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My Wyoming Road Trip, May 2007

Discussion in 'General Gun Discussions' started by Travis McGee, May 10, 2007.

  1. Travis McGee

    Travis McGee Well-Known Member

    I just returned from a quick 1,000 mile car tour around Wyoming. There were two reasons for my visit: to speak to the Wyoming State Shooting Association in Casper last Saturday, and to do some eyeball recon for my next book. I was invited up to Casper by Mark S, president of the WSSA, so I thought it was a perfect opportunity to visit the state.

    Thursday May 3rd I flew into Denver Int'l and rented a car, and drove up I-25 toward Wyoming. The sky ahead at 4PM was black and full of lightning; this was part of the storm that hit Kansas with deadly twisters. Just after crossing into Wyoming, there was a highway sign over the interstate with lightbulbs for traffic advisories. It read "HIGH WIND WARNING: 55+ MPH." Welcome to Wyoming! I quickly learned to hang onto the wheel and deal with the wind. This first night I stayed in Cheyenne, and on the way into town I saw a row of about 25 containers that had just been blown off of a flatbed train that was parked on a siding. Blown right off, onto the ground. Everybody I mentioned it to said that was no big deal.

    Friday I drove up 25 to Casper, very scenic drive as the prairies turned to long rolling hills. Crossed the Platte, saw some big lakes, nice country. I was surprised to see scores of antelopes all over the place, often grazing within slingshot range of the road. (Besides antelopes, I also saw buffalo [fenced in], coyotes, mule deer and white tail deer in the state). This was right from the road. These critters didn't seem too worried, with so little traffic in the middle of wide open uninhabited country.

    (There are also black bears and grizzlies, elk moose and wolves, but I didn't see them on this road trip. BTW, a common sentiment in Wyoming is "the only good wolf is a dead wolf." The wolves were forced on Wyoming by flatland enviros, they feel. The elk population is crashing, because of wolf predation of young elk, and this hurts elk hunting and the outfitting and guiding businesses.)

    Since I reached Casper mid-morning, I drove up Casper Mountain for the views. There was deep snow above about 7,000 feet. Very beautiful, full of pines and aspens. I drove back to Casper by a roundabout route on a graded gravel road. This was my first (but not last) experience with being in a valley with 20 mile views in 360*, with no sign of people other than the dirt road I was on. Not a house, not a power pylon...nothing but mountains, badlands, hills and trees with a clear running stream down the middle.

    I came back to Casper on SR220, and I stopped by the Platte where I saw some fellows fishing. They showed me the trout they just caught. What a beautiful spot in the world is all I could think. A few nice houses right on the river, but not a lot. After all, this was only 15 or so miles out of Casper.

    In Casper I checked into the Parkway Plaza, where the WSSA was meeting the next day. I went for a run along the Platte (it runs right through town) and was quickly reminded that I was over a mile up. The Plaza had a jacuzzi, which was nice for recovering after my jog. It also had an indoor pool that I didn't try. The nicer places in Wyoiming, I was to find out, had jacuzzies and/or heated indoor pools.

    Saturday was the meeting of the WSSA, and I spoke for about 45 minutes. All the while, snow was beginning to fall, and soon it was coming down like mad. In May! I was amazed, but all of the Wyomingites were totally casual about it. This was normal for Wyoming, I was to find out. Mark and I left about 3PM, he had voluneered to be my tour guide. By then there was about 6" of fresh snow, which meant about 4" of slush on SR 20. I drove with white knuckles toward Shoshone, where the snow turned to rain and the roads were more clear. Good thing too, because as we headed north toward Wind River Canyon, the wind was blowing sideways at 60+. Camping trailers were on their sides and so on. Again, I was advised this was typical Wyoming. There were giant whitecapped waves on Boysen Resevoir. The Wind River Canyon was spectacular, especially with a fresh covering of snow on the vertical rock walls which towered above us on both sides. Granite, pines and snow are just about too beautiful to describe, especially with the wild Bighorn River rushing down the middle.

