DNA-X 2014 #6 The Back of the Beyond…
The Discover North America Expedition crew heads north and, yes, we are still in “mystery mode”. Where to next? We want to leave it all behind and find an off grid, off -road hideaway. Our trusty dart locates such a place in remote northern Colorado. It’s a long drive and we will have to stop in a not so remote favorite spot. We land in Boulder at the St Julian Hotel where the professional staff greets us like old friends. We have a visit with our son and enjoy some good eats at the hotel’s great restaurant, Jill’s. We stock up on supplies as our destination is truly out there and aim Blue into the unknown.
The road swerves its way north and soon we enter the glacial carved Cache la Poudre River Canyon (French for “the powder’s hiding place”- likely named by French trappers). Rugged and narrow, the canyon squeezes the Wild and Scenic La Poudre River through a series of crumbling cliffs that threaten to collapse at any moment on top of us. For 40 miles the road twists and the river tumbles as we keep an eye out for Colorado’s state mammal, the Big Horn Sheep that somehow likes to hang out in this rubble zone.
Eventually, we turn off the pavement onto a long segment of gravel and dirt for a ride down a beautiful valley. Mountains frame the valley with the Rawah Wilderness Area and the Roosevelt National Forest. No cars are on this road and we wonder if we are in the right place? No cell service, no signs, and the GPS is getting skittish. Just keep going and hope, the sun will set in less than an hour. At last a ranch and a sign, we made it to the Rawah Guest Ranch. A few small cabins dot the property with the trout filled Big Laramie River coursing through it dodging thickets of willow. This is “out there”! We find out the nearest town with gas is 52 miles away down the dirt road in Laramie, WY. The address(s) of the ranch has three different names for the “town” one of which is in Wyoming. So this is why the GPS was having a meltdown! The friendly staff showed us to our cabin next to the horse corral. Dinner family style will be at 7pm. The only sounds we hear now are an occasional horse whinny, the wind passing by the ponderosa pines and the distant howl of a coyote, peace at last! What you do here is up to you; fish, hike, ride or do nothing – it’s all good.
Blue’s gas gauge encouraged us to seek out the nearest pump even though we would burn up part of what we just put in to get back to the ranch. One of the guides suggested we head for Centennial, WY then on to the Snowy Range for some photo opportunities and hit the gas pump on the way back. The cell signal appeared as we neared Laramie and after a brief check-in with concerned relatives we headed west on the Snowy Range Scenic Byway. Climbing slowly, passing through the old west town of Centennial, WY the road snakes though this sub-range of the Medicine Bow Mountains. Plains Indians once met here to gather a special wood they needed to make bows. While in the area they “made medicine” by enjoying the hot springs in near-by Saratoga. The Scenic Byway reaches 10,897 feet at its crest and true to it’s name can collect 12 feet of snow a year making it a popular winter sport destination. The upper part of this road is closed from mid-November to the end of May.
After a few days at the ranch, we make friends with the various pets roaming the property; the cat that wants to curl up on our bed, the 4 gregarious donkeys, several multi-sized dogs, numerous jetting hummingbirds, one not so wary trout and a few patient horses. The laid-back ranch life has recharged our batteries and it’s time to move on. Pip, our co-pilot dusts off the dart…oh yes, did I mention the dust?!