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Track terrorists at escape rooms in Douglas

in Travel
escape room
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If solving mysteries and tracking down terrorists sounds like a good way to spend some time, then Douglas is the place to be this weekend for an escape room fundraiser.

The Boys and Girls Club of Douglas is replacing its annual haunted house with three escape rooms operating in train cars found at the city’s Locomotive Park. A fourth escape room set up at Jen’s Books in downtown Douglas for younger participants will feature an “Alice in Wonderland” theme.

Leah Gremm, resource development director for the Boys and Girls Club, said the group decided to offer the escape rooms instead of the haunted house because of the growing interest nationally in escape rooms.

“Not very many people were coming (to the haunted house),” she said. “Interest (in the escape rooms) has been really good so far.”

Usually, people taking part in escape rooms are locked inside and given clues that will eventually lead to their release.

In Douglas, the participants will be asked instead to solve a mystery focusing around a shadowy group of terrorists who have planted a bomb on the train.

“We’re not locking anyone in,” Gremm said. “There are mysteries in each railcar that tie into all three of the rooms.”

In one of the train cars, participants will be tasked with finding the bomb set by the terrorists, while in the others, the mystery will surround the identities of the terrorists and their targets.

The experience will begin with visitors picking up their tickets in the park’s visitor center before moving to the park’s dining car, where they will get treats and drinks, along with their first clue.

“That clue will let them figure out which car they’re going to, the sleeping car, day car or the caboose,” Gremm said.

Each mystery should take 60 to 90 minutes to solve, she added.

“Then, they can come back and do a second and third car, if they want to,” she said.

Gremm said the scenarios for the escape rooms were developed by a team of people.

“Around here, we call it ‘purple unicorning,’” she said. “People shoot out funny ideas and we just go with it. Some of it sounds intriguing and some of it is really silly. We just hope that people will realize it’s just a game.”

Organizers hope to raise about $4,000 for the Boys and Girls Club’s operation with the admissions fees from the event, which run $30 per person at the locomotive park and $15 per person at the “Alice in Wonderland” room at the bookstore.

The money will be used to fund ongoing operations at the Boys and Girls Club, which has more than 380 members.

The escape rooms will be open from 4 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and 1 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Sunday. Tickets can be purchased online at EscapeDouglas.eventbrite.com.

For more information, visit the Boys and Girls Club website at BGCDouglas.com.

Western Wyoming College hosts “Fall Geology Expo”

in Travel
Western Wyoming College Geology Expo
Attendees at Western Wyoming College’s annual “Fall Geology Expo” peruse vendors’ booths and get a chance to try some hands-on activities. This year’s expo will be held Saturday. (Photo courtesy of Western Wyoming College)
2213

By Cowboy State Daily

A wealth of rocks, gems and minerals awaits those who travel to Western Wyoming College in Rock Springs this weekend.

The college is holding its sixth annual “Fall Geology Expo,” a chance for the public to visit its extensive geology and archaeology collections and learn more about its nationally acclaimed geology program, said Dr. Dana Pertermann, associate professor of geology and anthropology who created the expo in 2013.

“There’s a whole bunch of things that having the expo here accomplishes,” she said. “One is getting the community involved. Two is disseminating geologic information. A lot of people don’t know that Rock Springs and Green River are in every first-year geology textbook for the Green River Formation and Rock Springs Uplift.”

The event Saturday, open to the public at no cost, is also designed in part to raise money for activities in the Geology Department that Pertermann heads, including field trips, a summer field school and scholarships.

Events featured at the expo include hands-on activities put on by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and U.S. Geological Survey, Pertermann said.

“They always come up with something different every year,” she said. “It might be using rocks as tools, it might be flintknapping. They get pretty creative every year to try to get people interested.”

Also on hand will be vendors selling a wide array of minerals, gems and stones, Pertermann said.

“A lot of them actually specialize in a particular stone in the rough,” she said. “One vendor specializes in moss agate or ‘Sweetwater stone,’ a particular kind of agate found near the Sweetwater River. We have another vendor who specializes in minerals from around the world. He goes to shows around the world and collects samples and then brings them here to Rock Springs.”

