ABC Guide to Wyoming

Only a few days left until I leave for Edmonton, Alberta and I thought I’d share some wisdom for future travellers to the Equality/Cowboy State. Hope this comes in handy for the next people who come this way (like the new engineers Doug’s been training!)…
Adobe Town. A very cool, and very hidden place in southwestern Wyoming for a hike or camping trip.

Book & Bean in Green River has awesome service, tasty drinks, and neat local and hard-to-find gifts and books. Say ‘hi’ to Sarah or Misti for me next time you’re in!

Curry. If you’re a curry fiend like me, you’ll have to be a little creative while you live here. You can get great Thai curry at the Siam King in Rock Springs and can even buy the fixings at the grocery store, but for Indian curry you’ll need to buy it, naan, and pappadums at Whole Foods in Park City or ‘import’ it when you visit other major city centres. Or learn to make recipes from scratch like I tried on occasion.

Dog park in Rock Springs. They just built it in the spring of 2009 and it’s one of Riker’s favourite spots. If you live here and have a dog, you’ll want to stop by.

Escape Day Spa in Rock Springs. Don’t be frightened off by the cluttered boutique you first walk into. There are some great products in there and when you go through the door into the back you step into another world. It is calm, quiet, the staff is very professional and the treatments are lovely.

Fiery Hawaiian Pizza from Domino’s is amazing. It’s like the company combined my fave (Hawaiian) with Doug’s (italian sausage and hot pepper) to create a feast of fruit, roasted red peppers, and tasty meats. I will miss Steve, our pizza guy in Green River. So will Riker.

Green River Farmer’s Market. One of my favourite things to do last summer was to wander down on Wednesdays to pick up fruit and veg from Grand Junction, CO and other areas. I also committed carbicide at the Bread Lady’s stand and sure enjoyed the buffalo sausage on our hiking trips.

High altitude: Sweetwater County is a good 6000 feet above sea level, so you’d better believe you’ll be working harder if you’ve just arrived from lower ground. Keep this in mind before going off to climb the Wind River range or Tetons!

I-80. This is the second longest interstate highway in the U.S. and will get you from San Francisco to New Jersey. I’ve heard the section linking the sister cities of Green River and Rock Springs is one of the busiest. My best advice: watch out for the ‘semis’ (i.e. tractor trailers), consult WYDOT frequently during the winter, and if you can make it to Utah you’re alright because they salt the roads.

Castle Rock perched high above I-80 in Green River.

Jalapenos, tortillas, and margaritas. There are some great Mexican (and Tex-Mex) restaurants around here (Don Pedro’s and Mi Casita), the fresh salsa at the supermarket is delicious, and in the summer time you can pick up roasted peppers at road-side stands. Even at Bonzai, a Japanese restaurant in Rock Springs they have a stuffed-Jalapeno sushi on offer (and the portion sizes are definitely Texan)!


Killpecker Sand Dunes. I’ve never seen anything like it before!

Lunatic Fringe Salon in Park City. I tried to get my hair done locally and it was not pretty, so I found Karly at Lunatic Fringe. She’s a junior stylist (so the price is very reasonable) and knows how to cut, colour, and style. You get free Voss sparkling water, a luscious wash and massage in their lather lounge, and they validate parking.

Mormon Church aka Church of Latter Day Saints (LDS). For anyone not familiar with this religious group you should read up before coming to the area as it’s one of the dominant ones. Otherwise you won’t understand terms like Jack Mormon, Jesus Jammies (pejorative), etc.

National Public Radio. This might be an oversimplification, but I have discovered there are two types of people in the U.S. – those who listen to NPR and those who don’t. And Doug and I definitely have focused our friendship-making on those who do. NPR brings in BBC broadcasts and the Wyoming program Open Spaces is terrific. So much better than the screaming pundits mixed in with oversensationalized crap on CNN, MSNBC and Fox. In fact, the only TV news I watch is the Daily Show and the Colbert Report.

Organized religion. Actually, if you’re coming from a large city or place where religious beliefs are not something you discuss regularly (or that you’re used to discussing/debating at all) you might be a little shocked when you move here. I was. Rent Religulous for research purposes.

