LDX Voyage 02 – Cheyenne: Town & Country

Cheyenne WY
Mon Jun 20, 2022
(~20 miles)

I slept soundly in the big comfortable bed provided in my little studio. I awoke early, brewed a mug of coffee in the Kurig machine, and ate some instant oatmeal that I’d brought along for breakfast. Stepping outside into the cool morning air, watched the two distant alpacas in the neighbors field (which weren’t really doing much), and just took in the fact that I was here in Wyoming, of all places, and not in a rush to be anywhere else.

This property was once a horse farm, with an old one-story barn building down the hill from my steps, a couple sheds and chicken coops, and large detached garage outbuilding. There look to be a few acres of unused pasture fields fenced into a big lot beyond the barn. Now, the family has just a few chickens and geese, who seemed content to hide in the tall grass, sticking close to their coop to shelter from the oppressive winds. Right now, however, the air was still and it was a beautiful morning.

I put in a full day at the virtual office, getting by on some chips and a Clif Bar for lunch. The plan was to hit a local restaurant for dinner tonight, and then pick up some basic groceries to get me through the next couple days. My day was quiet and uninterrupted, save for the infrequent cacophony of the resident dog pack whenever they emerged from the house. The wind gusts howled occasionally and gradually built in strength and frequency as the day progressed, which I assume must be a pretty standard pattern for these parts.

My host had given me fair warning about the miller moths, which are common and harmless pests in the region that apparently get into every house through whatever means possible. Just a fact of country life, she said. I didn’t really mind the few resident moths fluttering about the apartment during my stay and managed to capture and release a couple of them outside, when they started swooping too close to my head while I was working! 🦋

bison statue

Had to get a shot of my old friend, Wyoming’s state mammal

After logging off for the day, I suited up to ride into town around 19:00, with plenty of daylight still left in the sky. It was a short 5 mile ride to reach the city limits, and another 5 into downtown, giving you an idea of how spread out things are.

I entered from the north, coming down by the regional airport, where I spotted what I think were a couple of huge C-130 military planes in the distance. Apparently, this joint civil-military airport also houses a wing of the Air National Guard. There’s also a huge Air Force base adjoining the city, not a mile to the west with some cool missiles on display at the front gate (no pics).

This was my first time in Cheyenne proper, and I was eager to explore a bit. The streets were quiet, not much traffic at this hour, and I had time to take things in to satisfy my curiosity and get a feel for this new territory. I found the grounds around the state capitol building very striking, with it’s verdant lawns and shade trees in stark contrast to most of the local landscape that I’d seen so far. It was also striking in that there was just nobody around – streets and sidewalks almost devoid of activity.

Wyoming capitol building

State capitol building

The capitol itself is a very handsome building, with symmetrical Greek-inspired classic government architecture and a high dome. I stopped to snap a few photos on the way into downtown, including at the magnificent state capitol building, complete with bronze bison statue posed on the grounds.

Wyoming capitol building

My host had recommended a burger joint called 2 Doors Down. The online reviews were good, so that’s where I headed for dinner. It’s right downtown, along with several other bars and restaurants that looked to be the only establishments doing business this late in the evening.

2 Doors Down exterior2 Doors Down interior

At the front counter, I ordered a Peppercorn burger, which came with “bottomless steak fries” and a strawberry malted shake, then grabbed a booth with a view of the bike. The place wasn’t very busy on a Monday evening, but the food was good and really hit the spot after the make-do meals I’d been subsisting on. The steak fries were very tasty, but one helping was plenty, so I didn’t tarry long about the place after finishing up my meal.

strawberry shake

burger and fries

street in downtown CheyenneThe streets seemed even quieter and there was still light in the sky at 20:00, so I decided to cruise around the downtown area a bit and explore. Cheyenne has a nicely groomed historic district and my head was on a swivel, trying to get a good feel for the city’s character. Certainly the Old West vibe is strong here, given the city’s place in history as a key railroad hub, and its role in hosting the world’s biggest rodeo event each year.

boot and Wrangler store

LDX Voyage 02 – Cheyenne Town & Country

After a bit of wandering through the downtown streets, I retraced my route north towards my lodging, stopping in at an Albertson’s supermarket to pick up some staples for the next few days: bagels, salad mix, cold cuts, and a couple frozen meals. The wind was up again, whipping across the plains outside the city by the time I arrived back at my little apartment just past sunset. I settled in for another comfortable evening in my snug shelter, listening to the wind and the moths fluttering by the lights.

