This is overdue. But good news for the readers, it'll be a shorter article. Sike. There's a gallery in case you don't feel like reading.
Wyoming surprised me. The place, the climate, the terrain, the people... all blew up my stereotypical ideas of Wyoming.
The Climate and Terrain
I'm not sure why, but I thought all of Wyoming was going to be flat, hot, dry, and windy. Something about cowboys and ranching. I was pleasantly surprised to find that much of the northern section is quite hilly, forested, and full of thermal activity. (Yes, like Yellowstone.) It made for an interesting nostalgia... the smell of warm sulfur kind is reminiscent of the beach. It's quite the transportive moment... when you think you're going to ride straight onto a beach.... in Wyoming.
Also, it just wasn't as windy as I thought it would be. Sure, there was that one day in the Wyoming Basin where you basically had to point your bike diagonally across the road to keep going straight, but that was the outlier day.
The humidity was low, of course, but the overall temps were mild. Perhaps it was a fluke, but there was only one day in the Basin that really felt like a threat.
I've got to say that between the touristy mountain towns of Canada and Montana and the miles of clear-cut forest in Montana, Wyoming was refreshingly untamed. Perhaps there were just no forests to be clear cut, but there were miles upon mile upon miles of nothing but rolling hills, plateaus, and plains of sagebrush. No houses, no gas stations, no nothing. Just you and the land. If my subconscious had an Inception-like layer, that would be it.
I also saw the most wild of creatures in Wyoming. A whole herd of Elk, loads of antelope bounding across the plains, and even a pack of wild horses. Wild horses, you should know, behave VERY differently than domesticated horses. They actually NOTICE when someone is around, and act very alert, and stamp and swish their tail; ready to run at any moment.
The stars are something else out there. If you have to get up in the middle of the night, it's usually the most annoying thing. But out there, you're rewarded with the Milky Way splashed across the sky and a hundred other bright stars that make you forget you had to get out of your sleeping bag for this.
A State of 585,000 People
Only Alaska has a smaller population density than Wyoming. The CITY of Philadelphia is THREE TIMES larger than the entire state of Wyoming. Most Wyoming residents like it that way. They don't want you do know that Wyoming doesn't have an individual or corporate income tax, nor does it assess any tax on retirement income earned in another state. How bout that!?
But just because they love Wyoming doesn't mean they don't travel around. The people I met along the way were well-traveled and well-versed in the ways of the world. Many people didn't go to college, but had well-balanced views on the world nonetheless. I can't begin to tell you how impressed I am with the people of Wyoming. It's like all the things that people typically have opinions about because they read something in the news, the people of Wyoming have opinions because they've been there. Military, oil and gas workers, hunters, fishers, fly-fishers, cooks, bartenders, hiking guides, ranchers... you name it, they've done it here, there and everywhere. I met a man in Savery, Wyoming that worked in Afghanistan. I met a dishwasher who served in the military but then went on to be a sky dive instructor in Central America. I met some locals who went on a fishing trip in Alaska, and hosted a huge fish fry pot-luck to share the bounty with the community. I met a bartender who moved to Alaska to work at a mine after living for 10 years in Spain because he "woke up one morning in a too perfect coastal town and thought 'is this it?'"
But community doesn't come easily sometimes. I met a woman from Vermont who was still considered a newcomer after 20 some odd years. I stayed the night in the town of Wamsutter that basically booms and busts at the will of the natural gas industry. Regardless, I always felt welcome, and I always felt like I could listen to what the people of Wyoming had to say without ever getting bored.
The Wyoming Basin versus Yellowstone
I'll do a separate post on the Basin, but here's a nice, rambling, non-sequitor comparison of these two famous places in Wyoming. At times, they couldn't be more dissimilar.
- Yellowstone is full of people driving RVs who shouldn't be driving RVs. The Basin is full of antelope.
- Yellowstone has designated campsites that fill up by 9am everyday. The Basin has some wells where a patch of sagebrush has been scratched away by tired cyclists, and your only company is thirsty animals.
- Yellowstone has bears. A bear wouldn't even think about hanging out in the god-forsaken Basin.
- Yellowstone has lodges with markets and restaurants. The Basin has gas stations with Subways.
- Yellowstone smells like sulfur. The Basin smells like dirt in your nose.
- Yellowstone attracts international visitors. The Basin attracts masochistic cyclists and mining companies.
- Yellowstone is enormous. The Basin is enormous.
That about sums up my Yellowstone versus Wyoming Basin comparison.
In general, I'm still enchanted with the solitude, character, and beauty of Wyoming. But I'm going to be honest, Colorado still has my heart.