MY FIRST VISIT TO WYOMING was in July 1999 when I arrived in Lander from Salt Lake City to spend a month in the Absaroka Mountains on a National Outdoor Leadership School course. My first impression of the Equality State was that it was vast, unfenced, undeveloped and wild, and its mountains were beautiful beyond imagination. After all, I'd traveled west of the Mississippi from South Carolina only thrice before, and the Absarokas were the grandest mountains I'd ever seen.
Though the Absarokas remain grand, my numerous Wyoming experiences since then have shown me that above all, and with very few exceptions, Wyoming is as forlorn as it is sparsely populated. Time seems to stop at the state line, except, of course, if you visit a uranium mine, coal mine, oil field or wind farm. Much seems forgotten here, and the decay, aided by the ferocious winter wind and snow, imparts a feeling of melancholy most acutely tangible along highways far from freeways. Pick a town in Colorado — any time-worn town: Leadville, Craig, Lake City, Dove Creek, Silverton, or even Campo or Springfield or Julesburg or Ovid or Sugar City — and the gestalt is noticeably different than nearly anyplace in Wyoming.
Today, my partner and I took the scenic route into the Sierra Madre and followed U.S. 287 from Fort Collins through Laramie, then over to Medicine Bow before crossing I-80 again. Some observations during our first three hours in Wyoming today: A sign at the entrance to a Saratoga restaurant said, "All unattended children will be sold as slaves." A sign posted on the front door to another restaurant warned patrons that if they have any food allergies at all, "Don't come inside." A Casper Star Tribune letter writer wrote that all Wyomingites "get it" that equal rights, which is the state's motto, don't extend to gay people (because they have rights equal to those of straight people already because being gay is a choice), though, he said, the left wing has co-opted Matthew Shepard's brutal death as a propaganda piece used to destroy both families and Wyoming values from border to border.
When one considers such values, Wyoming can seem all the more forlorn, indeed.
So, here's what I pointed by camera at today: