Been a while since I put word to screen, but a summer and fall without internet makes it hard to keep up with any semblance of continuity. Last post found us in southern Utah where we spent a month hiking and biking the environs of St. George and dodging the still new COVID pandemic. Masks were in their infancy, sanitizer was non existent, contact tracing non-existent, and testing even less so. Our duly elected leaders were down-playing the disease, saying it would soon pass and like a miracle we would all be well. But people were getting sick, more and more every day, and they were beginning to die. Not just here in the United States, but throughout the world. Scientists were warning anyone who listened of the severity of the disease and racing to find a cure that most said would take at least two years to develop. And the fiddler played as we started to burn up.
We had limited assets in our possession and as the virus spread to southern Utah in a major way, we pulled the brakes off and headed to the Tetons where supposedly the National Park would open and our summer gig working at Jenny Lake would go as scheduled. As I said, our naïveté was in full bloom, but we did decide to put down in Boulder, Wyoming, a town of 170 people in Sublette County, where there had been one reported case of the virus since the new year and no deaths. It couldn’t get much safer than that, right? As in most of the western states, adherence to social guidelines to fight the virus were perhaps read, but not adhered to in any form whatsoever. I guess it was the great outdoors, the ever present wind, and luck that cases were at a minimum back then in May, and the cowboys and oil jocks were not going to be caught with a mask or sanitizer in their packs, and social distancing was 6 inches, not 6 feet. As I said, lucky.
We were told that our opening date at Jenny Lake was delayed for a month as the park was not going to open until the first week of June, and management was still figuring out the protocols that would have to be in place before opening the doors to an uncertain number of tourists. So, Boulder is where we parked for three and a half weeks, plum in the middle of one of the beautiful areas of Wyoming – the Wind River Range – a place of history dating back to the late 1600’s. Lot’s of exploring and hiking to do.
Highline Trail RV Park in Boulder is one of the best RV parks we’ve stayed at during our five year journey in the RV. Located at 7200′ in the Green River Valley and surrounded by the Wind River Mountain range, the Wyoming Range, and Gros Ventre Mountains, the park has huge sites with ample distance between them, massive green grass areas for dogs to run and erstwhile golfers to practice chip shots, and owners that work feverishly every day to maintain the property. If you want a great spot to overnight or spend some time exploring the area, Highline will totally fit your needs. As part of the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem, the Bridger-Teton National Forest is located just outside of town where wildlife, mountain lakes and great hikes abound. We plunked down a month’s worth of stay and started exploring – Jackson to the north is about 1 1/2 hours away, Lander to the east the same, Riverton, Dubois, Rock Springs all day trips as is South Pass City, one of many ghost towns in Wyoming. We did ’em all.
The area started out in the early 1800’s as a fur trading center which gave way to a surge in ranching which is still a mainstay of the area. The Green River Drift is the country’s oldest and longest cattle drive and in June and October traffic comes to a halt as authentic cowboys herd their cattle though the towns.
Wildlife is abundant here – moose, deer, elk, mule deer, grizzly and black bear and any number of fish found in the Green and Wind Rivers. The second fastest land creature in the the country is the Pronghorn, and the area is located on one of the longest natural animal migrations in the Western Hemisphere, the Path of the Pronghorn.
Since we began our journey we have wanted to see wild horses; images in our minds of herds of horses of many colors racing across the mountain desert landscape, their manes blowing in the wind and their hooves creating clouds of dust framed by mountains. There is a wild horse refuge outside of Rock Springs that on a good day is reported to bring such visions to life. It is accessible by a dirt and gravely road that runs seventeen miles from the east and drops you into the westernmost exit of Rock Springs on I-80, and undaunted we took the Mini Cooper on three endurance tests in search of herds of horses and perhaps an epic battle between two strong-minded stallions. Nope. All we saw one day was this horse – kinda mangy and certainly not very wild as she was far more interested in the prairie than the the four-tired automobile and two legged humans that approached to within six feet.
Well, we had other adventures in the three and a half weeks we were in the area. Look for new pictures and postings to come on Sacagawea’s final resting place, Fort Washakie, Lander and South Pass City. This is authentic western heritage country.
Manicotti, the Italian-American version of cannelloni, is the ultimate old world comfort food casserole. This recipe, while not totally original, has been modified over the years from a multitude of recipes I have dabbled with, picking what I liked the best out of each one and coming up with this one – JR’s Baked Manicotti. Not the last stop for this classic as I’m sure the evolution will continue. Perfection is unattainable, but I have made this over many years and this last iteration left guess begging for more. Try it for a small crowd – Buon Appetito!