The West Begins
“Out where the world is in the making,
Where fewer hearts in despair are aching,
That’s where the West begins” ~Arthur Chapman (1917)
Saying goodbye to the wilds of McCulloch Peaks, with their backdrop of the Big Horns this time, and traversing through the Wyoming countryside on the way to Lander, what an eye-opening for this Minnesota girl. This is a different country, mile and miles of sage, red rocks, desert, vistas, and a diehard spirit.
Getting off the beaten path is impossible without a healthy four-wheel drive vehicle of some type and there are plenty of those to be seen covered in days of dirt and mud as the local ranchers check their responsibilities, or those who just want to get off the beaten path, like this white-haired tenderfoot from the ‘east’—Minnesota.
(The wild horses of the McCulloch Peaks HMA near Cody, Wyoming with the Big Horn Mountains in the background.)
I stopped in Worland to talk with the wild horse specialist of the BLM office for the Fifteenmile HMA, who was not available. It would not have mattered because unfortunately my vehicle is not one of those healthy four-wheeled behemoths, and the area has been receiving the spring moisture it so desperately needs, so I was relegated to staying on the long snake of black that runs to Lander.
As I drove past deserted homesteads and outran the storms I let my mind wander to what it might be like to live here, could I do it? What must it be like to live miles from anywhere, with little to live on, trying to eek a living off the land? But generations have done it, and maybe that’s why they continue to do it, because it’s all they know—think about that for a moment.
I stopped in Thermopolis to snap a cell phone pic of the World’s Largest Hot Springs….that was way cool….heheeee…actually hot, sent that off in a text to my husband and asked, “Where am I?” Now…I wish he would have responded immediately but he didn’t, and I quickly understood why my host at the Airbnb back in Cody had texted earlier in the morning and said something about being careful going through the tunnels in the Wind River gorge, because just a few miles down the road my heart literally stopped!
How many of you have driven through the Wind River Gorge? Well if you answer that question you obviously survived, and I’m typing this, and I obviously
survived…but Oh. My. God…..I prayed! Sixty-five mile an hour speed limit, I could barely creep along at 45 mph tops….my hands were gripping the wheel so hard they were white, and OMG…a sign…the next 14 miles!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! WHAT!!!!!!!!!! You have to be kidding, 14 miles of this winding, snaky road with a drop to the river miles below (kidding it was only a hundred feet or so but my brain is telling me miles), and the view….holy moly…a solid wall straight up for hundreds of feet — my brain is just not wired to handle the mixture of curves going down, steep drop to the right, and height to the sky. I wanted to pull over and bawl! No, I did not take a picture!
After arriving at the bottom which felt like hours my phone starting binging because service was restored, and my husband’s text said, Thermopolis. I pulled over to call him and asked how he knew, he said “Google” and then I let him have it…. how come he hadn’t warned me about that gorge. Because he’s been to Lander for goodness sakes, many times hiking the Wind River range, talks about it all the time, so of course I think he knows, and he confesses he had always driven in from Casper. Forgiven and on I go and here I am typing to you from Lander.
By the time you are reading this, I am on the road to Rock Springs to search for the wild ones with a like-mlnded human, but Lander is my base until Monday.
I’m already liking what I’ve found!
Have an amazing day in your part of the world! For those who live out here in Wyoming, I commend you. If you have a story of how you got here, what you do, and you would like to share it, boy would I love to hear it.