Though the 10th largest state in our nation, Wyoming is the least populous. To a life-long urban dweller (and California resident) like myself, such a concept is fascinating, and a place so devoid of human masses stark and beautiful. As I explained to someone here in Jackson, where we are writing from today, there are almost as many people in Oakland, CA as there are in The Cowboy State. However, while Oakland is approximately 78.2 square miles, Wyoming is 97,100. Furthermore, Oakland represents just one of many cities that make up the Bay Area (pop. 7.4 million), and never mind the countless other cities that dot the California landscape. California, with a land area of 155,959 square miles has a total population of 36,961,664. That is Thirty Six Million, Nine Hundred and Sixty-One Thousand, Six Hundred and Sixty-Four human beings. (U.S Census Bureau). Just some food for thought.
Speaking of Oakland, CA, we are due to arrive there in less than three weeks. With the above information as inspiration, we have thus begun to mentally prepare ourselves for the population density, the urban landscape, the smog, and the traffic. We are also making the very best of our time here in the least populous state.
Time has passed rapidly in Wyoming and in excellent company. We were first welcomed to the state in Casper, by Adam’s youngest aunt and her husband and son. Just as we have in so many of our other destinations, we hit the ground in Casper running.
First, within our first hour or two of arriving, we headed to Casper College to see a showing of the musical play Sunday in the Park with George. Adam’s cousin AJ was playing in the orchestra, so we enjoy an opportunity to see him perform and also become familiar with this quirky theatrical production.
The next day we had our own Sunday (in my notes it says plainly “Sunday in the Ford Explorer with the Wulf Family), and successfully filled it to capacity. After a hearty breakfast on the deck, a sunny bike ride by the river and an even heartier grilled lunch of surf and turf, the five of us piled into AJ’s Explorer for a Sunday drive.
Heading first into the hills that grace the Casper skyline, we were soon above and beyond the city and surrounded by aspens and then shrubby sage and dry red mountainside.
Pulling over several times for Adam to photograph the landscape, we soon noticed a hissing sound coming from a back tire. The three men made quick work of changing the flat out for our spare (which was fortunately full) and we continued along the ridge and then back down towards flatter land.
Next we drove around 30 miles southwest of Casper to Pathfinder Reservoir, the city’s water source and now a beautiful lake and recreation area. After crunching down a long dirt road to get to the water we set off on a walk, stunned by the size of the natural Pathfinder canyon and happily watching rainbows form in the water cascading from the dam’s release system.
After hiking along one side of the river, crossing a small bridge and then scrambling back up and over the other side (sighting cottontails, deer, pelicans and nesting river birds along the way) we returned to the Explorer.
This time no quiet hissing was necessary to tell us that we had a flat tire. One of the front tires was plainly empty. It was then that we had our oh shit moment of the day.
The sun was setting, phone service unavailable, our water supply running low and the spare tire already used up by the first flat. Fortunately Ray was thinking on his feet, and after trying a variety of repairs, eventually succeeded in using the emergency air pump to inflate the flat enough to drive us to a gas station where we refilled the leaking tire once more and then raced home before it could get dangerously low.
In the end we were lucky to have been delayed. As we pondered over our roadside repairs the sun began to set behind the reservoir, lighting the sky most spectacularly. As you can probably tell from Adam’s pictures (many more over in Still Life) we drove home under a weighty moon, heavenly clouds and all the best colors a sunset can offer. We had a perfect Sunday in the Explorer with the Wulf Family.
The rest of our time in Casper passed rapidly, and in our reluctance to leave the luxury of staying in a family home, we ended up spending an extra night and day. Tina was a fantastic host and knowledgeable city guide, as she works in Casper’s downtown development office and seems to know everyone in the area. We familiarized ourselves with the town, and were especially interested to learn of Casper’s small but thriving food scene (which now includes a weekly famer’s market started by Tina!). We visited one of the greatest health food stores we have found since beginning our journey (believe me I have been looking), which boasts the largest selection of gluten-free foods in the five state area and also had a remarkable array of loose herbs and tea. We also enjoyed one of the best lunches of our trip at the famed Gegi’s restaurant, down by the riverside.
All in all, we thoroughly enjoyed Casper. Many thanks to The Wulf Family for their loving hospitality and generousness!