Going Home to Wyoming

There are places in the world that feel like home even if you’ve never lived there. Places that feel immediately familiar, where your shoulders relax and you sigh deeply. Places that deeply touch some part of your soul and beg you to stay. Places you yearn for when you’re away. Places where you don’t have to be anything other than who you are.

For me, that place is Wyoming.

Wyoming Rainbows

I’ve traversed America countless times to return to Wyoming. Each time is like a homecoming.

On a flight to Oregon once we flew directly over eastern Wyoming. It’s expansive nothingness was unmistakable. I looked out the window and thought, “My heart is down there.”

I don’t think I’ve ever said anything more true.

Eastern Wyoming

For years, my family made summer road trips to Montana and Wyoming. My daughter worked as a park ranger in Yellowstone, then a geologist in Jackson Hole. This summer we returned for her wedding overlooking the Tetons.

Tetons

On our first trips, Wyoming seemed so far away. Two full days of driving with two bored kids in the backseat almost didn’t seem worth it. The fights, the restlessness, the boredom. But once we got out of Texas (which is over nine hours of the entire trip), and the drive became more scenic, even the kids couldn’t complain too much.

Nowadays we avoid Colorado and sacrifice mountain views for the easy, monotonous drive through Oklahoma, Kansas, and Nebraska. I ponder the emigrants of the 1800’s walking through these arid places, following their wagons, ready to start a new life. I wonder what it would have been like to be a woman, coming to such a place and raising a family.

Kansas Barn

This year we drove up through southern Utah, another place I think of as home. Still clinging to our stressful, fast paced city lives, we were anxious to reach Wyoming and help with wedding preparations, and made no stops in Utah. It was tough to drive past Canyonlands and Arches and not enter the parks. For me, southern Utah and the four corners area is like the center of the world, and if there is such a thing as “sacred space,” it is found in Utah.

Southern Utah

Regardless of which direction we enter Wyoming, I’m in love the moment we cross the state line. From the lonely, empty landscapes of the east, to the mountains of the west, it’s all magical to me. The sky is huge and never remains the same. Weather changes are dramatic and sudden.

Western Wyoming

We camped on Shadow Mountain, across the valley and overlooking the Teton mountains. We camped five nights on forest service land, and I couldn’t have been happier. We had only planned on camping three nights, but the choice between a hotel room and sleeping outdoors was an easy one. Despite a fire ban, which meant no evening campfires, every minute spent on the mountain was priceless.

Tetons from Our Tent

My daughter was married there.

Teton Wedding

The Tetons wear a different face every morning. Its face changes throughout the day. It’s fascinating to watch those changes. I could never grow tired of the view.

Sunset Tetons

One could sit for a lifetime on Shadow Mountain and grow old, watching the changes sweep across the mountains, and know that despite the changes, nothing really changed at all. This is the mountains’ greatest lesson.

I used to think of Wyoming as being someplace far, far removed from my Texas life. It isn’t. Even if I never physically live there, I will always carry it’s songs and pictures in my heart.

Teton Bison

When I’m back in Dallas, in my air conditioned house trying to escape the 100+ degree temperatures outside, I can close my eyes and imagine myself standing before the Tetons. I know all the roads that will take me there. I imagine one long road, a tether, an umbilical cord, between myself and the mountains. I know that at any moment, if my everyday life ever becomes too overwhelming or artificial, all I have to do is start driving.

I’ll be there soon enough.

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38 comments

  1. westerner54

    I was smiling throughout this whole post…I know exactly what you mean by that feeling of being “at home” in certain landscapes – and not necessarily the ones we were born to. Wonderful.

  2. beechcreekproject

    I’m not a believer in past lives or reincarnation but I do wonder sometimes why certain environments and landscapes hit a chord in your mind and soul. I’ve seen places and read books that just gave me the feeling that I’d been there before and lived a certain kind of lifestyle. The outdoors and physical labor has always felt like home to me. Great post and photos.

    • Mind Margins/Run Nature

      I’ve thought the same thing. Some places feel so familiar, and so comfortable, that it’s like putting on your most comfortable old sweatshirt. Coming “home” to Dallas, and being indoors most of the day, feels wrong to me. Maybe it’s more a reminder that we’re all a part of nature around us, and the outdoors and being physical should be natural for us. We are animals, after all, too, but most of us live far removed from any type of connection with the natural environment. I think that’s sad.

