Put a Pin in it!
My goal was not to fall in -especially so close to the dock where a group of curious onlookers attentively watched my stand-up paddle-boarding attempts on the lake at Red Canyon Lodge. It was a make-or-break moment as I rose up from my knees, first to an awkward squatting position and then slowly to full extension. I was shaking as I stood on the board, legs quivering like jelly and hands clenched in white knuckle fashion around the paddle. Then I began to move, trying to remember to retain a slight bend in my knees, to keep eyes focused ahead and alternate paddle strokes from side to side. It was slow going initially, as I didn’t trust my balance nor the board’s stability, and I felt like a frozen statue. But gradually I started to loosen up as I gained confidence in my skills. Though I never quite reached that Zen moment of becoming one with my paddle, I did, however, feel proud of my accomplishments and excited to learn a fun, new sport.
Stand-up paddleboarding is just one of dozens of activities visitors can experience while exploring Sweetwater County, Wyoming. To many, this area is relatively unknown in comparison to the state’s more popular destinations of Yellowstone and the Tetons. What people don’t realize, however, is that this hidden gem is an all-ages adventure playground, ripe for discovery. Located in the southwestern corner of Wyoming, Sweetwater County is ideally situated for those heading to the famed national parks. It makes a perfect stopover, but once you realize
that care to make themselves visible. Meanwhile, Nobles will regale you with interesting facts and a collection of colorful tales. Never one to shy away from a controversial subject, he will also inject his personal and passionate opinions about the politics of the wild horse management situation and various environmental issues.
When the horses are spotted, there’s palpable excitement from the group. Nobles tells us that the herd is a mix of different breeds, from thoroughbreds and quarter horses to Morgans and Curly horses. We keep our distance, not wanting to spook them, as we take ample opportunity of this marvelous Kodak moment.
Later, we spy a pair of old bachelor stallions making their way down to a watering hole. And then there’s another group on a nearby hillside, which Nobles explains is actually comprised of several small clusters, each consisting of a stallion and his mares. Towards the latter part of our excursion, we come across a grouping adjacent to the road. A few of the horses surround a small colt that is lying on the ground, protecting her as elephants do with their young. They part and move on to graze, and we get a full look at the little one before it rises in ungainly fashion and scampers off to join the others.
At Killpecker Sand Dunes, we marvel at one of nature’s largest sand boxes. Created via a combination of volcanic action and subsequent wind erosion, the dunes can reach heights of over 100 feet and run for over 100 miles from west to east. They are traveling sand dunes, constantly on the move, which gives the vegetation in this environment a real challenge. For recreation-seekers, the dunes provide a soft terrain suitable for a myriad of activities such as hiking, sand surfing or an unforgettable match of beach volleyball. If you’re lucky, you might spot the herd of rare desert elk that roams across this unique landscape.
Nobles also includes a stop at the White Mountain Petroglyphs during our daylong tour. It’s an opportunity to see ancient artwork carved by the ancestors of present Plains and Great Basin Native Americans. The petroglyphs, of which there are hundreds, include drawings of elk, buffalo, horses, teepees and human figures. Many date to early times, about 200 years ago; others appear to be older and are estimated to be as much as 1,000 years old. Nobles shows us a particular section of the rock with marks that appear to be hand holds. He notes a possible explanation for these indentations, telling us that Native American women might have created them during the childbirth process.
Another major highlight of Sweetwater County is Flaming Gorge. To get there, take the Flaming Gorge Scenic Byway, one of the most scenic routes in the country. The drive traverses a wide variety of dramatic landscapes from the high desert plains to the upper elevations of the Uinta Mountains. It encircles the 91-mile-long Lake