Pubs. Your best bet is to go to the Bittercreek Brewing Co. in Rock Springs for a pint of their microbrews (Doug’s fave is Bob’s Beer and mine is the Coal Porter) but don’t stay for food – it’s good but the service is abysmal. Better yet get a Growler to go. In Green River go to the Red Feather to enjoy a smoke-free drink.

Quaaludes, Methamphetamine, and other drugs are a problem in this area as the newspaper stories and drug counselling centres indicate. People also like their chewing tobacco and have drive-thru liquor stores. There is an ongoing joke about whether it’s the churches or bars that are winning the numbers game…

Recycling. I had to work a little harder to do this while I was here, but Green River has a drop-off centre that takes just about everything except glass, hard plastic, and some metals. So then you take the hard plastics to Rock Springs and the rest of it to Park City or Jackson Hole – a great excuse for a road trip!

Sweetwater County Libraries are terrific. The library staff work incredibly hard to put on exciting programming, support local artists/authors, and share their love of the written word. Take advantage of inter-library loans, online databases, and the staff’s good natures for your research needs!

Tanger Outlets in Park City, Utah. The best and nearest shopping destination to SW Wyoming. Yes, it’s a 2 1/2 hour drive away, but it’s totally worth it. Stop for lunch at the Red Rock Brewing Co. or the Hapa Grill. You won’t be disappointed.

Umbrella. Don’t bring it ’cause you won’t need it here much, which I love. It is sunny almost every day and big storms blow in and out in the summer so quickly you’d hardly have time to open your ‘brelly anyway. You’ll hardly use a snow shovel in the winter too!

Vicki, Evonne, Chris, and Christine all rock! They are great fitness instructors at the Green River Rec Centre (GRRC). Without them I never would have fallen in love with spinning, weight training, or be able to do ‘man’ push-ups!

The Green River Rec Centre

Weather. Wyomingites, like Canadians, love to talk about the weather. And it’s a safer topic of conversation than say, politics or religion!

XXX entertainment in the region: The Mast in Green River (which has a better website than most businesses in the area, I was just surprised to discover!) and the Astro in Rock Springs. Even small towns have their ‘dens of iniquity’!

Yoga is on offer five days a week at the GRRC with the lovely and soothing Shannon. These sessions helped me stay centred, stretched, and relatively sane through the craziness of the past year. Namaste.

Zumba, the dance-aerobic craze that’s sweeping the nation! And the Green River Rec Centre has just started offering it every other Friday night at 6pm. Lots of fun and a great workout.

A Festive Staycation

Doug had another set of days off last week, but after a bunch of long-distance, long-haul travelling and a particularly gruelling “hitch” (days on), we decided to go the “staycation” route and hang out close to home.

This turned out to be a good thing since here in Southwestern Wyoming we got hit by a week of frigid temperatures and a couple of decent snowstorms. So we hunkered down, got stuff off of our to-do lists, and tried to generate body heat at the gym (where snow was blowing in under doors).

During the two-day clear weather window last week, though, we did head out to Park City and Salt Lake City, just across the state line in Utah. The roads were good, our Visa was paid off, and the sales were on at Tanger Outlets, so we left Riker at the kennel and drove west.

2 1/2 hours later we were in Park City right as the outlets opened and were the first through the doors at Columbia. We blitzed through a couple of stores, loading up on cold weather gear like snowpants (Doug got his for $18!) and a knee-length down coat to keep my thighs from freezing when I walk the dog. Then we headed over to the Red Rock Brewing Co. where both of us immediately zeroed in on the Kobe Burger on the specials board. I tell you, every once in a while I think I should go veggie, but it is meat-a-licious meals like this that keep me from it (I did keep my fingers crossed that it was ethically raised and slaughtered and said a little thank you to the cow that gave up its life. Mostly I thanked it for being so delicious, though…).

After lunch we drove to Salt Lake City to check out spinning bikes at a couple of fitness equipment stores. Some of you may recall that a few months ago I was a little afraid of group cycling classes (aka Spinning). Well, I have been converted to this awesome workout that now regularly kicks my butt. And Doug decided that indoor training might be preferable to risking life and limb on the icy sidewalks so we started talking about a home gym for the new place in Edmonton. Treadmills are too noisy and crap out more quickly because of the beating they take (makes you wonder about your knees!) and ellipticals are large and very expensive. But with our budget we could get a pretty good mid-level spinning bike that will likely last 10-15 years because of the activity’s low-impact nature.

