Getting lost in the forest

June 16, 2018. A day forever engraved in my mind; the day I got lost in the Medicine Bow National Forest. My feet traveled more trails in the forest than the average person. I spent the previous summer hiking the quiet, less-trodden paths. But I never hiked the backside of Medicine Bow Peak. From pictures it looked less crowded than the main trail and on June 16th my soul needed an adventure.

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Mistake #1: My weekends filled up with part-time work at the Chamber of Commerce office serving tourists. I answered their questions on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. I got off work on June 16th at 3 p.m. I’ve been in the mountains in the late afternoon in the past. Many times I cut my trips short or peeled a soaking wet sweater off afterward. I headed to the mountains anyway.

When I got to the Lake Marie parking lot several people headed back to their cars after a day of recreating. I spotted others around the lake as they continued fishing.

I grabbed my trekking poles, threw my sweater and some snack bars into my pack and started up the trail head.

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Mistake #2: Not far into my hike, snow covered the trail. I post holed through the first section of snow, but once I got through no path alpine grasses and mud sat underneath my feet. I looked across the horizon line, found a cairn and hiked my way to it. A burst of confidence surged through me once back on the trail and in good in hands. I continued up along the backside of the Snowy Range and again found snow covering the trail. I scoped out the next cairn and walked around the snow. I did this one more time until I looked upon my destination. A light gray cloud hid Medicine Bow Peak.

 

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Mistake #3: I’ve hiked in the rain before, so I continued. Until I saw lightening. It flashed like lightning, but I didn’t actually see a bolt. Not ready to die, I turned around. Except the path no longer existed. Snow blinded me. Not a single cairn emerged from the drifts. My footprints couldn’t be seen because I had stayed on top of the snow most of the way up. I came from the west, so I headed back in that direction.

 

And that’s where the real adventure began. I scrambled down and around jagged rocks hoping to see the Lake Marie Parking lot and my car. My knees rammed into the wet slabs of granite as I slipped and fell many times.

Finally I saw a pair of lakes. But it didn’t look like Lake Marie, Mirror Lake or Lookout Lake. I slid to the bottom of the hillside and walked around the bank of the lakes. The landscape didn’t offer anything familiar.

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After looking up how far I was from my car two days prior to posting this, I discovered I was 9,374 feet from where I parked my car.

I saw footprints around the bank of the lake even though drifts of snow at least two feet deep bordered the water. I made my way around the bank in the direction the footprints appeared to be heading. Halfway to the other side of the lake the footprints disappeared until I came to a dirt road. The footprints returned and I followed them down the road.

What sun remained sunk behind the mountains as storm clouds continued to roll in. I left the house at 9 in the morning. I sat in my car parked at the gas station at about 3 p.m. when I sent the last text of the day to my boyfriend detailing my plans. He might be wondering why my four hour hike lasted much longer.

My phone bounced from one to two bars as I searched my contacts for my boyfriend’s name. He answered.

The first words out of my mouth, “Okay don’t be mad or scared, but I’m lost.”

We did the best we could over a phone with hardly any signal to determine my location. I describe the road I stood on though I couldn’t tell him its name or where it started or ended. I promised I’d follow it down to the highway. His plan consisted of driving up and down the highway until he found me. Then my phone died.

As I continued the road became impassable with water gushing through a cut in the dirt path and roaring down into the dark abyss.

Throughout my hike I stayed on higher ground west of the highway. I decided to follow the fast-flowing stream downhill.

I tripped and fell over tree branches and rocks as I meandered around the water and down the hill. Once it got too dark for me to see the water from a safe distance from the bank. I quit walking. I found a fallen log and dug underneath it with my hands and pocket knife until I made a hole big enough for me to fit.

My sweater clung to my body but didn’t offer any warmth, so I took it off and draped it over the log. I pulled a long sleeve shirt out of my backpack to replace the sweater. I ate half of a bar and pulled my sweater back around myself as my teeth chattered.

I wondered if my boyfriend called the county sheriff’s office. I heard the beating a helicopter rotor. A spotlight scanned the forest. Each time I heard the helicopter it sounded like it would hover away before coming back. Later I learned that search and rescue didn’t come out during the night. They followed direction to wait until the sun came up the next day, so I didn’t actually hear or see anything.

 

I slept for some period of time even though I shivered all night. When the sun came up I felt wide awake. I scrambled out from underneath the log I lived under until morning. I continued following the water down the hill. In the distance I saw a culvert. Water goes through culverts to avoid washing out a ROAD! I’ve never been happier in my life to see a culvert.

I hopped onto the road and started walking one way. Then I second guessed myself and headed the other direction. When I came to a “No Trespassing” sign I turned around and followed my first instinct.

