It might not need to be said, but after ten weeks on the road, I’m pretty tired. Exhausted in ways that were more than physical, to be honest. Thankfully, I’d seen that coming (because… duh) and clear back in June reserved two full days and three nights at Willard Springs Lodge in the middle of nowhere, Wyoming for the end of the tour. It may have been the best reservation I’ve ever made.
Willard Springs Lodge is owned and operated by Leann and John Moses, a respite for local hunters and adventure-seekers in the Bighorn Mountains. Leann is also a Shannon Fabrics brand ambassador, which is how I knew this place even existed. The idea that the lodge is isolated enough to get both me and Hawke away from phones, Internet, meetings and driving the RV sold it. I knew we’d need the break and Leann provided just that. We left the RV at her place in town and hopped into Hawke’s Jeep. She told us to follow her and off she sped; we were left to follow her clouds of dust for nearly two hours.
The lodge is located far from anything else, which was exactly what we wanted, and there are five cabins on property to rent out. Some have two beds, some have more. They host weddings up there and I can totally see why! We rented Cabin #1, a real log cabin built completely by John and Leann themselves with a couple beds, table and half-bath.
When we got there it was evening already , so we had some dinner and drinks with them, relaxed a bit and settled into our cabin. When we woke the next morning, we headed back to the lodge to have breakfast, family-style. All the meals are served this way and it was delightful. Several times we were joined by hunters in the area, stopping in for a meal, too.
Being our first vacation day, I really wanted to just roam around and do nothing. So Leann pointed us toward the trees and off we went. We wandered through the forest, following a vague trail uphill, hoping we would see some wildlife.
Hawke spotted a deer as we came into an opening, but I missed it. She’d told us there was a meadow at the top of the mountain and for a moment we thought this might be it, but we continued on. Sure enough there was an expanse at the top that was incredible.
Like so much of this area, it is cow-grazing territory so we followed a cow trail for a while. Spread throughout the meadow there are dirt hills, homes to something though I’m not quite sure what. Some had visible openings. Some had ants running all over them. Interspersed between them were large depressions in the ground. Hawke and I tried to figure out what they were—meteor strikes, sinkholes, ancient ponds. Turns out, according to our hosts, they are bison wallows! The animals used to be all over this area and clearly called that meadow home.
A dry creek bed ran along part of the meadow, but strangely right next to it was an underground creek from the spring that was coming up further along. Springs are fairly common here, but I’ve not seen them before so it was fascinating watching the water come up and flow across that corner of the meadow. It reminded me a bit of the La Brea Tar Pits where you also can see stuff gurgling up from the earth—though this is much nicer and not stinky like the tar pits!
Hawke spent the afternoon hunting for Native American relics and I spent the afternoon sewing on my half square triangle quilt and chilling in the cabin. It was delightful and so much of what I needed. I’m not sure the last time I slept as well as I did that night.
The next day we followed a scribbled map out to an area that was a Native American site, filled with tipi rings—dozens of them. The area has been heavily used by Native Americans for centuries. There was something mesmerizing about walking in an area that has remained basically untouched since the various tribes hunted and lived in these lands.
Standing on that mountain, looking across to see the tipi rings, as well as the abundant detritus from ancient tool making, there was such a strong feeling of others being there before. While there are few modern-day folks who get that view (it’s on BLM in the middle of nowhere) I can imagine the the view was similar a hundred years ago, 500 years ago, a thousand years ago. There’s something in that that is inexplicably humbling and I’m not immune to it.
Walking around the tipi rings, examining the fire rings in the middle of larger ones, knowing that people who are long-dead, built this to provide shelter for themselves, their family and their community was awe-inspiring in every sense of the word. I stood with my mouth agape in more than one tipi ring, unable to truly process what I was feeling.
That afternoon, Hawke spent a couple hours putting the place on canvas, sketching then oil painting the scene from the mesa of the two chimneys that stood across the chasm. He has a fantastic little set-up for oil painting on the road and he’s been able to take advantage of it a few times, including in the dining room of the lodge.
Bright and early on Sunday, we headed back out in the Jeep, back to the RV and back to the highways. But the short break did us both a world of good to get outside, breathe fresh air, commune with nature and see another view of America.
Now, back to work!