Friday, February 07, 2014

Elk Mountain -- that's all you need to know

One of the constants of winter driving in Wyoming: Elk Mountain.

That's all you have to say. Elk Mountain. 

When I arrived in Rock Springs from Cheyenne, I was asked about the driving conditions. 

"Elk Mountain -- you know."

"Yes, I know."

I crept across the flank of Elk Mountain yesterday in a light snow. It drifted across the interstate, flakes swirling in great gusts with the passing of each truck. Yes, trucks were passing me because I was tailing a semi doing 40. The swirling snow made it hard to see the road. To make it worse, the sun peeked through the low clouds, which added a glare to the white landscape. I did fine as long as I kept my eye on the dark-gray square of the semi's rear end. 

Once I cleared the mountain, the low sky lifted and I could see more than 100 feet. Then it was off to the races. It was snowing in Rawlins but the road was clear from there all the way to Rock Springs.

My last drive over Elk Mountain was at night in mid-October. The road has patches of slushy snow but it was smooth sailing, for the most part. October is early in the season. The road is still warmed by the sun and the snow is wet. This February is deeply cold and the snow is a light powder. Great for skiers but not so great for motorists.

That part of I-80 has many moods. A few Novembers ago, I visited the facilities at the Wagonhound Rest Area. Elk Mountain was a snowy beast rising out of the prairie. And there was only a whisper of a breeze. Usually a brisk wind is halting my progress to the restroom or threatens to send me sailing back to Cheyenne. I could see a stunned look on the faces of other Wyoming travelers, unacquainted with such calm beauty.

Why isn't the wind blowing?

I don't know. It's Elk Mountain.

Must be global warming.

Give it a few hours and we'll be back in the deep freeze.
Just think -- only four more months of winter.

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