I turned around and headed back the way I started. I passed a vacant truck and then came upon a second where I saw a couple packing up.

“Excuse me sir,” I said to the man loading something into the back. When he looked up I asked, “Do you know how far I am from the highway?”

“Not too far if you keep going the way you’re headed,” He replied. “Are you lost?”

Not anymore. While I didn’t know my exact location I could find my way to the highway and follow it to my car. I explained I got lost while hiking.

“How long have you been lost?” his wife asked with concern.

“Since last night.”

Getting ready to leave their campsite, the couple said they would drive me to my car after they finished packing up their gear. My car looked inviting, sitting and waiting for me at the Lake Marie parking area. The parking lot, filled with vehicles the afternoon before, sat empty with only one truck with my car.

Once I got inside my car I took off my sweater, now dirty, cold and wet. I plugged my phone into the car charger and pulled on my winter coat. I thanked myself for leaving the jacket in the backseat even though the weather at home didn’t call for it anymore.

As I drove down the highway off the mountain toward home, I saw search and rescue vehicles headed up.

“Damn, that’s for me.” I mumbled. Tears welled in my eyes with mixed emotions. People out there care about me. If my brother never bothered to teach me survival skills, the service these guys provided would become essential to my life.

I drove to where the highway turns off and parked off to the side. I turned my phone on and saw a text from a woman who works dispatch for the county sheriff’s office asking me to call. I obeyed and told her my location. She told me a deputy would meet with me to make sure I didn’t need medical attention and to take a statement.

The search and rescue crew came first. They all checked in on me asking if I planned to report on my incident for the radio newscast on Monday. Famous in a small town. Soon the deputy arrived. He asked me if I needed care, if I ate and drank enough food and water while lost and if I could drive home. After assuring him a warm house and a nap would cure me, the deputy sent me home.

I got home and hugged my boyfriend. After I recounted the brief version of the story, I took a hot shower and slept for a few hours.

 

Press release from the Sheriff’s Office:

my press release

Were you scared? I heard this question many times for the next month. I can honestly say no. I didn’t allow myself to get scared. My anxiety tried to take hold of me a few times, but I reminded myself that being scared wouldn’t help my situation. I needed to use my head to get through.

Each time anxiety tried to creep in, I took a moment to pray. A calmness washed over me and I trusted myself to move forward.

 

I hope somebody can learn something from my “adventure.” You can know the right steps to take in any situation and still make mistakes. Sometimes you let your desires and your confidence overtake your common sense. The tools to make the right decisions were in my brain, but I let my wish to hike the backside of Medicine Bow Peak intervene and take control.

There are a few items I wish I would have had with me now that I’ve experienced being lost in the forest. Most of the items are things I can easily store in my backpack and will become some of my essential items. One of those items is a space blanket to help me stay warm. I also keep my winter coat in my pack these days. I additionally have a backpacking stove and matches that I intend to keep in my pack for my adventures.

Most importantly, I always bring a GPS with me now. I have an app on my phone called Avenza Maps that works great! (Not sponsored) I’m obsessed with it and will have a blog post later about how great it is. It’s a free map app with a library of almost any map you could think of. Sometimes the maps cost money, but I haven’t seen any that are over $5. And you safety is worth more than that. Today I have three maps that cover the area where I was misplaced.

 

My last message for you is to donate to your local search and rescue! I’m truly grateful for the team we have here in Carbon County. Also thanks to the couple who brought me back to my car!

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Picture from before I got lost

Weekly Review: January 18th

Update on the federal government shutdown’s impacts on Wyoming.

Yellowstone National Park

Park officials say federal employees have started providing some basic services again, despite the ongoing partial government shutdown. Last weekend staff resumed collecting trash, cleaning bathroom and manning park entrances to provide safety information. Staff are removing snow at overlooks along the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. Recreation fee revenue is paying for the service. This money is from entrance, camping, parking and other fees previously collect from park visitors. Many of the services, such as trash collection, have been done by tour guides that operate in the park and community groups. Staff won’t collect fees during the shutdown and visitor centers will remain closed.

I also have to give kudos to the volunteers who’ve cleaned restrooms and have taken out trash in Yellowstone. Volunteers have used windshield scrapers to remove frozen human waste from the sides of toilets. Others have cleaned up rest stops and remove garbage.

Additional kudos goes to K-Bar Pizza of Gardiner, Montana who has given pizza to those volunteers. Another to Conoco who donated gas cards to volunteers and Yellowstone Forever who donated garbage bags. Many volunteers also paid for supplies out of pocket.

 

Devils Tower remains open

Devils Tower is accessible during the federal shutdown, but no National Parks Service staff members are on site. The buildings and bathrooms are closed. The National Parks Service website and social media are not being updated, meaning access to Devils Tower and other federal sits could change without notice.