Also selling items will be the college itself, which will make specific items from its own collection available for purchase to raise money for the Geology Department.

“We have a huge collection,” Pertermann said. “I sell parts of that to benefit the students.”

Of particular interest to buyers in the past have been topographic maps, some of which have been in the school’s collection since it launched its geology program in 1972, she said.

“We usually get some interest from the hikers,” she said. “Some of these maps are really interesting. They make wonderful wall decorations.”

J Circle K International, the college arm of the Kiwanis Club, will also be on hand serving food and drinks for donations to its various causes.

Throughout the day, members of the public are encouraged to tour the college’s Natural History Museum and it collection of fossils and dinosaurs.

For more information about the Fall Geology Expo, visit the Western Wyoming College website.

Beer tasting on tap in Saratoga on Saturday

in Food and Beverage/Travel
2180


By Cowboy State Daily

Beer lovers with a taste for Wyoming and Colorado brews will want to head to Saratoga this weekend for the Saratoga Hot Springs Resort’s sixth annual Snowy Mountain Brewery Beerfest.

More than a dozen vendors offering up their beers and spirits will be featured at the beer tasting festival inside the courtyard at the resort on Saturday.

Tiffany Jones, the director of marketing for the Saratoga Hot Springs Resort, said the annual event will draw people from around the region, with some coming from as far away as Casper and Colorado to attend the event.

“We’ve had one couple from Rock Springs come to every one,” she said.

The day will begin at 10 a.m. with a golf tournament, which is open to the public, at the resort’s 9-hole golf course, which crosses the North Platte River several times.

The beerfest will begin at noon. Each attendee will pay $30 for a pint glass, decorated with the event’s logo, which can be used to sample as many beers as the holder wishes.

“Some beerfests only give samples,” Jones said. “We have no restrictions. We give you a pint glass and you can have as many beers as you like.”

The beerfest is named for the Snowy Mountain Brewery, which is located inside the resort’s main building and operates a pub there.

The beerfest will feature live music by Third Rail, a Cheyenne band performing country and classic rock.

This event is open only to those age 21 and over.

For more information, visit the Saratoga Hot Springs Resort’s website.

Everything autumn celebrated at Sundance’s Pumpkin Patch Festival

in Travel
Sundance Wyoming Pumpkin Patch Festival
2117

A plethora of pumpkins and a collection of scarecrows can be seen on the streets of Sundance this weekend as the city hosts its annual Pumpkin Patch Festival.

The festival on Saturday, now in its sixth year, features all of the usual celebrations of autumn, including freshly squeezed apple cider, a farmers market, pumpkin painting and a scarecrow contest.

However, mixed in with the usual goods found at a farmers market are booths set up by local non-profit organizations, which are encouraged by festival organizers to use the community gathering to raise money for their groups.

“I encourage it,” said festival organizer Joni Spaulding. “It’s a good way to raise awareness for their cause.”

The festival is held in downtown Sundance and features a pumpkin patch containing about five tons of pumpkins brought to the community from Ellis Harvest Homes in Lingle.

“They have good quality pumpkins and the people there take very good care of us,” Spaulding said. “As long as they have pumpkins, we’ll get them there.”

The festival is a way for members of the community to get together and to highlight the people who offer their wares at farmers markets.

“I decided a long time ago I wanted our festival to be a community event, where people could come together and meet their local farmers,” said Spaulding, who also owns Sundance’s Harvest Farmers Market, which is open year-round.

The open air market will feature a wide variety of goods, from produce to hand-crafted items, she said.

“You’ve got vendors who come around from all over who set up with their wares,” she said.

A booth fee is charged for vendors, but not the non-profit groups, she added.

The festival also sees the judging of the community’s scarecrow contest, which is open to any business or individual in Sundance.

The contest has been going on for five years and sees very creative entries, such as the “piggy bank” scarecrow submitted by a bank.

“A lot of local businesses and residents design scarecrows and they come up with some pretty creative ideas,” Spaulding said.

