I had the honor of guest blogging for Bit Of Betsy last month. She has a great new featured category on her site called Hidden Corners. It highlights gems, big and small, to visit, that are especially off the tourist beaten path. “These places may be in the outdoors but I also want to include small towns, hole in the wall eateries, and culturally interesting areas.”, says Betsy. Please visit her site, it’s incredible. She has a ton of photos on each of her posts. Her recent trip to Patagonia is worth looking over. Four posts offer hiking and kayaking expeditions, and visit beta if you’re looking to travel there yourself.
Below is my version of the post Wild Blue Yonder. I’ve selected different photos, and fewer ones. Again, I recommend you visit BitofBetsy.com to see and read more…
Wild Blue Yonder:
I’m a California native. Seeking new adventures, my husband and I moved from the Most populated state to the Least populated one, Wyoming!
The Equality State, is the 10th largest by land but the least dense with people. A perfect recipe for “small town feel” no matter where you go. Even the largest cities are easily traveled from end to end with wide open spaces on all side. No traffic! I mean zero! If you are at a stop in the road it’s probably because a herd of sheep are crossing (true story). Also known as the Cowboy State there is an abundance of old west ways and heritage here. Cows, sheep, and horses dominate the scenery, and rodeo life reigns for these true cowboys. All this and more, including clear blue skies, clean air, stars at night, and the friendliest people.
What draws people to Wyoming is all the outdoor recreation. Land heavy and rich in natural resources, tourism is dominated by the nation’s first National Park, Yellowstone, and by the first National Monument, Devil’s Tower (all in the South West of the state). I live in Ten Sleep, population 260, on the North East side of the state, and at the South foot of the 1.12 million acre Bighorn National Forest. Here you can find just as much adventure, if not more, than some of the most icons (and ‘Disneyland’ busy) places in Wyoming.
The town of Ten Sleep saw its first White settlers in the early 1800s in the form of cattle ranchers. Before that the Crow people (Absorkee) traveled through the Bighorn area, only stopping to rest in the basin on their way to and from larger settled area. One account indicates it was 10 days, or sleeps, total and another says it was 10 to the basin and 10 more to the next stop.
All of the earliest White settlers came for the land as well. The first log cabin in the basin was set down by and called Old Bay State Ranch (of Bay State Cattle Company). Men came west for money and opportunity. The late 1800s finally brought women and families. Most settled where the Ten Sleep Creek and Nowood Creek converge south of the town today. In fact, all three of the famous Emigrant Trails pass through Wyoming: The Oregon Trail, the Mormon Trail, and the California Trail.
Sheep came into the basin in 1892, whereas before it was all cattle country and breaking horses. Welshman David R.B. Moses, against the cattlemen’s wishes, brought the first herd in and across the Nowood Creek. Community minded he and his wife set aside land for a town cemetery and also donated the land for the first church. Being an unwanted sheep man he was later murdered on his own land and was the very first to be buried in the cemetery.
The early 1900s brought a rise in the deep tension between cattle and sheep men. Those in the cattle business began murdering sheep herders on accusations of being “over the deadline” or in territories they self designated as only for cattle use. In 1909 the infamous Spring Creek Raid took place. A band of cattlemen shot dead three sheep herders and captured more, who were later released. They helped to identify seven men who were later charged with various crimes from arson to first degree murder. This ended the raids and murders, but not the hard feelings.
People eventually moved on, more concerned with getting their families through hard times and bad winters. Although cash was scarce at times most settlers did not go hungry for the home gardens and plenty of wild game. The free town museum can direct you to many well preserved historic homes and has a dedicated display of the Spring Creek Raid.
A few of the larger town buildings are still being commercially used today. My favorite is Dirty Sally’s General Store, the town’s go-to for all mercantile needs. In it’s early days it was a bank, telephone exchange, doctor office, grocer, pharmacy, post office, and fountain shop. They still have the best ice cream in town, set on waffle cones made to order. The young family who owns it now is often floating around greeting and chatting with visitors.
Ten Sleep is nestled next to the Bighorn National Forest, which is available for biking, cross country skiing, snow mobiles, ATV riding, rock climbing, and fly fishing all within their regulated seasons, weather permitting. The area is a geological gold mine. Signs displayed along the highway indicate how old and what kind of rock is seen, as well as historical stops with safe pullouts and detailed information posted.
