Wyoming was Wild West outlaw country.  It seemed as if the place had remained unchanged for over 100 years, and I was just another explorer setting out along the Oregon trail.

The Wild Wild West

Written By Louisa Mow in the Badlands of Wyoming

We are in Utah now and it feels like I'm looking back on a dream. Since our journey began, the differences in nature had always changed rather gradually. From the mountains of Virginia, the bayous of Louisiana, Texas hill country and the deserts of New Mexico. All becoming part of a landscape that rolled into something new and different as the miles rolled by.

Not so with the Rockies. As we drove into Colorado the base of the Rockies soar upwards. Not gradually, but immediately. Flat roads, then giant mountains. It really was something else and difficult to describe, the sheer difference between hot desert to snow, ice, pines, and peaks.

We drove into Buena Vista and took a mountain pass to camp up by a lake high up, underneath snow caps.

The next day took us on the most incredible and intense drive of the adventure so far. Our road turned west toward Aspen and we started the highest road in the United States, Independence Pass. The mountain road carried us upwards, no guard rails, just a sheer drop into winding rivers and pine valleys below. It was mid-summer and yet snow lined the roads, and we drove under the waterfalls, created by glaciers, melting, directly onto the road. Soon we were at the top of the mountain where the road flattened into a meadow, with snow banks and wildflowers dipping on one side and an enormous aquamarine ice lake on the other. We got out the car and walked on ice and snow.

 Back down the mountain, we went to the "ghost town" of Ashcroft, then headed north through huge red Canyons. Then one long straight drive into Wyoming. Completely wild. There was sense of vast emptiness, and so lonely was the road that you really felt your own insignificance. The same kind of feeling you get when you stare up at the stars and into the vast nothingness of space. Wyoming was Wild West outlaw and cowboy country. It seemed as if the place had remained unchanged for over 100 years, and I was just another explorer setting out along the Oregon trail.

As the sun set, we entered the Medicine Bow Forest, winding with birch and spruce. Real cowboy and indian territory. The tops of the spruce were a deep purple from the light of the setting sun, and cottonwood and falling leaves blew through the air.

It reminded me of "all of the colors of the wind". You know the song from Pocahontas?

Along 50 miles of dirt road at sundown, we drove toward the town of Rawlins, with rabbits, hares, pronghorn deer and elk frequently appearing in the vast emptiness. In town, we met a guy named Jared, a crane driver from Utah and he offered us drink and accommodation. Putting us up for the night at his hotel. We had lots of fun.

We woke up refreshed and headed to the famous cowboy town of Dubois, home of outlaw Butch Cassidy. We walked around the old railroad and mining town, checking out the old General store and other Wild West attractions. Eventually we ended up in the Saloon, polishing off some ice cold beers and smoked meats and cheese. 

On the road again we went and finally we arrived in the Grand Tetons. Truly spectacular, these sheer granite mountains rose up and were surrounded by pristine lakes and hundreds and hundreds of wild flowers. The meadows were full of sage brush and the air smelled sweet and clean. Bison grazed in herds as far as the eye could see. Elk, moose and deer ambled in the forests. Otters played in the running rivers. Grizzly bears occasionally crossed the roads and headed up to their dens in the mountains and Timberwolves howled into the night.

But the wildlife I came here to see, following tin the footsteps of David Attenborough in the Life of Mammals, were the Beaver dams in Schwabachers. We saw the beavers self created wetlands complete with canals, refrigerated storage areas, lodges and chimneys all for personal use. At sunset the dams were still and the reflection of the mountains made for some great photograph opportunities. The Beavers came out of their lodge and I tried hard to photograph them swimming and building while at the same time hearing their newborns cutely mewing in the lodge. Eventually, as chance would have it, one of the Beavers swam up to the banks where I was standing and came ashore less than a foot away from me, chewing on some willow branches. I was amazed as they are usually so shy of humans. It was more incredible than I could have ever imagined.

The next day we drove up to Yellowstone, and headed straight for the geyser's and waited among the crowds for Old faithful to go off. To great cheers and lots of camera flashes, it finally did. Yay, i guess... The drive north through the park brought us to the Grand Prismatic Spring, and for half an hour we felt like we were transported to another planet. The colour and the beauty can barely be described. A hot giant rainbow lake, where we ambled along the edges with a haze of multicoloured steam rising around us and high into the air. The rock bed was red and black and martian looking, and the lake bordered bright yellow and lime green. Then blue as you have never seen blue in your life, all created by bacteria and otherworldly micro organisms.

Wild Wild Wyoming was life on the edge. A dreamscape, a different reality. But now south we go toward Salt Lake City and the Moab in Utah, looking forward to new wonders of nature.