    We went through Thermopolis, but there wasn't a motel room available in town due to a basketball tournament, so we stayed in Worland. Sunday we drove through Greybull and west to Cody. Very interesting town, with the typical "Mainstreet USA" down the middle. Instead of shopping malls, most Wyoming towns have their businesses and restaurants etc on both sides of a main street, which is the place to meet and greet. I had a buffalo burger in Buffalo Bill's Irma Hotel. This is a must stop for anyone visiting the state. It's all original decor from 1907, and you WILL feel Buffalo Bill's spirit throughout the place. Cody is also the place where I bought lots of t-shirts and Wyoming souveniers. It's touristy, but not in an unpleasant way. (BTW, guns are not "in the closet" in Wyoming. You see guns everywhere: in stores, vehicles, bumper stickers, public statues and so on. My favorite t-shirt says "Department of Homeland Security," with four cowboys toting Winchesters below that.)

    For a change, the weather was terrific, about 75*, no wind, and blue skies. In fact, we had great weather for the rest of my stay in Wyoming, which after the tough first days made me appreciate them all the more. Everybody you saw outside was grinning, sort of on a Rocky Mountain High, from my perspective. I guess after a hard winter, the mild weather really makes folks naturally happy.

    From Cody we took another road south (SR 120) through Meeteetse back to Thermopolis. Mark pointed out the local rifle and pistol range, only a few miles out of town. Actually, I think we saw public ranges outside of just about every town we passed. (All were at least 200 yards, minimum, and many were over 1,000 yards.) I would have missed many of them, but Mark, as president of the WSSA, knew them all, along with all of the gun shops in each town.

    Again we went through the Wind River Canyon. Since the weather was nice, I stopped at every overlook and took about a 100 digital photos. This is really spectacular, a must-see on any visit to Wyoming. We then passed through Riverton, which was on the flat land by the Popo Agie river. (This is pronounced PopOzhee, I soon learned.)

    We spent the night and the next AM in Lander, which was my favorite spot in Wyoming. Lander is at the foot of the Wind River Range. The highest spot in the state is Gannett Peak in the Wind River Range, at 13,800 feet. Standing in any intersection on Lander's main street, wearing a t-shirt in the sunshine, I could see snow-capped mountains in all 4 directions. Some were close, some were far away, but even in May you can see snowy ranges all around you. This is not unique to Lander, but for some reason the beauty just struck me there. Lander is the HQ for the National Outdoor Leadership School, and I don't think it was chosen at random. You can do world class hiking, rafting, kayaking, rock climbing, mountain climbing, hunting, fishing, horseback riding...

    For skiing you have to drive to Jackson Hole, but everything else is literally right in your backyard. You can also ski near Lander, I mean it has huge snowy slopes in the near background, you just don't have ski lifts or ski resorts. For that, you must drive around the Wind River Range to Jackson. (I might be wrong about Jackson being closest, there might be a closer ski resort I don't know about.)

    From "downtown" Lander, we drove up the Sink Hole Canyon. With snow-covered cliffs and mountains on both sides of the plowed road, it was just about as pretty as the Wind River Canyon, and the WRC is about the prettiest place I've seen in my life. The roaring Popo Agie River runs down this canyon, disappears into a hole at the base of a rocky cliff, and reappears 1/4 mile down stream on the other side of the road. The big spring snow melt was just beginning, and the Popo Agie River was a rapids; it will diminish as the snow disappears. In every direction, the natural beauty took my breath away: pines, apens, jagged granite slopes with snow in streaks... And the very cool town of Lander was only minutes away. This was a very special place to me.

    After Lander, we drove across SR 287 to Muddy Gap and the Ferris Mountains, then down to Rawlins. This was over 100 miles with almost no sign of man. Just a high fast road with snow and sagebrush on both sides, surrounded by more mountains covered with snow. Spectacular. We made a brief stop at a famous gun shop in Rawlins, then went across I-80 to Laramie for our last night. Tuesday I dropped Mark off in Cheyenne, and then I returned the car at DIA.