The scarecrows entered by businesses are usually set up outside of the businesses, while some scarecrows entered by individuals adorn light poles in downtown Sundance, she said.

The scarecrows will be up by Thursday and during the festival, attendees will be invited to vote for their favorite.

Also on hand will be an apple cider press and those attending the festival can get a glass of freshly squeezed cider and a booth where attendees can paint their recently purchased pumpkins. Or they can ask an artist at another booth to apply his talents to their pumpkins.

Pumpkin bowling, an obstacle course, wagon rides, duck races, pony rides, bounce houses, face painting and carnival games are also planned for the day. A gentleman raising money for his own philanthropic work for children will be at the festival to make balloon animals.

For more information on the Pumpkin Patch Festival, visit the Harvest Farmers Market page on Facebook.

Sinks Canyon and Loop Road are magical places this time of year

in Bill Sniffin/Column/Travel
Lander Wyoming Loop Road
Folks who live on the east side of the Wind River Mountains have a tradition of getting “looped,” as often as possible. This is my term for driving the spectacular Loop Road.
2094

By Bill Sniffin, Cowboy State Daily

Folks who live on the east side of the Wind River Mountains have a tradition of getting “looped,” as often as possible. This is my term for driving the spectacular Loop Road.

Fall colors were already showing up on the Loop Road when this photo was snapped Sept. 15. (Photo credit: Bill Sniffin)

On a recent Sunday, there was just a hint of color as we headed for the mountains. It sure felt like fall, but the colors were still green and summer-like. Soon it will turn totally golden.

We were re-visiting a magical place that cast a spell on us exactly 49 years ago.  Sinks Canyon and the Loop Road outside of Lander are what caused my wife Nancy and me to move to Wyoming from Iowa almost a half century ago.

It is every bit as beautiful now as it was then. I recall telling Nancy about being blown away by how the Popo Agie River was so picturesque. It looked liked color photos I had seen on calendars but never dreamed that these places really did look like this in reality. It was a transcendent experience.

A tourist from Washington state was swimming in the Little Popo Agie River on the Loop Road on this sunny afternoon before finding this nice rock for sun bathing. (Photo credit: Bill Sniffin)

Sinks Canyon is the primary gateway to the Wind River Mountain Range from the east. Located just south of Lander, the canyon’s sheer cliffs and magical river make it a haven for sightseers.

The remarkable reason for the name of Sinks Canyon is that the river disappears into the side of the canyon wall and reappears a quarter mile downstream on the other side of the canyon.  If you have not visited this eighth wonder of Wyoming, you should. There are wonderful visitor centers there to explain things.

This huge rock formation called Windy Point towers over Sinks Canyon south of Lander. (Photo credit: Bill Sniffin)

Then you climb out of Sinks Canyon and head up the Loop Road. The highway up the paved switchbacks and pretty soon you are climbing up to the saddle below Fossil Mountain and Windy Point.  I always thought Windy Point should be called Chief’s Head, as it looks like old Chief Washakie looking up to the heavens.

Beautiful lakes in the form of Frye Lake, Worthen Reservoir, and Fiddler Lake greet you along this first section of the Loop Road, which is graveled but passable for sedans.

Wind River Peak is the tallest mountain in the southern end of the Wind River Range.  This view is also showing Frye Lake along the Loop Road. (Photo credit: Bill Sniffin)

The gigantic form of Wind River Peak at 13,192 feet looms over this entire scene.  It is the tallest mountain in the southern Wind Rivers.  It has plenty of snow on it now and glistens in the distance.

Another monolith that shows up in your rear view mirror is the massive hunk of rock known as Lizard Head Peak, which is 12,842 feet high.  It is one of the signature mountains in the famous Cirque of the Towers.  It is amazing that you can see it so well from the Loop Road, but you need to know where and when to look.

A huge mountain named Lizard Head Peak strikes a pose in the distance for tourists driving the Loop Road south of Lander. (Photo credit: Bill Sniffin) 

Highest point of the road is Blue Ridge, which sits at 9,578 feet above sea level. A short hike farther up and you can climb stone steps to an old Forest Service fire lookout station. Again, well worth the trip and the view is breathtaking for 360-degrees.

