Sun Pony Ranch

Diary of novice (clueless) ranch owners

Friday, September 29, 2006

Belle's becoming well versed in the road-trip routine, making friends along the way even.


Thursday, September 28, 2006

Caching In

Today was our day to go up on Brokenback Mountain to find the cache that another forum member established up there earlier this year. Dana is a Wyoming native and he located a mountain called Brokenback in the Big Horn Mountains and chose that as his site for the cache. I was a bit unsure about our being able to navigate the road up, and when I contacted him about it he was incredibly generous and volunteered to meet Dean and I and drive us up himself! We met in the closest town, Ten Sleep -- he'd told me he drove a white truck and would have a black dog in the back. In the end -- do you know how many white trucks with black dogs in the back there are in the middle of Wyoming? Lots. Oh, but we actually ran into each other very easily, and went into the Crazy Woman Cafe for breakfast.

Ten Sleep is a WONDERFUL little town! Tons of character, and even has a motel or two. I'd figure there was no way such a little town would have a motel and that's why we'd stopped in Worland. After that little misfortune I'd definitely had wished we'd just driven on. Oh well.

We had a great breakfast, and had a great time getting to know Dana. Once again meeting someone from the forum was just like walking in on a conversation started years ago -- only Dana is different in that neither of us have interacted with him much on the forum. We'd exchanged emails, but that was about it. Never the less the familiarity and acceptance was immediately apparent.

Immediately outside of Ten Sleep we ran into a number of picture opportunties. Dana wisely let us lead so that we could stop where ever we wanted.

The road up the mountain really was rougher than our rental car could have handled, though nothing extreme.

The weather wasn't, perhaps, what we would have wished for, but it was exciting to drive up into the clouds. It only spit a few raindrops as we were leaving Ten Sleep - nothing after that. But it was plenty chilly up there at 9300 feet in the wind!

The cache is a typical old ammo box holding items sent by previous visitors. Dana knew the history of everything in there so far, so he gave us a tour. Our contribution was a collection of post cards written from our forum friends and mailed to us prior to having left. We each took turns reading the post cards out loud, which was a surprisingly emotional little ceremony.

We did a little hiking around after putting the cache away, but eventually declared our disappointment that there was no sign of the clouds lifting anytime soon. We were down to about 100 feet visibility, so we started to head back to the truck. I swear, not 30 paces later we looked up and saw the hint of a stand of trees a little way off that we couldn't see before. Then that of the next hill side. And then over there the closest trees weren't even obscured by fog. So we settled in to watch as the clouds rolled by to expose more and more of the surrounding area.

After a little more hiking, and fooling around, we finally headed back down.

Back where we'd left our rental car, we were loath to just pack up and leave. Fortunately the resort right there did still have it's lodge operating, so we went in to have lunch and do some picture trading. Both Dean and I had filled up our memory cards, so we thought it was a good opportunity to do some cleanup. And, it gave us more time to prolong our chat with Dana.

All of a sudden -- it was 3:30!! Reluctantly we said our goodbyes and zoomed onward towards Devil's Tower, which, we made it to just as the sun was setting. We were debating all the way what time it sets here in this area of Wyoming, and how late the monument is open, and all sorts of things to while away that 4 hour drive. Finally, the tower was in sight -- but the road approaches from the south, or south east even, so it was lit from the other side. We pulled up to the entry gate and saw that after hours we were to pay the entry fee at the visitors center. We looked at the visitors center, looked at the setting sun, and looked at each other. "We'll pay on our way out" we said simultaneously. Even so the darn driveway is a very long one, winding nearly all the way around the tower. I could remember a bit from when we were here in '95 about the setup, and was just very fearful that we'd miss everything if we waited to get up there. So we pulled into a turnout, and then ran up the hillside on the other side of the drive. We couldn't have cut it any closer -- even as we found a great vantage point above the trees, we could see the sunset fading. But it wasn't gone yet!

Tomorrow we're going to try and catch Mt. Rushmore very early, and then start the serious drive to Chicago. We estimate it's 16 hours from Rapid City, and we want to arrive by noon on Friday. So I might well not have a chance to post an update.


Tuesday, September 26, 2006


What ever is going on with the layout here.. I don't know. I thougt the pics were too big, so this time around I made them smaller, but the first post is still getting pushed down below the Archive Links in the left nav. Bugger.

