Laramie, Wyoming, and the Medicine Bow National Forest.
Wow. Well, Laramie was quite the surprise for us! Just like Lawrence, Kansas, we didn’t realize it was a college town; but the University of Wyoming is in Laramie. We seem to be getting lucky with these smaller towns we’re finding – getting to enjoy the small town atmosphere along with great food and hip places. We went into town once for breakfast at J’s Prairie Rose Cafe, which was the weekend of their big Jubilee Days. I think it took us longer to find parking than it did to get a table. The food was great though! We had dinner another night at Altitude Chophouse and Brewery, which was also really good food and service. Both are great options if you’re in town. They also have a nice little natural food store right in town – Big Hollow Food Co-Op – where I was able to get most of what we needed.
We were in Laramie for eight days and spent most of our time working and continuing to organize and settle into our new Winnebago. It wasn’t really down-time, but it helped us recover a bit from the Denver fun-filled chaos. We were leaving on a Monday, so we had a full weekend for our last couple of days and decided to take that time to explore since we were mostly settled into the RV at that point.
Medicine Bow National Forest
That Saturday, we took a drive up to the mountains via Snowy Range Scenic Byway, which is Highway 130 and has a clearly marked starting point right in town. This is part of the Medicine Bow National Forest that surrounds Laramie with mountains to the west and amazing rock formations to the east. The beauty in the area is stunning! When we think of Wyoming’s landscape, I’m sure most of us picture the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone; but Eastern Wyoming is just as awe-inspiring.
The Snowy Range Scenic Drive is part of the Overland Trail, a major route to the West in the 1800s. Within an hour’s drive you can go from Laramie’s 7200 feet all the way up to the Libby Flats Observation Point at 10,869 feet above sea level. I’m sure it took the settlers longer than an hour, as it did for us. We stopped a lot to check out cool views and snap photos of farmhouses in wide open fields, historic markers and, of course, the mountains.
We had no destination in mind, which has become one of our favorite things to do when exploring a new area. We just pick a road and go, stopping at what intrigues us along the way. Or we might have a specific destination that we know is only a small part of the day’s journey. On this day, though, we were just driving. Eventually, we saw signs for the Libby Flats Observation Point and decided that was going to be our turn-around spot. It was a fabulous reward for the day with spectacular views of the mountains, valleys, and an incoming storm!
A note about weather up the mountain: There are signs at the ranger station warning you to be off of any high points by 3:00pm daily as strong lightning storms generally roll in around that time. They weren’t kidding! We watched the storm coming toward us from the Observation Point, with lightning strikes here and there, and felt the first drops of rain as we were heading back to the car. The time as we were pulling out of the parking lot? 3:05 pm.
The bonus on this excursion was the temperature. While it was blue skies most of the time (except after 3:00 pm), it was a cool and lovely 63 degrees at the top. Laramie was around the low 90s that day! It was such a relief to have a day of cool temperatures after weeks of high heat. Snow still dotted the landscape up that high too. In fact, there were roads that were still closed because of the snow and its melting in mid-July!
According to Travel Wyoming, Medicine Bow National Forest was home to several Native tribes (and still is, I’m sure.) They made bows from the trees and healed themselves in the hot springs. I’ll bet a lot of the plants were (are) used in their medicine as well. Medicine Bow is very definitely an appropriate name for this beautiful land. I hope to be back someday to spend more time exploring and learning.
Thanks for joining us as we live our journey…