April~ A Sunny Side to Social Distancing?

April~ A Sunny Side to Social Distancing?

Mr. Jeff Hartman, Guest Writer, Teacher

One of my personal philosophies, likely to explore in a separate article, is to come up against something ugly (disappointment, selfishness, failure, contempt) and force it into something positive and productive – to transform that negative energy into something beneficial for myself & those around me.  Here’s one example:

As the 9th largest state at 97,000 square miles, Wyoming has a population of barely half a million people at some 545,000.  Doing a touch of 3rd grade division, we see that this means around 5.7 people per square mile (a moment please for those poor .7 people).  When we look a bit closer though, we find that more than half (53.6%) of that 97,000 is public & state land (52,089 sq. mi.).  So, what does this mean?  It means an abundance of wilderness to explore with few people to have to share it with which is fairly ideal with our current social distancing advisories.  

Hiking, biking, fishing, and horn hunting all reach out to grab our attention when spring weather hits.  We are absolutely spoiled to have such true back country surrounding us.  Quick experiment: step outside and take a slow spin and stop at any moment you choose; you can open your eyes, point, and travel in that direction and be in the wilderness in somewhere between a 15 minute to two hour drive.  The following are but a barebones look at some of the highlights.  

  • To the North, we have the Pryor Mountains; there’s a cave at the top of one!
  • NE we have the rainbow hues & badlands of McCullough Peaks.  Further NE is the year-round beauty of Bighorn Canyon. There are wild horses in both.
  • NE, E, and SE are the Bighorn Mountains stretching for 80 miles (1,700 sq. mi.) of wildlife, waterfalls, & hidden gems; I’m partial, coming from Buffalo. 
  • South, and admittedly farther than two hours away, we have the Wind River Range (2,800 sq. miles) home to many of our highest peaks in the state.
  • SSW to NNW we have mind-boggling amounts of wilderness: Yellowstone (3,500 sq. mi.), Shoshone National Forest (3,900 sq. mi.), Custer-Gallatin Forest (2,800 sq. mi.), Bridger-Tetons ( 914 sq. mi.) and the list goes on.

The question then pleads to be asked: What do we do when the weather is awful? For context, it’s been snowing since April Fool’s Day & it’s now 3 degrees out.  

If you want, you can take my approach: plan for when you can go.  Over the years, my planning has gone a bit off the deep end; oh, what I could tell you about the splendor of spreadsheets you’ve created filled with hundreds of hikes noting approaches, mileage, difficulty, sights to see, potential waterfalls, etc.

Let’s not go there today.  Instead let’s focus on the crux: where to start?

To begin, let’s go with a modern classic:  Google Maps.  With Google Maps & Earth, you can explore terrain, satellite view, street view, and photos.  See if you can find some of my photos (hint: try Cedar Mountain or McCullough Peaks).

To bring it a bit closer to home, let’s check out NaturalAtlas.com.  This company was created by brothers Brandon and Brian Reavis of – you guessed it, Cody.  This website is fantastic for hybridizing various maps including topography, public lands, wilderness, photos, trails, and it’s quite compatible for cell phones users.

Finally, let’s try out Alltrails.com.  Create your own account and explore.  Keep track of where you’ve been and where you want to go.  Check out what people are saying about a hike, its aggregate rating, the difficulty of the hike, the best times of the year, pitfalls, directions, etc.  Again, see if you can find some of my recordings & photos by exploring around.

These are just a brief smattering of the many resources available.  Now try to wrap your mind around the fact that I’m one of the least knowledgeable of our CMS staff’s many outdoor enthusiasts.  No humility here; ask around.

Be prepared: pack your GPS/compass/map, food & water, bear spray, let others know your itinerary, and Leave No Trace.  Hope to see you out there – from 6 feet now 10 feet away, of course. ~ Sincerely, Mr. Hartman