wyoming: day 1 (the greatest day of my wife’s life)

so it may sound like an exaggeration, but i promise that’s what she said to me!

no, not our wedding day, not the day we met… not even the day she finished reading the last harry potter.

this day, a few weeks ago in wyoming, was the “greatest day of (her) life”.

let me explain…

we woke early to the sun rising over willow lake at the edge of the wind river mountains.  she loves the outdoors, and more specifically, the mountains.  she also loves waking up in a tent next to me :).  what can i say?

so after yawning a bit, taking a sip of my coffee, she found a nice, soft patch of grass and started a short yoga routine.  she loves yoga.

after breaking down camp, we headed over to our great friend’s home just outside of pinedale.  Mike and Ellen (yes, i know, this may get confusing.  i’ll just call my Ellen, Elle for the remainder of the wyoming posts) took the week off after hearing that we were coming in town… incredibly sweet of them.  and it speaks to their faithfulness and kindness and friendship.  i hope someday to be as considerate as they are.

they invited us over for breakfast… and now back to Elle’s “greatest day”.  Ellen informed Elle that she could go pick out her own egg, straight from the coup.  now, since Elle is a huge fan of eating whole, natural foods, this was very exciting for her.  “a farm-fresh egg, seconds after it was laid (still warm!!!), and i get to pick it out myself!!!!!!???!!!”  i could just feel the intense excitement bubbling over in her mind.

but alas, the chickens hadn’t yet laid an egg this morning… so we played with Ellen’s goats.  another score for Elle.

patiently (sort of) waiting for a chicken to lay a precious egg….

the two Ellens trying to will the chickens into submission…

oooooo!  i think it might have worked!!

oh, false alarm.  let’s pet the goats some more…

alas!!!  one lone egg for Elle!!

lots of excitement and exclamation points!!!!!!!

so to top it all off, Elle cooked it herself, just the way she likes it.  and with breakfast, Ellen served homemade butter (another big plus for Elle) and goat’s milk, straight from the cute goat-friend she just made!

wow, this day couldn’t get much better… or could it?

during breakfast, Ellen mentioned that some friends of hers needed some help tomorrow “riding the drift”.  now, folks from those parts in wyoming know what that phrase means, but many of us don’t.  i was lucky enough to learn when i lived in pinedale in 2005… i actually got the chance to “ride the drift”!

so let me explain…

the green river drift is one of, if not the the longest remaining cattle drive in the country.  it’s an historic event that captures the essence of the old west cowboys.  Elle has always dreamed of riding horses high and free through forests and on mountainsides.  she loves horses, and even though we’re from texas, we never get the chance to be around them or ride (surprisingly enough to some of you, i’m sure).

so when Ellen invited her, i saw a new light in Elle’s eyes i had never seen…

“oh my goodness!” she exclaimed.  “but i haven’t ever really ridden a horse.”  she timidly chirped.

now just to clarify, Elle has been on horses quite a few times, but always in the “trail ride” scenario where she isn’t actually controlling the horse herself.  this is much different than riding alone and trying to herd cattle in the mountains.

silence.

“oh, well, we can just go get you on one of my horses,”  Ellen calmly replied.

and so it was.

so my Elle got to spend a few glorious hours on her favorite horse of Ellen’s, pistol pete.  she got to ride pete breifly last year when Ellen and Mike went on a pack trip with us into the winds (see somewhere in the middle of montana… err… wyoming).  and did i mention she loves horses.

so after that, we left Mike and Ellen’s place, and headed to the upper green to one of my favorite campsites along the river, just before the lower lake.  we spent the rest of the afternoon basking in the sunlight, enjoying our view and the cool, clean  wyoming air.

“let’s go for a hike!” she suggested.  admittedly, i wasn’t really in the mood for a hike.  but i reluctantly agreed.

Elle loves hiking through the forest.  i generally don’t hike for pleasure… i’m usually looking for images to make.  so hiking through the dense trees isn’t always my favorite.  but we did the east side lower lake trail anyway, and i’m so glad we did.

it was hauntingly beautiful.  massive lodgepole pines and peeking through the trees were gorgeous vistas of the lower green river lake.  we had a blast.

wyoming had a record snowfall this year, so all the creeks and rivers are surging.  just beautiful.

after our short hike, we headed back to camp to find our view even prettier than before.  and the sun crept lower on the horizon.

Mike and Ellen made the hour drive out to our site just to sit, drink a little whiskey, and cook us dinner.

what great friends we have.

we chatted and laughed well into the evening.  until the stars came out to greet us.

and this is what i’d been waiting for for a whole, long year.  last year, i camped at this very spot and attempted a star picture.  it did not turn out the way i planned.  so now, a full year later, i had my chance!  and i couldn’t have asked for a better image.

Mike and Ellen left… they had a long drive back to get some shut eye before the early day we had ahead of us tomorrow.

as you can see, it was a very good day.  perhaps the “greatest” day.  she kept saying it was.  but we still had a week to go up here in heaven.  so the days that followed just might provide a bit of competition… and tomorrow would be a big one.  Elle would get to play cowgirl on the last day of the green river drift…

all images © andrew r. slaton | photographer 2011