It has been an eventful year since our last camping trip: new jobs, leaving those jobs, selling a house, downsizing, and loading up the moving van on a prayer and moving to Laramie. My son recently flew up from Houston to attend a Python programming camp at Colorado State University in Ft. Collins, so we planned a camping trip for the days between his camp and his flight home. We’d had our eye on Silver Lake campground, near the top of the Snowy Range on Highway 130 west of Laramie, but it was (and still is) covered in snow. Father west, 20 miles or so east of Saratoga, Ryan Park was snowless and available. The reservation site recreation.gov stated that guests were permitted to erect only one tent per camp site; the camp host, however, had no such restrictions.
Many of the sites at Ryan Park are shadeless, including ours. The afternoon sun proved relentless and heated up the site; a tarp we hung between two trees gave us a sliver of comfort. A three-quarter mile path circles the campsite, following Carroll Creek and the larger Barrett Creek, both of which roiled with cold snowmelt. Thanks to an informative historical marker, we learned that the campsite had been used as a POW camp during World War II. Prisoners from Hitler’s and Mussolini’s armies worked six days a week there for the Crow Timber Company between 1942 and 1946.
After a restless and cold first night on an uncooperative air mattress, we headed to the Little Laramie Trailhead, back over the pass to the Laramie side of Snowy Range. This was a beautiful hike, one of our favorites so far. Dense, lodgepole pine forest surrounds a well-maintained, easy to follow path. Our Alltrails app said we put in 2.9 miles; trail extensions allow for longer hikes.
Last summer, our tents did a great job of keeping out rain. Not so, this trip. Along with the faulty mattress, our final night at Ryan Park brought a midnight rainstorm and the slow drip of water inside the tent. When the sun rose, we skipped camp breakfast (except for coffee), stuffed the wet stuff into the back of the Pilot, and were back in Laramie by 8:00.
The Fourth of July in Laramie was perfect. In ideal weather, we spent the afternoon at Washington Park with 10,000 or so others listening to Danno & Have Fun Will Travel and The Boogie Woogers. After a lovely dinner at our new favorite restaurant, Altitude, we brought the lawn chairs out to the edge of LaPrele Park, just south of the University, to watch the fireworks. In the distance, lightning from a storm over Medicine Bow National Forest lit up the clouds behind the display. Here we met David and his dog Gonzo. By his own admission, David had spent too long at the pubs and had consumed too many “Colorado edibles.” A Viet-Nam Veteran and Texan from sometime in his history, he ranted about Trump, extolled the beauties of Wyoming and its history, talked about Idaho and Oregon and Californians, women drivers, Chief Washakie—whose statue sits on Grand Avenue between 15th and 17th Street—and then said goodbye before the fireworks had ended, wishing us well in our new home. I hope to run into him again some day.