Among the wanna-be wild west cowpokes in my Oklahoma hometown, one was from Wyoming.  At least that’s what he claimed. Envy roiled within me well before I was consciously smitten with the state. I’ve always believed there to be a correlation with the envy of that boy’s Wyoming roots and my intent to become a vet – it seemed at the time the perfect entrance to a state mostly populated by large-hoofed animals.

Wind River Mountains

The Winds As I See Them

Wyoming Bucking Bronco

The Cowboy State

Wind River Mountain Range

Wind River Mountain Fishing

Wyoming Map

Pinedale & Lander, Wyoming

Wind River Mountains

Wind River Glacial Lake

Eventually I did make it to Wyoming as a resident (but not as a vet).  By the time I finally got there it didn’t matter the method.  It may only be my imagination and continued infatuation with the state, but I sense a keen curiosity from those who discover I once lived there. Apparently there are a lot of 7 year old wanna-be wild west cowpokes at heart.

Pinedale and Lander are primary base camps for treks into the Wind River Mountain Range, a range in western Wyoming that runs northwest to southeast. Gannett Peak, the highest peak in Wyoming (nope, not Grand Teton) at 13,804 feet is contained within the range as are 40 other peaks above 13,000 feet. The Winds are old. As such they’re worn down and not considered as classically attractive by mountain range standards (as say the Tetons). Personally I can’t get enough of the Winds even after 3 grueling hikes into their back country terrain. 

The towns are about 135 miles of driving time apart because the Winds literally split the space between them; as the crow flies they’re separated by 57 miles of unspoiled wilderness.   

But not everyone hikes. And for those these towns offer sights and activities for everyone, both laying claim to fantastic museums documenting pioneer life and culture. 

Lander lies on the southeast section of the Wind River Mountains and is home to the Museum of the American West, the Fremont County Pioneer Museum and the Wind River Wild Horse Sanctuary where you can see wild mustangs in one of three wild horse sanctuaries in Wyoming. Lander is 125 miles north of Rawlins on highway 287.  Dubois hasn’t anything on Lander where strange name pronunciations go. Lander runs along the Middle Fork of the Popo Agie River. Popo Agie. How do you think that’s pronounced?  Wrong! Here goes: “poe-POE-zha”.  Say it fast and run it together and good luck.

Speaking of food… the Lander Bar & Grill is a don’t skip. A New York Times writer said “it was one of the finest burgers I’ve eaten”, for what that’s worth.  I’m a fan of their local microbrews, and when I can tear myself away from a cheeseburger, the pizzas are tasty as well. 

Lander Bar & Grill

Lander Bar & Grill Microbrews

Lander Bar & Grill Microbrews

Lander Grill Kitchen Sink Burger

Lander Bar & Grill Kitchen Sink Burger

Pinedale is about 100 miles north of Rock Springs on highway 191 and centrally located on the southwest side of the Wind River Mountains.  It’s home to the Museum of the Mountain Man (open May – October), and naturally formed glacial lake, Fremont Lake. Fremont is the 2nd largest natural lake in Wyoming and 600 ft at its deepest. Take Skyline Scenic Drive to Elkhart Park to see the lake at its best perspective.  Do the Pinedale Walking Tour for an overview of the town’s main attractions. 

An annual event in the mid 1800’s, the Green River Rendezvous is the 2nd week in July. “The Green River Rendezvous was an annual event in the 1830s. Mountain Men, Trappers, Travelers and Indians all gathered in a valley “below the Green” river and bartered, traded, sold, and swapped various items such as skins, pelts, guns, jewelry and whatever else they needed.” While scheduled for a few days of good times and procurement of necessities, it often extended into months, and word is it was raucous. 

 

Pinedale, Wyoming Landscape

Pinedale, Wyoming

Wind River Range Camping

Wind River Wildlife

Trout Look Out

Cairn

Back-country hiking lifeline

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