There is a spectacular spot where the road crosses the Little Popo Agie River.  I stopped and snapped some photos and then saw a gal swimming in the frigid river. She climbed out of the water onto a big rock and started to sun bathe.  It must have been very invigorating. She was from Washington state, according to the license plate on her small car parked nearby.

Louis Lake on the Loop Road has nice beaches for families to enjoy at an altitude above 8,000 feet. (Photo credit: Bill Sniffin)

Louis Lake (pronounced Louie) is the showpiece of the Loop Road. It is a very deep lake. It has nice beaches on its east end and is a favorite place for boating, canoeing, fishing, and just enjoying life.

From Louis Lake to WYO Highway 28 on South Pass, the Loop Road goes by Grannier Meadows and up and around Dead Horse Curve.  The reason it is called the Loop Road is that you never need to backtrack.  You just keep going and complete the loop drive back to Lander.

As you get to South Pass, you look off at the vast Red Desert, which is one of Wyoming’s seven legitimate wonders.  Continental Peak and the Oregon Buttes stand out in the distance.

A moose casually munches on lily pads in a small pond next to Fiddler Lake on the Loop Road. (Photo credit: Bill Sniffin) 

On the way back down the mountain back to Lander the most stunning sight is the vast Red Canyon. This is a huge box canyon, which is striking by all the red rock of the Chugwater Formation. It is one of the most photographed places in this part of Wyoming.

And then we were back home, having enjoyed a wonderful three-hour drive that reinforced all the wonderful reasons of why we live here.

Another of our reasons for this particular trip was that we had not driven the entire Loop this year.  We ALWAYS drive the Loop at least once each year.  Time was running out. What a great pleasure it has always been; it was this time, too.

Check out additional columns at www.billsniffin.com. He has published six books.  His coffee table book series has sold 34,000 copies. You can find more stories by Bill Sniffin by going to CowboyStateDaily.com.

Excavate an artifact at Gillette’s “Archaeology Fair”

in Travel
1st Annual Northeast Wyoming Archaeology Fair
2086

Some hands-on experience with archaeology awaits those who visit Gillette’s Rockpile Museum this weekend.

The museum is hosting its first annual Archaeology Fair on Saturday, featuring stations where participants can get a feel for activities such as excavating artifacts, using an ancient tool to throw a spear, making pottery and grinding corn.

“We’re hoping the kids and adults get an idea of what archaeology is,” said Cara Reeves, the Rockpile’s collections assistant and a member of the committee that organized the fair. “We hope they get a better idea of what archaeologists do.”

This year’s inaugural Archaeology Fair, which begins at 10 a.m. Saturday, coincides with Wyoming’s celebration of Archaeology Month in September.

A number of experts from different areas, such as the Wyoming Archaeological Society, Vore Buffalo Jump, U.S. Bureau of Land Management and University of Wyoming, will set up stations through the day where attendees can take part in different activities.

For instance, the Wyoming Archaeological Society’s Pumpkin Buttes Chapter will set up a booth where participants can take part in a mock excavation.

Reeves said replicas of artifacts will be placed inside boxes of dirt to be “excavated.”

“The kids or adults will learn how to excavate on a small scale,” she said. “There is an an activity sheet where they can draw what they find and talk about what it is so they get the idea of what archaeologists actually do.”

Another station will allow attendees to recreate ancient pottery using clay and cooking demonstrations, using a recreated hearth outside of the museum, will be offered at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.Also on tap is a demonstration of an “atlatl,” a device used to throw spears with added velocity and power. Attendees will get a chance to use the atlatl at targets on a range.

Dog sled racer Tara Lynn will also demonstrate the use of a “travois,” a sort of sled used to drag loads over land, with the assistance of two of her dogs which will pull the load.

For more information, visit the Rockpile Museum’s website.

