I’m writing this on September 10th, Labor Day has come and gone (and due to my health, wrapping it up in early October.) The weather is returning to a warm phase with low’s in the mid-40’s and highs near 80 after a chilly, rainy, and in some places SNOWY weekend. I’m in Saratoga, Wyoming for a few days before heading to Vernal, Utah. This post ends with a brief synopsis of my drive to Vernal and my experience on a VERY remote scenic byway – Wyoming 70.
Update: due to a bad sinus infection, its now Oct. 11, I’m FINALLY getting this post live. There’s still lots of great info and in the video I bring you “up to speed”, enjoy! Oh, and I’d love to hear from you… use the space below.
Sunset here in Saratoga, Wyoming (yep, I’m back!) is about 7:30pm, about 75 minutes earlier than on the Summer Solstice. As the days shorten and sunset occurs earlier, the days heat ends earlier.
The high desert has massive temperature swings between dawn and late afternoon
Here in the high desert (7300 ft. elevation), the air is dry and the sun is strong. The Spring and Summer months feature up to 50 degree temperature swings between the pre-sunrise morning low and the late afternoon high. This is far different from the experience those who are influenced by Gulf of Mexico moisture (humidity.) In humid regions, temperatures remain elevated at night, so the temperature range between the overnight low and afternoon high is far closer to 20 degrees.
Saratoga Wyoming: Back to civilization (sort of)
Saratoga is (still) a town of 1700 people, best known for (free) hot springs near the center of town, and great proximity to the west side of the Snowy Mountains. I’ve only been here for a day or so thus far and kayaking in Turpin Reservoir was a definite highlight. Turpin is at 9400 ft., high in the Snowy’s, accessible via a wash-boarded gravel road (about 13 miles) from the pavement. Turpin is 100 acres, about 2000 ft. above Saratoga (7300 ft. elevation) and features crystal clear waters. I could even see some patches of unmelted snow from last winter!
Incidentally, the higher peaks in the Unitas and Wasatch Mountains (over 10000 ft) saw their first accumulating snow on Labor Day! So… “it” has begun. Of course, with warmer weather, any fresh snow will melt away (for now.)
Saratoga itself still has plenty of visitors, but as this is the “inbetween season” (between summer tourists and autumn hunters), the locals have a bit of a break and its easy to get a sandwich or coffee in the local eateries.
Mirror Lake, elevation about 10k feet is also within about a 40-45 minute drive from Saratoga Lake. This pristine lake, high in the Snowy’s is crystal clear (and getting cold!) Autumn has definitely arrived at this elevation. There’s no NEW snow (yet) for the upcoming season, but if you look at my photos carefully, you can see some patches of LAST YEAR’s snow hanging in there!
Paddling in Mirror Lake was more like a late October experience as there was a stiff wind and temperatures, despite the fact that it was late morning, were slowly rising through the low 50’s.
After 3 weeks of boondocking (dry camping)…
It’s nice to have “shore power”, you definitely grow to appreciate it! I’ve been running the fireplace each night (it’s been needed!) Sunrise however brings the beginning of a massive warmup each day as noted earlier.
While in Saratoga
Sunny Cup and Lollipops offer coffee, ice cream and more light eats. Both are great places to grab a coffee and get some work done on the laptop! The Saratoga Sandwich Shop has good sandwiches, and good Mexican food is found at the Cantina. And… of course the hot springs!
I chose a route that is only open about 4 months each year – Wyoming 70 from Encampment to Baggs, Wyoming. Wyoming 70 begins in Encampment – a town that is almost isolated for much of the winter. It sports about 450 restaurants, an eclectic coffee shop, one restaurant, and the grocery store is long closed. The nearest grocery store is 20 miles north in Saratoga.
Wyoming 70 is listed as a “scenic byway.” As you climb (over 2000 ft) out of Encampment, you quickly lose cell service, and you won’t see cell service for the next 80 or so miles. In-between lies a rugged, sparsely populated land. My video (above) highlights a small portion of the drive.
After Wyoming 70, the road to Vernal takes you to Craig, Colorado. Craig is a good place to stop at a bar and grill as there’s virtually nothing between Craig and Dinosaur, and there’s only bar and grill in Dinosaur! The next roadside food you’ll encounter is in Naples, just east of Vernal!
I ended up driving about 5 hours straight before stopping at Carol’s in Naples for a light bite. Now I’m in Vernal, 5400 ft. elevation (I don’t know what to do with all the air!) and I’m taking care of things that a town of 7000 can provide you with.
Before I leave Saratoga on Sunday (Sept. 10), I will cross the Snowy’s to paddle in Mirror Lake (again) and to meet up with friends in Laramie at the UWyo football game. The Co-Op is also worth the visit while in Laramie – a great natural foods store with meats from local ranchers.
Autumn in Vernal (thru mid-october) and winter in Montana (more on this soon.) I can say that I WILL be ski teaching this winter! More about this soon.
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