Maps don’t help. The only way to find Wyoming is to spend the time, ask around, and make mistakes. Part of finding Wyoming is getting lost.
Our Wyoming home is the Big Sandy opening in the Wind River range. To get there you take the short cut near Kemmerer past the oil refinery to Farson. Back when we fished, you could get your fishing license at the Farson General Store. But under new management it’s been “yuppified,” and now has the word “Mercantile” in the name. That means you can get fancy ice cream there but you have to go on to the ranger station for your fishing license. We don’t, having given up fishing long ago in favor of less active pursuits.
This trip we were “packed in.” That means a horse carries the gear to your prefered camping spot in the high country. Sometimes when they pack you in the guys tell you they’ll leave your gear at the rock with two trees growing out of it. Funny joke, because there are so many of those that you’ll never find your gear! Either that or there aren’t any. Wyoming is paradoxical.
Hiking out from the lakes, you can save a mile or so by taking the short cut where the sheep carcass used to be. These directions winnow out those who haven’t put in their time. So do the signs in the Bridger Wilderness Area. Propped up by piles of rocks, half of them have been out in the elements so long that the carved-in writing has faded. But the signs still mark a change in destination – it’s just unclear what, exactly, it will consist of. Wyoming is mysterious.
To get to the Big Sandy Opening, you take about 75 miles of dirt road. Whatever you do, don’t take the Muddy Speedway on your way to Big Sandy Lodge. It’s been replaced by the New Road. Too bad, really, because some of my fondest Wyoming memories involved heroic efforts to get our car out of the mud.
And so it goes – getting lost, getting dirty, getting tired, and getting cold, hot, wet, dry and sore – eventually you find Wyoming. Life slows down and beauty comes into focus. The people around you matter more than ever and best of all, your sense of humor slips back into place.