We’d found some pretty good deals online but wanted to actually get on the bikes to check them out. So we stopped in at two places in SLC and were immediately icked out by the used-car-salesman vibe we got from the people there. So we decided to go for the person-free transaction of online shopping and free shipping to our doorstep. It’s supposed to arrive in a week or so – review to follow!

The main reason for stopping in SLC was to get the Mini brake pads checked out. The light had come on a few weeks before but everything seemed fine, so we just kept driving it until we had time to make it to the Mini dealership 300 miles away. Another reason I can’t wait to move to Edmonton: there Mini is right in town!

$400 later our rear brake pads were fixed and we were ready to drive back to Park City to check in to our hotel, The Yarrow. We’d booked it through hotwire.com, our go-to for killer deals on hotels and for $70 it was more than decent. My only complaint is that they’d had the heating turned off in our room and so it was probably hovering around 10 degrees when we arrived.

This wouldn’t have been such an issue if we could have just turned on the heat and headed out to dinner, but our Visa had been declined at the front desk and so Doug wanted to figure out what was going on before eating. Well, that turned out to be a huge hassle (which it tends to be when the Schlumberger Employee Credit Union is involved). Thirty minutes later after calling multiple phone numbers and only being able to get through to a live person after saying “help” repeatedly (and pitifully) into the handset, we were both ready for a stiff drink.

Instead, we ended up walking uphill in snow into a stiff wind on Main St. But it was all worth it when we arrived at the Riverhorse . It was decorated in a sparkling, festive way and had classic holiday tunes playing. The staff was attentive, knowledgeable, and most importantly, the food was amazing. The chef sent out an amuse-bouche just as our glasses of red wine arrived. Then came the cranberry-walnut bread from a local bakery. We decided to share the appetizer sampler: smoked salmon on crunchy potato latkes, chicken satay skewers, and to-die-for goat cheese wontons. Doug’s lamb was perfectly done and his butternut squash and fig risotto – heavenly. My pear/praline/blue cheese salad was also incredible and then we topped it off with a warm apple and toffee cake. It sounds like a lot of food (okay, it kind of was – hence the spinning bike), but the portions were just perfect. Unlike so many restaurants these days, the Riverhorse really focuses on quality over quantity!
Pleasantly full, we endured the cold once again until we got back to the room, now warm. The hotel boasts a heated year-round swimming pool and hot tub, though, so it wasn’t long before we squeezed ourselves into swimwear. While there is nothing quite as nice as sitting in a hot tub when it’s chilly outside, it is also true that stripping down and getting to said hot tub when it’s

-20 is probably one of the worst! Nevertheless we did it, loved it, and Doug showed off for the other patrons by periodically getting out and rolling in the snow…

Friday we got up early (okay, I got up early and bullied Doug into waking up) and went to the hotel’s restaurant, the Mountain Grill, for breakfast. It was pretty chilly in there too, but we snagged a seat near the fireplace and by the time we tucked into our carafe of coffee and our breakfast skillets, we were warm and happy.

Then we split up – Doug to Best Buy and other places and me to the outlets to continue my hunting. By noon our budgets were exhausted and we were hungry again (Again?!!). I’d read about a neat-sounding restaurant called the Hapa Grill, that did a Japanese-Thai-Hawaiian fusion, and it exceeded our expectations. The Miso soup was fantastic, our fried calamari with Hawaiian salsa exquisite, and the California roll scrumptious. Doug also ordered a wrap he only got halfway through that was tasty (and spicy!) and the fries that came with were awesome. Surprisingly they really do it all!

Our last stop on our foodie adventure was to pick up supplies at Whole Foods, a supermarket that specializes in organic and yuppy-hippy foods we love. Our neighbour had given us a shopping list as well, and we managed to drop a pretty penny on curry stuff (that we shared with friends the next night) and some goodies for our own personal Christmas celebration later this month. I feel like I already got my presents, though!

