Summer Sunday: The Wyoming Winds
My husband, Andy, had one week left of vacation and our objectives were simple: to get the kids outside and explore somewhere new. I’d been dreaming about Wyoming for a long time. I hadn’t been in almost 20 years and my previous trips had been limited, mainly to Jackson and Yellowstone. I wanted to go Lander, home of the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS), and to the Wind River Range, where the peaks were lower in elevation and the fishing, supposedly epic.
But that was as far as we’d gotten. Although it was summer and in theory, a mellower time for educators, little about the past two months felt relaxed. I was finishing an MFA and working on a novel; Andy was racing to get the school ready for another year, knee-deep in hiring new teachers, giving tours to prospective families, and slapping together desks.
We put in a call to a friend in Jackson, who offered us a lawn towards the end of the week to camp out on; otherwise our plans were vague at best. We essentially just threw a bunch of backpacking gear and some fishing rods in the car and started driving north.
We pulled into an Wild Iris outdoor shop in Lander the next morning, our tails between our legs. Here we were in mecca of outdoor wilderness training, two NOLS alumni, without a clue about where we were going and how we might get there.
“Um, we’re looking for a trip.”
“What kind of trip?”
“Someplace where these girls can get in relatively easy, and the fishing is good,” Andy started.
“Oh, and that’s not too far a drive and doesn’t get crowded,” I added.
Andy shot me a look. I swallowed. We were asking too much, too fast. The man opened the map drawer.
“It’s doesn’t have to be all of that,” I added hastily.
“No, I think I’ve got the perfect place,” he said. “And here,” he said to Andy, “I’ll have you start filling out your fishing license information, so we can get you out of here quickly,” he said, winking at me.
A few hours later, we were on the trail, hiking into solitude. The trip to Silas Lake, by the way, hit every single one of our requirements: it was less than an hour away from Lander, the hiking was easy, the girls caught more fish in an hour than they have in their entire lives, we didn’t see anyone until the last day, when we were hiking out.
But there were a few more things it also hit, things we hadn’t asked for but received. The rain that fell the first day and night meant we had hours in the tent to play games. We taught the girls the card game “spoons.” We rolled “pigs.” When the weather finally cleared, we hiked up to two remote lakes, where we fished and much to the girls’ shock, “skinny-dipped!” (Have you seen anyone?” I asked my ten-year old. “So jump in!”) And beauty. So much beauty. Waist-high wild flowers, sculpted granite peaks, emerald-clear lakes. A trip of a lifetime, without really an ounce of forethought.
On our way out, we stopped by Wild Iris again to thank them. We bought a t-shirt, some stickers.
“Are you here on Thursday night?” they asked.
“We could be.”
“There’s a free concert on Main Street. You may have heard of them? They’re called Lake Street Dive.”
A few nights later, we were back, dancing under the fading light to one of our favorite Telluride Bluegrass bands, a Lander Brewing beer in our hands, our new friends around us, grateful we had made the journey north and grateful for the fun had found us, without us even having to look too hard.
Emily Brendler Shoff
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