Visitors should use caution and follow all safety protocols when entering federal sites because emergency services are limited during the partial government shutdown.

 

National Historic Trails Interpretive Center remains closed

The National Historic Trails Interpretive Center in Casper has been closed since December 21st due to the partial government shutdown. Six full-time federal employees aren’t able to go to work.

The 11,000 square foot center offers visitors a variety of exhibits and programs designed to educate visitors about the Oregon, California, Mormon and Pony Express trails. The trails all passed through central Wyoming.

On December 31st, center officials posted an apology on the museum’s Facebook page for being closed.

 

Wyoming energy projects on federal lands

Four of the Bureau of Land Management’s field offices will begin working through applications for permits to drill on Monday. The Buffalo, Casper, Pinedale and Rawlins field offices will focus on critical paperwork for the industry. This includes processing drilling permit applications that were near approval, right of ways that are tied to applications for drilling permits and alterations on approved permits.

What the BLM cannot do is process applications that need wildlife or archaeological evaluations. Those staff have not received exemptions to the shutdown.

 

Nationwide

Outside Magazine states that eight hundred of the 2,300 BLM staff remain on duty during the shutdown to serve the oil and gas industries.

They are also pushing forward with plans to drill in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge. Alaska Public Media discovered that one BLM employee sent emails to schedule meetings related to the drilling environmental review process on January 3rd. This is problematic because the review process is supposed to be transparent and facilitate public input. However, BLM staff are not available to answer the public’s questions.

 

The River and the Wall has a premiere date

On January 4th I shared the trailer for the River and the Wall, a documentary that talks about the impacts a border wall would have on the people who live near there, wildlife and the Rio Grande River.

Ben Masters, who created the project, announced on Instagram on Wednesday that the premiere date has been set. The film will be released at the SXSW 2019 Film Festival, which is March 8-17.

Masters said the crew locked picture Monday evening and will have the finished film by late February. They are currently working out plans for a nationwide release.

According to Masters, you’ll never look at the border the same after you watch his film. “It’s so much more than a black line on the map and it gives voice to landowners, border patrol, Republican policymakers, Democrat policymakers, the wildlife there, immigrants and others.”

To get a sneak peak of what will be in the film, go to the River and the Wall Instagram page and take a look at the saved stories.

 

CWD found in a new elk hunt area near Sheridan

The Wyoming Game and Fish Department confirmed a cow elk has tested positive for chronic wasting disease in Elk Hunt Area 37. The elk was harvested by a hunter in late December. CWD has been previously documented in deer in overlaying Deer Hunt Area 24 but this is the first time an elk has tested positive.

To ensure that hunters are informed, Game and Fish announces when CWD is found in a new hunt area. The Centers for Disease Control recommends that hunters not consume any animal that is obviously ill or tests positive for CWD.

A map of CWD endemic areas is available on the Game and Fish website.

The Wyoming Game and Fish Department is concerned about CWD and how it may affect the future of Wyoming’s deer. The disease is fatal to deer, elk and moose. Recent research in Wyoming and Colorado shows that it may pose a threat to deer populations in areas with a high prevalence of the disease.

In 2018, Game and Fish personnel tested 5,280 CWD samples during this year’s hunting seasons, a significant increase from past years and continues to evaluate new recommendations for trying to manage the disease.

My upcoming adventures

Ice Fishing Derby

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I’ll be volunteering at the Saratoga Ice Fishing Derby this weekend. It’s a fun event with many cash prizes. The top trout of every hour gets a prize. There’s additionally three tagged fish that are worth big bucks!

Last year the Saratoga Platte Valley Chamber of Commerce, with the Silver Spur Ranch, also introduced the sucker skirmish. People got prizes for catching the biggest sucker. The suckers are an invasive species in Saratoga Lake, so this new objective had two benefits. The person who caught it could win a cash prize, and the lake was losing some of the suckers. This year, the Chamber and Silver Spur are taking it a step further. The person who catches the most suckers on Saturday will win $150. The most on Sunday will win $100.

You can still register for the event here! The event is on Saturday from 7 am to 5 pm and Sunday 7 am to 2 pm. The entry for adults is $35 and $10 for children.

Bighorn Sheep Capture

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I’ll be joining Wyoming Game and Fish for their capturing of Bighorn Sheep near the Encampment River. I took part in the activities last winter and have been invited again this year. It’s a great experience to see them capture the Bighorn ewes, collect samples and put collars on them. They’ll watch their movements to see where they go to forage throughout all seasons of the year. Game and Fish will also compare the data of this herd with others in Wyoming.

 

What I’m watching

Here’s a video on another capture, this one for mule deer.

