On the Road Again: Big Horn Basin, Wild Horses, Cooney State Park

She said…

We were the first ones out of the campsite at Circle J where we had been working for the last three weeks. After we said our goodbyes to all of our new friends, we stopped for breakfast at the lodge, about two hundred feet into our journey! At this rate, we won’t make much progress!

Farewell, Circle J

Our second stop of the day was in Lovell, Wyoming, home of the visitor’s center for the big Horn Basin National Wildlife Refuge and the Prior Mountain Wild Horse Reserve. We dropped the rig off in the parking lot under the supervision of Elsie the Cat, and took off in the car with Maybe the Dog on a quest for the elusive wild horses. We drove the whole length of the reserve and the closest thing we got to evidence of wild horse existence was poo on the ground; we nearly took a picture of horse poo to prove that we had been here! We were wondering if the National Park Service planted it to lure seekers to the park! We did see beautiful scenery and the Devil’s Canyon overlook, totally making the trip worthwhile.

Then, at the far end of the reserve, Shannon suddenly stopped the car. I was looking off to the distance to see why and nearly missed the beautiful young stallion grazing 20 feet from my window. He was traveling with a small band of young bachelors, and as we watched, another horse approached. There was a little posturing and squealing before they continued in their opposite directions.

After we turned around at the end, we saw another small group of four. This time of year the family groups, a stallion, his mares and young foals, are living farther away from the roads. The young fillies and bachelors are exiled from the herd and travel in small bands until they are either culled or form their own family groups. The BLM keeps a close watch on the numbers in the herds so that they can’t over graze the range.

Our home for the next four days is the Red Lodge Campground at Cooney Reservoir State Park near Roberts, Montana. We realized at a late date that we would be leaving Ten Sleep on a Friday and so would need accommodations over the weekend. Cooney Reservoir had good recommendations and so far we have had excellent experiences with state parks. Plus it was a good day’s travel on our way to our next long term stop. With the exception of the 5-8 miles of rough gravel road to get here (depending on what information you give Garmin), the park and the lake are beautiful. It is full for the weekend and there are lots of kids here, but it is quiet at night and is remote enough to have truly dark skies. They have an astronomy program both nights this weekend, after our bedtime. The spaces are huge and nicely spaced with lots of green in front and back.

The downside is that there is no cell or internet, and it is the end of the semester, so we need to jump through some hoops to keep Shannon connected with his students. Mostly, that has involved setting up remote offices at the Coffee Roaster n Red Lodge, bummer, at the city park in Red Lodge, total bummer, and at this turn off to the park in Boyd, Montana, a horrible place to sit and watch the sunset!

Ten Sleep: Week Three

She said…

Our time in Ten Sleep is winding down. We are finishing last minute projects and will have all of Thursday afternoon for cleaning our rigs and reorganizing our storage bays, preparing for our departure on Friday morning.

Ten Sleep Nomads 2017

The weather has been warm and the river is running high again. I know that Wyoming is hot in the summer and cold and snowy in the winter, but in the spring time, this is the most beautiful place I have ever seen. Our time here has been truly blessed with both the solitude and majesty of this place and with the relationships we have forged with our team and with the people we are here to serve.




June used this scripture for devotions this morning, and I love the way it describes our experience here, especially the last verse:

Psalm 103: 1-5

Praise the Lord, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise His holy name.

Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all His benefits,

Who forgives all my sins,

And heals all my diseases,

Who redeems my life from the pit,

And crowns me with love and compassion,

Who satisfies my desires with good things,

So that my youth and my strength is renewed like the eagle’s.

For us, at this stage of our lives, to be able to come to a place like this and work so hard and still have the energy to play on our time off, we are so fortunate. Three weeks is the perfect amount of time. We are ready to be on the road again.

Last Sunday in church the children’s minister came in late, saying “I’m so sorry. . .I got caught in a cattle drive!” Probably only in Wyoming.

Darkness and Light

She said…

John 1: 1-5 NRSV
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being. What has come into being 4 in him was life,[a] and the life was the light of all people. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.

Over the last two years we have sold or given away most of our possessions, including a lot of artwork that I either traded for or got great deals on. This mask is a piece I gave to Shannon as a birthday gift. It made the cut and is now hanging in our home on wheels, partly because it is lightweight and not too fragile, but mostly because I like the story. It was carved by Gerard Tsanakwa, from the Abanaki tribe.


When Abanaki children misbehave, they are not punished, they are told a story. Tsanakwa is a story teller, and this mask is a character from one of his stories. I have forgotten the name of the character, so let’s just call him John.

John represents the battle between Darkness and Light. John went out into the world to do battle with the darkness, but the harder he fought, the more the darkness spread. When he saw that he was not making any progress with his quest he decided to change his tactic; John decided to surround and overcome the darkness by spreading light.

It is our job here at Circle J Camp as well as in the world in general to spread the light. It is not our job to overcome darkness by doing battle, or trying to fix everything we perceive as broken with any system. We will never win. It is our job to do the work God has put us here to do and spread the light.

John 1: 6-9 NRSV
6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify to the light, so that all might believe through him. 8 He himself was not the light, but he came to testify to the light. 9 The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world.[b]

Ten Sleep: Week Two

She said… 

The river has receded and the threat of flooding has passed. We are finishing our second week of volunteering with four other couples at Circle J Ranch. The first week my partner Mary and I built flower boxes for the kids at camp to decorate and fill with vegetables and flowers. They were so popular that a request came from on high to build six more, so we obliged. That was on Monday. Shannon and Ray have been building giant A-frame fence sections to go with the new rock and log entryway to the camp. They got a man lift in here for the week and Randy has spent most of the week 30 feet in the air stripping and staining the logs in the entryway. June and Sheri and Carl were tasked with turning a huge clump of brush into a beautiful grove of trees. June and Sheri on chainsaws while Carl manned the chipper. Shannon has been spending time taking pictures of the rest of us working!

