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Last weekend I found myself in the happy company of my sister, my son, his wife and their adorable son. We were loaded in my SUV headed to Wyoming—Snowy Range to be precise.

Snowy Range

Our mission was bittersweet—saying a final goodbye to our sister who had died in the spring. She loved Snowy Range and had two (at minimum) favorite spots where she would sit and gaze out over the landscape, enjoying the profusion of columbine, blue bells, and other wildflowers that usually were in full bloom.

 

Halfway there we felt the need for a coffee break. My son and his wife are fans of “designer coffee.” Well actually, so am I. But I couldn’t think of a place to stop in Laramie that was on our way, and we were on a pretty tight schedule.

 

Instead we stopped at one of Laramie’s oldest destination locations for outdoor folk. The West Laramie Fly Store touts itself as “the one stop shop for all your hunting, fishing and camping needs.”

And it is just that.

But coffee?

I figured it would be a lone pot cranking away on a burner, old and burned and strong. “Don’t get your hopes up,” I warned. “What we’re likely to get is cowboy coffee—strong and bitter and not too fresh.”

Cowboy-Coffee

So imagine my surprise when we found the coffee station with cowboy coffee actually identified on the handle of the pot. Along with a few other selections like Jamaican Me Crazy and Colombian, also duly marked on the pot handles.

Jamaican-coffee

To my surprise, the coffee was fresh and delicious. I mixed cowboy coffee with Jamaican Me Crazy for a slightly exotic blend while my son mixed cowboy coffee with Colombian.

Gaucho-coffee

He said that he was going for the “south American gaucho blend,” though I’m not sure there are gauchos in Colombia. More like Argentina, but no need to get all picky about the details!

 

My sister who isn’t a coffee fan decided to spend her money on a tee-shirt for her friend who is an avid fisherman. There was quite a selection of funny, slightly off-color shirts. She ended up with this one: “The way to a fisherman’s heart is through his fly.” It was funny AND nearly too much information!

She hasn’t said yet how he liked it. Come to think of it, that could really land in the too much information category. In our family, we’re pretty conservative when it comes to those personal, over-sharing conversations.

 

Have a great weekend. And Happy August!

Time for Tuesday Beauty

 

Before the monsoon rains came this week, we ventured into Wyoming for a day of green and cool mountain air.

And while the normally blue sky was missing due to the fire burning at Sheep Mountain, we indeed found green.

And cool.

And a stand of gorgeous columbine flowers.

And a moose!

We live in a beautiful world!

If you’ll indulge me for just one more day by reading my stories about Snowy Range, I promise to get back to life in the pasture and my two old sweeties tomorrow.

Scout’s honor.

You’ve probably figured out by now that Wyoming is a special place for me. Especially the Snowy Range. If you live close by, you really should reward yourself with a trip to the Snowies.

Just don’t wait too long, because winter comes early at that elevation.

Back to the title of this blog post and a very short lesson in forest ecology.

And life.

Krummholz is a German word that means crooked, bent or twisted wood. It’s used to describe a feature of the sub-alpine tree line landscape. (Who knew I could even put that string of words together. Or care!)

It’s what you’ll find at the higher elevations in Snowy Range – sub-alpine landscape.

What happens is this: continued exposure to fierce and freezing winds (also a feature at higher elevations) causes the trees to become stunted or deformed. They only grow branches on the side away from the wind.

Smart eh?

Sometimes they’re called flag or banner trees. You can see it in the two photos I snapped on our trip.

So here are these trees fighting like everything to stay alive in a less than hospitable environment.

They adapt.

They figure out how to keep on growing, in spite of the challenges.

And they look quite interesting. Beautiful really.

I was paging through one of my old journals the other day, and found an entry I’d written years ago on a trip to Snowy Range. I was marveling at the wildflowers, which were abundant and blooming in such tough conditions. Some were peeking out from a blanket of snow in the middle of July. Talk about a short growing season.

I’d written the now-overworked quote, “Bloom where you are planted.”

All those years ago it made so much sense to me.

Instead of waiting for the perfect place to “bloom,” the wildflowers were an example of blooming just because they could.

In fact, in harsh weather years, wildflowers bloom even more profusely, as insurance for flowers in the coming year.

That Mother Nature is one smart girl.

Thanks Mom, for the reminder!

I needed to get out of town last weekend in the worst way. I’ve been stuck at the computer for hours on end, working and worrying.

It’s not a good combination.

I was on electronic overload, my eyes glazed over from staring at the illuminated screen.

And my brain felt like it had a short circuit.

Bzzt, bzzt, bzzt was the most it could produce.

I needed a nature fix. Most of the time, going to the pasture with the horses will do it for me.

Working in my garden or going for a walk usually helps get me back in balance.

Not last weekend.

I had to pull out the big guns, the super antibiotics for the soul. I needed a double dose of Mother Nature.

I wanted to feel wild and free.

Unfettered.

And especially, I wanted to be unplugged.

A few weeks ago I wrote about going to Vedauwoo, in Wyoming between Cheyenne and Laramie, and how it’s one of my heart places.

Another of those is the Snowy Range, west of Laramie.

As far as I’m concerned, this is a magical place.

A power place.

A place of healing.

I’ve gone to Snowy Range nearly every summer since I was a little girl.

Years ago I learned to downhill ski there.

I’ve camped and hiked and picnicked.

I’ve roasted marshmallows and hot dogs over a blazing campfire.

I’ve huddled in a tent waiting out the rain.

I’ve chilled watermelon in a snow bank.

I’ve catalogued wildflowers and spent hours watching marmots at play.

I’ve dipped my tired feet into icy streams.

I’ve felt that good kind of exhaustion from physically pushing myself beyond anything I thought I could ever do.

So when I was in need of a dose of nature, Rick and I decided it had to be Snowy Range. We only had one day, not enough time by a long shot, but we made the best of the time we did have.

There is something about the wide-open spaces of Wyoming that immediately soothes me.

Yes, it’s home and hardwired into my psyche. But also, I think it’s the uncluttered prairie that helps my overly cluttered brain relax.

Not even fifteen minutes out of town, I started to breathe easier. The day was cloudy and overcast. I got lost watching the sky and the many shades of gray in the clouds. It was stunning really, so many variations of color.

We drove through Laramie and headed west toward the little town of Centennial. All the while, my brain continued to un-kink, unwind and relax.

We didn’t talk much. I didn’t even want music.

I just drank in the landscape that I’ve loved for so much of my life.

We had no plan, no agenda, and that suited me just fine.

Harleys lined up in front of the historic Wolf Hotel

On a lark, we decided to drive on to Saratoga for a late lunch.

It was all good.

In Saratoga, our noses led us to an amazing restaurant – Tommy’s Smokehouse BBQ.

As Rachel Ray would say – delish!

It was really a “find” – the Pants on Fire sauce was fabulous, the pulled pork tender and smoked to perfection. The Kaiser roll was soft and tasty.

Yum to all of it.

And the best part?  I felt better. Much better.

Good food, a healthy dose of Mother Nature, and time with my husband were doing their magic.

What do you do to recharge your batteries?

P.S Tomorrow, more about Snowy Range and the moose. Stay tuned!

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