Two weeks ago, planning a work trip to our state’s capital city, I put out a call on Facebook: “Favorite things to do in Cheyenne?”
Answers ranged from “going to the mall and checking out the RVs” to enjoying the city’s botanical gardens and Lions Park. A breakfast spot and a craft brewery were also recommended.
But, for every recommendation I got on Facebook, I got two text messages along the lines of, “You have to go to Cheyenne? I’m sorry.”
As I write this it’s Sunday night in Cheyenne, and I’m sad I have to leave tomorrow morning. Our state capital rocks. Seriously.
Though the city had me my first night when, randomly walking around downtown, I discovered Flippers Family Arcade, I’ll save that for last. Because in the three days since I’ve found so much more awesomeness.
To me mountain biking is a death sport. More times than not, when I’ve set off on a mountain bike ride it has ended with an injury. If I ride on trails that have been manicured to the point they have no rocks or roots, an injury is less likely, but still not impossible. (So this pretty much means I mountain bike in Bend, Oregon.) I have never, ever, ever been hiking and running on a trail and wished I was instead on a mountain bike … until I visited Curt Gowdy State Park, about 25 minutes west of Cheyenne and home to 35 miles of trails.
Some of Curt Gowdy’s trails, like El Alto, would totally kill me if I were to ride them. But within 10 minutes of setting off on the beginner- to intermediate-rated Stone Temple Circuit on foot from the Aspen Grove trailhead, I wanted my mountain bike. There were a few rocks, but they were baby-size. And the corners were banked and swoopy and the 600-foot climb totally gentle.
Yes, on a bike I would have missed seeing the first of the season’s crocuses and some ground-level cactuses abloom with tiny pink flowers but the swoopy, clean turns would have been worth it.
By the time I was back at the trailhead — about 10 miles, 3.5 hours, two waterfalls, and only a handful of people later — I wasn’t surprised when I saw a sign that read, “The International Mountain Bicycling Association (IMBA) recognizes Curt Gowdy State Park as an EPIC TRAIL SYSTEM, 2009.”
There are several reservoirs in the state park (although you’re not allowed to swim in them because they provide drinking water for the area) and sites for RV, tent and van camping.
Just down the road from Curt Gowdy is Vedauwoo (pronounced veed-A-voo). I climbed here ages ago, and it ended in tears (Vedauwoo might have more off-width crack climbs than anywhere else in the U.S., or at least per formation it does).
This trip I lacked a climbing partner and gear, so I hiked on established trails until I passed one of the area’s 1.4-billion-year-old Sherman granite formations that looked (to me) like a fun scramble. And then I left the trail and reminded my fingertips how sharp Sherman granite can be. Some of the formations are six stories tall. (The longest climbs here are about 3 pitches.)
Even though Vedauwoo, which is a recreation area within the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forests, is at an elevation of about 8,200 feet, I encountered only two mud patches on the 4-mile Turtle Rock loop trail.
Because the only way to top scrambling on and hiking around some of the oldest exposed rocks in Wyoming is to play pinball, skee-ball and a version of air hockey that starts with 20 active pucks on the table — from Vedauwoo I beelined for Flippers, the family arcade in downtown Cheyenne I mentioned, where you can get a cherry, blue raspberry or Coke ICEE with vodka, rum or whiskey added.
The 20-puck air hockey and the ICEE with added alcohol are both as amazing as they sound.