Jackson, Riverton, Worland

Ok, pretty much just a photo blog today. We had a long day in the car, and that bed is looking mighty inviting.

Left Phyl's place first thing this morning and went back into Jackson. Along the Snake River valley we were again struck by this view of the river. Yesterday we hadn't taken the opportunity to turn around for the picture, but with the steam rising today we couldn't resist.

At dinner last night Phyllis had told us about the display of mounted Elk at the visitor's center which is quite impressive. So we stopped there for a quick look-see. This visitor center is associated with one of quite a few winter feeding grounds for the Elk. When they come down for the winter I guess there are huge herds of Elk out in these meadows.

Leaving Jackson we decided to go to Riverton via Dubois. This road follows the Wind River all the way down from the pass, and is just north of the Wind River Range.

The landscape changes dramatically East of Dubois:

Riverton -- well, we went there. Really hardly anything to keep our attention so we found ourselves moving on soon. The landscape around Riverton is very non mountainous, very high desert. I was prepared to be seeing this for the rest of the day, but we were pleasantly surprised by another abrupt change in scenery when we hit this canyon between Shoshoni and Thermopolis. This is the Big Horn river.

We hit Worland by about 4 o'clock. A little early to quit for the day, but tomorrow morning we have an appointment to meet another forum member near by, so it didn't make sense to keep going. It was just as well because the excitment of yesterday, plus two late nights in a row were definitely taking their toll and I pretty much had to have a nap when we checked in. But not before we'd driven around town to find the Worland High School to take a picture of... because Worland is the big rival high school in another one of our stories, Just Another New Kid in Town. Hee!


Could this be just day 1?

So Dean arrived, and we hit it off just like old friends! I have to admit I was a bit anxious about the meeting, but as soon as he got out of his car and smiled at me I knew there was no reason for the anxiety. Phyllis took us out right away to meet the alpaca.

Our mascot sheep: Let me warn you now, this entire trip is about going overboard. Period. The sheepies, well, they play a prominent role in the movie and thus Dean assembled a little herd of them to accompany us cross country. They will make their appearances from time to time. Fortunately the alpaca Jack (YES, his name really is Jack -- well, Cracker Jack to be exact) was being rather cooperative in letting them pose on his back!

We spent about an hour at Phyllis's seeing the alpaca and talking about our afternoon plans -- before we figured out that we'd better be on our way or else the afternoon would be gone! We headed towards Jackson. Pushed for time we barely jumped out of the car to snap a few pictures of down town... unfortunately the folks we got to take our picture under one of the famous elk antler arches... well, the picture isn't worth posting let's just say that. So here's my version from across the street:

On northward towards the Tetons, and low and behold... we found them.

On Mike's recommendation, we headed for Gross Ventre - where a huge landslide in the 20s dammed the river and created a lake. On the way there, he said we'd likely see Bison. Boy, did we ever!

But the side trip up to Gross Ventre wasn't anything to sneeze at either.

Just before turning back towards Jackson, we came upon this barn. Besides being incredibly beautiful, we both immediately recognized this barn as being identical to the barn we'd picked as cover art for one of our groups most popular stories. Essentially what brought our group together on the forum is that we are readers and writers of fan fiction -- stories written purely for fun based on someone else's characters. But going far beyond just writing of stories, we have quite a few graphic artists who help us come up with cover art for them. (Overboard, remember?) Anyways, here is it, the barn from 'If I Asked'

At some point early in the afternoon I returned to the car to see this, which just set me to laughing, yet again, today.

We stopped again in Jackson before dinner to see the shootout in the main square... only to find out that demonstration closes on Labor day weekend. Oh well. In wandering around town and looking into some galleries, however, we found this sculpture which we also both immediately associated with another very popular story, 'The Wolf and the Thunderbird':

Phyllis and Mike came up and joined us for dinner at a restaurant that specializes in wild game. We had elk chops (another goal for this trip) and they were superb. OH! And on the way home we also got to stop and take a tour of the Best Western Hotel that Phyllis designed while working as an architect here.

Whew! Just an all around incredible day.


Monday, September 25, 2006

Lets here it for serendipity!

Well, though it was totally serindipitous, we could not have picked a better week to drive through Wyoming. The trees are incredible, and will be peaking in color in the next few days. Wow -- what an amazing surprise!

Phyl and I had a nice drive up yesterday. We took the scenic route up the Cache la Poudre canyon and up to Saratoga Wy yesterday.