Top singer-songwriters to compete in Ten Sleep

in arts and culture/Tourism/Travel
2019 Singer-Songwriter Laramie Qualifying Round at the Alibi. (courtesy: Wyoming Singer-Songwriter Competition)
2048

Fans of Wyoming music will want to be in Ten Sleep this weekend for the state’s second annual Singer-Songwriter Competition.

The contest will see some of the state’s top singer-songwriters, as selected in competitions in 10 communities around Wyoming, compete for a chance to have one of their songs professionally recorded.

“Top to bottom, it will be great music,” said Jon Gardzelewski, founder of Wyoming Singer-Songwriters and an organizer of the competition. “It’s a great opportunity to hear and meet new people. Some of the best people writing and recording songs will be there from every corner of the state.”

Wyoming Singer-Songwriters for five years sponsored a Laramie competition before opening it up for artists from around the state in 2018.

The first year’s competition saw 75 musicians from around the state take part. This year, the number grew to 85, 37 of whom advanced from the preliminary rounds to the semi-finals.

“The first year, I twisted the arms of everybody I knew and that helped,” Gardzelewski said. “This year, I didn’t do that. I had my hands full with new venues — Rock Springs, Ten Sleep, Gillette — and each of those places had a wealth of new people who were not aware of the competition last year.”

The field of competitors at the weekend’s event will represent a broad mix of musicians, Garzelewski said.

“We’ve got a good mix of old and young, guys and girls, just a good diversity,” he said. “What people will find is they will hear somebody they just fall in love with and that person may not even make it to the finals, there’s so much good music.”

Judging in the preliminary rounds was handled by the musicians themselves. At this weekend’s contest, musicians performing at the Ten Sleep Brewing Co. will be joined as judges by panels of music professionals.

After four semi-final rounds beginning at 4 p.m. Friday and running through Saturday, eight musicians will advance to the grand finale, to begin at 2 p.m. Sunday.

The champion as determined in voting by the musicians and the judges will receive $500, a headline performing spot at the Beartooth Music Festival in Cody, a performing spot at next year’s What Fest and a chance to record their song in a professional studio.

An additional event at this year’s contest will be a Traditional Song Challenge, where participating musicians will offer their versions of folk or traditional songs.

Tickets for the event cost $15 per day or $30 for the full competition. Those buying the full-access tickets will also receive a four-disk compilation of songs from the 2018 competition.

For more information, visit the Wyoming Singer-Songwriters website at WyomingSinger-Songwriters.com or check out their Facebook page.

Lander celebrates fruit-filled heritage with ‘Apple City Festival’

in Travel
Apple City Festival
2004

It’s not widely known that Lander once was once such a leading producer of apples that it earned the nickname of Wyoming’s “Apple City.”

The area’s relatively mild climate, rich soil and plentiful water made it a haven for orchards that used to cover hundreds of acres.It’s that heritage that is being recognized this weekend as the city’s Pioneer Museum hosts the first annual Apple City Festival on Saturday.

“It seemed like a real appropriate activity for us to explore as far as Lander’s history,” said Randy Wise, the museum’s director. “When you think Wyoming, you don’t think of fruit trees. But the Lander Valley has been very productive, particularly of apples, since the very earliest days of the community.”

Wise said early settlers in the valley, led by German pioneers Ed Young and Jacob Meyer, in the 1870s thought that apple trees might do well in the valley because it is sheltered from the wind that rakes much of the rest of Wyoming.

“Both (Young and Meyer) started out raising cattle, but then they both had an interest in fruit trees and they started experimenting,” he said. “The first batch were trees from the midwest and they didn’t make it. They found that Russian trees worked best here.”

Through grafting and cross-breeding, the two were able to develop a species of apples well suited to the area, Wise said.

“Just about every property of any size had an orchard,” he said. “Ed Young had 3,000 trees. There are still a couple of hundred trees left. We’ve got an old apple tree in our back yard and I suspect it was part of an orchard.”

Several small orchards continue to grow apples that are sold at Lander’s Farmer’s Market and some are even sold to a Jackson company, Farmstead Cider, for use in its hard cider.

Plums and pears have also been raised in the valley in the past, Wise said.