    All of Wyoming was beautiful, some places more than others. I didn't have time to visit Yellowstone (the roads were still closed for the winter anyway) or Jackson, so I know I missed some of the best parts of Wyoming. From what I saw, I liked Cody and Lander the most. Having a Wyoming native with me, I learned that water really limits the population growth potential of Wyoming, which is both good and bad. Only 500,000 people live in the state, compared to 5 million next door in Colorado. There are a million beautiful spots to live in Wyoming, but finding a good source of fresh water is a problem unless you choose to live in one of the existing towns. This means the state will never be over run by newcomers, in the way Colorado has been. It also means that would-be free staters have to do a lot of planning and homework before moving. If you want to live in God's Country, with amazing views all around, but 1/2 hour outside of Small Town USA, it can be done...but the water part must be carefully accounted for.

    Now I'm a certified Warm Weather Weenie, living in NE Florida, but even I felt a strong pull. When it's 70* out, under a brilliant blue sky and you're breathing 100% pure mountain air, surrounded by snow capped mountains....it's very appealing. I found myself saying, "Winters would be worth it, to have this." In fact, there's an old Norwegian saying: "There is no bad weather, only bad clothes." Meaning: if you are well prepared, cold weather, snow and wind are not show-stoppers. Harsh winters and water difficulties are the price you will pay to live in one of the most beautiful and lightly populated places in America. These problems also mean you will never be invaded by hordes of flat-landers. A cold and dry state means that the sissies won't come.

    So Wyoming is wide open for freedom-seeking kindred spirits. Just don't expect a 365 day picnic. Plan for 60mph winds trying to blow you off of a highway in a blizzard. That is cold harsh reality and there is no sugar coating it. Plan to be snowed in. Plan to miss events due to weather. Expect a major problem getting water to your perfect homestead or mini ranch. But if you are willing to pay that price, the payoff is worth a million dollars. It's still a state for rugged individualists and pioneers.

    And for shooters....well it's a paradise. There are ranges near every town, and you can shoot on BLM land just about anywhere. If you want to shoot a 50 caliber ten minutes from your house in town, Wyoming is your place. Or if you want to hunt large game, it's all right there. If you want to be a "gun nut" not and not apologize to anybody for anything, you will be welcome in Wyoming.

    If I wasn't such a warm weather weenie.....
  2. Larry Ashcraft

    Larry Ashcraft Moderator Staff Member

    Great write up, thanks.

    Don't tell me you missed the firearms museum in Cody. They're supposed to have the largest collection of Winchesters in the world. We've been wanting to get up that way for several years. Maybe this summer. Last time I was that far north in Wyoming was 1962, when I was 12 years old.

    The wide open spaces get to you, don't they?
  3. Travis McGee

    Travis McGee Well-Known Member

    Unfortunately, my short schedule didn't allow me to stop at the museums in Cody. Everybody told me it could not all be seen even in one full day. I look forward to seeing the museums, as well as visiting Yellowstone NP, Jackson Hole and the Grand Tetons on a future trip.
  4. Pilgrim

    Pilgrim Well-Known Member

    Correct. When you pay for admission at the Buffalo Bill Museum, it is good for two days.

  5. jlbraun

    jlbraun Well-Known Member

    Did you carry a sidearm while you were there?
  6. glockman19

    glockman19 Well-Known Member

    Good Read. Thank You. I love Wyoming as a kid I spent many summers/winters in Jackson skiing, camping and horseback riding. One of my best friends lives in Jackson and is Owner & Executive Chef of the Rendevous Bistro, former Executive Chef of Snake River Grill and cooked for both Presidents Clinton & Bush on many occasions. Voted the Best Restaraunt In Jackson. If you're there check it out. Great food, dining & service.

  7. Hanzerik

    Hanzerik Well-Known Member

    Great Write-up. I know how you feel about the beauty and remoteness that can be had here in Wyoming. Even in the hills 20 miles west of Cheyenne you vary rarely see another person. The most people I have seen up there is during hunting season. I still want to head further West and North, but my Military schedule keeps me busy out in Nebraska. I have not been to the west side of Wyoming since the late 70s through the late 80s when I was a youngster on various RV vacations out of California with my parents. But I still have the memories of the Tetons, Yellowstone, and northern Montana/Canadian Rockies back there in my brain. Views like that you never totally forget.
  8. Travis McGee

