We’re approaching vacation season. When it comes to finding spectacular scenery, engaging events, elusive wildlife, sweet sales and living history, you don’t have to travel hundreds of miles. You can run down all these attractions and more on a single tank of gas. Too often we get caught in a rut, unwilling to deviate from established routines. This summer we encourage people to leave their comfort zones in search of local treasures. We’ve got a lot going on around here, and we’d hate for locals to miss it.
NATURAL GEMS: When weather and road conditions turn nice, you should head for the hills. The Flaming Gorge, Little Firehole and Buckboard Marina attract a lot of attention, and for good reason, but have you considered less popular venues like the Honeycomb Buttes, Sand Dunes, Adobe Town, Devil’s Playground or Green River Palisades? For those looking to spy creatures in their natural habitat, there’s Seedskadee National Wildlife Refuge, Pilot Butte Wild Horse Scenic Loop, or the Green River Greenbelt.
When headed down the less traveled path, follow the rules of the road. Make a plan and let someone know where you’re going and when you expect to return, especially if you’re going where cellphone service is spotty. Watch the forecast. Pack plenty of food, water, and weather-appropriate clothing. Know and respect the limitations of your body, the people you’re with, and your vehicle. Don’t litter, and unless in areas where off-roading is allowed, stick to established trails and routes.
HAPPY ANNIVERSARY: Unique milestones are being marked with special events. For example, Wyoming is celebrating 150 years of women’s suffrage. The state passed the first unconditional law in the U.S. guaranteeing women their inherent right to vote and hold office on Dec. 10, 1869, about 50 years before women in the rest of the nation were guaranteed this same right. The nation is only celebrating the centennial anniversary of the 19th Amendment being passed by Congress on June 4, 1919, and ratified on Aug. 18, 1920. Commemorations include the Proud Wyoming Woman Retreat on Sept 13-15, where there will be a focus on networking, arts and culture, and female health and wellness activities.
Green River is looking forward to the 150th anniversary of the John Wesley Powell expedition that traversed the Colorado River and the Grand Canyon. Expedition Island will host festivities on May 24. It’s also the sesquicentennial of the Transcontinental Railroad connecting east and west on May 10, 1869, near Promontory Summit, Utah.
RETRACING TRACKS: Speaking of the railroad, there’s more than one local spot where people can see history literally carved into the ground/landscape.
As part of the 150th anniversary of the golden railroad spike, the Union Pacific is sending Big Boy No. 4014 and the Living Legend No. 844 back into service. Traveling individually and in tandem, the vintage steam engines will pass through Rock Springs on April 27, May 5 and May 14, with the last time featuring a rail car converted into a mobile museum.
Then there are the pioneer trails that crisscross our corner of the country. Whether traveling by wagon, horseback, handcart or foot, they cut a route that can still be seen in places. Going even further back chronologically, there are the White Mountain Petroglyphs, where images were etched into the rocks by Plains and Great Basin Indians.
Going in the other direction, there are the roads and highways that gave people more freedom and mobility. The Lincoln Highway Association will host a conference from June 18-21 to highlight this history and offer tours, presentations and guest speakers.
ON THE STREETS WHERE YOU LIVE: When blazing a trail, it doesn’t have to all be about roughing it. Early settlers knew how to enjoy comforts when they found them, and we should do the same. Consider the “Spend $20 on the 20th” campaign, which exhorts people to shop locally. We hope residents check out new businesses and see what’s been added at established stores. Considering the challenges posed by online retail, they need local support more than ever. If you want to keep these stores, you have to patronize them. They may not stick around if you don’t show up.
Several cherished events are making their annual appearances. The Rods and Rails Car Show will be June 15, Flaming Gorge Days runs June 27-29, Rock Springs hosts International Day on July 13, Mansface Mountain Music Festival returns for the second time July 19-20, and the Sweetwater County Fair is July 30 to Aug. 3.
SUMMER SPORTS: Even when classes are over, it doesn’t mean that students aren’t getting schooled. Coaches and other volunteers continue working with local youth through the hottest months to hone their athleticism. There are plenty of games of softball or American Legion baseball to catch. If you want to see something classic, attend the vintage baseball tournament at Gold Rush Days in South Pass City on July 6-7. Players use 1900-era rules, uniforms and equipment and look like they’ve stepped out the “Field of Dreams.”
Those who prefer their fun on ice can watch the Drop In Hockey Tournament on April 26-28 at the Rock Springs Family Recreation Center. Flaming Gorge Days and Wyoming’s Big Show will host golf, three-man basketball, cornhole, volleyball and horseshoes tournaments.
If rodeos are your passion, you’ll be busy. The Overland Stage Stampede Rodeo sets the stage June 7-8 followed by the National High School Finals Rodeo on July 14-20 and the Red Desert Rodeo on July 25-27.
STOP AND SMELL THE SAGEBRUSH: The exciting and frustrating thing is that we’ve only just scratched the surface. We don’t have the space to fully dive into biking and hiking options, the exhibits at the Rock Springs and Sweetwater County museums and Community Fine Arts Center, or the animal and dinosaur collections at Western Wyoming Community College. Consider the youth camps and activities offered by the Sweetwater County Library System, Board of Cooperative Educational Services, Boys and Girls Club of Sweetwater County and local police departments. There are new events, like Taco Fest on May 11 in Rock Springs, and ongoing series like Green River organizing Movies in the Park and Rock Springs hosting Concerts in the Park and in the downtown Rock Springs Bank Court. Bands have until May 31 to sign up for the Wyoming Roots Music Festival at the Broadway Theater on Sept. 14, and Quilting on the Green runs May 31 to June 1.
Head out in any direction — north, south, east or west — and you’ll find diversions awaiting you. To aid your inner pioneer, look to the daily Things to Do list in the Rocket-Miner or websites like www.downtownrs.com, www.tourwyoming.com and www.travelwyoming.com. Event organizers should also keep the newspaper in the loop. We can’t share what we don’t know about.
Life is busy, so you must make time to get the most out of opportunities. There’s so much waiting in our backyards, but we won’t be able to enjoy it if we stick to our usual routines. So get up, get out and get on with living.