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1418 - 101 of my favorite places in Wyoming

Wyoming folks are not shy about talking about their favorite places in our home state.

         And I am going to take that habit to an extreme in my next book, which will include photos and stories of 101 of Wyoming’s favorite places.

         So this is your chance to let me know what you think are the most fascinating and unique places in the Cowboy State.

         Send me your nomination in 12 words up to 600 words and maybe we can squeeze it into the book. This new book will be out this fall and will be similar in format to my last book, Wyoming’s Seven Greatest Natural Wonders.

         Obviously, I would put those original seven wonders at the top of my personal list: Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Parks, Devils Tower, The Red Desert, South Pass, Thermopolis Hot Springs and the North Platte River system.

         We can talk about mountain ranges like the Tetons, the Winds, Snowies, Bighorns, the Wyoming Range and others.

         I love buttes like Oregon, Crowheart, Dishpan, Pilot, Black, Pumpkin and Blacktail.

         And then there are all those magnificent Wyoming canyons. Like Sinks, Wind River, Crazy Woman, Red, Bighorn, Firehole, Tensleep and Fremont to name just a few.

         We have amazing basins like the Big Horn Basin, the Wind River Basin, the Great Divide Basin and Thunder Basin National Grassland.

         Our wildlife is unparalleled in the lower 48. I just travelled through nine states and nowhere are there elk, deer, antelope, wild horses and other critters like in Wyoming.

         There are amazing man-made places like the Oregon Trail, the Lincoln Highway, the UP Railroad and the Burlington Northern Railroad through Wind River Canyon (which includes an amazing tunnel). Forts like Laramie, Casper and Bridger.

         We have Pony Express stations, historical Mormon Trail sites, and the site of the original telegraph line across the country.

         Wyoming has other man-made structures like the State Capitol, everything at the University of Wyoming, the old hotels in Yellowstone and Teton parks and the modern hotels and amazing ski areas in Jackson Hole.

         Spectacular roadways like the Chief Joseph Highway plus amazing passes such as Teton, Togwotee, South, Tensleep, and the Summit. 

         Man-made wonders like the world’s biggest coalmines near Gillette and the gigantic trona mines under I-80 west of Green River. Vast natural gas fields like the Jonah. 

         The world’s first national forest stretches from South Pass all the way to Cody, called the Shoshone. Plus all the other wonderful forests in the state including such special places as Aspen Alley.

         The Wind River Indian Reservation is full of spectacular spots such as Bull Lake, Washakie Hot Springs, the Crowheart area, and the amazing area known as the Washakie Needles in the south end of the Absaroka Mountains.

         The ancestors of our native Indians created breath-taking petroglyph areas and the biggest site of all, known as American Stonehenge, is the Bighorn Medicine Wheel high in the mountains between Lovell and Sheridan. Plus we have ancient Indian sites that are 10,000 years old like Register Cliff north of Thermopolis. And dinosaur sites like Como Bluff and ancient fossil basins like Fossil Butte. The Vore Buffalo Jump near Sundance and the Steamboat Mountain buffalo jump north of Rock Springs are amazing.

         River systems like the Wind River, which turns into the Big Horn River, which has two basins and two mountain ranges, named for them – and they are the same river!

         The Green River is the main source of water for the huge Colorado River.

         The Snake River in Jackson Hole is the main water source for a big chunk of Idaho. The Yellowstone River, likewise, is a major source of water for the country’s longest river, the Missouri River.

         Reservoirs like Flaming Gorge, Boysen, Glendo, and those south of Casper contribute to our state’s recreation and irrigation and power generation.     

         And that leads me to the wonderful dams such as Buffalo Bill near Cody, which was the biggest in the world when it was built in 1910. There is also the big Pathfinder dam south of Casper, the Boysen dam and various other dams.

         Who can forget the great museums like the Buffalo Bill Center, which is known as the Smithsonian of the West. The state is full of other wonderful museums.

