We’ve been in Wyoming for two weeks now, which feels simultaneously like both an instant and a lifetime. The days are long, and everything is very different from what I’m used to, i.e. the East Coast. I’ve had to adjust to flatter and vaster topography, new plants and animals, a lot more mosquitoes, and an overall very different way of life, which I tend to jokingly call “yeehaw culture.” Along with being the least populated state in America, Wyoming is the home of the cowboy, covered in sprawling ranches, barb-wire fences, rodeos, and western stores that sell giant belt buckles and racks of Carhartt. Fun fact: there are actually more cows than people here.
This isolated and rustic living gave me the impression that Wyoming would be a lonely place to live. As someone who thrives on being surrounded by people and the bustling activity of a city, permanently relocating to Wyoming felt like a miserable prospect, despite the state’s immense natural beauty. For example, on our way to the Spring Creek Preserve, we always pass through a town called Rock River. Rock River has a population of just 211 (not an unusual number for Wyoming settlements). There is a park, a town hall, a church, a motel, a convenience store, and a single run-down, almost collapsed bar. My group and I would lament that we simply couldn’t imagine growing up in such a place, let alone permanently living there.
However, the Fourth of July celebration that we spent in Rock River was one of the best I’ve ever had. After eating at a community barbecue, we jumped in a bouncy house (meant for children) until our sides hurt, waved at passing trains, played hacky-sack and volleyball with some of the locals, swing-danced, and watched fireworks while riding the swings as high as we could. If anything, the lack of things to do forced us to be creative and make our own fun, which ended up being a more enjoyable and unique experience.
I had a similarly great time at the Jubilee Days celebration in Laramie this past weekend. We explored shops, cute cafes, and restaurants, and I was pleasantly surprised by the quality and variety of establishments. One of my favorite places was Night Heron Bookstore and Cafe. For the occasion, there were also street vendors, live music and dancing, and a carnival. It was a beautiful day, and I gained a much greater appreciation for what it could be like to live here in the Laramie River Valley.
Even though the people here live quieter and more separate lives, a sense of community and fun remains. I’ve formed core memories and met wonderful people on this trip, and while I still can’t see myself relocating to Wyoming, I do see a return trip or two in my future.