I spent four days last weekend on a fun road trip with Chris through Wyoming. He was trying to complete the Wyoming DeLorme Challenge, wherein one has to find (or place) a geocache in each of the map sections that appear in the DeLorme Atlas & Gazetteer, and in the case of Wyoming there are more than 70 map sections. Chris had already found caches in a good chunk of the state, but it took us four days to find them in the rest. Unfortunately we didn’t have much time to stop and smell the roses, but we did get to see a lot of what Wyoming has to offer. It seems like there are many long, boring stretches of nothing, interspersed with a few interesting places.
I met up with Chris in Rock Springs on Friday morning (which was actually my first time in Wyoming), and we kicked off our trip by attending a geocaching event on 11/11/11 at 11:11:11AM. I transferred all my gear from my car to Chris’ (which left his entire trunk and back seat full), and we showed up at the event for a few minutes to chat with some other geocachers. When we were finished there we headed north and visited Eden, Farson, Lander, Riverton, and the big city of Moneta. We saw some nearly tame deer grazing in the town of Lysite (who rebuffed our offer of pork rinds), then passed up Boysen Reservoir and enjoyed the drive through Wind River Canyon. The canyon was the first really nice scenery we’d seen, and it was a place I would have enjoyed exploring if we’d had time. We continued on to Thermopolis, where it took us three tries to finally find a geocache before driving toward Cody.
From Cody we drove west through Shoshone Canyon and past Buffalo Bill Reservoir, and I had a feeling we were passing up some nice scenery, but it had been fully dark for quite a while. We got a DNF on one geocache but found another nearby, then returned to Cody and traveled north hoping to find a place to camp for the night. We got to the WY-296 junction without finding a place to camp, but we were hopeful about finding a place west of there. Right after turning at the junction, however, there was a sign indicating that it was private property for the next eight miles. I checked my GPS and found that after eight miles the elevation would be over 8,000 feet. The snow that was sure to be at that elevation, combined with the wind, was enough that we decided to drive back to Cody and get a motel room for the night. We would end up staying in motels the next two nights as well, which made things more comfortable, but certainly not very adventurous. 🙂
We were up early on Saturday morning and retraced the previous evening’s path toward Highway 296, then drove northeast briefly into Montana–another new state for me–before reentering Wyoming and taking the northeast entrance into Yellowstone National Park. There was a lot of snow on the ground, which is how a lot of the remainder of the trip turned out. We drove over many mountain passes that were covered in snow, and apparently Wyoming spends a lot less on snow removal than Utah. We spent some time in and around Mammoth Hot Springs, but with the snow falling, visibility was relatively low and the only scenery we could see was very close. I’m sure during any other time of the year it would be a much better experience there. We saw bison and a coyote, but the falling snow made photographing them difficult.
We left Yellowstone and started working our way east across the northern part of the state. We stopped to find a geocache that we’d passed up earlier in the day. It was near a bridge over Sunlight Creek, at a point where the creek had cut very deeply through a narrow gorge in the granite. It was yet another spot that fascinated me and would be worthwhile to explore if I ever come back this way. We did a lot of driving after that, going as far east as Sheridan, then turning south and ending up in Buffalo for the night.
It was another early morning on Sunday, and we drove east on I-90 to Gillette and Moorcroft, with a few side trips to the north to find geocaches. We just had to stop at Devil’s Tower, which was a much better experience than I expected. I was surprised that the NPS allows visitors to get up close to and even climb on the tower. While we were there, out of the blue Chris just said, “Hey, why don’t we go to Mt. Rushmore?” I hadn’t realized we were that close to Rushmore, but I was all for getting to see another state and another national monument. In a matter of two days, I’d gone as far north and east as I’d ever been, and visited three new states and even left the western United States for the first time.
We weren’t in South Dakota very long–we drove in, spent about 30 minutes at Mt. Rushmore, then drove back into Wyoming. Mt. Rushmore was worth going to, but I was wishing we’d have made it there just a bit earlier. The sun had just set as we arrived, so the lighting on the monument wasn’t great. It also felt colder there than any place we’d been so far. We retraced our path back to Gillette, then started traveling southeast. Along the way Chris found the last geocache that he needed for the DeLorme challenge. At some point we stopped in the middle of a long stretch of desolate highway, well after dark, and had a freaky experience. We were on a wide, paved spot on the side of the highway where a historical marker had been erected, and in the middle of the paved pullout was a backpack with the top zipper open. We were there to find a geocache but, of course, this piqued our curiosity. Chris looked inside and found a porn DVD, a can of butane, and a small black toiletry bag. Inside that was a small butane torch and a velvet sack which contained dozens of small zip-top bags full of white powder. Shit. I didn’t want to have to explain that to anybody–I was worried that either a cop or the owner of the backpack would show up while we were looking in it. Chris tossed the backpack off the edge of the pavement, we found the geocache, and got the hell out of there quickly. We got into Casper pretty late and got a motel room and crashed.
Chris and I slept in late on Monday morning–until 7:00AM! We didn’t need to find any geocaches that day, but we did stop for a few on the way back to Rock Springs. The only things of interest that we saw were Independence Rock and the Granite Mountains. We couldn’t resist scrambling to the top of Independence Rock, despite the horrendous wind at the top. From Martin’s Cove we got a closer view of the Granite Mountains, and they certainly looked inviting for hiking on. We got into Rock Springs a little after noon, and I threw all my gear back into my car and started the 4.5-hour drive home, while Chris started getting ready for work that afternoon. It was my first real road trip, and it was a blast.
GPS Tracklog and Photo Waypoints (Google Earth .KMZ Format)
GPS Tracklog and Photo Waypoints (Google Maps)