by Neva Bodin
Planning a very busy month in June with another 3 week nurse aide training class to organize and teach, I suggested we take a couple nights now to camp out at Pathfinder Dam, about 40 miles from our home. It is spilling over due to the abundant snow pack in the Rocky Mountains. This is only the fourth time it has spilled over in the last 30 years. And the spillway was raised after the last time in 2011. Spectacular show now.
Pathfinder Dam, completed in 1909, has a small cemetery of workers nearby who died while working on the dam. Named for General John Charles Fremont, known as the Pathfinder, and now surrounded by the large Pathfinder Ranch, the dam was quarried of granite blocks near the canyon. These blocks, split to weight of 8-10 tons, were put in place by huge cables. Pins that held these cables can still be seen sticking out of granite slabs. It was an engineering feat at the time.Nearby on one path we found Pelican Haven, by a side creek. One pelican had regurgitated: 100’s of 1 inch minnows and a 3 inch crayfish. We were wondering what they were finding to eat….
Cement for the dam, hauled from Casper 47 miles away by horse and wagon took three days by fast team, and many more days if the team was slow. Freight teams consisted of two horses, mules and a 220 horse team drawing five wagons loaded with 31,000 pounds of cement. The contractor’s pay for the journey–$3. Final cost was 2.2 million dollars.
Today it is a busy recreation/camping/fishing area. And twice we have observed a man wind sailing across the lake with 40+ mph gales. It is a deceptive lake, calm and serene reflecting the surrounding mountains, then throwing a tantrum with strong wind gusts, and occasionally drowning the unwary fisherman/boater.
We took our four-wheeler. A fantastic two days. Let me do a pictorial version of our short vacation. Besides the beautiful scenery, calm and then ferocious water, we saw baby antelope, a bull snake, pelicans, seagulls, robins, grackles, baby rabbits, Merganser ducks, fish jump, buzzards, numerous flowers, cliff swallows, a very fast little gecko, and people.
I am in love with Wyoming’s state flower, the Indian Paintbrush. It is a parasite, feeding off the roots of other plants, most favorite, the beautiful, hardy sage brush. It may also photosynthesize for itself a bit. The flowers are edible and were used for rheumatism and other maladies by the Indians. The green parts may be poisonous due to concentrations of selenium.
I am fascinated by this untouched land surrounding this huge engineering accomplishment.
I came home and hurried to a local elementary school where I read two of my children’s stories to grades 1-5 for their fine arts days. That too was delightful.