Vacation in Wyoming · 8-10-1980

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We took three big family vacations when the girls were young. The middle one was a trip to Wyoming. Mary Kay's uncle Hank had joined the Jesuits and became a Jesuit brother. He was assigned to the St. Stephen's Indian Reservation on the Shoshone-Arapahoe reservation just outside of Riverton, Wyoming in central Wyoming - known as the Wind River reservation. Along with the 6 of us, we included Mary Kay's mom. On the first day of the trip, we travelled across I-80 in Nebraska and stopped at Cheyenne for the night. This was just before the famous Cheyenne Frontier days so the town was beginning to fill with Cowboys and Cowgirls as if it were a frontier get-together. Cheyenne had the flavor of an old, western town. Cheyenne is located on the western edge of the great plains, so it is still on the flatlands. The next morning we headed west and just a few miles west of Cheyenne we could see the Front Range before us. I remember that there was no gradual entry to the mountains. The highway just pointed up and we went up for several miles. After going a number of miles West, we doubled back on a state road heading northeast to Riverton. Later that day we followed Uncle Hank's directios to the reservation. The reservation, as is normal, is in a desolate part of the state that is, really, not very pretty land. It is dotted with ramshackle houses and trailers. The Indian Mission, on the other hand is a neat area with a beautiful small church, a seperate pre-fab-like building with contains the offices and a house and house trailer housing the priests and brothers and the resident photographer Ron Mamot. Additionally, further back is a large, old 3-story building that used to be the convent.

Hank said we could stay in the convent which was quite comfortable and very livable. The accompanying picture was taken on the staircase to the second floor. The building had been built at the end of the 19th century. As we explored the house we also discovered an attic above the third floor that contained many old pieces of funiture and other what-nots. The crank telephone still hung on the wall of a first-floor hallway.

One highlight for the girls that we discovered in the attic was the fire escape. This was, essentially, a three-story spiraling slide. The girls gave that fire escape quite the workout while we were there.

The mountains in Wyoming are just as majestic and beautiful as those in colorado. What distinguished the Wyoming countryside to us was the utter lack of human evidence. In some places we explored it seemed as if there were no evidence that humans had been anywhere near.

Each day of our visit, Hank would pick a spot for us to visit. We drove to an old settlement on the continetal divide one day. On another day, we explored the woods and streams in the mountains. On still another we visited the hot springs at Thermopolai, Wyoming. The town had a swimming pool that was fed by the hot springs. The water was as warm or warmer than bath water. However, the girls had a little trouble getting used to the smell of the sulfur from the water. On our trip to the hot springs we travelled through the most beautiful canyon we had ever seen. Several thousand feet high cliffs surrounded our highway while a stream poured down next to the highway. This was a trek of several miles in which all of our mouths were wide open with wonder and awe.
Following the hot springs we visited another Wyoming town (the name escapes me but Arapahoe rings a bell) in which a beautiful old drug store existed. The store had the old fashioned shelves filled with old-fashioned wares. The highlight was the old-style fountain where we ordered up malts served in glass containers while the remails of our drinks were set down alongside in their metal mixing containers, just like in the old days.

This was a very memorable trip for so many reasons. The scenery was both spectacular and clean. Hank's expert guidance was welcome and the girls had a really good time. Many, many times I have longed to re-visit this area. One way we've been reminded is by subscribing to the small magazine put out by the Jesuits and staff of the mission. The magazine is called the Wind River Rendevous. Each issue discusses some aspect of Indian history and some aspect of current life on the reservation. The highlight of each issue is Ron Mamot's photographs. They are spectacular shots of scenery or wildlife that Ron has taken around the reservation. They are truly magnificent photos and the reason Ron lives on the reservation.


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