June 12, 2012

Crossing the Sierra Madre Range

We were getting close to home when we entered Colorado last Wednesday, but decided we weren’t quite ready to stay.  So, we headed north into Wyoming on Friday.  We have been noticing that when we meet people now, many are from our neck of the woods.  When they ask where we are from, we can tell them that we’re from Estes Park, not Colorado, and they know where that is.

We stopped in Baggs, Wyoming, for lunch and a trip down memory lane for Tim.  Tim used to pass through Baggs when he worked in Wyoming, and he wanted to see what had become of the town.  The town has grown a bit, but has otherwise changed very little.  Baggs was once frequented by Butch Cassidy and his outlaw “Wild Bunch,” and a cabin that was one of his hangouts is open to the public.

First State Bank of Baggs
Gaddis-Matthews Cabin
Tim wanted to cross the Sierra Madre Range in southern Wyoming on Highway 70, a road that was paved only recently.  The road was dirt when he worked in the area, and he was impressed with how easy the drive had become.  Roads in the mountains always seem to be a work in progress because of the extreme conditions, however, and we had to detour around a slide that had taken out a section of new pavement.

Foothills of the Sierra Madre Range
What Happened to the Road?
This beautiful mountain road climbs to 9,955 feet at Battle Pass, named for a nearby conflict that took place in 1841, and it is here that the road crosses the Continental Divide.  We were surprised to see the lack of snow, even at this elevation, and guessed that it must have been a very mild winter.  Thomas Edison camped near the road in 1878 while on a fishing trip, and it was here that he realized that the fiber from his bamboo fishing pole would make a suitable filament for his incandescent electric lamp.

The View from Battle Pass

View toward Battle Mountain
What Happened to the Snow?
Thomas Edison Camped Near Here
What was especially shocking as we drove through the Medicine Bow National Forest was seeing the effects of the pine bark and mountain beetle infestation that has killed approximately two-thirds of the trees.  The hillsides are mostly gray now, not the beautiful green we love to see.  Although we are all too familiar with the pine bark beetle infestation, we had not witnessed its effect since we left Estes Park last year.  It is so heartbreaking to see what has happened to our majestic forests.


  1. You know, I think I had stock in that bank. ha ha We had the same kind of problem here with the woolly adelgid killing the hemlocks. There is always some little critter out there fighting for it's life... LV

    1. LV, It's so sad to see dead, or dying, trees anywhere. It will take decades for the forests to recover. Sarah