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Hiking with strangers (who later become friends)

Disclaimer: This post is in no way sponsored or affiliated with Mountain Chicks or Women Who Hike. All views expressed on this site are my own and do not represent the opinions of any entity whatsoever with which I have been, am now, or will be affiliated.

 

Meeting up with people you’ve never met before may sound intimidating. I’d be lying if I said the first time I did it, I wasn’t nervous. But I was also super excited.
 
I started meeting up with strangers to go hiking about a year after moving to Wyoming. My first summer I spent a lot of time hiking with my boyfriend. However, he’s more into fishing than hitting the trails and is often busy on weekends. I have a few friends I like to hike with as well, but they’re not always available when I am. I needed to find others with the same interest to join me when I didn’t want to go alone.
 
My first meet up
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The first time I met up with a stranger, it was through the Mountain Chicks Wyoming chapter. The ambassador at the time, Gretchen, was hosting a group hike at Medicine Bow Peak. She and I were the only ones who showed up for the hike. We met at the pay station at the Sugarloaf access. As I was paying she rolled down her window and asked if I was Emma. Sure enough, I was!
 
We drove to the trailhead, parked and waited a couple minutes to see if anybody else was going to show up. Nobody did and we started our hike.
 
It was fun to meet somebody else who was passionate about the outdoors and looking to explore Wyoming. We were both Midwest transplants who had been in the state for about a year and a half. Not only did I learn a lot about Gretchen, but I learned some valuable skills.
 
One is be prepared. (I learn this one through many experiences.) Somehow I forgot to bring snacks for the hike. Luckily, Gretchen had enough snacks to save the day.
 
The second thing I learned is to know when to speak up for your well-being. We started hiking at a brisk pace. As we got higher up the mountain, I couldn’t keep up the speed. At first I thought I needed to keep up. When I mentioned I was getting winded, Gretchen was more than willing to slow the pace to one that was more comfortable for both of us.
 
Cirque of the Towers
The next time I met up with strangers to go hiking, I drove about four hours to go backpacking with 13 other women. This was through Women Who Hike Wyoming. I hadn’t met any of the women besides having Facebook communication with Ambassador Ali.
 
cirque of the towers
After introductions and reminders on the Leave No Trace principles, we began the hike. I enjoyed getting to know the other women as we trekked the 12 miles to our campsite. Again I learned how important it is for me to prepare for the type of trip I’m taking. I wasn’t wearing the right shoes. I also didn’t have the right tools to heat my meals well.
 
The most important thing I learned about was community. Other women on the trip noted that I was having issues heating up my meal and offered their Jetboils.
 
Community was also found on the trail. A group of us had to hold up as one woman was fighting her blood sugar and other was getting used to the elevation. The rest of us needed to catch our breaths. The women who were doing fine checked to make sure we could continue on the trail, so that no one fell behind.
 
The communal experience at the campfire was also great. We shared stories while passing around the whiskey, gin and whatever else was on hand.
 
That strong community followed the next day when we hiked to the Cirque of the Towers. Some moments of the hike were grueling, but with the support of each other and a sharing of groans, we made it to the beautiful view.
 
Curt Gowdy State Park
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Women Who Hike brought me to my next hike with strangers, as well. On the Wyoming Facebook group, one of the women asked for people familiar with the Medicine Bow National Forest area. With my great love for the forest I chimed in. Four of us (plus one dog) made a plan to hike at Curt Gowdy State Park, which isn’t exactly in the forest but borders it.
 
I enjoyed that hike as well and made three more new friends. While we haven’t pinned anything down yet, we agreed we’d like to hike together again soon.
 
Spearfish Canyon
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Photo credit: Elisabeth Brentano
My last meet-up was with the South Dakota Women Who Hike group. I drove five hours to Spearfish Canyon for this experience. I met the South Dakota ambassador, Stephanie and Women Who Hike Founder Nicole Brown.
 
I met several other awesome women who took part in the hike. There were 40+ of us!
 
We hiked two miles in on the Iron Creek trail into the Spearfish Canyon’s winter wonderland. When we returned we hike another half miles to Spearfish Falls.
 
A Merrell representative was also there. She provided boots for people to try out on the trail. Everyone also got a free mug at the end of the event and two people won a free pair of boots.
 
I will do more of these meet-up hikes in the future. It’s my goal to get to Texas and hang out with Ambassador Mallory on one of her ventures.
If you want to meet up with strangers to go hiking, get involved in a group. It’s a safe way to make new friends and bust out the hiking boots. I also recommend meeting up with more than one other person. With another set of eyes it’s harder for anybody to try to do anything fishy.
I also like to check out the person I’m going to be hiking with on Facebook. You can usually tell from a brief review of their profile how serious they are about hiking and their skill level. It also makes the meet-up less awkward because you can bring up something you saw on their profile and start a conversation.