Canyon Camping in Utah

We are in the home stretch of our time here in Wyoming. As we’ve done in other places we’ve lived (Vancouver, Montreal, the U.K) we’ve started making a ‘Gotta Do Before We Leave’ list. Top on Doug’s: a canyon hike in Utah.

So last Wednesday morning we jumped in the Element (“Ellie”) and the Mini and headed along the I-80 West. Before venturing into the wilderness, though, we made our requisite stops in Park City at the recycling center, outlet mall, and Red Rock Brewery for lunch. Then we dropped off the Mini south of Salt Lake City for its last round of repairs and continued down the I-15 toward the Canyonlands, stopping briefly in the town of Helper to get Tylenol and muscle ointment: it was a really strenuous shopping trip!
The sun was setting as we pulled into Green River, Utah which is basically a glorified truck stop of fast food restaurants and motels. We went middle-of-the-road and stayed at the Super 8, which was clean and backed onto sage flats – perfect for letting Riker run after being cooped up most of the day. While we mused aloud about GR, UT being like the evil twin city of our current hometown of Green River, Wyoming, we alas did not run into twisted version of ourselves and our friends there… maybe we’re the weird ones already!
We got a decent night’s sleep after Riker stopped growling at people in the hall and by 6 a.m. we were up and ready to continue south toward our destination of Arch Canyon near Blanding, Utah. First we had to stop at the McDonald’s in Moab to grease up for the trek, of course, and ogle the insane number of R.V. parks chock full of these portable homes. Shudder….
At 10:30 a.m. we were at the trailhead with our packs strapped to us – even Riker had one so he could carry his collapsible bowl, kibble, and treats!
I was really surprised at how sandy the trail was, and it was a heck of a workout keeping our balance and getting up the hills.
There was a lot more vegetation than I had expected as well, some of which – like the trembling aspens – were wearing their fall colours.
After a 9-mile hike with breaks for lunch and a quick snooze we arrived at the junction of Arch and Texas Canyons where there was the biggest, most groomed campsite ever. Plus there was a flaming red maple tree/bush which we took as a sign that us two Canucks and our American dog should set up camp there. We made dinner – freeze-dried Katmandu Curry – followed by a dessert of freeze-dried dark chocolate cheesecake. In the real world these probably wouldn’t taste amazing, but out there after all that huffing and puffing, it was gourmet!
Unfortunately our freeze-dried pancakes the next morning didn’t turn out quite so well. Okay, they failed miserably. Probably because we had nothing to grease the pan with and the heat didn’t distribute very evenly. After one attempt that scorched the pan, we dumped the rest of the batter behind a tree. Which, of course, Riker proceeded to lick up.
So I quickly made up some wraps with pb, honey, sunflower seeds and dried fruit, a recipe I’d found in Backpacker Magazine and we ate them while hiking further up Arch Canyon with minimal gear.
By 11am we were back at our campsite at Texas Flats and had stripped off most of our layers: while it was hovering near freezing at dawn, it gradually warmed up as the sun found its way into the canyon, reaching about 18 celsius. We ate our mac and cheese and started breaking camp when all these ATVs came roaring up the trail right to us. We counted at least ten ATVs – a whole family at least – and decided we’d try and stick to the riverbeds and side canyons (where they couldn’t follow) as much as possible.
A couple miles back toward the trailhead we deked off to a side canyon on the left in search of springs we’d seen noted in the hiking book. After stashing our backpacks, we hiked for an hour, clambering over boulders and learned an important lesson: grey rocks = solid; red rocks = crumbly sandstone you can break your neck stepping on. Or in Doug’s case, his bum.

In the end the mythical springs turned out to be trickles of water dripping off moss on these rocks. Not quite the impressive founts we had imagined. But, the water was cold and wet and after pumping it through a filter, boiling it, and dousing it with chemicals, we figured it was safe to drink and cook with. And we must have been right, because no one got dysentry on the trip (well, Riker had an interesting day after the pancake batter…).

