The days are long and hot and dry, and summer stretches on into October.
We go for a drive on the country roads of rural Wyoming, trying to find a bit of cool.
What do you do as the last days of summer vacation come to a close? Find a field of corn and flowers?
Or find a backyard and a tire swing and a sunset and spin and spin until you can’t even stand anymore?
When we agreed to go with Brewmaster Ted to the Wyoming State Microbrewing Competition, we had no idea we would have so much fun.
We packed up the van…
…and set up the tent…
…and stole the Snake River Brewing Company’s cornhole set…
We spent the day schmoozing with brewers from around the state…
…and with the cowboys and Indians…
…and even with the press! Here’s Ted talking with a chic from NPR.
And when it was all over, and we were still pouring our famous Half-Talked Hefeweizen…
…and some random guys had to come up and say, “Dudes, you guys won!”
We hardly knew what to say.
But we knew how to celebrate… by drinking whiskey from the chalice!
Ted won the most prestigious award for brews in Wyoming!
In a competition featuring standard amber beers, the Lander RyeBock, with it’s subtle hops and citrus finish, swept them all! Next time you’re in Lander, stop by the Coalter Block to try one of Ted’s famous, award-winning beers!
We pulled to the side of the road and jumped out, stepping into the woods to a place we had never been. After only a short jaunt, the trees opened up into this:
With not another human being in sight, we played in the waters and ate cherries on the shore.
The only signs that others had ever been here was an old campsite, abandoned long ago.
After hiking around the lake, we continued on, venturing further into the mountains and up a small hill. The trees soon fell away and revealed the Winds’ hidden secrets: views like this one, only footsteps off of the road. Views that so few people take the time to find.
You never know what you will see when you step off the road in the Wind River Mountains.
I guess it’s not a successful Hen Party unless people lose cameras, underwear, dresses, bottles of booze, shoes, sailor hats and other necessities… right?
Images from a friend’s 40s-themed bachelorette party in Thermopolis, Wyoming, including a float trip down the Bighorn (Wind) River in our patriotic vintage swimsuits and camping.
In the high deserts of the West, there is always that one rain in early summer, and you can smell it coming.
The whole air changes, and instead of the scents of dust and livestock, you smell a heavy musk, a brooding moisture spilling from the peaks of the mountains.
The winds pick up, and the rustle of the cottonwoods alerts you to the coming torrents.
And you can see it coming. It stampedes down the valleys, the shards of rain creating an opaque fog that consumed the mountains, the homes, the road.
You make it to the threshold of your home just in time, as the fat drops of waters begin their assault on the parched ground.
And it’s a copious flood, tumbling down from the bruised sky and quickly saturating the shallow soil and beginning to build up as a flowing river from the driveway into the thirsty grasses beyond.
You can see your snow peas and your peppers and your sunflowers perk up in anticipation of the waters, and as the puddles turn to ponds, you revel in the cool, damp air.
And you know, just know, that this will be the last rain of the summer.
Music provided by Steam Powered Airplane. All photos taken by Jonmikel.
At the very western edge of the Black Hills sits a monument to both the deepest of mythical mysteries and the wildest of science fiction fantasies. Past and future seem to collide perilously into the failing remnants of an extinct volcano. Mato Tipila. Bear Lodge.
Devil’s Tower National Monument peeks up above the horizon in the northeast corner of Wyoming, a prominent precipice in the seamlessly flat grasslands of the Great Plains.
We circle around, taking in each claw mark from every angle.
Legend says that two Sioux girls were playing in the fields when they came across a giant bear. Angry, the bear chased the girls, gnashing and growling and slashing, and to escape, the girls jumped onto a rock and prayed to the Great Spirit to save them. Suddenly, the rock began to grow and grow, and the bear could not climb the mountain to reach the girls; he could only claw in vain at the steep sides. The rock continued to grow, carrying the girls to safety in the heavens, where they play forever as Pleiades.
After our trip around the alien structure, we headed down the road to Hulett, a rough-around-the-edges and pretty rough-in-the-middle town surrounded by oil and gas development and other industrious types.
As we walk into a local bar, the record scratches and all is silent as the friendly bikers with big tattoos and Budweisers give us the critical once-over.
But in typical Pardo fashion, we play pool and sit at the bar and talk about the last time Jonmikel was there, when it happened to be No Panties Thursday. After that, drinks were on our new friends and we were welcomed as locals.
… we begin our Black Hills Road Trip with a historical venture into Buffalo, Wyoming, home of the Occidental Hotel and Saloon.
As True West’s “Best Hotel in the West” and one of the hotels that National Geographic Traveler loves to gush about, the 1880 Occidental has quite the seedy and wildly seedy reputation. It has been host to some of the most famous names of the Wild West: Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid stopped by from time to time on their way to Hole in the Wall; Calamity Jane passed through while pursuing in vain the notorious Wild Bill Hickok; and Buffalo Bill Cody called the hotel home when passing through town. Even Teddy Roosevelt and Ernest Hemingway were rumored to tell wild stories of hunting, drinking and other adventures in the building’s romantic parlor.
As history slowly faded into the shadows of the Great Depression and the modernization of the late 20th Century, plans to demolish the building nearly became reality.
But in 1997, saviors Dawn and John Wexo bought the dying hotel and embarked on a 10-year restoration project to return the Occidental to its former glory and reclaim the history of Buffalo, WY.
Today, visitors can stay in the charming rooms that sit above the bar and restaurant, take in live bluegrass music (that happens every Thursday night!) in the Occidental Saloon, and share a romantic dinner among the Bordello tassels and tin ceilings of the building’s original vaults, a private getaway in the Wild West.
They are a symbol of the Wild American West: free, passionate, violent and relentless in their beauty. They are also called pests. Diseased. Nuisances. Worthless.
Wild mustangs often find themselves caught in between the battles of ranchers and conservationists, horse lovers and land managers. They graze on land that cattle companies want for themselves; they destroy precious wetlands in the high deserts of Wyoming and Nevada.
Almost 33,000 of these animals roams the plains of the American West, with another 34,000 of them in Bureau of Land Management holding facilities, awaiting news of their fate.
These horses, descendants of Iberian breeds brought from Europe, are hardy and rough around the edges.
Many horse enthusiasts consider them mongrels, mutts, impure. Others consider them to be indestructible in their physical prowess and unwavering in their loyalty, should one be lucky enough to earn it.
But there are few animals that can inspire such feelings of joy and freedom as the mustang.
More so than the bison or pronghorn or golden eagles, horses take full advantage of the endless grasslands and sloping hills and brief, fierce rain showers of the Wyoming desert.
They play and fight and run and roll through the mud and leave nothing left undone, just in case.
What We Talk About!365 automobile beer Black Hills Caribbean Sea Cincinnati Downtown Grand Teton National Park Great Divide Basin harbor Hawaii hiking history Izilwane Jackson Hole Jonmikel Kat's 365 Lander life love Maine ME Mexico microbrew microbrewery New Hampshire NH Ohio Owls Head Transportation Museum Pardo Photo of the Day photography PPoD Red Desert Road Trip Rockland spring sunset The Big Island The Island of Hawaii tourism travel Tulum Washington winter Wyoming