Donner Pass and it looks like California has had a dry winter, like we have had in Colorado until the last three weeks. It did feel like we were coming into summer though, greener and warmer the further we descended and when we hit Sacramento it was 84 degrees.
Our route takes us across the upper end of the Bay Area where we pick up Highway 101 north and at the junction we were able to make a brief stop and spend a few minutes with my nephew Sean Tully. Sean is Barbara’s twin sister Mary’s oldest son and he has been in California for several years now, working as a golf course superintendant. He grew up on the farm in Wisconsin, but came to Colorado to finish college, graduating from the Turf Management School at CSU, a “Turfy” he called himself. I hadn’t seen Sean for several years and we’d tried to make contact on earlier trips to get bees. This time we made it.
Half the trip is behind us now, we arrived at Gary and Dagma’s late Friday afternoon. Their place is near the tiny coast town of Little River, a few miles south of Mendocino. They are 3 or 4 miles back from and several hundred feet above the ocean. Here the coastline is made up of a series of benches or terraces, each of which had once been the ocean floor. Successive uplifts that raised the land, with a total of five benches each about 100,000 years older than the next. The highest, where Gary and Dagma are, is about 650 feet above sea level and more than 500,000-years-old. Their place sits in a densely wooded area right at a transition between the redwoods and what is called the “Pigmy Forest,” stunted by the nutrient poor, highly acidic ancient sea floor soil. They’ve carved out a beautiful secluded oasis in the forest and both Miles and I feel privileged to spend a little time here.
As I write I can step out on to the deck into absolute silence and the darkness of early dawn, not a cloud in the sky. The silence is stunning, there are so few places to find it anymore. In the daytime it is alive with life, birds of many kinds, a wide range of bumblebees and little solitary bees, even an occasional honeybee, working the huckleberries and a lot of other flowering plants unfamiliar to me. Gary has numerous bird feeders and hummingbird feeders tucked away here and there so much of the surrounding bird life makes this an oasis for themselves as well. Add to the natural abundance all the flowers, bushes and trees Gary and Dagma have added and you have a spot that is exploding with beauty and life.
We have another two days here, then it’s off to the Central Valley to shake bees at Koehnen’s. If all goes well we will be headed back for Colorado Wednesday afternoon with a trailer load of 300 packages. And, In the time warp of column writing, by the time you read this the second half will be history and we’ll be home. ❖
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