Blizzard


My daughter has completed college and a semester of working as a substitute teacher.  She now has applied for various teaching positions around the state, hoping fora small rural school 5th grade position.  Since they were almost doubling her rent at the end of this month, she elected to move home and work on the ranch this summer.  That meant 5 years of accumulations had to move home.  A Durango load last week…a pickup load Monday…a reluctant return to Casper on Tuesday with the Durango.  And then it rained.  Since there was no hurry to return home, we managed to load up everything and clean the apartment and spend the night at my mom’s house.  The next day we took our time… spending a little money around town before we left.  We never really gave a thought to which way to take… we had talked about going to Buffalo, and that’s the way we went.  Now it had rained in Casper all night and all day, and we had heard of the possibility of snow – but is late May… a couple inches of snow didn’t sound scary.  Victoria’s little Focus plodded through the rain.  And boy, did it rain!  Usually heavy rain lasts 15 minutes in Wyoming… two hours later we stop in Buffalo and it hadn’t quit.  The creek in Kaycee was flooding.  Each little draw had streams running in them.  Some cars we met had snow on them…but onward we went, ignorant of what was to come.  Climbing the east side of the Big Horns, we soon met snow.  Large flakes drifted down and it was enjoyable…pretty pines and cliffs.  I even took some pictures of Toria ahead of me in the snow.  Then the snow got deep, and we slowed down, and then Toria took a right turn… and slid off the road.  I watched her slide, and tapped my brakes, again, and again.  It took about 50 yards for me to get shut down and turn around.  Though she was barely off the road, she was definitely stuck… We had bought two new slickers for home, and tried them on immediately for protection from the heavy wet snow.  Thank goodness, two National Guardsmen from Gillette stopped and pulled us out and we were on our way again, but Toria’s little Focus was pitiful in the 3 or 4 inches on the roadway.  She slipped and slid and went VERY slow.  The road got worse and worse.  Snowplows passed us, and gave us a short respite, but within minutes it was building up again.  A semi was stuck.  A RV was overheated.  We continued.  The snow built up and my windshield wipers started thumping.  Suddenly they crossed and quit.  Great.  Poor visibility, curving roads, slick conditions, and I have to stop in the middle of the road and my windshield wiper comes off in my hand.  Now given a normal day, I’d figured out how to replace it, but since I was in this position, I jumped back in my Durango and drove.  Two miles ahead is Powder River Pass, elevation 9666, and it has a big turnoff.  I hoped the snowplows had turned around there and graded a clear spot where I could pull off and replace the wiper.  It was easy enough to wipe a little area clear with my window down and a swift swipe of the wiper.  We were only going 10-15 mph… with my defroster on high, it wasn’t too bad actually.  But, my luck wasn’t there, and there wasn’t a place to pull over on the pass.  So… I had to continue to wipe my windshield clear by hand.  If the water hadn’t dripped back down my arm and onto my leg, it would have been adequate.  It was slow going and we kept getting passed by faster cars and snowplows, but Toria was spooked and her car was not handling well.  Soon a movement caught my eye, and I glanced left.  Two moose stood by the side of the road.  Since we were just putting along, I grabbed my camera and popped off a quick photo.  Look close and you’ll see how heavily it was snowing.

Finally… finally…we got far enough down the mountain that snow turned to rain.  Sending up a quick thanks to God and Good Spirits, I thought the worst was over.  By then it was dark.  Suddenly, Toria hits her brakes and swerves.  We are now in Ten Sleep Canyon, and there are rocks on the road.      WATCH FOR FALLING ROCK.   Great.  We make it by the switchbacks, past the ROAD CLOSED blinking sign (thanks to WYdot for not closing it sooner!) and land in Ten Sleep Valley.  In the pitch black night, Ten Sleep Creek is roaring, I can hear it through my open window as I continue to wipe my windshield.  I’m glad I can’t see it.  Being in a narrow canyon with falling rock and flooding creek is more than I want to contemplate.  We reach the openness of the valley and I relax.  Dang!  Watch those deer!  I laugh.  What else could there be???  Unknown to me, Toria sees an elk, but I don’t…  We’re home.  A trip that usually takes 1.5 hours has taken almost 4.  My shoulders are rock hard, my right hand in permanent death grip on my steering wheel, my left is frozen and soggy.  But we’re home.  Sigh.  The spring blizzard was an experience we won’t soon forget!  


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