Weekly Review: January 11th

Wyoming Counties and Forest Service worry about overuse in the Bighorns

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Four counties surrounding the Bighorn Mountains, will be assembling a group of citizens. They will provide feedback on overuse in specific areas of the Bighorns.
 
The four counties are Sheridan, Johnson, Big Horn, and Washakie. They have been collaborating to solve issues in the Bighorn Mountains for years. They each send representatives to the Bighorn Mountain Coalition, which communicates with the U.S. Forest Service. They give and receive feedback about issues in the mountains.
 
Recently, the Forest Service has focused on the issues associated with heavy groups of campers in specific areas. These campers often dole heavy use on popular sections of the forest. Dispersed camping only alleviates the issue when the campers are visiting less-travelled sections of the forest.
 
Heavy concentrations of campers impacts roads and vegetation. The forest service is also experiencing issues with garbage and sanitation. The problems have been on the Forest Service’s radar for years.
 
The popularity of the Bighorns isn’t helping the issue any. The Sheridan visitor’s center receives more than 100,000 guests per year. Sheridan Travel and Tourism has also directed its efforts to encourage dispersed camping.
 
On their website, Sheridan Travel and Tourism lists several of the campgrounds available in the Bighorns. The list for backpacking areas is far more extensive. With more than 1.1 million acres and 1,200 miles of trails, the site states that the Bighorn National Forest offers limitless camping opportunities.
 
Shawn Parker, the director of travel and tourism, says that his department tailors marketing to whatever the Forest Service needs. He reaches out to the Forest Service to discuss what their recreation numbers look like. He uses that information to target marketing efforts into areas where the agency can handle it.
 
The citizen new group is expected to have 16 members, four from each county. Applications to be a member of the group closed on Jan. 4. After members are notified of their selection, they will begin holding meetings to come up with solutions to this problem.
 
For my community, if you have plans to visit the Bighorns this summer, call the Sheridan Travel and Tourism office at (307) 673-7121. The director can tell you can some places that don’t see as much traffic.
 

Avalanche Safety

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Wyoming saw its first avalanche of the winter on December 22nd. A Rock Springs man dies after an avalanche buried his snowmobile in the Wyoming Range near Jackson Hole. It was also the first fatality of the season within the US affording to Bridger-Teton Avalanche Center Director Bob Comey.
 
The snowmobiler was riding uphill on a small convex slope when a wind slab fractured on a buried layer of faceted snow. The 100-foot-wide avalanche has a 22-inch crown and ran roughly 100 feet. It broke above the man, carrying him about 50 feet and flipping his snowmobile on top of him.
 
You can usually avoid avalanches with proper training. Take advantage of a course this winter if you plan to go snowmobiling or alpine skiing outside of a resort this season.
 
Several classes are available through the Jackson Hole Mountain Guides.
 
Many local search and rescue teams offer brief courses as well, some of which are free or have a small cost. I took a brief course through the Carbon County Search and Rescue. They talked about the different types of snow and how to know when you or other activity could trigger an avalanche. The crew also showed the gear one should have on hand in case they get stuck in an avalanche. The number one item is a beacon. It’s a device that alerts rescue teams of your location.
I also recommend taking a class once a year to refresh your knowledge.
 

Lunar Eclipse January 20th

 
Wyoming will be one of the best places to view a total lunar eclipse on January 20th. While the lunar eclipse doesn’t have quite the wonder of the solar eclipse, which took place two summers ago, it is still stunning.
 
This event is called the January Super Blood Wolf Moon Eclipse and it will reach its totality right about 10:20 p.m.
 

Some National Parks close

 
Joshua Tree National Park has closed as a result of visitors damaging trees during the ongoing government shutdown. Besides damaging the trees, tourists have overflowed trash cans and restrooms. Motorist have created new roads, which is not allowed.
 
The park closed yesterday because officials lack the resources to clean and protect the destination. Employees can’t return to work as the partial government shutdown drags into its third week.
 
Instead of completely closing like in past government shutdowns, the Trump Administration has forced the National Park Service, Environmental Protection Agency, to operate with a limited workforce. This has resulted in trash cans and toilets on federally managed lands not getting serviced and acres of habitat unprotected.
 
While some bad apples have been ruining the national parks, members of the public have been volunteering to help clean and care for parks. They’ve been unclogging toilets, picking up trash and putting up sign reminding visitors that they are on their own.
 
Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks are also closed. Yosemite National Park limited access to some areas of the park. Park officials closed Hetch Hetchy and Mariposa Grove due to lack of restrooms and resulting impacts from human waste. Employees who are working will cite people entering closed areas.
 
