Our little town of Rock Springs is in an area known as the high desert of Wyoming. It has beautiful rocky buttes, but none of the green meadows and dense trees you might expect of this state. Luckily, it’s only a short drive to the Bridger-Teton wilderness, and we’ve been anxious to get out and hike since we arrived a few weeks ago.
We finally got the chance yesterday morning and headed out early for Pinedale, two hours north and about an hour south of Jackson Hole. It’s a great jumping off point for exploring the Wind River range of the Rocky Mountains. It’s also a cute little town with lots of shops and restaurants along its main street. We stopped by the visitor center first to get some trail maps (as well as load up on Yellowstone and Jackson Hole information for our upcoming trips), then explored some of the western-themed shops. I never knew there were so many ways to decorate cowboy boots – some of the girls’ boots were works of art!
We had an early lunch at The Wrangler Cafe, which was packed with locals catching up and hikers going to town on home cooking after getting off the backcountry trails. There was a sign out front advertising homemade pies, and we dug into the most deliciously flaky blackberry pie I’ve ever had. It was the perfect pre-hike fuel!
After lunch, we drove about 10 miles out of town to the Elkhart Park trailhead, which would take us five miles to Photographer’s Point where we could get a great, expansive view of the Wind River range. It was a beautiful day for a hike, with clean, crisp air that kept us cool all afternoon. My lungs were definitely feeling the effects of hiking at 9,000 feet but we soon settled in, and I didn’t even notice the altitude after a mile or so.
The tree-lined trail followed a sunny, green meadow for the first couple of miles. Every once in awhile the trees would open up to reveal a glimpse of the towering mountains in the distance. These were no rolling hills, but sharp topped, craggy monstrosities that gave a beautiful contrast to the perfect tree line and gentle meadow below. Just when we thought they couldn’t look bigger, our eyes would focus on the faint outline of an even taller ridge further away. It was like walking through a postcard!
After five miles, we reached Photographer’s Point where we rested for a bit and soaked in the views. The landscape on the way to Pinedale is the typical flat prairie dotted with endless sagebrush. It’s incredible to think that these huge mountains and wide lakes are just up the road! It felt like we could see forever, and I can only imagine what the early pioneers from back east thought as they came upon these views. We hadnt’ seen anyone on the trail for the last few miles and were alone as we rested at the point.
In our busy culture, it really is surprising when you’re able to find a moment of complete silence and isolation. All we could hear was the occasional hawk circling below and the scurrying sound of the little squirrels as they did reconnaissance on the snacks in our backpack.
We spent half an hour enjoying the views from the point and resting our legs for the walk back to the trailhead. We started back about 4:00 p.m., which made for a beautiful late afternoon walk through the woods. The dwindling light really highlighted the dimensions of the mountains and cast beautiful shadows across the meadows. The air also turned a little chilly and reminded us of the welcome coziness of fall that is only a few weeks away.
Once we got to the car, we headed back to town for a quick dinner at Obo’s Deli and Market, where we also grabbed a hot chocolate and cookie for the road. The sun was just getting low as we started for home, and we were treated to another gorgeous sunset.
We’ve seen some dramatic sunsets in our travels, and the prairie is no exception! All that wide open sky allows the sun to perform a dynamic lightshow against the clouds, and the lack of trees means an uninterrupted view. It was the perfect ending to a day of celebrating the beauty of our Creator. He certainly took His time in crafting the intricately gorgeous details of this state!