  3. joannevalentinesimson

    Loved the post AND the wonderful photos!! Last summer, my grandson and I traveled out that way (Colorado, Montana and Wyoming) for a NWF tour of Yellowstone, and it was quite spectacular. Your photos do it justice. Oddly enough, I have that same feeling of being “at home” in upstate New York. Passed through Chautauqua on my travels this summer and almost felt like buying a house in the vicinity. It’s gentler than the west, and it feels like it would be a safe, pleasant place to grow old in.

    • Mind Margins/Run Nature

      I’ve always wanted to visit upstate New York, but have yet to make the trip. It’s the wild ruggedness of the West that I love, the isolation and emptiness and knowing you have to be tough to survive there. I’m glad you had the chance to visit Yellowstone last summer. One day I’ll visit in the fall or winter when there’s no one there.

  4. skippingstones

    Wonderful posts and photos! I’ve never seen such wide open spaces in person, believe it or not.

    I read something interesting about atoms by Bill Bryson. Atoms are not destroyed, they simply change form. They have been around so long, that “every atom you possess has almost certainly passed through several stars and been part of millions of organisms on it’s way to becoming you.”

    Sometimes it feels to me that parts of us are being called back home, whether to a place or a person. Just the fact that we exist – that any of this exists – is amazing, incredible, unbelievable, magical. I don’t discount any of the “magic” that we might feel, any of the pull we might feel toward a time or place or person or thing.

    Certainly I’ve been a tree in some other life, and a mountain and a body of water. Not a me that I would recognize, but the most fundamental, basic aspect of my physical existence. Because the atoms that make me uniquely me are not unique at all. And they’ve been around this block a time or two already.

    • Mind Margins/Run Nature

      What a wonderful comment, Michelle! I love knowing that atoms are never destroyed, and that we could have an even more intimate connection with all of life around us than I imagined. Your comment is going to keep me smiling for the next month–or longer!

      • skippingstones

        I can’t forget what I read about atoms in his book!

        Here’s what else he said: “We are each so atomically numerous and so vigorously recycled at death that a significant number of our atoms – up to a billion for each of us, it has been suggested – probably once belonged to Shakespeare. A billion more each came from Buddha and Genghis Khan and Beethoven, and any other historical figure you care to name. (The personages have to be historical, apparently, as it takes the atoms some decades to become thoroughly redistributed…)” A billion sounds like a lot, but it’s not for atoms – they are super duper small, of course.

        The other thing I can’t forget is he said that if you picked any item apart atom by atom, it would just be a pile of atomic dust. You couldn’t tell a person from a chair from a lake from a skyscraper. That’s pretty interesting.

        Of course, when I told my dad that, he pointed out that there are things smaller than the atom – the insides of an atom. Crazy to think about!

      • skippingstones

        “A Short History of Nearly Everything”

        I get those two titles mixed up, but I still have mine sitting here beside me, so I looked at it to be sure, haha!

  5. monica

    wow. what gorgeous photos. really beautiful. i’ve never been, but it kinda made me want to go. your one wedding photo looked so relaxed and fun. must have been a great wedding. congrats to you and to the bride. and what a great connection you have. again! i loved the post. :o) oh, and i just got back from your dallas neck of the woods. it was………hot! but, not QUITE as hot as here. ;o)

    • Mind Margins/Run Nature

      Thanks, Monica. You need to take your kids to Yellowstone. They would love the geysers and bubbling mud pits. And what’s cooler than walking around on a collapsed volcano that could blow again at any moment? The wedding was beautiful, and it was fun to dance the night away across from the Tetons with all my daughter’s friends, then crawl into my sleeping bag. Poor you being in Dallas last week. I hear it was deadly hot!

  6. Steve Schwartzman

    I had a similar airplane experience with Utah. In the mid-1990s I flew from Texas to San Francisco and the plane crossed over Utah. As it did, I saw all sorts of appealing geological formations down below and made a resolution to return by land to explore them. Two or three years later we flew from Austin to Salt Lake City, rented a car, and drove around that new (to us) part of the country, including Yellowstone. We ended up visiting, even if briefly, four of the five national parks in Utah. I’d like to go back and see more.

    • Mind Margins/Run Nature

      I’m so glad you went back to explore. I flew over Canyonlands once, after I had already been there several times, and it was amazing to see it from above. I kept looking around to see if anyone else was as awed as I was, and only one other person seemed interested in the view. It’s in incredible area of the world, so imposing and mystical.

  7. jodysjourneys

    I love the section on the mountains’ lesson of although they change nothing really changes. Interesting thought. I’m going to ponder that. Any type of mountains is where I feel at home. In college I used to get the Denver paper and dream of getting a job there and moving out. I am still shocked that I ended up in Iowa with a man that would never dream of leaving his beloved Iowa! I just really loved how you put into words what I have felt and never really been able to say! Thanks.

