Take a Walk on the Wild Side
Aug 9, 2022
Mark Hageman

Looking down from an aircraft at 40,000 feet, a barrage of synonyms flood your brain as you fly from east to west over the 10th largest state in the US., Wyoming. Rugged, vast and beautiful are just a few that come to mind. 

When someone mentions Wyoming, most people immediately think of Yellowstone National Park and Old Faithful, the iconic geyser that never disappoints. Jackson Hole, too — a once quiet cowboy town located near the West Central edge of the state. Jackson sits at the base of the Grand Teton mountains and is home to a plethora of amazing snow skiing slopes, summer hiking, biking and white-water rafting. 

Make no mistake, the Jackson area is amazing in terms of what you can see, do and experience in a relatively short period of time, but with that said, more and more people are being drawn to this location, yearning to experience nature and the outdoors away from the hustle and bustle of the city. In post-Covid times, many of us can work from just about anywhere and the number of retirees also continues to rise. This means more people with less and less off-season times. 

Enter, the rest of the state of Wyoming. This vast western state of 97,000-plus square miles is made up mainly of mountains, valleys and open spaces. However, only a bit over 550 million people live there. And while bumper-to-bumper traffic in and out of Jackson Hole and Yellow Stone Park is not uncommon, the rest of the state offers many of the same experiences in a more secluded and quiet setting if you are willing to seek them out. 

Mountain peaks often swaddled in snow, even in the summer months, seem to be around every corner. Lodgepole pines dominate forests and mountains. The further you get away from populated areas the more likely you are to see wildlife both large and small. There are plenty of places to pull off the road and savor the often windy, crisp air, winding rivers and bright blue skies. 

If you see a bear or large animal like a moose or elk, it’s best to keep your distance. Every year there are stories of tourists who want to see how close they can get to a big animal, and those encounters rarely end well. 

Until you have experienced it, it’s hard to explain the solitude that overcomes you as soon as you get away from the few cities that dot the Wyoming landscape. What did John Colter think when he left the Lewis and Clark expedition in 1809 to explore Wyoming, in what is now Yellowstone Park? It is so vast and relatively young as a state (1890). How did the early settlers and cowboys survive? 

Think you might enjoy a good ol’ local rodeo? Casper, Wyoming is the sight of this years National Intercollegiate Rodeo. Over 3,500 college athletes participate in rodeos nationwide and yes, they do get scholarships! Cheyenne Frontier Days, the daddy of them all, is also a once-in-a-lifetime experience. From amazing rodeo to world famous concerts it’s a sight you won’t want to miss. 

Ever consider mountain climbing? The three tallest mountain peaks in Wyoming range from Gannett Peak, 13,809, 13,776 at Grand Teton to 11,973 at Freemont Peak. These peaks obviously require some advanced skill to take on. There are many beginning hills, trails and peaks to test your abilities as well as seasoned guides to help introduce the novice to the sport. 

Is water your thing? Alcoa Reservoir, Freemont Lake and Big Horn Lake ,just to name a few, all offer camping, boating, hiking, mountain biking and swimming. There are also a number of rivers that can be floated, fished and paddled. 

One of the more picturesque locations in the state is Devils Tower, located in the northeast corner near the town of Sundance in the Black Hills. Devils Tower sits 1,267 feet above the Belle Fourche River. It is unique in that it rises high out of the surrounding prairie and has hundreds of parallel rock cracks on the face. The tower is considered one of the finest crack climbing areas on the continent. This location was considered sacred ground by the Northern Plains Indians who were indigenous to the area. It became the United States’ first national monument in 1906.

Wyoming has the countries 8th largest population of Native Americans. The Shoshone and Arapaho share 2.2 million acres of the Wind River Reservation in the west central part of the state. 

As you drive through Wyoming it becomes obvious that there are not a lot of major highways and roads to choose from. Also, it can be a long distance from point to point so make sure you have plenty of gas when leaving populated areas. It is wise to carry plenty of water and some food in your car in case of a break down. Cell phone coverage can be spotty, but it’s still a good idea to carry one in case of an emergency. In general, the people of Wyoming are friendly but settlements, ranches and towns can be far apart. This is a state where, if you venture off the beaten path, you can go miles before seeing another human being. 

Consider broadening your horizons. Step out of your comfort zone and take a walk on the wild side in Wyoming.  

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