bike by old West buildings

Must be the way to the rally…

 


Cheyenne WY (local ride)
Tue Jun 21, 2022
(~67 miles)

I awoke around 05:30 (being two hours behind most of my work colleagues) and put together a breakfast of coffee, a bagel, and a ham & egg Hot Pocket. The kitchenette had a microwave, but no stovetop or oven, so my cuisine choices were pretty simple from necessity during my stay. I kept tabs on the sunrise while I ate, and logged on to get some work done.

sunrise

Working straight through lunch, I was able to put my hours in and end my work day by 15:30 local time. I was really looking forward to today’s afternoon plan, which was to get out and do some hiking. I wasn’t too sure what this mostly flat part of Wyoming had to offer in terms of trails and scenery, but was eager to explore and find out. I donned shorts and a t-shirt under my riding gear, and packed my hiking sandals along with a bottle of water. Then I took the road back toward Cheyenne and (avoiding the interstate) cut south behind the Air Force base on a washboard gravel road to pick up Happy Jack Road, leading west out of town.

Happy Jack Road

Happy Jack Road, aka WY route 210

Happy Jack connects Cheyenne to Laramie, providing a more scenic two-lane alternative to I-80. The weather was comfortable, around 75 degrees with light wind. I enjoyed the ride out to the state park, feeling excited in that school’s-out kind of way. It was a bit overwhelming to think that I was 2000 miles from home, had just completed a full day’s work, and was now about to go hiking on a beautiful afternoon in the wilds of Wyoming. It felt like I was getting away with something!

Happy Jack Road and Laramie Mountains

Foothills of the Laramie Mountain range

I could see a mountainous area up ahead, quite conspicuous against the flat steppe in all other directions. Happy Jack eventually got me into those hills, taking a few big sweepers up to a bit of elevation. I’d later learn I had ventured into the Laramie Mountains, a range that was unfamiliar to me, but shows on a topographic map in clear contrast to all the flat prairie leading in from the east. It was about 30 miles ( ~45 minutes easy pace) to my destination, Curt Gowdy State Park.

topographic map near Cheyenne

Curt Gowdy park entrance sign

bison detail on entrance signThe park is spread out onto three discontinuous tracts of land surrounding three distinct reservoirs along Crow Creek. I pulled in past the impressive gateway arch of the main location, which surrounds Granite Springs Reservoir and has the park headquarters. My objective was to hike the Crow Creek Trail  out to Hidden Falls (four mile round trip), apparently one of the local gems of natural features in the area.

I rode down the long driveway, with a breath-taking view of Granite Springs Reservoir straight ahead. There was a small automated kiosk near one of the campground entrances where I paid the $12 non-resident parking fee with a credit card. Parking the bike in an almost-full gravel lot near a causeway over the small dam, I doffed my riding gear, draping it all over my bike to help lessen the appeal to any passers-by. I traded boots for sandals and pulled up the PDF map I’d saved on my phone to find the trailhead.

Granite Springs Reservoir

Granite Springs Reservoir in Gowdy SP

The Crow Creek Trail turned out to be an absolute stunner of a hike, following its namesake waterway up into the rocky hills. It starts you off with a bang, hiking steeply up a slope to a great view overlooking the dammed creek, wide and still, with beautiful rocky cliffs and scrub vegetation as a back drop. The trail continues to wind along the creek, which grows smaller, faster, and becomes more overgrown as you proceed further into the hills.

overlook on Crow Creek Trail

Crow Creek Trail

chipmunkDespite the bear warning at the trailhead, my wildlife encounters consisted of a woodpecker, a family of Canada geese hanging out on an island, a beautiful hummingbird flitting around over the rushing water, and the ever-present chipmunks that seemed to have hidey-holes everywhere along the trail, into which they would scurry, “chipping” as they heard you coming.

gateThere were a few gates along the trail, which I assumed were for containing movement of any wayward livestock that might wander into the park. The trail was well-marked and there were several junctions with other trails that looked worth exploring on a future visit. The few bridges that crossed back and forth over the creek were sturdily constructed and well kept. This is honestly one of the more beautiful trails I’ve hiked, which came as a complete surprise, considering my limited experience in this part of Wyoming.

