The happy coincidence that took me, a curious Latina and adopted New Yorker, to visit Wyoming recently was the convincing tone of a professor at Central Wyoming College. While visiting Manhattan, he said New York was the mind of America and insisted that Wyoming was the heart and I needed to see it.
Three weeks in Wyoming felt both like an American Safari and an intriguing visit to the tracks of American History. If the U.S. were a human body, Wyoming would certainly be located in the heart and even posses some of its qualities. The warmth of the Native American spirit is alive and running in this Rocky Mountains territory. I saw wild animals up close more often than I spotted cowboys. The pumping pioneering mentality feeds an active mining industry.
I arrived in Salt Lake City and the Professor picked me up to drive straight to our first stop: Jackson Hole. A famous sky town that looked like a set for a western movie: interesting, well preserved but a bit artificial. We spent the night and enjoyed tasty food at The Lotus Cafe. I had my first encounter with an arc made out of antlers and the head of a gigantic buffalo in the lobby of the Wort Hotel, the lodge where we stayed.
Next day we drove through Yellowstone and the magnificent Grand Teton, where I admired the epic buffalo alive. The volcanic formations gave the water, mountains and shading trees a cinematic feeling. Photogenic spots like the Yellowstone Falls and the Old Faithful geyser are not to be missed.
EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED
In the spaciousness of Wyoming, distances can be a little daunting for traveling with kids, but the landscapes are so vast and rich that the car feels like an elevator to nature. When cruising to good music and car games, the sky becomes an engaging spectacle that will enthrall the young ones.
My trip continued towards the Wind River Valley, at the center of the state where mountains and high desert planes meet. This is an outdoor lover’s haven. I stayed between Riverton, the college town at the border of the Shoshone and Arapaho reservation, and Lander, a hip town based camp for The National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS) where students from all over the world come to learn wilderness skills.
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I took a weekend camping trip to a lake at the top of the Wind River Mountains, and several day trips to visit the healing public thermal pools in Thermopolis, hike the waterfalls in Sinks Canyon and attend a sweat led by a couple of Shoshone medicine people. We drove through several kinds of rock formations, pictograms, ghost towns and large fields populated by cattle with an extra layer of fur. I especially loved the cows—very different from Colombian cattle, they grow a coat to survive the winter.
Wyoming offers affordable pleasures for families. On the highways, the beat of nature resonates with one’s soul. One can feel the mountains, the desert and the wind from within. They are so vital and untouched that if you weren’t looking and experiencing them, you could think those are photoshopped animals and screen savers that come with a computer to offer the illusion of peace and simplicity. Kids and adults alike can benefit from the diversity of landscapes, the tribal culture and the connection with the environment on a massive scale.