The Church Around the Bend

Church in day

We came around a bend somewhere near Douglas, Wyoming and I gasped in delight at this view. Frequent flyers of this blog know that I have a thing for churches and this is one of the more unique that I’ve seen.

The word picturesque comes to mind but that really doesn’t do justice to how lovely it is or how perfectly it is framed by the mountains. You don’t often see a log church but it was exactly the sort of thing I expected to see along a rural Wyoming dirt road.

It’s called Esterbrook Church and the day we stopped by two congregants were there preparing for a wedding later in the day. They were delightful and happy to talk to us about recent renovations at the church and about where we were visiting from.

It was constructed in the forties and the congregation is not large but they are loyal to their little church in the mountains. And with good reason. In fact, it’s a bit of a destination for tourists, photographers and weddings. She said it is not uncommon to have visitors join them for Sunday worship.

Wyoming winters are severe and this road is not maintained in the winter so they try to have their first service of the year on Easter and their last, a candle lit service, on Christmas Eve.

The interior and pews are rustic wood. But the centerpiece of the church is on the altar –  a large picture window that frames Laramie Peak in the distance.

It’s stunning. It’s also impossible for an amateur like myself to photograph. But this will hopefully give you a glimpse at how amazing it is.

church interior

We left there and went about our day to climb Laramie Peak and to see this beautiful rainbow.  Our timing was perfect to catch the sunset at the church on the way home.

Church at sunset 2

It was a picture perfect ending to the day!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Somewhere Over The Rainbow

Sometimes when you miss your goals, something even better happens.

The day we attempted to climb Laramie Peak and were forced out by a nasty storm, we encountered something we would’ve missed had we made it to the top.

We saw this beautiful rainbow. My friend Johnna took the above picture. It was exciting to see both ends and it was all the more impressive against the big Wyoming sky.

So while we hated not making that last mile up the mountain, this was a fantastic reward for the sacrifice. And it’s a timely reminder that when things don’t work out as we wish, we may be getting set up for something even better.

That missed job opportunity? There could be an even better career change waiting for you next year.

That broken heart? Maybe it taught you to be a better partner to someone else down the road. Maybe it taught you how not to hurt someone the way you were hurt.

That rain shower slowed us down and turned us around so we could see something truly spectacular and I am grateful. And I’m trying to be grateful for all the other stuff that I hope to someday learn were blessings in disguise.

Have a good day and go looking for what’s over the rainbow, my friends. You deserve it.

A Mile Shy Of Laramie Peak

One goal for my western adventure was to climb Laramie Peak. Once a landmark for weary travelers along the Oregon Trail, today it is a popular area for recreation as part of the Medicine Bow National Forest in Wyoming.

There is a nice hiking trail up the 10,274 foot mountain and Johnna and I were stoked to climb it. It’s about five miles up so we set out with packs full of water and supplies but felt no sense of urgency as the forecast was for blue skies all day.

This was the view early in the day.

Laramie Peak rocks and sky.JPG

Lovely, isn’t it? The sky was blue and clear, punctuated with puffy white clouds that my friend calls “Simpson’s Clouds.” It was the perfect day for a long hike.

Around mile three, we started running into rain showers. Just a little drizzle but we could see that a dark cloud was settling over us.

storm cloud.JPG

At mile four, the sky turned ominous and the rain picked up.

And then came the wind: wind so powerful that it sounded like a train coming up the mountain and so strong that it could knock you over.

The terrain turns rockier as you near the top, making travel treacherous when the ground and rocks are wet. There’s no cell service here and we saw just one house in the vicinity after traveling for miles without seeing another living soul – even at the campground.

In other words, it would be a long, lonely trip down the mountain to run for help for your friend should someone get hurt. And the rescue undoubtedly would involve a helicopter ride.

We discussed continuing on with our journey and considered sheltering in place if we could find somewhere safe. We had seen a number of natural rock ledges and shelters along the way but none were in sight in that last leg of the journey.

Ultimately, we abandoned our plan and headed back down the mountain toward safety.

It was the right thing to do, even if we were disappointed to abandon our goal. But there will be other trips and other mountains. And we still got in an eight mile hike which isn’t too shabby.

It was a friendly reminder that plans don’t always work out and that sometimes circumstances simply get in the way. We made the best of the day anyway and celebrated eight miles rather than be sad we didn’t make it to ten.

That’s a pretty nice victory too!

 

 

The Best Kind of Vacation

Johnna

The best kind of vacation is the one that stretches your horizons. It teaches you something about a place and its people.  You come home feeling like your world view has shifted, if only just a bit.

It’s a huge world out there and I haven’t seen most of it so when my pal Johnna suggested that I visit her in Wyoming and we journey over to South Dakota for some adventure, I was ready to go.

We spent a couple of days exploring her neck of the woods and then road tripped over to South Dakota’s Black Hills. The vacation was amazing, even if everything didn’t go as planned.

Truth be told, we only hit a few of the highlights and didn’t do everything we had hoped. There’s a lot to see and never enough hours in the day to do it. But we had a great time – partly because we did fun stuff and partly because the company was great.

As I sift through pictures and souvenirs, it becomes increasingly clear that there are many, many stories to tell from this trip. The plan is to begin sharing these tales, one at a time for as long as you’re willing to keep reading.

This trip taught me about the Lakota people and some of their traditions. I learned about how our government prohibited by law many aspects of religions and sacred ceremonies of native peoples. This impacted Native Americans, Eskimos and Hawaiians and it was within my lifetime that our government passed an act granting them the religious freedoms they deserve.

This is something that I want to revisit another day and there is nice imagery to go with it.

It taught me that sometimes a tourist trap is just a tourist trap but also gave me hope that there could be a breathtaking rainbow around the next bend.

I also learned about the rural nature of Wyoming and some of the challenges that come with living here. The western landscape is about as foreign as the surface of the moon compared to my wooded southern Ohio. The big skies, various shades of browns and the sparseness of the landscape lend a unique beauty that you won’t find most places.

Plus there were some good restaurants, interesting people and beautiful sights along the way that made each day of this adventure seem a more rewarding than the one before.

It was a great vacation so stay tuned! There’s more to come!

Laramie Camper

There’s something very appealing about seeing a camper go down the road. Staying in one doesn’t sound like much fun but I do love to look at them. Here’s a glimpse of a camper headed toward Laramie Peak in Wyoming last week.

Expect more stories from this and other adventures through Wyoming and South Dakota in the coming days!