Lack of staffing to plow snowy roads or to keep watch over areas for safety is also forcing park officials to limit access to the public. Arches National Park shut down because the park’s inability to plow the roads after snowfall made conditions unsafe for visitors.
To see how Wyoming’s National Parks are affected by the government shutdown, check out last week’s review
 

My upcoming adventures

 
I’m headed to South Dakota this weekend for a Women Who Hike event. I can’t tell you exactly where right now, but when I return I’ll be posting a vlog. I’ll also have a new blog post about meeting up with strangers to take hikes. If you have any questions about meet-ups feel free to leave me a DM on Instagram or ask on my twitter post.

My Goals for 2019

I don’t typically take part in New Year’s Resolutions because you shouldn’t limit yourself to a new year to make changes in your life. If you discover an area where you need to grow on December 23rd, you should start on December 23rd. There’s no reason to wait.

Having goals, is different. Year-long goals are a good measure of what you want to do in 365 days. You can also have shorter or longer term goals, like three month goals or 10 year goals.

 

I’m using the SMART Goals guideline to outline the things I want to do this year.

Specific – What exactly will you do?

Measurable – How will you know if you meet your goal?

Achievable – What steps are you going to take to reach your goal?

Relevant – What about your goal makes it important to you?

Timely – When do you want to complete your goal?

 

I’ve decided to share my goals with you, so you can all hold me accountable. I plan to provide you with updates with my accomplishments. My hope is also that these goals will inspire you to develop some plans for 2019 as well.

 

Goal 1: Go on my first solo backpacking trip

I plan to go to Adobe Town Wilderness Study Area in Sweetwater County to complete this goal. I went there with my best friend for my birthday last year. I loved the landscape and saw some even cooler looking landscape off in the distance. We were car camping, so the far off land wasn’t accessible. I plan to park my vehicle at the end of the dirt road. From there I’ll hike south and backpack in Monument Valley.

adobe town

I plan to get a one person backpacking tent to make traveling easier. About a month before my trip I’ll take my backpack out on the trail,  getting to the weight I’ll need for the trip. I will complete my goal this spring or summer.

 

Goal 2: Take a Wilderness First Aid course

Because I spend a lot of time in the outdoors, it’s important that I take the NOLS wilderness first aid course. Plus, I’m planning on getting involved in a program that requires this course (can’t reveal what it is yet). I plan to take the course in April.

 

Goal 3: Catch a fish on a fly rod

I got a fly rod last summer, but never caught a fish. It’s hard! I’ll try to get out to one of the many lakes around me or to the North Platte or Encampment River at least once a week. I’ll also let my boyfriend teach me more techniques that may help me. I want to complete this goal by July.

fly fishing

 

Goal 4: Updating this blog twice a week

I plan to update this blog with a weekly update on what’s happening to lands and conservation in Wyoming and US. I also want to publish posts that are a little more fun, like this one, on a weekly basis. Doing this helps me to connect and share what’s happening in Wyoming. I’m also invested in the lands in this state and want Wyoming’s quietness to have a louder voice when it needs protection. I’ve already planned and written five other blog posts to get me started. As the year progresses I’ll continue writing and paying attention to the news around me.

 

Goal 5: Backpack the Encampment River Trail

I love this trail. It is my absolute favorite! But I’ve never hiked the whole 15 miles. I plan to change that this summer. I’ll do this with a group. I’ll prepare myself for this hike the same way I’ll prepare for backpacking in the Adobe Town Wilderness Study Area.

encampment river

 

Goal 6: Hike a new trail in the Medicine Bow National Forest.

Two summers ago I worked hard to hike as many trails as possible in the Medicine Bow National Forest. While I knocked a few off my list and discovered some new favorites, I have several trails left to wander. I have a few trails in mind that I’d like to tackle. One is the trail to Medicine Bow Peak from Dipper Lake. It’s the least common route to the top, and the only one I haven’t done. I’m also interested in the Medicine Bow Rail Trail.

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I have a guide book that is specific to the Medicine Bow National Forest, so I’ll use it to plan my adventures. These trips will take place sometime between July and September.

 

Longer term goals

One of my lifetime goals is to travel to every National Park in the United States. So far I’ve visited Yellowstone, Grand Teton and the Badlands National Parks. I have a long ways to go. I’m hoping to be able to visit Voyageurs National Park in August, but I’m not sure I’ll make it there this year. I don’t currently have a timeline of when I’d like to do this, but I would like to complete it by the age of 50.

Another lifetime goal is to hike to the highest point in every state. This one will be a bit harder because to do so, you have to figure out how to get through private property. To date I’ve only made it to the highest point in South Dakota, which is Black Elk Peak.

