Jonna and Alan's RV trip to southern Wyoming

Jonna and Alan shook the winter slumber off our RV with a two week trip exploring southern and western Wyoming. It was quite literally shaking off winter as it was snowing in Colorado right up until the day we left which made doing RV maintenance and trip prep challenging. Nonetheless, we got enough completed that we, along with our cat Leon, left on time. We headed immediately up into the Medicine Bow area for our first night of camping near Encampment, WY. After a battery snafu we returned for a second night at the same camp site. We then started moving westward with stops in Savery, Rock Springs and the Seedskadee National Wildlife Refuge before camping near Fontenelle, WY. Next was a trip back south to visit Ft. Bridger before returning north to camp at Kemmerer, WY. The next day we visited Fossil Butte National Monument followed by a move west to end the day in Cokeville, WY. The next day was a drive up the southern half of the stunning Star Valley before turning west into Idaho to visit Minnetonka Cave. We camped just outside St Charles, ID. We returned to Wyoming and the northern half of the Star Valley ending the day camping at a farm in Afton, WY. We plunged into the tourism vortex that is Jackson, WY and ended the day camping in the parking lot of a distillery. This was our furthest point so we turned back east the next day driving the gorgeous Hoback Canyon then stopping in Big Piney enroute to camping along the New Fork River in the Wyoming prarie. The next day moved us up to Pinedale where we stayed for three nights enjoying the Wind River Mountains. For our final night we moved east to Sinks Canyon just outside Lander. We had planned to spend another night in the Medicine Bow but found the road to the camping area too rough so we bailed and drove all the way home in one day.

Here are some of our favorite photos from the trip (each photo is a thumbnail linked to a higher quality picture.):

1) Bottle Creek Campground, Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest, May 25, 2022 - We have always felt that the mountains in the Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest around Centennial and Encampment, WY are some of the most scenic in the Rockies. We decided to spend our first night at the Bottle Creek Campground just west of Encampment. The campground hadn't officially opened yet but we'd called the Ranger district and been told that the gate was open and we could camp there. As a result, we had the entire 12 site campground to ourselves. Our campsite had a hilltop panoramic view to the south and there was small creek flowing nearby.

2) Saratoga Auto Parts, Saratoga, WY, May 26, 2022 - Our first night camping was interrupted when the power suddenly went out. Some troubleshooting determined that the coach batteries weren't holding a charge, which had the knock-on effect of draining the automotive battery as well. Without knowing the history of these batteries' maintenance we decided to start fresh. Our portable solar panel and the morning sun allowed the van battery to re-charge enough to crank whereupon we drove straight to the auto parts store in Saratoga, WY and promptly bought replacements for all three batteries. The new batteries were installed in the parking lot and we were back on our way.

3) Green Mountain Falls Trail, Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest, Encampment, WY, May 26, 2022 - Since the RV repair was relatively quick and easy (though not cheap. Ouch!) we had time in the morning for a hike. Just a couple of miles from our campsite was the Green Mountain Falls trail which ran alongside the North Fork of the Encampment River. It was a lovely hike through a mixed aspen and pine forest steadily climbing up the river valley. We ended up turning back before we reached the falls because the trail was become tricky due to snow pack and fallen trees but we still enjoyed the scenery.

4) Bottle Creek Campground, Medicine Bow-Routt National Forest, May 26, 2022 - We spend the afternoon relaxing at the campground. Leon isn't a fan of these RV trips so we try to give him some different experiences so he isn't just stuck in the camper the whole time. Unfortunately, he isn't very comfortable outside probably due to the combination of his being white and having only one eye making him more prey than predator out in the wild. We hoped that this portable pen would make him for comfortable than being on a leash but results haven't been great. Still, we did get to spend a little time hanging out together at the picnic table next to the camper.

5) Little Snake River Museum, Savery, WY, May 27, 2022 - As we started to make our way westward we stopped in Savery, WY to check out the Little Snake River Museum. This museum is a collection of old buildings, all of which have been restored and filled with period correct furnishing and decorations. There are old log cabins, turn of the century boarding houses, early 20th century businesses, a one room school house and more. They also have a large barn filled with horse-drawn sheep wagons which details this area's long history of ranching. We thoroughly enjoyed going through the museum's buildings and reading about the local history.