    • Mind Margins/Run Nature

      I used to listen to John Denver in my bedroom in junior high and high school and dream of growing up and moving to Colorado. I never made it, though I did live in Switzerland in my twenties. I’ve spent most of my life stuck in Dallas and still dream of moving to the mountains. Like you, I’ve broadened my horizons and love any mountains, but for some reason Wyoming feels more like home than any other place I’ve ever been.

  8. urbansnapperblog

    I cannot imagine a place so vast, so beautiful and so compelling. There are many places I want to see before I die and your images have just elevated Wyoming into my top ten. I bet it’s beautiful in the winter too.

  9. unfoldthecreativity

    Amazing breathtaking Tetons. I just visited them over 4th of July. Loved the Mountain region area. Its amazing to have wedding at Tetons. Great Destination picked for wedding. 🙂

  10. wyominglife

    It’s seems like Wyoming is one of those places you either “get” or you don’t.

    I moved to Wyoming over 20 years ago to do some research in the Bighorn Mountains. It sounds lame, but that line form an old John Denver song “Coming home to a place you’ve never been before” said it better than anything else.

    I’ve been here ever since.

    • Mind Margins/Run Nature

      I know exactly what you mean. (And I was the dorky girl in junior high who had a huge crush on John Denver, so it’s not lame at all!) I would move there in a heartbeat, and it’s always in the back of my mind that if life ever gets to be too much, I can always jump in the car and head west. Good for you for finding your true home all those years ago and settling down there. I’m looking forward to checking out your blog.

  11. home, garden, life

    Beautiful imagery through words and photos.
    Years ago, while riding near the Tetons, I noticed a rock next to the trail. It spoke to me. I dismounted, heaved the rock into my saddlebag, and brought it home to Virginia. It rests in my garden, always reminding me of its mighty orign and the magic found in Wyoming. I love the permanence of rock, always present.

    • Mind Margins/Run Nature

      I’m a rock collector myself, though mine are usually small. I have rocks all over my house. And it seems to have rubbed off on my daughter since she became a geologist. I love traveling with her because she can tell me the names of all the rocks and explain certain features.

  12. manativeptwesterner

    I love Wyoming too. Not just Tetons-Yellowstone, but other locales like Big Horn Canyon near Lovell, Pinedale is the Wind River Range, the Shirley Basin near Medicine Bow, Laramie Peak, Saratoga Lake near the Colorado border, dont forget Devil’s Tower, and the Powder River Basin, even Alcova Lake near Casper. Actually Wyoming is similar to Texas culture, because both states retain cowboy western, while Colorado is the mecca for transplants, bringing easterners to the Front Range. Utah is Mormon, with a strong, independent economy, attracts people like me from neighboring states to escape the resort towns for red rock quiet. Count your blessings Tex, cuz Wyoming is COLD in the winter, like -35 below, pretty cold sometimes. Texas has great state parks with Big Bend NP. and lots of their proud heritage. Good luck and go camp at Fremont Lake!

    • Mind Margins/Run Nature

      I love all of Wyoming as well, and I have actually been there in the winter. It was much colder than I’m used to, but I loved it. I know the winters can be cloudy and dreary at times, but I love the snow. Winter is the best season in Texas. I love Utah as well, and the sandstone rocks. Colorado is too crowded for me. Big Bend is a jewel that many people don’t know about down here. I go there as often as I can. I’m headed to Palo Duro Canyon this weekend and will be running in a 50K trail race there in October. And I will camp at Fremont Lake one day. Thanks for the tip!

      • manativeptwesterner

        Colorado is very crowded, I-70 corridor busy, stupid roundabouts wasteful, resort towns expensive, yuppie “new West”. I visited most all of Texas on birding trips, springs ’01, ’02, ’03 ’04 Gulf, ’05 San Angelo job search, ’06 Palacios return and 2011! Wildfires have been awful: Possum Kingdom Lake, Colorado Spgs., I would recommend the Flat Tops region in northern Colorado and Dinosaur Monument near Flaming Gorge into SW Wyoming. Fremont Lake near Pinedale. Note: a lot of Texans visit SW Colorado: Creede, South Fork, and Poncha Springs areas US 160. Good Luck.

      • Mind Margins/Run Nature

        I love the area around Vernal and Flaming Gorge. I’ve been twice, but want to go back and explore some more. We drove through southern Colorado on our way to Wyoming this summer, mainly to escape the heat, but it was so unbelievably crowded we took a detour and drove up through Utah instead. Colorado in the summer is not my idea of a vacation.

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