I have another highest peak goal, which is to get to the highest point in every county in Wyoming. Wyoming has a total of 23 counties, and I believe I’ve made it to the highest point in one. There’s some debate over what is the highest peak in Albany County. I’ve heard it’s either Medicine Bow Peak or Laramie Peak. The guidebook I have says Medicine Bow Peak has about mile of elevation on Laramie Peak. If anybody knows which is higher for sure, let me know! Medicine Bow Peak is 12,013 feet in elevation, for reference. I might make it to Bridger Peak this summer, which is the highest point in Carbon County at 10,950 feet.

 

What are your goals, short or long term?

Weekly Review: January 4th

Federal Government Shutdown Impacts Wyoming Sites.

Several federal sites, parks and landmarks throughout Wyoming closed or have limited services. This is due to the partial federal government shutdown, which began on December 21, 2018.

National sites are seeing limited access, services, emergency personnel and ranger-led tours. While the shutdown is closing some national sites, Yellow Stone National Park and Grand Teton National Park remain open.

Yellowstone National Park:

Yellowstone remains open, but, all government-run operations and facilities closed. Entrance stations are not staffed. Park staff are providing emergency services and law enforcement. All park regulations, including those on snow travel, are in effect as normal.

The road from the park’s North Entrance at Gardiner, Montana is open to wheeled vehicle travel. Visitors can access all the commercial services along this route. This includes commercial services in Mammoth Hot Springs and Tower.

Visitors can also access commercial services in the interior of the park via over snow travel. Concessioners are currently providing funding for road grooming so that over snow access to the interior is possible. If conditions become unsafe at any time, roads and/or developed areas in the park may close.

For the most current information on services offered by Yellowstone National Park Lodges, visit www.yellowstonenationalparklodges.com or call 307-344-7311.

 

Grand Teton National Park:

Entrance gates are open, but not staffed. Visitors can access the park with no visitor services available. Ranger-led snowshoe hikes are not available.

 

While you can still access the national parks in Wyoming, it doesn’t necessarily mean you should. I haven’t heard about how the closures are affecting parks in Wyoming. I have heard, however, that toilets are overflowing at Joshua Tree and litter is gathering in Yosemite. Visitors are venturing off roads and trails, causing serious damage to delicate ecosystems in Death Valley.

If you do go camping in a national park during the shut, bring a trash bag and your own toilet paper. Do your part to help out in the absence of employees.

 

Bighorn Canyon National Recreation Area:

All park facilities (restrooms, visitor centers, etc.) are currently closed. Visitor access to recreation areas, trails and fishing on the area’s waterway remain open.

 

Devils Tower National Monument:

Access is unavailable.

 

Fossil Butte National Monument:

Facilities closed.

 

Fort Laramie National Historic Site:

All fenced facilities closed.

 

National Elk Refuge:

Sleigh ride tours on the National Elk Refuge through Double H Bar continue as scheduled. For more information on ticket sales and services, please call the Jackson Hole Chamber of Commerce at 307-733-3316.

Federal employees tell visitors to Wyoming’s national sites to practice caution. They should follow all safety protocol on national lands as the shutdown has limited emergency services.

 

Wyoming State Parks remain open and unaffected, with abundant recreation options.

 

The Government Shutdown in General

President Donald Trump announced a partial government shutdown 14 days ago on December 22nd. This was after Democrats rejected his demand for 5 billion dollars in wall funding. Democrats and Republicans have reached a stalemate with disputes on border security and wall funding.

Bipartisan congressional leaders headed to the White House this morning. They planned on talking on how to end the partial government shutdown. Lawmakers are looking to break a stalemate over Trump’s demand for five billion dollars to build his proposed border wall. The two major parties stand far from a deal on border security as many federal works face missed paychecks.

Democrats passed bills Thursday evening to reopen nine federal governments. This was one of their first acts in their new House majority. Their plan does not call for the money for Trump’s wall. Eight of those departments would get funding through September 30th. The Department of Homeland Security would reopen through February 8th. Because the measures don’t include money for Trump’s border wall, he has vowed not to sign the spending packages.

House Speaker Rep. Nancy Pelosi said, “We’re not doing a wall. Does anybody have any doubt about that? We’re not doing a wall. It’s an old way of thinking. It’s not cost effective.”

Trump has so far shown no willingness to cave. He said Wednesday that the shutdown would last “as long as it takes” to see his demands met.

As the shutdown drags one, political pressure on Republicans has increased. Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner was the first Senate Republic to call for reopening the government, even without a border wall deal.

“I think we should pass a continuing resolution to get the government back open. The Senate has done it last Congress, we should do it again today,” Gardner said.