That night we hiked to another well-groomed camping spot closer to the trailhead. It was a little trickier to navigate all the cacti, but other than Riker getting one ‘spike ball’ stuck in his paw (and then in mine when I tried to remove it) we managed. At day break on Saturday we packed up and headed back to Ellie – and just in time to avoid a veritable onslaught of ATV-ers there to celebrate the Columbus Day long weekend by laying siege to Ute territory.
We made it back to the ‘real’ Green River mostly in one piece, but thoroughly exhausted from exercise, the long drive, and Riker’s ‘watch-dogginess’ that began with the birds’ rustlings at 4:30am. Then on Sunday we rectified the pancake incident by eating the most delicious home-made blueberry-flax pancakes ever (a high-altitude recipe I’ve been tweaking since moving here a year ago). Monday we celebrated the controversial Columbus Day aka Canadian Thanksgiving aka El dia de la Raza the right way: by gorging on margaritas and fajitas at Don Pedro’s restaurant! Ole!
Now the camping gear is stowed until the spring, except for Riker’s backpack, which is not only practical but cements our reputation as the yuppiest family in good ol’ Green River.

The Great Escape

After a month of being solidly at my desk and Doug being off on jobs constantly, we decided to make a break for it last weekend. He had a few days off and I was feeling on top of my work and unable to do any more editing without a brief change of scenery. So, we packed the dog off to the vet’s (for boarding, not the little blue needle – although there were days when he woke us up so many times during the night the latter was contemplated!), packed the car full of recycling and our bags, and headed off to Utah.
We stayed at the Homestead Resort in Midway, nabbing a good deal on hotwire.com, the website where you book your accommodation before you get to find out where you’re staying. The Midway-Heber-Park City region seems to be full of very overpriced places – Aspenization has taken hold – so we were having a tough time finding good shoulder-season discounts. Hotwire to the rescue!
The Homestead was a Dirty Dancing-esque resort on the edge of a golf course, with lots of family-friendly activities, and I’m sure a Patrick Swayze type instructor to delight the bored housewives. It sounds as if it would be absolutely insane in the summer and even on this late March weekend the pool area was teeming with children. We managed to escape them most of the time, though, and there is a crater on site filled with bath-temperature mineral water. I went swimming (with a very uncomfortable flotation device!) and Doug got to go on his first scuba diving adventure in over a year.

Doug standing on top of the Crater at the Homestead Resort

We nicknamed our accommodation in the “Milk House” the “Hotwire Hobbit House” because it was this teeny building with three rooms, one of which was ours. Add in the doilies for curtains and the country-chic bedspreads (but subtract the silk flower wall hanging, which quickly got shoved in the closet) and it was definitely a little hokey. And people pay over $140/night for this room in the high seasons!

On an extended scenic tour around Midway-Heber we stopped in at the Race Horse Lane Boutique, which was pretty neat – although the sales lady started talking about how they should start drilling in national parks, which seemed a little strange considering I just wanted to buy my “Shopping is cheapter than a psychiatrist” nailfile and chick-lit book. Let’s keep it light, lady!

I call this fellow the “Midway Man” – no idea what he’s doing or why he’s there!

We ate very well over the weekend, which for two foodies like Doug and I is the most important thing. There were the banana-granola pancakes one morning, the wood-fired pizza at the Cafe Galleria in Midway, and the onion rings and veggie sandwich at Red Rock Brewing Co in Park City. The piece-de-resistance, though, was the Snake Creek Grill in Heber which looks a little tourist-trappish from the outside but rivals some of the nicer restaurants I’ve been to in Vancouver, Montreal, and Ottawa. Delicioso!

Of course good food demands good beer, and we sure found some along the way. At Red Rock Doug tried the Abbey Ale (which we swear tastes a little like a peanut butter and banana sandwich) and on another visit to Park City we had the Oatmeal Stout and home-made Root Beer. The winner for best and most provocative brew names, though, goes to the Wasatch Brew Pub on Park City’s Main St. There you can sample Polygamy Porter, Evolution Amber Ale, and others that poke just a bit of fun at Utah’s Mormons and right-wing Christians more generally.


Even with a teensy snowstorm, we had a great escape and are looking forward to our next one. In the meantime, though, it’s back to my desk for the final two weeks of editing and indexing before the book goes to the printers!

© 2011 Danielle Metcalfe-Chenail. All Rights Reserved.