At the heart and center of the Bighorns is the protected wilderness of Cloud Peak. A 189,039 acre refuge for mule deer, elk, moose, black bears, and mountain lions with two peaks above 13,000 (Cloud Peak and Black Tooth Mountain) and over a dozen above 12,000 feet. You can reach this pristine area only by foot, horse, hiking or backpacking your way through over 100 miles of trails to alpine lakes, waterfalls, and Cloud Peak Glacier (required permits through the Forest Service).
Another big draw to the area besides all of the amazing outdoor recreation is the Ten Sleep Rodeo. In the early 1900s ranches would rotate hosting the rodeo on Sundays. Eventually an annual event was created and in 1926 the first Fourth of July Rodeo took place. It is now paired with the Bighorn Climbers Coalition festival on the same weekend. There are games, bands, food trucks, and a monster raffle to benefit the Bighorn Forest. Rock climbing has been available in the forest canyon for over 20 years. In the last decade it has seen a major surge, bringing weekend warriors, van life climbers, and money from tourism. The main street is closed down for the parade and later that evening a bbq and dance extend into the wee hours of the morning.
For local camping and cabin rental visit me and my family at the Ten Sleep Rock Ranch. Over 100 years ago Tony Drone of Romania purchased copious land near the border of the forest and an apple orchard was established by grafting trees from all over the state and abroad. Today 100+ trees remain. Fall will bring the harvest of apples, pears, plums, and apricots by our guests and visitors. The original house was torn down but an authentic, well preserved, small log cabin remains as a rental. Two additional cabins are set, a bath house available, 28 camping sites for tents, an indoor climbing wall, and social area for gathering come with your stay. I might just even have an apple pie or two on hand.
Ten Sleep officially became a town in 1932, after years of growth. Today it is still one of the best snap shots into small town USA with a thriving cowboy lifestyle run by cattle, sheep, and horses. There is much iconic history to unveil here, whether your interest lay in geology, early man, Native Americans, almost any outdoor activity, or simply enjoying the old west ways of peace and gentle living.
More Ten Sleep Resources:
– Ten Sleep Rock Ranch – Camping and cabin rentals for all outdoor enthusiasts. Located off Highway 16 climbers will find this spot worthy of their precious dollars. Offering picnic tables, fire rings, showers, and restrooms.
– Dirty Sally’s General Store – If you forgot something important at home (like stove fuel or extra thick socks) you can stop by this local gem. Find the most essentials and more!
– Crazy Woman Cafe & Ice Cream Parlor – Good breakfast, the usual round up of plate options as well as pastries made in house. You can take items to-go, including coffee and tea. They serve lunch as well, and in summer their ice cream parlor is open.
– Ten Sleep Saloon – Family friendly, and more than just ‘bar food’. The only option in town for dinner. Serves pizza and take-out. Cases of a variety of beer available here and at the gas station.
– Ten Sleep Brewery – Yup, even we have our own brewery! I recommend the Speedgoat brew for those that like pale ale. Trivia on Friday nights, and food trucks in the summer. Buy a growler and take your beer home or back to camp with you.
– Fish Hatchery –
In 1939 the Wyoming Game and Fish Department constructed the Ten Sleep Fish Hatchery, home to the endemic Cutthroat Trout. Self tours are available year round, and if you catch one of the three full time attendants they will prove to be very informative.
Worland (40 min):
– BLM – Bureau of Land Management where you can ask for directions and guidance for local fossil collecting at Big Cedar Fossil Ridge.
– Washakie Museum – This is a great chance to take a peek back in time. Their geological, dinosaur, and early man exhibits are fantastic. Also on site is more information about both towns’ early starts.
– Food – Brass Plum serves the best breakfast, and the people who own and run the kitchen are picture perfect Wyoming hospitality! For dinner and Mexican food try El Ranchito. Two main grocery stores are here.
Thermopolis (60 min):
– Entertainment – named aptly for its thermal activity there is a hot springs water park here, the Star Hot Springs, complete with slides, a high dive, and grotto. Visit the Wyoming Dinosaur Center museum, home to one of the most complete archaeopteryx fossils ever found (the earliest known bird).
https://www.fs.usda.gov/recarea/bighorn/recarea/?recid=80618 (Bighorn Permits)
http://www.travelwyoming.com (Wyoming Tourism)