Wyoming

Well I got to mile marker 66, expecting to be in Jeffrey City, but all I saw was an endless stretch of Wyoming desert. Grant had gone ahead while Lauren and I took a lunch break, the two of us assuming I would be able to follow the one road 33 miles into town. So I then realized I had made a huge mistake, noting the foreign county sign and, once again, the lack of a town. I also, not coincidentally as I was lost in Wyoming wilderness, had no phone service.

 

Well, Shit I said.

 

We celebrated Lauren’s birthday at our first stop in Wyoming, Saratoga, a few days previous to my unfortunate error. We took a day off in a rather smoky hotel room and being famous for their natural hot springs, we indulged in the “therapeutic” baths that night.

 

It may be therapeutic, I wouldn’t be able to tell you though because the hot springs were upwards of 140 degrees. It was a cool, dry night as temperatures decline nicely when the sun goes down in Wyoming, but you could not move in the hot spring, which had a cement pool enclosing the waters, without feeling like all of your skin was being agonizingly scraped away. Inventively, we walked around to the river where the hot spring exits and basked in a pool with pockets of excruciating extremes of temperature. The hot springs were not too enjoyable. The grocery store, by the way, had about 30 animal heads hanging and yes, it looked ridiculous. They love taxidermy in Wyoming.

 

We rode the next day to Rawlins alongside some antelope, or muledeer, who thought Grant and I were chasing them. Fifteen miles in they realized we were just cyclists and gave up but it was a cool experience to be riding with them. We were able to stay at a very nice, but very windy campground after eating dinner at a restaurant that looked like the factory that makes the stuff on the walls of T.G.I. Friday’s and Applebee’s exploded and flew debris on every inch of that restaurant.

 

And then I got lost on our way to Jeffrey City as I painfully recounted and ended up biking around 120 miles that day. Our ending in this “city” was quite a let down. The population estimate of 100 was far too high and we stayed in a park pavilion overrun by weeds, garbage and swarming with very small, but unnecessarily pugnacious mosquitoes. The one bar in town also happened to be the only place that served food and when Lauren asked if she could get oil and vinegar on her salad, the waitress, who looked quite weathered, responded “This is a cowboy bar, Missy. We got ranch.” We all had a good laugh about that one the other day.

 

I’d say Jeffrey City was the worst town we’ve stopped in on our trip, but it’s that bearable misery that has given us that story. And although most of the towns we stay in are well accommodated, and, mind you we’re quite comfortable in our tent, it’s the lack of luxuries, (showers, television, electricity), that has given this trip an identity and a sentimentality I’m sure we all won’t soon forget.

 

When we entered Wyoming, and this is an aside, there was a billboard showing a work boot with pink laces behind the text “Working: Not Just for Men Anymore”. Glad to see you received the memo Wyoming, I’ll let my friends know.

 

We rode on to Lander the next day, once again through the barren land of Wyoming. It’s like Missouri’s annoying, endless, arduous hills combined with the numbing anonymity and hopeless abandon of Kansas’ absent landscape. The towns appear out of nowhere and Lander, at night, is a surprisingly active scene. We, however, got our excitement when a woman in a van offered the shower in her house to us when she saw us locked outside the community pool. We took her up on that offer and rode over to her house. And I say this with nothing at all implied, my intent only to recount events and her generosity, but she proceeded to tell us the completely unabridged version of her conversion to Christianity, all epiphanies, affirmations and subsequent re-affirmations unspared. Grant nor I knew exactly what to say but we did appreciate that shower, all right.

 

After watching another little league game, we set up camp in the city park, an area designated for cyclists to sleep. They didn’t tell us, however, that the sprinklers would come on, full force and all night long. The water clashed against the walls of our tent at rude volume and seeped in, forcing me to create a pretty efficient levee system out of my bed mat given the time of night and lack of light and materials. That was the only time our tent had seen water (rain) since our third night in Virginia.

 

We then rode through Dubois, up and over a mountain and down to Colter Bay on the edge of Grand Teton National Park. My dad came out to visit again so we stayed up in a lodge on the mountain we had just rode down and had a great night at the lodge’s bar, specifically the pool table and the jukebox. In the morning we rode down the mountain again and rode 102 miles through Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Park.

 

The first, Grant Teton, was only about 30 miles and wasn’t much more extravagant than anything we hadn’t seen in Colorado. That is, of course, in exception of the beautiful Grand Teton mountains, resting on the edge of vividly blue lakes. Our ride took us up the lake and the view passed the miles by quickly and I don’t think I’ll ever get the image of those snow-capped, towering mountains out of my mind, at least I don’t think I want to.

 

Our eyes were on the lookout for wildlife but Grand Teton didn’t offer much beside the views to the left, over the lake. Even at just that though, just the view of those mountains, it’s a better place to be, aesthetically of course, than the overwhelming majority of the trip.

 

We then rode a few miles and entered Yellowstone. We all had been excited for this part of the trip, hoping to see some animals out in their natural element. But Yellowstone is so much more than wildlife. It is a geological wonder. Yellowstone is a dream for the photographer because you can’t take a bad shot, but here as I try, every word for the writer is an ultimately unsuccessful attempt to live up to the enormous natural, unplanned beauty of the land.

 

We climbed up steep roads to great heights along canyons that looked into waterways, the river breaking like grass against the occasional rock and fizzling downstream like the bindings of a well-read paperback book. Lush forests, the anachronism of the scent of Christmas pines, would suddenly end and equally dense forests would pick up, but only with the eerily prevailing remains of forest fires; grey, charred trees that stick up like exaggerated fish bones. There are also many logs, whether from petrified or newly chopped trees, scattered in piles down steep slopes of mountains, like a giant game of pick-up sticks (I include that because pick-up sticks was a huge part of my life growing up, playing it every time I went to my grandparent’s house (pick-up sticks is a wonderful game, look it up if you don’t know)).

 

As Grant and I ended our ride we saw some female elk bathing, a wolf, which we’re told is rare to see, skulking in the woods and a few deer. We also were able to see a bald eagle unperch and fly no more than 10 feet directly overhead, circle around and soar over us again and again for a good five minutes.

 

We finished the ride through Yellowstone and entered Montana. We decided to take a day off to explore the other ends of the park and we were able to catch shots of many bison, including one who emerged out of the woods and walked towards our car at an uncomfortable pace, propelling my dad to push the gas when he was a couple fathoms away from the car. We were also able to see Old Faithful erupt, which was a gratifying experience, given how often the geyser would prepare to erupt only to fizzle away and bide its time. We, regretfully, saw no bears despite our greatest efforts.

 

It could just have been the great beauty of those national parks juxtaposed with the monotonous sandy plains of Wyoming that made the views so wonderful… but it was so much more than that.

 

 

 

 

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