Here is a quick moment of zen along the babbling brook at a pretty bridge crossing.

Eventually, I made my way over some large boulders and into a canyon with high rock cliffs to either side, where the trail finally reached it’s terminus in the waters of the creek. Though I had passed a few other hikers on their way back down the trail, there wasn’t a soul around now – I had this entire canyon to myself for the moment. Picking my way over and through some very large boulders down to the creek, I hopped across a few rivulets to a large flattish rock in the middle that afforded a view around a sharp bend at the very back corner of the canyon, where it narrowed dramatically.

canyon on Crow Creek Trail

Hidden Falls

Hidden Falls exposed!

Wow – hidden falls indeed! What a gorgeous little grotto and waterfall to take in at the end of this wonderful hike! The water is very clear and the streambed looked pretty safe to walk on barefoot, so I removed my footwear and waded upstream into the grotto as far as my knees. This afforded a much better view of the double cascade and the sound was pretty deafening. Given more time (and a towel) I might have plunged in to get even closer, but as it was, the cold water and mist were refreshing enough and I just took it all in for a few minutes.

Hidden Falls

Photos hardly do the scene and moment justice, so here’s a quick one minute video to get the vibe (full screen in high-quality playback recommended). The volume and power of the water echoing off the walls of the grotto was humbling.

When I emerged from the grotto, there was a young couple just arriving and removing their shoes. I waved hello as I went back to my rock to sit and dry off a bit while gazing around at the canyon walls. They went a bit further in than I did, up to their chests, yet still stayed a ways back from the actual pounding falls.

canyon view while drying feet

The hike up had taken about an hour in my sandals at a leisurely pace, and I’d finished off half a liter of water, trying to keep my hydration levels up as I acclimated to the dry air of the west. When I’d had my fill of the little canyon, I headed back down the trail, enjoying the same great scenery from the reverse angle on the way back down.

Crow Creek view

My motorcycle was right where I’d left it in the now almost-empty lot, as the shadows were getting longer and the temperature began to drop. It was about 66F or so on the ride back to Cheyenne, still very comfortable, and I was buzzed from my amazing hike.

Back at the AirBnB, I showered the dust off and then whipped together a bagel sandwich with cold cuts and some chips. I reflected back on the afternoon and how grateful I was to have the opportunity to take this extra time on a trip, exploring new places at a walking pace, even on a work day.

topographic map of state park area

7 comments on LDX Voyage 02 – Cheyenne: Town & Country

  1. Nice write up. I (of course), worry about you hiking alone. Do you have an emergency thingie SOS?…in case you sprain an ankle or something and can’t hike out. Nice you have a signal to get your work done in remote local.

    1. Thanks for reading Deb! And for the concern 🙂 You know, it never really occurred to me to bring anything along for such a short hike as this. Probably if I was going several miles into the wilderness I would think more about activating and bringing my inReach Mini along for any emergencies. This was a pretty well-traveled trail, so the likelihood of someone coming along to assist was pretty high. Something to think about tho!

      1. I don’t know if you’re an iPhone or Android guy, but if you’re up for an upgrade the new iPhone 14 Pros have emergency satellite capability. I gave up on my Spot X and have been wanting a Garmin Inreach Explorer, but until I have enough saved up for one I’m hoping the iPhone will be enough should I ever need to summon help.

  2. Greetings from Sydney Australia. I stumbled across your site by chance via the ADV riders 2021 IBR thread. Really loving your attitude towards life and travel (on a Honda). Hope to see an update soon. Would also love to hear about your bike. How many miles on her now, any issues, what oil are you using (kidding).
    Regards
    Robert

    1. Cheers, Robert!

      The 2012 has just over 182K miles now and no real issues with the bike besides the normal wear and maintenance items for an ST. Clutch just finally gave out last trip (report pending) and so I’ll be replacing that, but not a bad lifetime for the original. Probably replace the radiator and all the hoses while I’m in there too (rad is really gunked up after all the miles, tho never had an overheating issue).
      Thanks for reading & subbing.

      PS. Mobil 1 😀

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