Cache la Poudre

From the top - near Cameron Pass.

Right now I'm waiting for Dean to arrive here -- he called and is 10 minutes away! So I thought I'd use my nervous engergy in posting! This morning since we had several hours before Dean was due, Phyl and I went out for a trail ride, from their house. That was such a treat. We can't ride from our property -- and in anycase certainly don't have anything nearly so spectacular as these mountain trails available if we could.

Phyl and Me on Lady and Sunny

But -- gotta run, Phyllis is on the phone with Dean now trying to talk him in. LOL


Saturday, September 23, 2006

6 Days until Chicago

6 Days until 43 or so of my closest friends whom I've never actually met get together in Chicago for what I'm sure is going to be a wild ride of revelry, comraderie and all sorts of BBM-Goodness.

Tomorrow my trip begins, as I hitch a ride back to Wyoming with my sister Phyllis who is here in Denver for the weekend. Dean, my friend from the forum who invited me to drive to Chicago with him - by way of Wyoming - will pick me up at Phyllis's house and we'll head from there to visit a number of places significant to Brokeback Mountain. Even though the film was not shot in Wyoming, the Wyoming board of tourism has admitted that the increase in visitors to their state due to the movie has been noticeable.

Mostly for us, though, Wyoming sits between Dean's home in Southern California and Chicago -- and I'm just sorta on the way. So WHY NOT?

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What happens in Vegas...

Needs to be told here, of course! Oh, ok, maybe not ALL of it. ;)

We had a fantastic time in Vegas! Dave flew out Friday morning so he could partake in the bachelor activities whilst I helped Ginger in the kennel at home. I followed Saturday morning. The boys had a good time, getting in a hike and a little fishing, then on to -- where else but Hooters casino for dinner -- and then on to the bars. David supposedly did make it back home by a rather reasonable hour of 2 am... but I was pleased to see he was up and about by the time I got in from the airport the next morning!

Both Caroline and Rich and their families were at the Tropicana with us, so we spent Saturday afternoon around the pool. The weather was very nice - a refreshingly cool 94 degrees (this is Vegas in September after all), but oddly enough the pool was so dang cold no one but our part-fish nephew, Jeff, was interested in spending much time in there. But lounging was just as good.

Laura, Karen, Janelle, Rich, Jeff and little Alek on the ground.

The rehersal dinner that night was at the Hoff Brau House, a very nice reproduction of what you'd find in Munich. We of course met lots of folks, ate fabulous sausages and sour brauten, and drank beer by the liter.

Laura, Rich, Janelle, Roy

Eric and Maria

We were planning on staying in Vegas through Tuesday morning, and had planned to do something Monday night with Sarah and Roy who also were staying longer. So while at the pool I started looking into getting tickets for a Cirque du Soleil show. Unfortunately none of them -- for there are 6 different cirque productions in Vegas these days -- run on Monday. So we scrambled and found folks interested in going and got tickets for the late show on Saturday. So we had to scramble a bit to get out of the Hof Brau House in time to get a cab for 9.. but we made it. We saw Mystere at Treasure Island casino, and were totally blown away. Really an amazing production, as I'm sure they all are. But, it did make for a late evening.

Sunday we called Sarah, who was staying at the Monte Carlo where the wedding was held, to see if they had plans for brunch. She said Roy had taken a walk down to visit the Bellagio, so we said we'd join her to go over and see if we could hook up with him. Well, never did find Roy until much later, but the visit to the Bellagio was more than worth the walk down. They have a conservatory that I guess has rotating displays, and we'd managed to catch the last day for this foresty display with little train trestles suspended between the trees and these really cool water spout bridges you could walk under.

On our way out the water show began. Which also was spectacular.

The wedding was a lovely affair at the Monte Carlo, and so very convenient to the ballroom for the reception. :) Maria was such a vision of radiant charm, as she always is.

Breaking the Plate -- a European tradition.

Monday Caroline and Greg had an early flight out, so we met up again with Rich and family for brunch before their flight home. We then spent some time at the Monte Carlo pool with Sarah and Roy, and decided that we would go to the BlueMan Group show that night. Betty and Wilson decided they would join us, so the 6 of us headed down to the Venetian a little early so that we could walk around the canal and canal-shops.

You have to hand it to Vegas, they don't do anything half way! The Venetian was stunning, dinner grand, and BlueMan Group? Hysterical, of course. There are no words for them, other than you just have got to see their show some day.