We chose the scenic route. A rookie mistake. Snow was falling as we set out, but when we dropped down the mountains into Cody, it stopped. We figured that the Big Horn Mountains should be lovely in September, with lots of scenic overlooks for pictures and places to stop for a picnic lunch. We were hoping to see Devils Tower before spending a couple of days in Rapid City, SD.
Snow flurries began at Ten Sleep, WY. The flakes melted as soon as they hit the pavement. Elevation 4,426 – still lower than Cody. The road climbed, and now the snow fell in earnest. We could see the signs for Meadowlark Lake, but could no longer see the edges of the asphalt. Elevation 8,199. We drove slowly in a cone of white, following rapidly filling tracks of a car somewhere ahead of us.
The conversation went something like this:
“Should we stop?”
“Do you think we should turn around?”
“How? We can’t see anything.”
“What the fuck are we going to do?”
A quick look over my shoulder at the boys sleeping in the back seat.
Then, as if on cue, a black shape poked through the white on the right of us. Then one ahead. Now two figures on the left, and a couple behind us. Rich braked slowly, afraid of sliding, afraid of hitting them, simply afraid. Black Angus cattle. This is free range country, with no fences. The cows were walking on the road that day, through the snow. Going our way.
We followed the cows for miles along that twisting lovely road, the promised vistas cloaked, our picnic eaten in the van as we crept along at a cow’s pace. We finally reached a pass and began a slow descent, and the snow turned to rain and then fog. The cows turned off the road, and we sped on. Later we saw the clouded outline of Devils Tower, but fled when the rain began to turn to snow again. September can be tricky in Wyoming.