Sunday, June 13, 2010

Force of Nature

I went into the mountains on May 20th and came out June 9th. During that time, I visited the Middle Fork of the Popo Agie where it runs through Three Forks Park three times.

The first time, the entire meadow was covered in multiple feet of snow and we had our choice of solid snow bridges to cross when heading up into Stough Creek Basin.

A week later, the snow bridges had collapsed and the river was up approximately two feet, leaving a wake of dangerous ice shelves. We still were camped on snow in the meadow, but we crossed at the tributary from Pinto Park just above the upstream confluence and couldn't feel our feet after being in the water for more than a couple of minutes.

The third time, we couldn't enter the meadow because it was under water. Completely underwater. From Three Forks Park south into town, the Popo Agie was a powerful torrent of whitewater that carried large boulders and trees bobbing in its current.

We went into the mountains in winter and came out in spring.

Lander hasn't seen the river like this since 1963 when Worthen Reservoir broke under the pressure of full capacity.

The National Guard is on scene, but more impressive is the sense of neighborliness and awe that has saturated this community along with the high water.

The town is now fining gawkers in City Park an egregious sum in an effort to keep folks out of danger along the river bank. But the river's magnetism in this state is hard to deny.

In an ironic move, Brewfest was relocated from City Park to the local high school (which is also serving as a shelter for those who have vacated their homes due to the flood waters).

So far seven bridges are out in the area (no more Mortimer Lane bridge means no more Tomato Loop runs), but Main Street bridge is still there.

Awaiting the future with sandbags and baited breath.

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