         These are just a few of my favorite things and places in Wyoming. Let me know which ones are your favorites and why you love them so much by writing me at

1417 - The king of Yellowstone Park

This is one of my favorite Wyoming stories and it includes an interesting twist at the end.

         Yellowstone National Park is just about my single most favorite place on the planet. It is this vast two million acre park full of wonderful creatures and amazing sites.

This story involves a grizzly bear, a herd of bison, a wolf and a bull elk, all of whom all live together in a somewhat peaceful manner in the world’s first national park.

         When it comes to a fierce countenance, what animal is more feared than a giant grizzly bear in Yellowstone National Park? We are not talking about Smokey the Bear here, but a really, really mean and nasty character.

         One day this bear woke up in a very grumpy mood. He was stomping around and decided that the other animals were not giving him the royal treatment he deserved.

         He stormed up to a huge bull elk and demanded: “Who is the King of Yellowstone?”

         The elk was standing tall but soon was recoiling in fear and barely was able to stammer: “The answer to that question is you, great sire. There is nobody who could rule over you.”      

         “Yes,” replied the grizzly. “That is the correct answer to my question. And today I will let you live you sniveling overgrown creature.”

         For good measure, the grizzly knocked over two trees and ripped up a big bush in a huge cloud of dust. Then he stomped off.

         Not long after, he spotted a pack of wolves. He quickly corralled the Alpha Female and reared up to all nine majestic feet of his length.

         The wolf was terrified.

         “Who is the King of Yellowstone?” the grizzly demanded in a voice that came out like a roar and drowned out the nearby sound of the massive Lower Falls of Yellowstone Canyon.

         “Oh my,” the Alpha Wolf replied. “My answer to your question is that you are the King of Yellowstone. Who could possibly challenge you for your mighty and royal supremacy?”

         “Ah yes, that is the correct answer to my question and I have decided to let you live another day. Next time I may not be so generous.”

         The bear took great pleasure in saying this because in many ways the wolf has advanced to near the top of the food chain in Yellowstone. And when in a pack, wolves can be a fearsome force. But when faced one-on-one with the biggest grizzly in the park, well, the Alpha Wolf was just no match.

         Satisfied the King Grizzly stomped away looking for someone else to terrorize.

         He waddled over to Hayden Valley and saw some bison lazily grazing in a meadow.

         The griz sought out the biggest bison bull and confronted him. “Ah Buff (bison hate to be called buff or any form of the word buffalo, and the grizzly knew that), so I have a question for you.”

         The bull slowly raised his head and sort of turned his face to the side in curiosity. What the heck was this bear doing?

         “I have a question for you Buff,” the grizzly continued.

         “Who is the King of Yellowstone?” the grizzly roared. At the sound of this about 100 other bison all came to an alert. It was a fearsome roar.

         “Not sure I heard you right,” the bison replied softly. “Would you mind coming a little closer and asking me that question again. In my old age, my hearing is not so good.”

         The grizzly strode up to the bison and as he started to ask the question: “Who is the King of Yellowstone” . . . well, all hell broke loose.

         First the bison gored the grizzly and then knocked him down and started stomping on him. Pretty soon the whole herd was pummeling the grizzly. Amidst all the dust that was being raised were the sounds of bones breaking and sinews popping.

         This went on for quite a while. It seemed like an eternity to the grizzly.

         Finally, the bison got tired and ambled a little distance away. The bull turned and looked at the grizzly with a quizzical look on his face.

         The grizzly was not doing so well. About the only bones in his body not broken were in his left forearm. He hefted his poor battered head up on that forearm, looked over at the bison and said:

         “Well, you didn’t have to get so mad just because you didn’t know the answer.”

1416 - Tragedy, billionaires and ill-fated concert

         During a long winter of road closures, sub-zero temperatures and ample snowfall, there was a long list of interesting news happenings that involved rock bands, billionaires and tragedy in the Cowboy State.


         • One of the most popular rock bands in the country will NOT be staging a concert at Devils Tower.

