Sunday, June 24


I've mellowed over the past decade. So says my wife, and I must agree with her.

There's a place in Wyoming's Medicine Bow National Forest called Vedauwoo. The name is a native word, or an anglicized version of a native word, that means "earth born." The modern word is pronounced (by most) vee-da-voo. I've also heard it pronounced vay-da-voo. Tomayto--tomahto.

The area is the climbing community's version of a cult classic. It's known for its plethora of wide cracks known as off widths, that for the average climber confound and defeat their efforts to ascend due to a lack of adequate technique.

There are many high quality climbs in Vedauwoo that do not follow wide cracks, but the sometimes negative stereotype persists.

I started climbing in 1994 and my earliest mentor, a well traveled guy named Tim from Western Kentucky, spoke often of Vedauwoo. His stories, along with photos and articles from climbing magazines awoke a desire in me to visit the place myself.

From where I lived in Kentucky it was a 24 hour drive to Vedauwoo. So there were few opportunities for me to visit. Mandy and I actually planned to stop there on our Western road trip honeymoon. But due to reported wildfires and mudslides in Colorado that summer we opted for a rainy road trip through Appalachia.

When we moved to Colorado Vedauwoo was floating in the back of my mind even though I had basically retired from climbing. I couldn't help but be aware that it was less than two hours from my new easy day trip. But I didn't want to go there and attempt climbing from a couch-jockey state of fitness.

Two summers ago we'd been climbing enough that I felt like a trip to Vedauwoo wouldn't be wasted with vain efforts. I managed to climb there twice in 2010 and fell in love with the place all over again.

In looking into places to take the kids mountain biking Vedauwoo came up again, and we decided we'd take the kids camping and biking there this past weekend. Since all of the West is on fire, and the temps were supposed to be in the triple digits, Vedauwoo was a natural choice, as it is an interstate drive all the way and it sits at 8,000'.

First, we had to traverse the smoke zone. We drove through 8-9 miles of thick brown smoke east of Ft Collins. It was surreal.

Vedauwoo was hot, but maybe ten degrees cooler than Denver ended up being. We could see the smoke from the fire from the day use area.

The campground has been denuded of shade giving beetle killed trees, and the hot wind was blasting through the campground. We decided not to unpack.

Striking out with our party of six we went counter-clockwise along the Turtle Rock Trail. We explored a little maze of dolmen formations and did a little bare rock riding.

Once on the trail proper we started to lose a lot of elevation. It was somewhat worrisome to me, because I knew we'd somehow have to elevate four kids back to the level of the campground under the harsh sun .

We'd followed a rocky, tree shaded creek that surprisingly reminded me of the East. Then we came out of the trees and were rewarded with a surreal and sublimely beautiful vista.

The Middle Crow Creek drainage possesses a simple, sudden beauty. I can't really describe it, and the photos I took from the bike saddle do not do it justice.

We had a blast on the "dips" as the kids called them. There was a long section of two track that were mostly level and crossed a broad grassy meadow.

The first mile was the most enjoyable. Then we spent four miles regaining all that elevation. Finally, near the end, I left everyone in the shade and went to get the car.

The heat, the wind, and a long hard day left us with the conclusion that a retreat home would be the best thing for everyone. And so we beat feet south.

At home we discovered that at least five new wildfires had bloomed across the Colorado landscape and that temperature records had been broken all over.

Despite the effort, and some demon wrasslin' in my head, we had a good day.

I'm thankful we now do have the opportunity to go to Vedauwoo on a day trip. I'm more content these days to go and just enjoy being outside and seeing such an amazing place, where years ago I would have been stressed just because we left earlier than planned.

I miss the "care-free" days of being a climbing bum with little ambition beyond the next climbing trip, but I've made my choices in life and have no regrets.

My family is the most important thing in my life. I want to share with them the things I love in life. But at the same time their welfare and enjoyment is more important to me than my ambitions of climbing of cycling glory. I was pleasantly (no really!) reminded of that yesterday in the blast furnace heat and blistering sun of Wyoming.

1 comment:

  1. I tried to talk my wife into going to school in Laramie a few years before we ended up in Colorado. I was cognizant of the fact that I'd be able to ride my bike to Vedauwoo if we'd lived there. That just didn't pan out.

    Happy Jack was going to be our second day of riding, but we just bailed. It was too hot, too windy and we were too tired.