    Travis McGee Well-Known Member

    JLBraun: I flew into Denver, so I didn't pack, to save the hassle. But I wasn't worried at all, for one thing, except for a quick drive up I-25, I was in Wyoming. For another thing, I was with the president of the Wyoming State Shooting Association.......heh heh heh.
  9. Travis McGee

    Travis McGee Well-Known Member

    Glockman19: I don't think I could afford to eat in a place that upscale! Sounds great though. Next time, I'll see the Tetons and Jackson for sure.
  10. Travis McGee

    Travis McGee Well-Known Member

    Hanzerik: For sure you should make time for a road trip out to western Wyoming! It's only about 500 miles from one corner to the other of the state.
  11. Larry Ashcraft

    Larry Ashcraft Moderator Staff Member

    I don't think its all that much of a hassle at DIA. P95Carry flew into there last March and had his gun back on by the time they got to the car. He and his wife stayed at my daughter's house for the night, and then the next morning caught a flight to Tulsa for the gun show.
  12. Travis McGee

    Travis McGee Well-Known Member

    I probably would have looked into it, if I didn't know I'd be hanging out with a professional gunslinger, LOL.
  13. Travis McGee

    Travis McGee Well-Known Member

    My First CCW day today! (Florida)

    FWIW, I both turned 50 years old, and received my first ever concealed carry license this year. In fact, my "Concealed Weapon and Firearm License" arrived in the mail from Tallahassee a few days ago while I was in Wyoming. So today was the first day ever that I legally wore a concealed pistol in public. Yahoo! I know this isn't a big deal for long-time "carriers," but it's a big deal to me, and a major reason I moved from Kali to NE Florida. An in case you're wondering, I was carrying a Kel-Tec P-11 inside the waist band at 4 oclock.
  14. Dave P

    Dave P Well-Known Member

    Great story -thanks! Been many years since I have been there, but Wyoming is high on my list of places to move/retire to.

    They do have a summer, don't they??
  15. Iggy

    Iggy Well-Known Member

    Blabbermouth!!!:D ;)

    Tell them more about the blizzards and the wind.

    tell'm, come on, tell them about the cactus and the dust!!

    Don't be tellin' them about them durned ol mountains up there in the fur corner of the state what's sittin' on that super volcano.... Jeez!!!![​IMG]
  16. Iggy

    Iggy Well-Known Member

    They do have a summer, don't they??

    Yup, it came on a Thursday last year and they had a picnic. I had to work and missed it!!
  17. Dienekes

    Dienekes Well-Known Member

    I am in favor of the "buffalo commons" and more wolves. Anything that eats sheep can't be all bad. There are some nice areas--but rolling up the barbed wire and turning the clock back 150 years would be better yet!

    For some reason we see quite a few NY state license plates out here in the summer. They always look a little disoriented.

    But then I'd be pretty spooked in NYC, too.
  18. Sodbuster

    Sodbuster Well-Known Member

    What, there's water in Boysen?! :eek: That's been unusual lately. Very nice write-up Travis. I lived in Jackson Hole for eight years, my sister and her family have lived in Lander for over 25 years. I miss Wyoming, but I get down there now and then. I know the hours add up when you're traveling across the state. From Lander, you'd need to drive up through Dubois and over Togwatee Pass for three hours to get to Jackson. The view of the Tetons as you come down the western side of the Winds is simply incredible. You do have to go to Jackson for downhill skiing, but you can cross country ski almost anywhere around there. Two commercial spots are Brooks Lake Lodge and Cowboy Village, both located just below the crest of Togwatee Pass on either side of the Divide. You had a good guide. Did you see the old war planes parked out on the field just outside Greybull?
  19. Travis McGee

    Travis McGee Well-Known Member

    Iggy, I don't think you have to be worried about being over run by flatlanders. Beautiful or not, Wyoming ain't for sissies.
  20. Travis McGee

    Travis McGee Well-Known Member

    Sure was water in the resevoir, miles of it. The waves were scary huge, a day for ripping the pontoon boats off of their moorings and tipping over RVs on the land. Next time, I'm going to do that great loop from Lander to Jackson all the way around. And I don't know how I missed the airplanes at Greybull, but we were just passing through.

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