This weekend Hubby and I took a road trip to Wyoming, accepting the invitation of new friends from our Alaska cruise to visit them at their cabin on his family’s ranch southwest of Laramie on the Big Laramie River.
It was a bit of a nostalgia trip for me as I had been visiting the area since I was 9 years old. We always vacationed in the mountains sometime in July or August when Northeast Nebraska would be at its hottest and most humid. In the summer of 1967 we ventured into the Snowy Range southwest of Laramie for what in my young child’s mine was one of the best vacations ever. We played in the mountain meadows, fished in high alpine lakes and lived a week in a rustic cabin at an old resort just outside the tiny town of Centennial.
A year later my aunt and uncle went there on my parent’s recommendations and when my uncle retired from his job as a hospital administrator in 1974, they moved to a 20-acre retreat near Centennial, right up against the Medicine Bow National Forest. Our view was always to the west side of Sheep Mountain, an area landmark.
For the next 25 years, our family made regular trips there, until finally my aunt and uncle’s health forced them to move to Laramie. After my uncle’s death in 2000, my aunt only made occasional trips to the mountain house and in 2003 they closed it down.
We continued to go to the Snowy Range with our girls for winter ski trips, but the last time was in 2008. It just wasn’t the same without my aunt and uncle there and I had resigned myself to finding a new “Happy Place.”
Saturday morning David and Jo Lynne asked if we’d like to take a drive up to North Park, which is just across the state line into Colorado. I readily said yes, as it would take us past many of the places I’d visited as a child. Hubby was equally interested, but for a different reason.
North Park is close to the headwaters of the North Platte River and with as much work as he has done with state water rights the past 26 years, he was eager to see where our irrigation water came from.
As we climbed up out of the Big Laramie River valley into the North Platte region, it was evident there had been plenty of snowfall this year. Fences were still buried in snow with just the tip-tops showing. The blizzard that hit Nebraska had dropped nearly two feet of snow in the mountains and a check showed this year’s accumulation is about 120 percent of normal.
Huge drifts were still visible as we climbed up through Mountain Home in Wyoming and then on to Cowdrey, Colo., just on the edge of the North Park Basin. David remarked that he had not seen the mountain peaks this white in a number of years.
Finally we reached the North Platte River bridge, which at this point was more like a big culvert. Because of the use and reuse of the water as it flows through Colorado into Wyoming and through their reservoir system before it reaches western Nebraska and our canals and Lake McConaughy, it will take 3-5 years before this year’s snow reaches our irrigation canal.
But as Hubby not so jokingly told David and Jo Lynne, it was nice to check on our future irrigation water and know there will be a good supply for several years down the road.
On our way back, we stopped for lunch at Woods Landing. The gas station, café, bar and dance hall were built around 1930 by one of the area’s Scandinavian immigrants. The dance hall is even listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
It was one of the places my aunt and uncle liked to go for lunch or an occasional evening out during their years living on Fox Park Road. Apparently that attraction hasn’t changed, as amazingly enough when we walked in David recognized one of his former high school classmates and his family.
Come to find out they knew my aunt and uncle and were quick to praise my uncle’s plumbing skills and kind gestures while they were valley residents. Small world indeed. For me, I rediscovered my Happy Place and with David and Jo Lynne’s hospitality and invitation to come back we now have a new base for exploration. It just moved to the other side of Sheep Mountain.
Freelance journalist Barb Bierman Batie grew up near Battle Creek, Neb., and now farms row crops with her Platte Valley Farmer, Don Batie, northeast of Lexington. She has written for local, state, regional and international publications and joined the Midwest Messenger crew in 2010. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.