It’s a bummer, man. That is what I have to say about blue iolite. I am pretty confident to conclude that there are no blue iolites in the granite gneiss of Grizzly Creek in the Laramie Mountains just West of Wheatland, Wyoming.
After a punishing, windy night in our tent we set out in the trusty MLRU (Mobile Land Raping Unit v1.3) up a very hairy stretch of unnamed 4×4 road. We made it about a mile before the ruts became about 6ft deep and had to set out on foot. Boy was that a bad idea…
About four valleys and 1000+ft of elevation gain later nothing had changed in the rockscape. We were still amongst impressive plutons of metamorphic granite gneiss and no closer to finding the giant stone of our dreams. We saw lots of cows, the wind was so powerful that at times we were being blown off course and stumbled from the trail.
After summiting one of the nearby peaks for impressive views of the nearby basin where Wheatland lay below us, Erik noticed red berries. Wild Raspberries! Woohoo!
I ate what seemed like a thousand of the little buggers, grabbing a few more off of every bush that we passed. They were so tiny and yet the most flavorful raspberries I ever had. There we were, almost 8,000ft above sea level, a glorious bluebird day, the wind trying to pound us back down the slope and I noticed we were on the wrong ridgeline. D’oh!
Below us, 1,500ft down and to our West, lay the actual Grizzly Creek. We saw a road wind between a saddle of the ridgeline we were on and down into the valley below were an old homestead cabin and some rusted out Model A’s were amongst a herd of skittish cattle. The peak that was our final destination towered over us another 1,500 to 2,000ft. Another 3,000+ft of elevation and a few more miles of hiking to get to where we were supposed to be in the first place; and one 12oz bottle of water between the three of us. What the hell! And away we go!
Down a steep, log-covered slope we crossed to the dirt road at the saddle. The trees, all felled and torched by fire some years earlier, proved to be similar to an NFL combine, only with 50% grades, rocks, thorns, and the most annoyingly painful grass seed hitchhikers my socks have ever experienced–at least there were raspberries! Once on the road the travel down to the old cabin was a breeze; the only hesitation was a stop to pick my socks clean of my parasite-like pain seeds. Once in the base of the valley we found the actual Grizzly Creek; a slow-flowing sop of mud that was spread thin via the hoof prints of thousands of head of cattle over the past century. That is when it first occurred to me that I am sometimes a complete dufus. There was no need to walk all the way to the bottom, we could have crossed from the road to our desired slope via the hanging valley now above us. Double d’oh!
We climbed, climbed, rested, climbed, rested, rested, rested, climbed, rested… climbed. We made it to the main granite face on the peak and still not a single sign of anything other than the common minerals found in granite gneiss. It would have been more productive to go to a home store and look at granite countertops than the 10 mile circular hike I just lead us on. Grizzly Creek was a bust. I had researched and found countless photos of geologists standing next to million carat iolite crystals and not even a bb-sized stone was present in the entire valley. Was this all some sort of hoax? Every book I read claimed the stones were there! Bupkus!
Erik, Aren, and I decided to head back to the truck and our second manwich of the trip. Back down, to the hanging valley this time, and over the saddle. Then it was over the next ridge and down, down, down, down, to the truck where water, a warm cola, and our beloved manwich awaited us. Oh manwich, you have so much ham to give our gurgling bellies!
We went back to camp, packed up, and blew that popsicle stand.
Flying down Palmer Canyon road and back through Wheatland to I-25. Once on I-25 we wound our down to Laramie where we went through some awesome road construction. Boys, Men, most people in general get a little giddy when they get to see half a dozen giant caterpillar dump trucks driving around. I also think I saw a new discovery of giant opal boulders in one of the road cuts but I couldn’t stop to investigate as we were being led by pilot car through the miles of massive road construction. Once in Laramie we took some well deserved showers at a truck stop, got some supplies at the hardware store and went to the Altitude brewery for steaks. JT was our server and Erik later joked that JT stood for Just Terrible. He sucked. Sorry JT, if you ever read this, just know that it’s true, you are a terrible server. Nice guy, but just terrible at your job.
We made it into the Medicine Bows late that night where we made camp at the Bobbie Thompson Campground for the first round of diamond mining to come!