One of the main projects on our list was a wooden sidewalk made of 4x4s and 2x8s, which we thought would take all of us a whole week to build and the NOMADS group coming in August could dig out the trenches to lay them in so that they are level with the grass and the lawnmower could go over them. Well, Ray built us a jig for his miter saw and Mary and I knocked out all eight 12’ sidewalk sections in two days. The women in our group have been dubbed the Southern Belle Lumber and Construction Company and are thinking of getting t-shirts made! Wednesday we were blessed to have 7 or 8 kids from the Wyoming Boys Home here to do community service and we were told to give them the heavy work, so they dug the trenches and installed the sections and voila! there is now a wooden sidewalk all along one side of the lodge!

Things we found out this week on our days off, while we were in Worland waiting for new brakes on the Honda (an issue with the gain setting on our Patriot brake buddy): Washakie is pronounced WA-sha-kie and is the name of the Indian chief for which this county, and many things in it, are named.

and. . .

There is a series of tall carved statues by Peter Wolf Toth, 76 in all, spread all over the US (and a couple in Europe). The series is called “The Trail of the Whispering Giants”. Some of them have disappeared, but there is supposed to be one in every state. The one in Wyoming is here in Worland. We think, instead of trying to sleep in every state (we may still do that too) or touring all the state capitols (not so much), it would be cool to find as many of these statues as we can (probably not the ones in Europe). We will be travelling close to where several of them live during the rest of this year. By Christmas we should be able to assess whether or not this is a worthwhile pursuit.


We saw these sheep shears in the Washakie museum. Let me go back. First of all, the Johnson County Wars were not fought between cattlemen and sheep farmers as I had previously thought. The cattle barons, some of whom never set foot in this country but ran their operations from Europe, were hit hard in the winter of 1886 and lost so many cattle that they had to lay off most of their workers. These workers, who had learned something of the cattle business, started their own smaller operations and built fences across the open range to keep their herds separated. The big operators, in a last ditch effort to survive, accused many of the small ranchers of rustling, and hired gunmen to wipe them out. Sheep didn’t show up till much later, and now to my point. . .a shearer could shear 100 ewes a day with this primitive tool and was paid 9 cents a head. I’ve been complaining about my hands hurting from gripping my power tools this week. . .new perspective!

It has been rainy and cold today, which precludes taking our new Sea Eagle kayak out to Meadowlark Lake. There was a time in my life when I wouldn’t have let a little bad weather keep me in, but apparently I have grown soft in my old age. I may go out and inflate it and sit in it under our awning later, just so I look like I know what I’m doing the first time we take it to water!

Meadowlark Lake: a little cold for kayaking!

Ten Sleep: Week One

She said… 

Ten Sleep, Wyoming, gets its name from a Plains Indian Tribe who used to travel here, ten days (or nights) from their home. The Circle J (keep Jesus at the center of your life) Camp is lodged in a beautiful canyon with high rock walls and what is right now a roaring river. In a couple of weeks the spring melt will have passed and the roar of the river will subside, the threat of flooding will diminish.

When we take a Nomad’s assignment we agree to work for three weeks, Monday thru Thursday, 8am to 4pm. Friday thru Sunday is our own to do with as we like. Free camping is provided on site with full hookups.

We are serving here at Circle J with three other couples, and a fifth to arrive next week. There is a group of kids here for church camp on Wednesday thru Saturday of our first week, so our priority tasks were to help get the camp ready for their arrival. We have had some down time while they are having camp, so our job on Thursday was to hang out and help where needed.

The first part of the week we built four 7’ long flower boxes for the kids to paint and plant vegetables in, cleaned and painted the girls shower room floor, built a new dumpster enclosure, did repairs on roofs and walls of buildings at the camp, did some electrical work, deep cleaned all of the bunkhouses and guest quarters, and cleaned the chapel, a beautiful historic old church that is living its third incarnation here at the camp. The list seemed formidable when we started, but we made short work of it, and it seemed to make an enormous difference to the staff, all volunteer, a husband and wife team and a couple of college-age kids, to have the help.

Church Camp: There are thirty-five kids here from all over north central Wyoming. A lot of adults have showed up to help as well so it seems that they have everything well in hand. Lessons for me. . .it’s always so easy for me to look at a situation and assume that I have a better way to do things. It’s wonderful here to be able to just stand back and watch God use His people to do His work.

The members of the team take turns doing devotions each morning. My day was Wednesday, and I chose 1 Thessalonians 5:18, where Paul tells us that we need to be thankful for ALL the things in our lives. It’s easy to be thankful for the beautiful surroundings, and the opportunity to serve Circle J, for all the good things that happen to us. But when things get a little hard or don’t go as we want them to, we need to remember that God uses our discomfort and our perceived difficulties to build our characters. A reminder, yet again, that we can’t see the big picture, that we need to trust and put everything in His hands.

It has been hot and sweaty here, so it is imperative that we get laundry done this weekend. We decided to do it on Sunday in Worland after church. For our tourist day this weekend we drove up the Tensleep Canyon and over the Powder River Pass into Buffalo, Wyoming. Buffalo is a very cool little town with great museums and good restaurants. The ladies at the Jim Gatchell Museum asked us what our favorite place was so far and we said “Buffalo!”. It all just keeps getting better and better!