Activities scheduled for Saturday include the pressing of fresh apple cider, crafts for children, live music and a contest for the best apple pie.

“I’ve had a lot of interest in that,” Wise said. “But I’ve had even more people asking to be judges. I’ve got a long list of people who want to be a judge.”

Also planned for the day is an applesauce eating contest for children. Competitors will be given a cup of applesauce and a straw.

“Who ever can eat the cup of applesauce the fastest with a straw wins,” Wise said.

A petting zoo will also be on hand, he said.“It’s very much an agriculture-oriented event,” he said.

Farmstead Cider will also be at the festival to offer adults a sample of its cider.

For more information about the day, visit the Pioneer Museum’s Facebook page.

Travel back in time through the ghost town of Kirwin, Wyoming

in Tourism/Travel
1959

Hop back in time to the era of stage coaches and mining camps through a visit to the abandoned mining town of Kirwin, Wyoming.

In the 19th century the bustling mining town of Kirwin, Wyoming featured a general store, mining office, and sawmill.

After an avalanche hit the town, killing three people and destroying property, the town slowly died out.

Visitors can make the trek to Kirwin, tucked high up in the Absaroka Mountains outside of Meeteetse, Wyoming, with the help of a good four-wheel drive vehicle.

The beauty of the area draws visitors each year.

Prior to her disappearance, famed aviator Amelia Earhart and her husband were captivated by the natural beauty of Kirwin and its surroundings. The couple began building a cabin just a mile from Kirwin but the project was never completed.

It’s all about tractors at Encampment’s Copper Days Festival

in Travel
Tractors Saratoga
Tractors on display at last year’s Copper Days Festival in Encampment. The annual festival, to be held this weekend features tractor parades, tractor pulling contests, antique tractors and even toy tractor displays. (Photo courtesy of the Saratoga-Platte Valley Chamber of Commerce)
1947

Antique tractors, toy tractors, feats of tractor strength, a tractor parade — if it has to do with tractors, it’s in the spotlight this weekend at Encampment’s annual Copper Days Festival.

The festival, celebrating its 25th year on Saturday and Sunday, is a salute to rural living, especially the role tractors play in agriculture in the Platte Valley, said Stacy Crimmins, CEO for the Saratoga-Platte Valley Chamber of Commerce.

“It’s definitely dedicated to rural and ranch living,” she said. “It’s kind of a way for us to celebrate the agricultural heritage of the Platte Valley.”

The focus on tractors is usually something associated more with states, Crimmins said.

“This is definitely unique for this part of the country,” she said. “You don’t have to travel halfway across the nation to see these things.”

The part of the two-day celebration dedicated to tractors is organized by Encampment’s Chug ’N Tug Tractor Club, while the Platte Valley Arts Council sponsors other events such as a performance by polka band “The River Boys” and a kids’ art workshop. The chamber of commerce handles marketing and promotion for the event, Crimmins said.

Events begin at 10 a.m. Saturday with a tractor parade through Encampment.At 11 a.m. Saturday, the action will move to the Encampment-Riverside Lions Club Arena, where competitors will take part in a tractor pull. There, tractors are hitched to trailers carrying weights. As the tractors move forward, the weights move closer to the front of the trailer, increasing the amount of power needed to move the trailer.

The kids’ art workshop will be held from noon to 2 p.m. Saturday, as will the toy tractor display.

“We’re trying to keep the enthusiasm for tractors up with the younger generations,” Crimmins said of the toy tractor display. “We’re just trying to make sure there’s an outlet for those who are a little younger to enjoy tractors.”

The community dance at the Grand Encampment Opera House is the only event of the weekend with an entry fee — $15 for adults, which includes a light dinner. The dance runs from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Saturday.“

A lot of the more experienced dancers are very willing to give lessons and help people remember the steps or even help the younger people get a gist of the steps,” Crimmins said.

A second tractor pull will be held Sunday at 10:30 a.m.For more information on Copper Days, visit the Saratoga-Platte Valley Chamber of Commerce’s website or see the chamber’s Facebook page.

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