Gardner wants to pass legislation with the 1.3 billion dollars Democratic leaders have proposed for border fencing.  From there he believes Congress should work to get more funding. Gardner said negotiations on Trump’s border wall can continue once Congress reopens federal agencies. He added Republicans can “let Democrats explain why they no longer support border security.”

As of noon on Friday January 4th, I hadn’t heard any further updates on the federal government closure.

 

My thoughts on the border wall

I’m going to be blunt and state it. I am 100 percent against the border wall. I’m not going to talk about the social aspects, because I don’t have enough knowledge to talk about that. My biggest concern is the environment and the wildlife that live along the border. Animals don’t understand borders and if the government builds a wall that could affect their migration corridors.

Along the border the US has National Parks, State Parks and wildlife areas containing miles of critical ecosystems.

Additionally, nature has already built a wall along part of the border. The Rio Grande Gorge acts as a huge trench between Mexico and Texas. A large canyon wall scales both sides of the river. A physical border wall would block several animals from the Rio Grande, which is their only reliable water source. The wall would also prohibit dispersal of wildlife, likely causing genetic isolation.

Once populations are genetically isolated, they can deviate through one of two mechanisms. These are natural selection or genetic drift. Let’s touch on natural selection first. Limited resources ensure that wildlife with certain genes leave behind more offspring than others. As a result, those genes become more common in the population over time. In genetic drift, a random event can wipe out individuals non-selectively so that some genes become more common while others are eliminated.

Why is this important? For many animals to thrive, their gene pools need to be as varied as possible. Isolated from each other, they’re in trouble. Genetic isolation puts wildlife at risk of extinction or genetic problems. There can be problems with inbreeding, which can pass on undesirable genes for the animals.

Ben Masters is working to develop a documentary that further details the ecological and wildlife impacts that the wall would present. Click the picture to see the trailer on this film.

 

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The crew  traveled 1,200 miles along the U.S. and Mexico border to experience the vast landscapes. They journeyed from El Paso to the Gulf of Mexico on horses, mountain bikes and canoes. They also came face-to-face with the human side of the immigration debate.

The River and the Wall is slated to be released this year. Masters and his crew traveled to Washington recently for a private screen of the film. Following the screening, Representative U.S. Representative Will Hurd(R-TX 23), Congressman Beto O’Rourke (D-TX 16), and Senator Tom Udall (D-New Mexico) joined Director Ben Masters, Producer Hillary Pierce, and Associate Producer Jay Kleberg for a panel discussion moderated by Bipartisan Policy Center President Jason Grumet.

 

I’m not against border security, but I don’t think the wall is the right answer. The government needs to do something else. It’s not an easy black and white answer.

 

Other news

Wyoming Game and Fish

Back in Wyoming, the Game and Fish Department made some changes to licenses for 2019.

Starting this year, when people buy a fishing, small game, game bird or furbearers license, it will be valid for 12 months from the sale date. In the past, these licenses would expire on the first of the New Year. Now, if a person buys their license on July 1st, 2019, the license will expire on July 1st, 2020.

Game and Fish personnel listened to public feedback. They found a year-long license was something many people were requesting, so they could get the full use of the license.

With these new changes, Game and Fish will print the expiration dates for licenses and conservation stamps. Hunters and anglers will be able to keep track of when they need to buy again. If people renew early, the start date for the new license will begin the day after the current one expires.

Game and Fish also implemented a 2.5 percent processing fee for credit card transactions. When people buy hunting applications or licenses with credit cards, Game and Fish used to pay the processing fee. This resulted in a 1.8 million dollar expense on the department’s behalf each year.

 

What I’m listening to:

 

The Future Perfect podcast: How to save a species (if you really want to)

This episode is a couple months old, but has good information about the black footed ferret. The US Fish and Wildlife Service thought the ferrets were extinct until a Wyoming rancher rediscovered it in 1981. The host of the podcast goes through the debate about whether agency should continue with efforts to continue saving the ferrets.

The Journey Begins

 

Hiking is the same thing as walking, only hotter and twice as far as you want to go. But usually, you’re glad you went.” — Anita Diamant, The Boston Girl

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Hello and welcome to my blog! I’m Emma and That Solo Hiker Chick you might see sometimes wandering the trails. I’m based out of South Central Wyoming.

I started this site after gaining a love for the public lands surround me and realizing that I may need to fight for those lands someday. While my main stomping grounds are relatively safe from any large, drastic changes, I’ve started to notice the impact that pine bark beetle is having on the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest. I’ve realized that I can also use my voice to make changes to make the forest more sustainable. I also discovered a love for Adobe Towns, which is facing a bigger threat of oil and gas intrusion.

I hope to use this site to share information and spread awareness about the places I love to protect them.

I also share my own hiking experiences and favorite tools to use out on the trail.