We had plans to rip up the town in both Cheyenne and Laramie, Wyoming, but those plans were quickly modified as we nestled in our campsite at Curt Gowdy State Park, located midway between the two cities. Why exactly would we want to leave to go anywhere? (Full disclosure: we didn’t really get rowdy at Curt Gowdy, but who can resist a good rhyme?)
Curt Gowdy SP was named the country’s #6 state park by Outside Magazine, and outside is where you’ll want to be. With endless outdoor recreation literally at our doorstep, we oooohed and aaaaahed at three calm lakes for paddling, 35 miles of singletrack mountain biking, and a multitude of rocky trails winding through forests and leading to hidden waterfalls.
Who was Curt Gowdy, you ask, and why does he get his own park? A well-known sportscaster, he called Boston Red Sox games on radio and TV for 15 years. You may not have heard of Curt Gowdy, but all you need to know about him is that he has rich friends in high places. Example: the luxurious visitor center was funded through a $900,000 donation from his close buddy John Morris, the CEO of Bass Pro Shops. Thus, its woodsy-cabin-meets-sportsman-on-the-loose vibe.
Park trails wind to, between and around three reservoirs, and fishing, paddleboarding, and all manner of water sports are the main attraction here. Multiple campgrounds with a wide variety of site configurations and hookups are scattered throughout.
8-month-old Finn got her first taste of kayaking on these calm, open waters. I’m not gonna say she’s a natural, but she managed to avoid dumping all of us into the drink. Sprinkles, meanwhile, is the calm professional.
CGSP has 42 miles of trails which are generally designed for biking, but are blessedly free of use and therefore great for hiking, too. They even have a 2-mile “archery field course,” a hiking trail that includes 28 archery targets set into the woods. So, you hike a little, shoot a little, hike a little, shoot a litte. Fun! Most importantly, trails are perfectly and appropriately named for their users.
The most popular trail, the 4-mile Crow Creek Trail to Hidden Falls, wraps around the water and along a creek, ending at a waterfall tucked back into a canyon of 60 foot granite walls, where younger/braver people happily splashed in the icy cold water.
24 miles to the east, the Capitol city of Cheyenne is the largest city in Wyoming, at a whopping 60,000 residents.
Cheyenne is perhaps best know for its Frontier Days, the “World’s Largest Outdoor Rodeo and Western Celebration,” held annually since 1897. The population of this town swells to over 200,000 which, depending on your point of view, means you either want to aim for, or completely avoid, this week in late July. The statue in front of the arena is of Chris LeDoux, a well-known country music singer-songwriter and hall of fame rodeo champion.
Scattered around Cheyenne are more than 30 hand-painted, 8-foot-tall cowboys boots. In a clever marketing nod to Nancy Sinatra, they declare “these boots were made for talkin’” and offer a free audio tour, providing boot details when you call a phone number. Themes include Religion’s A Kick, Happy Birthday Cheyenne, Outlaws of Wyoming, and Don’t Feed The Animals.
Meanwhile, 24 miles to the west of Curt Gowdy SP, is the even-smaller-than-Cheyenne town of Laramie. On the way, the only monument to Abraham Lincoln to appear on The Lincoln Highway, becons travellers along I-80. It’s rather puzzling, given that Wyoming wasn’t even a territory when Lincoln was President, but there you are anyway. The 12.5-foot-high head sits on tiny shoulders, and is the largest bronze head in the U.S.
An even more meaningful statue is found University of Wyoming at Laramie campus. Showing a female horse-rider smashing through a sandstone brick wall, “Breakin’ Through” is not just about rodeo, but rather a symbol of barriers that women overcome. Wyoming was a very female-forward state, being the first state to have a female governor, female justice of the peace, and the first to allow a woman to vote.
The phrase on the back, “sic adur ad astra,” means “thus one goes to the stars,” and there is no denying the inspiration and aspiration represented here. Bravo, Wyoming … we love your spunk! We are now hitchin’ our wagon to the stars and heading onward into Colorado, where we will be for the next five weeks. Thanks for the memories, Curt Gowdy & friends!