By Bill Sniffin, publisher emeritus
LANDER – Wyoming was ablaze with color during the first Saturday of this fall season. We toured Sinks Canyon and the Loop Road above Lander, and the scenes left us breathless.
The weather was cool, no wind was blowing, the cloudless sky was intensely blue and just about everybody from Fremont County was enjoying the outdoors in the towering Wind River Mountains. Sinks Canyon State Park is the recreational gateway to the mountain range about 8 miles south of Lander, and it was busy.
In town, the leaves are still green but a few thousand feet up the aspens were already turning. It was gloriously gold.
We jumped into my 20-year-old convertible, put the top down, put on my Cowboy State Daily baseball cap and headed to the hills.
This was going to be fun.
Girl In A Box
On the way, we visited performance artist Oakley Boycott, who was sitting in a glass box for eight hours a day over a three-day period. She called her performance “Echo” and it was bring attention to mental health.
Lots of people visited her as she sat motionless in her glass box down an old road deep into the canyon. Visitors also wrote messages on the glass walls.
Lacking experience, I am not a big aficionado of performance art, but Oakley seemed to have pulled this one off. The messages people wrote both in her guestbook and on the glass walls were very supportive and positive.
From there it was a 4-mile pull up the famous switchbacks of the Loop Road. The road is paved, and with each mile the aspens just kept getting more colorful.
We stopped 16 miles into the trip where the pavement ends. There is a good gravel road from that point that can take you another 19 miles to Highway 28 on South Pass. Hence, the name Loop Road.
We passed the same bicyclist five times going up and coming down. Never got his name, but he made the 16-mile slog uphill in fine fashion and then came screaming back down, probably not peddling once. He was just one of seemingly hundreds of bikes, ATVs, jeeps and just ordinary carloads of people getting out into the high mountain air.
About 8,000 feet above sea level is the site of beautiful Frye Lake, which this time of year is almost completely drained. The lake is spectacular most of the spring and summer.
It provides valuable irrigation for ranchers down in the valley and it appears they used every drop they could get out of it this year. There is a nice puddle of water left, which fishermen tell me provides spectacular results because all the remaining fish are bunched up. We fished there many years ago with a local character in Lander, The Rev. Gilbert Moore. He was a good friend but has been gone for a long time.
The southern Wind River Range is dominated by gigantic Wind River Peak, which loomed over us all day long. There was just a little bit of snow on its 13,200-foot-high crest.
This is a special place
This day and this place were extra special to my wife Nancy and me. It was right there in Sinks Canyon in September 1970 where she said: “Oh my God, Bill, I think I could live here in Wyoming!”
At that time 52 years ago, we were living in her hometown in Iowa where I was a newspaper editor. I wanted to move to Lander to manage the local paper, but that decision was not possible without her total agreement.
It was a day similar to Saturday when she realized just how wonderful both Lander and Wyoming could be. It changed our lives forever, and for the better.