6) Little Snake River Museum, Savery, WY, May 27, 2022 - One thing, among many, that caught my eye at the Little Snake River Museum was this old Western Electric telephone switchboard. It probably dates from the early 1920s and was the switchboard used by Valley Telephone Company to handle calls for the entire area - probably a few hundred square miles. I'm a geek so seeing old technology like this just fascinates me!

7) Natural History Museum at Western Wyoming Community College, Rock Springs, WY, May 27, 2022 - Continuing the theme of looking at old stuff we decided to go big! First by moving back about 70 million years and second by moving to creatures that were nearly as big as the log cabins we'd looked at earlier in the day. Western Wyoming Community College in Rock Springs, WY has a distributed natural history museum. Basically, they have a collection of dinosaur casts, fossil slabs, Native Peoples' artifacts and other natural history objects that they have spread all around their campus. Some are in dedicated, themed rooms and others are just on display in hallways and public spaces. The college was completely deserted when we arrived so we picked up a map at the unstaffed information desk and spent a little over an hour wandering around. The dinosaur casts were impressively displayed. We also enjoyed the geologic rock slabs that were on display on the walls of a very long hallway. It was an interesting stop and with it being completely empty highlighted just how sparsely populated this state is.

8) Seedskadee National Wildlife Refuge, Fontenelle, WY, May 27, 2022 - Just north of Rock Springs and I-80 is the "sage brush sea", a vast mostly flat landscape filled with sage brush. Through this desolate landscape flows the Green River. The water from the river creates a narrow riparian corridor with trees, marshes and ponds. A long stretch of the Green River south of the Fontenelle dam has been preserved as the Seedskadee National Wildlife Refuge. We drove down the long, bumpy dirt road to the visitor center only to find it was unstaffed. We picked up a map for the self-guided driving tour and rattled our way north on a snaking road that parallel'ed the river. We saw small flocks of unidentified ducks and geese, as well as some hawks and one bald eagle. Even with the narrow band of greenery along the banks of the river this was still a lonely, wild landscape.

9) Fort Bridger State Historic Site, Fort Bridger, WY, May 28, 2022 - After spending the night along the Green River near Fontenelle we headed back south to visit the Fort Bridger State Historic Site. Starting in the mid-1800s white people moved into the south-western corner of Wyoming pushing the native Shoshone further west. This site tells the history of the white people but says almost nothing about the native peoples that were displaced by these newcomers. Some parts of the museum were interesting but for our entire visit we were acutely aware of what was not being said as much as we were what was presented.

10) Historic Fossil Quarry Trail, Fossil Butte National Monument, Kemmerer, WY, May 29, 2022 - After spending the night at a commercial campground in Kemmerer we drove a few miles to the west to Fossil Butte National Monument. We arrived early in the morning and decided to do a hike first and then to visit the museum in the afternoon. This turned out to be a good decision because right after we finished the hike it started to snow! The hike was a loop that climbed up the side of the butte and ended at the quarry where multiple generations of fossil hunters have dug for fish fossils over the past 150 years. The landscape was sparse but the views from the quarry were nice looking across a wide valley.

11) Fossil Butte National Monument, Kemmerer, WY, May 29, 2022 - After our morning hike we stopped by the National Monument visitor center to see their impressive collection of fossils, many of which came from within Fossil Butte National Monument. There were fossil slabs on display that contained plants, insects, fish, reptiles, birds and gastropods. In a separate building at the entrance to the visitor center was a fascinating life-sized diorama displaying the evolving technology used to extract fossils from the sedimentary rock in the Fossil Butte landscape. It was raining when we went into the museum and snowing heavily when we came out. We drove to a nearby picnic area and ate our lunch while watching big, fat snow flakes blanket the ground.

12) Minnetonka Cave, Caribou-Targhee National Forest, St. Charles, ID, May 30, 2022 - We spent the night in Cokeville, WY and the next day drove across the border into Idaho to check out the Bear Lake area. We drove south along the western side of the lake before turning up into Caribou-Targhee National Forest to visit Minnetonka Cave. We signed up for a guided cave tour and spent 1 1/2 hours walking through the half-mile long limestone cave. The guide was enthusiastic and our group included some equally enthusiastic kids so we all had fun learning the creative names given to the various stalactites, stalagmites, banded travertine, flow stone and other cave features.

