Two days after getting back from our trip around Wyoming, I’m reliving all the incredible experiences we had and mentally preparing myself to leave this amazing state. Laramie and the shortgrass prairie have stolen a piece of my heart, but the northern part of the state–the Bighorns, Yellowstone, the Tetons, and Shoshone National Forest–is so breathtaking that I’m not sure writing about it could do it justice. I got spoiled waking up to beautiful mountain vistas this past week, so the plain dorm walls at UW are a bit of an unwelcome morning view.
Day four (Tuesday, July 26th) sadly brought a similarly unwelcome morning. We camped overnight in the Bighorn Mountains at the Ranger Creek Campsite, and most of the class woke up early to a cold drizzle soaking the insides of our tents. I was one of the lucky few whose belongings stayed dry, but that didn’t last long. Packing up soaked every inch of my tent, and my raincoat decided that was a good time to stop repelling water, so I got pretty damp as well. Everyone shivered as we ate breakfast on this atypically cold Wyoming morning, piled in the vans, and drove into the Bighorn Basin to the Red Gulch Dinosaur Trackway.
It was no warmer in the basin than it was in the mountains. Being cold, tired, and wet soured the mood for many of us, but we tried our best to be cheerful and attentive as Mandi, one of our instructors, told us about the history and geology of Red Gulch. We learned how to use the length. width, and distance between prints to calculate how fast the animal that made them was moving, and Mandi performed a fantastic imitation of a lizard crawl for us. The sun came out by the time we started looking for prints, which really cheered me up. It helped that I was able to lay down on the warm rock for a few minutes and have some “lizard time” of my own! Stepping back millions of years to see how these dinosaurs were walking across the landscape was a great experience for me and my classmates.
After Red Gulch, we got a delicious (and hot!) brunch in Greybull, then continued north to Cody and the Chief Joseph Scenic Parkway. We stopped at several points along the drive to see notable geologic features and mountain ranges, including the Chugwater Formation, the Absaroka and Beartooth Ranges, Heart Mountain, and the Sunlight Basin. Those were some of the most stunning views I’ve ever seen, and the ground squirrels begging for food at one of the overlooks made it even better. Mandi, Kyle, and Amanda eventually had to drag us away from the squirrels so we could get to our destination on time.
Our journey took us to K-Z Guest Ranch in the Shoshone National Forest, just south of the Montana border. I was so happy to enjoy a hot shower, an amazing home-cooked dinner, and a relaxing walk around the ranch after our rough start and subsequently long day. The next day was a day off, which all of us were very much looking forward to–after a warm and dry night’s sleep, of course.