My wife’s family has had a cabin up in the Bighorn Mountains, just off Red Grade, since the early 1930s, and for the last 80-plus years, they’ve traditionally spent Memorial Day weekend sprucing the place up ahead of the summer season.
The plan this past weekend was to do the same spring cleaning they always do, and I was ready to earn a few in-law points and help out. But the snow and ice on Red Grade Road forced us into making other plans. We decided instead to tour the state — after all, I like to stay abreast of what other communities are doing to draw visitors, how they handle holiday traffic and what’s new and exciting. In short, I work hard to make sure we don’t lose sight of the forest for the trees up here in Sheridan.
With no real destination in mind, we set off in search of adventure in the state of Wyoming. We went up and over the Bighorn Mountains, marking off some hiking routes we’d never heard of before, with the help of the updated “Hiking Wyoming’s Bighorn Mountains: A Guide to the Area’s Greatest Hiking Adventures, Including Cloud Peak Wilderness,” written by Buffalo’s Ken Keffer. We zipped through Ten Sleep, where it seems like every rock climber in the world had gathered for a holiday boulder fest. We stopped at Hot Springs State Park for a quick cleanse, then wandered cozy Thermopolis to stretch our legs.
We continued through Riverton and on into beautiful Lander, which seems to be experiencing something of an outdoor and arts renaissance, not unlike what we have going on here in Sheridan. Lander has a few wildly popular restaurants, a brewery and a booming outdoor scene. Speaking of that outdoor scene, we went up and did some hiking in spectacular Sinks Canyon State Park, then found ourselves exploring the high desert terrain of the Johnny Behind the Rocks bike system, which is a hidden gem of an outdoor playground if there ever was one.
On our way home, we stopped in charming Greybull, and we had a bite at Lisa’s Restaurant, and spent a bit of time shopping at the Crazy Woman Trading Post. Finally, we were given a tour of the soon-to-open Jurassic Cowboy; a museum, retail and café space that is poised to give Greybull a true visitor destination in its downtown core.
This whirlwind tour showed us that things are happening all across the state; communities are truly taking advantage of tourism as Wyoming’s second-largest industry in an effort to offset the declines in the energy industry that have been so painful the last few years. But more importantly, this glimpse at other communities proved to me just how special Sheridan truly is; we have a mix of industry and opportunity, historic attractions, a beautiful downtown, arts, culture and lifestyle that is unrivaled by anyplace else in the state — Jackson included.
No, we don’t have two national parks on our doorstep, but we do have a national forest that offers almost unlimited recreational opportunities. We have an arts scene that draws folks from all over the world to visit, work and live in our community. We have a polo scene that impacts Sheridan County in ways most of us don’t even realize. We have history two steps from our front porch in every direction. We have Historic Downtown Sheridan, which is the envy of every of nearly every city in the Mountain West, that hums with energy supplied by local entrepreneurs and business owners. We have incredible schools, medical centers and Wyoming’s premiere community college.
Wyoming is a beautiful state with many great towns, but there’s not another destination that has everything Sheridan has to offer. I feel privileged to be part of this community, and I’m proud to share what I know of Sheridan with visitors from around the world.
Shawn Parker is the executive director of Sheridan Travel and Tourism.