13) Shumway Farms, Afton, WY, May 31, 2022 - After spending a night at a National Forest campground in Idaho we returned to Wyoming the next day to continue our drive north through the Star Valley. This serene and scenic valley has a line of small farming towns with Afton being one of the largest. We camped for the night at Shumway Farms, a dairy on the edge of Afton. Normally they have space in one of their fields for campers but a week of rain had turned their fields into mud bogs so we parked on a grassy spot next to one of the silos. Outside one window was a hog barn a half dozen oinkers (and a batch of tiny piglets) and out the other window was a family of skunks. That may sound bad but it was all quite quaint and homey. We spent over an hour watching six baby skunks explore the worm-filled wet grass beside the silo and (thankfully) never had to deal with any of the skunks spraying. Likewise, the hogs provided a pleasant soundtrack as they sloshed and rooted around in the mud of their enclosure. We also walked around the less muddy parts of the farm to see the dairy cows, the sheep, the goats and chickens. We also took advantage of the farm store to stock up on fresh eggs, super rich skyr (Icelandic style yogurt), milk, fresh huckleberry ice cream for Alan and a couple of grass-fed beef steaks for Jonna.

14) Shumway Farms, Afton, WY, May 31, 2022 - This is just one of the six baby skunks that waddled around in the grass near our camper. At one time, all six were out and it was an overload of cuteness.

15) Periodic Spring Trail, Swift Creek Drive Trailhead, Afton, WY, June 1, 2022 - By far the most fascinating stop on this trip was our visit to the Periodic Spring just outside Afton. After a long drive down a pot-holed dirt road we did a short hike along Swift Creek to the side canyon that contained the Periodic Spring. This is a very rare cold water geyser. Somewhere upstream, within the canyon cliff wall, there is a chamber that buffers the water in this stream. As a result, the stream flows for about 20 minutes and then dribbles to a halt. After about 15 minutes it gushes back to life and 20 minutes later repeats the cycle. We arrived about halfway through the cycle so after about 10 minutes we watched as the stream stopped completely and the water cascading down slowly drained out. Then when it started back up the cascade steadily built back up to the previous rushing stream we'd seen when we first arrived. How interesting! The hike itself was easy but very scenic alongside (aptly named) Swift Creek.

16) National Museum of Wildlife Art, Jackson, WY, June 1, 2022 - We continued north up Star Valley to the Snake River Valley and then followed that up to the tourist mecca that is Jackson, WY. We've visited Tetons National Park a few times so decided to steer clear of the crowds there on this trip but we did drive just north of Jackson to visit the National Museum of Wildlife Art. This beautiful building has a large collection of art all dedicated to wildlife. Most of the art on display is of animals native to the US but there was a side gallery with European art (showing European wildlife) and another small section of art depicting African animals. Most of the art was very well done but the curation of the collection leaves a lot to be desired in my opinion. Nearly all the art is hyper-realistic and most of the themes (mountain lions hunting, elk herds on a mountainside, bear along a stream, etc are repeated over and over. I think the collection needs to broaden it's scope - Bring in some modern art. How about more Native American representations of wildlife? I'm sure there is plenty of political/environmental art that would have different contexts. Bring in some graffiti arts to spray paint some animal images. How about letting some videographers capture people dressed in animal costumes? Basically, just mix it up some so it isn't just canvas after canvas of 19th and 20th century white dudes who painted the same iconic animal poses over and over.

17) Cache Creek Trail System, Cache Creek Trailhead, Jackson, WY, June 1, 2022 - We ended our day in the Jackson area with a hike in the Cache Creek Trail system. This trailhead is on the edge of the city, just a mile or two away from the throngs of tourists but was nearly empty when we arrived in the afternoon. We walked a short loop by stringing together a few different trails. First, we hiked along the Cache Creek Road to where it intersected a couple of different trails. We then crossed over the creek and started back on the Hagen trail. About halfway back the River Trail parallels the Hagen trail so we dropped down onto it to be closer to the creek. Finally, we used the Hagen Connector trail to get back to the parking lot. Overall, it wasn't the most scenic hike but at one point the trail did crest a hill which provided a scenic view of the Teton Range so we had at least one "Ohhh Ahhh" moment. Otherwise, it was a nice way to stretch our legs and a chance to find some solitude in a town that is normally packed with people.

18) Green River Valley Museum, Big Piney, WY, June 2, 2022 - From Jackson we turned back to the southeast to start our multi-day journey back home. The drive on US-191 through the Hoback River valley was gorgeous and definitely a must experience scenic drive. As the road climbs up out of the river valley it returns to the high sage brush plains that make up central Wyoming. This area is surprisingly scenic because while the plains are flat and sparse there are snow-covered mountains to both the east and west. We made a side trip south off US-191 to visit the tiny town of Big Piney and to visit the Green River Valley Museum. This small museum has an splendid collection of objects ranging from 200 year old horse saddles to early 20th century bank vaults to homemade motorized snow sleds to a complete saloon bar back. The most remarkable item for me was a horse-drawn ditch digging machine - it was a perfect steampunk contraption.

