Friday, December 28, 2012

Pine Bluffs, Wyoming

Sunrise, Pine Bluffs, Wyoming.
(Click on images to view larger)

Note (5 May 2015):  See comment below this post for some nice information on some of the pictures from a former resident.  It's fun to get information like this to add to the story.

According to Wikipedia, Pine Bluffs was originally known as Rock Ranch and consisted of a tent with a chimney.  From there it grew into an important railroad town along the Texas Trail and served as a loading point for cattle that had been driven north to meet the Union Pacific.  Today the population is just over 1100 people and agriculture dominates the economy.  There are some historic photos of Pine Bluffs at this site.  The Old Lincoln Highway, which is now replaced by I-80 passes through town.

As I said in my previous post, Ed Sherline and I drove to Pine Bluffs before Christmas to be there for sunrise on a cold windy morning.  I spent most of my time exploring the gas pump collection (previous post) at Pete's Service, while Ed explored along the main street.  One of my favorite images of the town was the first one I took there when I got out of the car--an old stone garage decorated for Christmas.

On the way home, we stopped in Cheyenne and had chicken fried steak, pancakes, and bacon for breakfast.  That's the real reason we get up early to photograph small town Wyoming.

Old Pine Bluffs.

Metal garage, Pine Bluffs.

Grain elevator, Pine Bluffs.

Retired advertisement, Pine Bluffs.

Stone garage, Pine Bluffs.

Window curtains, Pine Bluffs.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Pete's Service, Pine Bluffs, Wyoming

Gas pump, Pete's Service, Pine Bluffs, Wyoming. 
(Click images to view larger) 

I've driven through Pine Bluffs, Wyoming before, but never stopped there, and it seemed like a good destination for a photo trip, so I woke up this morning at 4:30 a.m. after worrying about waking up at 4:30 a.m. for most of the night.  I picked up Ed Sherline, a photographer friend, at 5 a.m. for the 100 mile drive east.  Ed had been up late picking up relatives at the Denver airport and slept poorly too, so our coffee was gone before we passed Vedauwoo, fifteen minutes out of town.  

Pine Bluffs is a small town right on the Wyoming-Nebraska border.  I'll write a separate post on the town later, but a quick google search reveals only five "Frequently Asked Questions" about Pine Bluffs:

                        1.  What are the government office hours?
                        2.  What is the recycling pickup schedule?
                        3.  At what point is a snow emergency declared?
                        4.  Do I need a permit for a recreational fire?
                        5.  Who do I contact to rent a park shelter?

There's a giant billboard on the edge of town that implores passersby on I-80 to "Stop Obama Socialism (SOS)", though a website that google revealed lambasts the "liberal" town council for not allowing firearms to be carried around in town.  

I spent most of my time at Pete's Service (est. 1924), a former gas station near the old part of town that doesn't appear to pump gas any longer, but that hosts a vast collection of old pumps, presumably collected along the old Lincoln Highway before I-80 came through.  I don't know anything about Pete or why he collects pumps, but if anyone does, fill in info in the comments.  

Pete's Service along Highway 30.

A subset of the gas pump collection.

Paint detail from gas pump.

Phillips/Skelly paint detail.

Gas pump.

More gas pumps.

Old paint.

Glass must be full.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Snow at last!

A road in the Laramie Basin on Monday morning, before last night's storm.
(Click images to view larger)

I never thought I would be so glad to see some snow!  Ironically, for someone who's lived in Laramie for 25 years, I prefer the warm months, but this year has been ridiculous.  First, it stopped snowing at the end of February, which is unheard of.  Then, aside from a few early season storms in a sea of unusually warm weather, it didn't start snowing again until last night, when 4 or 5 inches fell in town.  Hopefully a lot more fell on the ski trails at Happy Jack, which is why I'm so glad to see it.  It's the holidays, and Nordic skiing is one of the great reasons to stay here for them, but just a couple of weeks ago I was still riding my mountain bike up there.  

There's more warm weather in the forecast after it dips to near or below zero tonight, but not enough to melt the base this time, and I'm hoping that we'll be skiing soon.  Happy Holidays!

