It might be a misconception on our part, but we’ve come to think that once crossing over into Wyoming we’ve arrived. In the real West, that is. Good-by corn belt and bread basket; hello rugged country and wide open spaces. Interstate 80 traverses the state; it’s the fastest route to get from Point A to B. But speed wasn’t on our minds now—more like, sit back and take in the views. This is what you came for—those limitless horizons, hard-to-grasp wide open scenery, magnificent topography . . . nothing like we’re used to in Hoosier Land.
It’s one of the least populated states in the U.S. Only 544,000 people dispersed over about 98,000 square miles of country. And that’s their big selling point. You don’t come to Wyoming for the bustling crowds and traffic jams. It’s the home of the cowboy, the rodeo, and the open plains fringed with distant mountain peaks. Not a place for city folk, a traffic jam is one car in front of you; a good walk could take you all day and everybody likes their bison burgers. If you like wild country, give Wyoming a look.
After a hearty breakfast at our favorite Cheyenne eatery and a quick Walmart stop for re-provisioning, we pulled away from the town’s city limits, our upcoming 3-day destination just a short drive west of town.
One minute the state capitol building is looming in your rearview mirror, a few short minutes later it’s all wide open space. No outlying suburbs or commercial strips, it’s undulating waves of sagebrush ocean pierced by an arrow-straight road leading ahead to low-lying hills. Therein we would find a place of mysterious rock piles and country so unique it has enticed peoples throughout the ages to come, set up camp and stay awhile.
Soon the road begins its climb, twisting and winding and gaining some elevation. Sagebrush land gives way to pine-cloaked hillsides, and then . . . rounding a curve the first clump of rocks comes into view. Mysterious outcroppings scattered over the landscape.
It’s here, within this jumbled, crazy, rocky terrain we soon arrive at our first Wyoming destination. It’s a place we’ve passed by several times before, too focused on the drive ahead to take time and stay here awhile. Not so on this trip—we had a site reserved at this state park. On a cool, sunny afternoon we pulled through their gates.
It is a place where rolling grasslands are dotted with groves of aspen and lodgepole pines. Here and there disjointed heaps of pink granite outcroppings rise above the grassy expanse. Named for the famous sportscaster, Curt Gowdy State Park was established in 1971 and is composed of 3,400 acres of land and water. Three reservoirs provide opportunities for fishing and water sports, while 35 miles of well-laid out trails bring hiking opportunities, as well as being open for mountain biking. The park also has one of the largest outdoor archery ranges in the state.
The park was named in 1972 for the famous sportscaster. Curt Gowdy was born in Green River, Wyoming in 1919 and moved to Cheyenne with his family when he was 6 years old. He later attended the University of Wyoming in Laramie, where he played basketball and tennis. After a sports injury sidelined his dreams of becoming a pilot, Gowdy discovered his natural ability to commentate at local sporting events in the Cheyenne and Laramie areas. He continued his sportscasting career as the second announcer for the New York Yankees before starting his 15-year career in 1951 as the lead announcer for the Boston Red Sox. He left the Boston Red Sox in 1965 to work for NBC Sports, where he announced a variety of sports and events for 10 years. Gowdy passed away in 2006. The well-designed Visitor Center made of natural materials that blends into the environment pays special tribute to the man as well as being a fine introduction to the natural surroundings of the park and the creatures that call this place their home.
The park has 145 available camp sites, but only the 35 in the Tumbleweed section are reserveable. Built on terraced land overlooking the large Granite Reservoir, we had a lakeside site that provided great expansive views. But in truth, not one of the sites was lacking in both view and expansiveness. The only downside to this particular section was the open, hilly terrain provided little privacy. But with all pull-through, well spread apart sites, you wouldn’t find a bad one here.
And colorful sunsets made the setting all the more desirable.Hiking, biking, paddle boarding and boating might be the main activities enjoyed here, but Chris soon learned there was at least one more activity to be had at this state park. He wasted little time unpacking the equipment, warming up the instruments and with controls in hand, throttle up and . . . LIFT OFF!
Yes, he’s been bitten by the fever of flying high-tech drones. He started small and got the feel, then knew he wanted more . . . more size, more complexity, more challenging and of course, more expensive. So what’s another hobby to a man who has had more than an average fair-share?
Interesting terrains make for even better flying conditions. And the camera mounted on this model is something to be admired. Don’t be surprised if aerial shots show up in some forthcoming posts of mine.
He’s getting the hang of it with each passing day.
With our focus back on terra firma once again, we spent each day exploring different trails. After taking a couple of the park’s more popular ones, we moved on to a nearby area. As a result of my extensive research, I learned that more incredible landscapes lay in an area adjacent to this park. Early in the day we set out to explore a special recreation area within the Medicine Bow National Forest.
Forest Road 700—Vedauwoo Road—winds through open meadows dotted with clumps of pines and of course, more of those boulder piles. Two craggy mountain peaks dominate the skyline, while granite boulders and bluffs are scattered everywhere you look. Intermixed with the rocky landscape, pines twisted and bent into creative shapes struggle to survive in this windswept place of dry sloping ground. But combine these features together and you come up with some interesting compositions. It’s definitely a place that can pique your interest, entice you to get out and experience it firsthand. And you can guess that’s what we did.
We weren’t the only enthusiasts to be in the area that day. Vedauwoo Recreation Area is also a rock climber’s heaven and on any given day, especially in good weather and on the weekends, climbers flock to this recreation area, one of the very best in this part of Wyoming. We read that there are endless climbing routes mapped out on these rock piles, ranging in difficulty from very easy to incredibly difficult. A smorgasbord awaits you!
We found it captivating to simply sit out there and watch them. It takes time (and skill and patience) when going up, but the going down is done in mere minutes.
But one thing I know for certain—that sport will never call to me!
The hard, erosion-resistant granite favored by these climbers was formed about 1.4 billion years ago when molten rock slowly cooled and hardened deep underground. The name Vedauwoo comes from the Arapaho Indian word for “earth-born.” These Indians, who considered the area sacred, believed the rocks were formed by human and animal spirits. That works for me—a much more illustrative way of an explanation.
The Turtle Rock Trail at Vedauwoo lays claim to being the most popular trail in the Cheyenne/Laramie area, with good reasons. Encircling one of the largest heaps of rocks, it’s a fascinating mix of geological artistry and biological wonder. Except for the rather constant rollercoaster pathway, the trail never does climb to very high elevations. You’ll pass by beaver ponds, far-off views, and have an in-your-face perspective of those rocky piles. It’s a trail that offers changing landscapes, a hike that never does get boring. Who could ask for more in a simple loop of a trail?
Tomorrow will be a “streamin’ day”
–we’re moving on to a new destination.
And significantly higher elevation.