Living within close proximity to the mountains has allowed me countless opportunities to explore including camping with new friends, rafting trips, challenging hikes and more on the weekends; however, they were consistently followed by a week of higher-than-I’d-like-to-admit screen time reports. Unknowingly, I entered a routine of living on autopilot.
Feeling like a bit of an “iPad kid,” I found myself reaching for my phone to scroll on social media apps while I was eating dinner, in bed before falling asleep at night and even when I had just set it down moments ago. My dependency on my phone had evolved into a crippling habit, so when I was presented with the opportunity to visit Wyoming’s Wind River Country and disconnect for a few days, I jumped on it.
Small Moments of Nostalgia
Only a short plane ride away from Denver, my trip to Fremont County started in Riverton, Wyoming. Landing relatively late at night, I went straight to bed and didn’t have my first glimpse of my surroundings until the following morning. When I got out of bed after a restful night’s sleep, I opened the curtains to be met with a familiar pink-to-blue early morning glow in the sky that gave me an unexpected pang of nostalgia.
The same still morning sky that was in front of me at the start of my trip was one that I had seen before during sleepaway camp as a child or during quick morning walks with my childhood dog that have since memorialized themselves as cherished memories ever since his passing last year. Although this morning sky didn’t involve impressive sun-drenched clouds the familiar glow set the tone for how this trip to a brand-new place would be more of a homecoming than anything.
Back in Time
Upon entry to the Brown Sugar Coffee Roastery for breakfast before embarking to Lander, it felt like how things once were. Having lived in major U.S. cities like New York and Denver over the past few years, I’ve gotten accustomed to keeping to myself when I’m in public places. From my point of view, it feels like a lot of communities have lost the sense of intimacy that can easily be shared among those who live in and experience the same place alongside one another every day. In the coffee roastery, however, this was not the case.
It was clear that this breakfast nook had its share of regulars and was ready to welcome newcomers with a warm mug of coffee outstretched as well. Observing coworkers share notes on a project face-to-face next to a group of men who likely meet every Friday morning (considering the waiter on staff knew to start rearranging tables and chairs as the first member of the party walked in) I realized how fulfilling human connection can be and how starkly I had forgotten this simple sentiment in recent years.
On the Road
Despite all of the towns I had planned to visit while in the Wind River region existing within the same county, Wyoming itself is vast and spread out meaning it took a substantial amount of time to get from Riverton to Lander, Dubois and back again. Initially, I was not happy with the drive times that hovered around an hour between destinations because I thought the no cell service I had to endure would lead to boredom — and wow, was I wrong.
As we made the winding road trip down Loop Road and beyond, we passed monumental sites like Sinks Canyon, Sacagawea’s Cemetery and a rapidly changing natural landscape that featured mountains, badlands, rivers and more. The views that were unfolding right before my eyes were so awe-striking that I quickly forgot about not having service.
Photos by Maura Jenkins
Simple, Yet Effective
My time spent in the Wind River region will always hold a special place in my heart due to the lessons I learned in the Cowboy State — simple pleasures are really just that: simple. Things like community, time spent in nature and an appreciation for your surroundings are such strong drivers of joy in a time when we have seemed to forget just how big small moments can be. So, take a breath, put down your phone, smile at your neighbor and come back to yourself in the process.