Bei and Ellen earlier this month in the (slightly) Snowy Range, looking for a Christmas tree.

A snowy fence this morning on 1st Street.

Downtown Laramie this morning, at about 11 degrees.

A runner on the railroad footbridge.

What we were doing last year at this time.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Canyoneering: Quandary Canyon

Don Reyes, masterfully lobbing a potshot in Quandary Canyon.
(Click images to view larger)

Quandary Canyon in the southern San Rafael Swell is known for the technical difficulties presented by a series of potholes in the mid-section of the canyon.  Difficulty depends on water levels--when the water is high, you can jump or rappel into each hole and swim to the lip on the other side.  When the water is low, you find yourself in cold water, deep in a polished bowl, with no way to climb out.  From time to time people get permanently stuck in these holes, but if you are prepared and with a group of people, it isn't so hard to engineer your way out.

During our descent in October, the water levels were pretty high, but not high enough to just swim to the lips of the holes.  We climbed out of some of them, and used potshots for others.  A potshot is just a bag of sand tied to a rope that you  toss over the lip of a pothole as a counterweight, and use to hand over hand out (see picture above).  

As winter finally tries to settle in here in Laramie, warm desert canyons start to look even more appealing.  I'm already anticipating our next trip, probably to Zion, in the late spring.

Starting the day--Larry Scritchfield, Scott Lehman, Don Reyes, and Jim Akers.

Scott Lehman, early in Quandary.

A view down the Quandary Canyon drainage.

Don and Scott, contemplating a small pourover.

The beginning of the technical difficulties.

Larry, contemplating a slide into a pothole.

Jim and Scott, mid-canyon.

Middle Quandary.

Larry taking a leap of faith into a pothole.

Larry rappelling into another pothole

Scott and Don.

Don, preparing to climb out of a pothole using a potshot.

The hot exit hike back to Ramp Canyon, which leads back through the Swell to our camp.

The technical climb-out in Ramp Canyon:  dicey.


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Sheep Mountain

Burned trees, Sheep Mountain.

It's the end of November, and I've barely even picked up my camera this month.  Between the ongoing demands of teaching (1.5 more weeks until the end of the semester!) and a couple of photo shows, I just haven't had time.  I did get out on the Friday after Thanksgiving to hike up Sheep Mountain, west of Laramie, through part of last summer's Squirrel Creek Fire.  These images aren't fine art, but it was interesting to see the burned landscape and disturbing to be up high in late November with no snow and warm temperatures.  

The hike, from the south end of the mountain, crosses very open foothills of low grass and a few shrubs before finally climbing up to the forested summit ridge.  The Squirrel Creek fire burned across terrain that doesn't look like it could carry fire, but widely scattered shrubs were all burned, and patches of trees, isolated from one another, were also torched.  Burned aspen groves are full of new sprouts, but otherwise it's a sterile-looking landscape in the burn, and with the current drought, it will be hard for new trees to establish.  I look forward to hiking up there again in the spring to see what's growing.

Sheep Mountain foothills.

Widely scattered burned trees.

Just below the summit ridge.

Below the summit ridge--thicker trees.

Aspen sprouts, some already browsed (by deer?).

Wednesday, November 21, 2012


My first bike.

I'm going mountain biking today.  That is an unusual thing to say in Laramie, Wyoming on the day before Thanksgiving, but it's been insanely warm and dry here this fall.  Bicycling has come back into my life during the last few years as my knees continue to deteriorate, precluding higher-impact aerobic exercise like running.  Plus, it's fun as hell.  And challenging.  In honor of November mountain biking in the Northern Rockies, I'm posting a few images of bicycles from my collection.

Tibetan Monastery, Xiahe, Gansu, China.

Fetching water, Uganda.

Laramie Enduro, 2009.

Lijiang, Yunnan, China.

Garlic for sale, Kashgar, China.

Autumn, Blair, Wyoming

The Bund, Shanghai, China.  Sunrise.

Kampala, Uganda.

Snowy Range in snowier times, June 2011.

Bei, Soapstone Prairie.  May, 2010.