The drive to Franc’s Peak took well over six hours. We loaded up the car and planned our route with the help of Google Earth. Where we were headed the roads have not been publicly mapped yet.
The route was extraordinarily pretty and we drove through dramatic landscape and various Rocky Mountain American towns including Cody and Meteetse.
On entering the Shoshone National Park it became very apparent how far into the wilderness we were going. The roads became dirt tracks and our pick up truck went into four-wheel drive, there was not another soul in sight.
Inevitably we got lost and had to double back on ourselves a couple of times. There is an oil and gas plant in the valley below Franc’s peak where the smell is overwhelming. There parked up on the side of the road was a ginormous truck. Sat in the driver’s cab with the door open and one leg swinging freely was a cigar-sucking local. His muffin top bulged in his faded stonewash denim dungarees. He was a big guy. Wrap-around sunglasses covered what appeared to be beady eyes and his face was shaded by his baseball cap. He had a thick, long white beard that took on the characteristics of candy floss.
B stopped the truck and walked over to talk to him. His accent was strong – think Jeff Bridges in Crazy Heart. I could clearly hear every word he said which carried over on the gentle breeze. They chatted in the way locals do and then after giving us a heads up on directions he called out: “Careful of the fuzzy ones…!”
“Christ that sounds ominous,” I said to B as he sat down slamming the truck door shut.
“It sounds like something out of a movie before a person gets eaten alive,” I said nervously as we drove off.
Franc’s Peak is half in the national forest and half in the Washakie Wilderness (Washakie was a famous Native American Shoshone chief), you have to drive through various barbwire ranch gates as you begin the steep ascent. The elevation we were headed towards was 11,000 feet.
We hit out base camp at 6.30pm and set up our tents (a first for me, as B showed me what to do) as the sun started to dip behind the clouds. The air was clean, crisp and ice-cold. I layered up, first will wool underwear, then sweat pants and trousers. I wore two down jackets as well as a fleece and a hat and gloves. Franc’s summit loomed ahead of us. We had positioned ourselves on the protected side of the mountain in case of bad weather.
Dinner was made fast as the temperature dropped and the sun dipped behind the mountains. We used the camping stove to heat up black beans, diced beef tomatoes and some pesto sauce for flavour. Once hot we chopped up ready-made polenta into the stew. Sitting in the back of the truck we ate out of the saucepan slurping away.
I crawled into my sleeping bag fully dressed wearing a wool hat with my hood up. Excited about the day ahead and the idea of seeing “fuzzy ones” in their natural habitat.