19) Museum Of The Mountain Man, Pinedale, WY, June 3, 2022 - After spending the night in the middle of the sage brush sea, at a National Forest campground on the banks of the New Fork River, we returned to US-191 and back-tracked to the city of Pinedale, WY. There we visited the Museum of the Mountain Man. After our earlier visit to Fort Bridger we went in with some trepidation but we very impressed by this museum. It details the early fur trappers who came into central Wyoming in the early 1800s. The was an informative video, some life-sized dioramas showing the dress and equipment of early mountain men. There were also quite a few displays which at least mentioned the Shoshone people who lived in the area when the first whites arrived. There was also a replica of a 19th century tipi set up in the museum and one of their prized objects is a 400 year old Shoshone sheephorn bow. A very well done museum and well worth a visit.

20) Half Moon Lake Trail, Pinedale, WY, June 4, 2022 - After spending a night in a commercial campground in Pinedale we moved just a few miles north up into the edge of the Wind River Mountain Range. Our first stop was at Half Moon Lake where we made a dubious decision to drive a mile down a 4x4 road to a trailhead. Fortunately, we didn't break anything on the camper but it wasn't the wisest choice. Still, the hike on the Half Moon Lake trail was excellent. The trail was a rolling path that varied from running along the shore of the lake to climbing up onto the hillside with views down onto and across the lake. The wildflowers were popping, a cool breeze would periodically blow across the water and the scenery was captivating.

21) Fremont Lake Campground, Bridger-Teton National Forest, Pinedale, WY, June 5, 2022 - We spent two nights at the Fremont Lake campground in Bridger-Teton National Forest. This is a large but spacious campground that runs along the northeastern shore of this large lake. We tried two different campsites and really liked the second one which as at the far northern end. It was a quiet lake-side campsite with a pit toilet and a little trail nearby. We spent the day between the two nights we camped there going for little walks, playing scrabble and napping.

22) Sinks Canyon Campground, Shoshone National Forest, Lander, WY, June 6, 2022 - What turned out to be our final stop was a move from the Pinedale area to the Lander area. Just west of Lander is Sinks Canyon. This is the river valley of the Middle Fork of the Popo Agie River. This valley contains a rare geologic phenomenon - the Popo Agie River flows into a cavern where it then disappears underground for 1/4 mile before re-surfacing downstream. There is a Wyoming State Park protecting this area and just upstream from there the Shoshone National Forest District runs the Sinks Canyon Campground. We got a charming river-side campsite where we could listen to the rushing river right outside our window.

23) Sinks Canyon Campground, Shoshone National Forest, Lander, WY, June 6, 2022 - In the afternoon we went for a walk in the trail system that was just across the river. Early June was apparently the peak wildflower season for this area and there were colorful flowers covering the ground. We walked the short Sage Draw Loop Trail but mainly it was just a relaxing way to stretch our legs just listening to the river and enjoying the amazing display of wildflowers.

24) Popo Agie Falls, Middle Fork Popo Agie River, Sinks Canyon, Lander, WY, June 7, 2022 - The next morning we drove a mile further up Sinks Canyon to Bruce's Parking area. From there we hiked the Popo Agie Falls trail. This trail climbs steadily up the valley alongside the Middle Fork of the Popo Agie river to where the river dramatically enters the valley by falling over the side of a cliff. The weather for the hike was interesting. It was bright and sunny at the trailhead but as we climbed up we basically went up into a raincloud. As we neared the falls it started first to rain and then to sleet/snow. Fortunately, it stayed intermittent so we continued on to the falls viewpoint and got to enjoy the view without getting completely drenched. On the hike back down we dropped back out of the cloud and eventually hiked beyond the edge until we were back under sunny skies. By the time we got back to the trailhead we were dry again. We'd planned to spend another night camping in the Medicine Bow National Forest on the way home but decided the road into the camping area was too rough to chance. Instead we just turned the front bumper towards home and made it all the way home in one day, ending our little Wyoming adventure.

Return to Alan and Jonna's Travel Page

Return to Alan's Home Page

Alan Fleming