desert for dessert

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Smoke. Smoke as far as the eye can see. Thick and homogeneous, never ending. We swam through it blindly, following the faint outline of the road ahead. Seattle to Idaho, through Montana and on to Wyoming.

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This is how we began our trip to Ten Sleep: 16 hours of driving almost completely blind, through the aftermath of an environmental disaster to one of the most surreal and desolate places I have ever been. It’s hard to describe the landscape of Northern WY; it’s a sparse mix of 2 antithetical landscapes. Mostly it’s desert. Dead and dry. Soil that looks to have not seen rain in years.

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There’s no trees or bushes. Miles of rolling hills, yellow, black, and purple – layered like toxic cake – punctuated by oil rigs. Structures as surreal and alien as the landscape itself. Some dormant, some slowly churning away, pumping, alone, seemingly abandoned by man and having taken on a life of their own.

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But suddenly: an oasis. The ground, cut in half by streams opens up, and you drive into a canyon. Lush with vegetation, green and inviting, cool under the canopies. As if unaware of the harsh lifeless ground that lies above, just over the hills behind you.

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But that’s not why we drove here. It’s not the streams for which we drove 970 miles through burning mountain passes. No. It’s the canyon. The towers of Céüse-esque limestone that rise high above the valley floor. This is why we came here.

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These magnificent walls are the reason climbers from all over the country flock here. And we were no exception. We came, we saw, we climbed.

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And so it was. For a week we lived in the shadow of the canyon. Leisurely mornings waiting out the heat gave way to long afternoons of crawling up and down the steep pocketed faces of Ten Sleep limestone. Life was simple and life was good.

So long, Wyoming