         Daft Punk, which includes two members from France who are dressed as robots, had planned to put lasers at the base of the tower and hold a concert for 50,000 people. 

         The National Park Service rejected the proposal after consulting with six American Indian tribes, all of which agreed it would be disrespectful use of such a sacred Indian site.

         Daft Punk won five Grammy awards this year including Record of the Year and Album of the Year.


         • A Wyoming college student from Powell made dubious history when he tragically died in Denver following eating a marijuana cookie, which is now legal in Colorado.

         Levy Thamba Pongi, 19, a native of the Republic of Congo, fell to his death from the balcony of a motel after eating a cookie purchased by one of his friends.

         It was reported they had travelled to Denver for several reasons, but one was to experience what is called “marijuana tourism,” where folks from surrounding states travel to Colorado to partake in that state’s legal use of the drug.

         Young Pongi had just started taking classes at Northwest College in January.


         • By far the biggest star in pro football from Wyoming is Greybull’s Brett Keisel.

         He has two Super Bowl rings, but at the age of 35, is now at the crossroads of his career, reports Riverton columnist Randy Tucker.

         Keisel is a giant of a man. A football version of noted wrestler Rulan Gardner, of Afton, perhaps.

         Keisel is 6-6 and weighs in at 285 pounds while playing a dynamic defensive end. He is a fan favorite in Pittsburgh, where they love him.

         Besides his size, he stands out because of his fearsome beard. He truly looks like a mountain man who is a mountain of a man from a rugged state like Wyoming.

         This past season, he has been dealing with foot injuries

         Tucker was able to ask Keisel a question after the big man had endured a marathon of media requests after a win against the Cleveland Browns late fall. Tucker asked him if he had any message for the kids back in Greybull.

         “Yeah, the Buffs are having a great year. I read the Greybull Standard every week and follow the teams in the paper and on the Internet,” he said. He also said he hoped Greybull could beat Lovell. “Any year we can beat the Bulldogs is a great year,” he exclaimed.  


         • A former child soldier from Africa wants to establish a refugee resettlement office in Wyoming. We are the only state without one.

         Bertine Bahige, a teacher in Gillette, came to the USA as a refugee many years ago. He once served as a 13-year old rifleman in 1996. He has not seen his sisters or his mother since.

         After a tumultuous journey escaping Africa with the help of the United Nations, he ended up in the USA and attended the University of Wyoming on scholarship. He is now a math teacher in Gillette and is married to a Gillette native.

         His initiative has drawn ire from some folks because of distrust of the United Nations whose agencies would decide which refugees would come to Wyoming.

         The project sounds like a good idea for a place that calls itself “The Equality State.”   We are glad to have this man among us.


         • The term “billionaire” and the state of Wyoming did not go together very well in the same sentence just a few years ago. But today, we have several of them here, according to Forbes Magazine.

         Long-time residents Christy Walton (of Walmart fortunes) and the Mars brothers (Forrest and John) of the candy fortune, live in Wyoming. Christy and Forrest in Jackson and John in Big Horn.

         Christy is worth $36.7 billion and each of the Mars brothers is worth $20.5 billion.

         New listings include Amy Wyss, daughter of Switzerland’s second richest man. She lives in Wilson.

         Tiger Woods’ ex-wife Elin Nordegren and her billionaire boyfriend Chris Cline just purchased the Carney Ranch in Sublette County for $25 million. It includes eight miles of the Green River.

1415 - Could WYO learn from Canada`s energy reservations?

An energy development concept that seemed to fit Wyoming when first proposed 40 years ago has recently been back in the news.

            This idea was to establish “energy reservations” in various isolated parts of the country. And no place in the USA has the vast amounts of energy that Wyoming has. And as the least populated state in the country, we must admit we have some isolated places, too.

            As I recall, the concept involved grouping power plants, nuclear plants, refineries, and other energy-generating sources in isolated locations that were close to energy sources but far from population centers.

            Yep, that can describe Wyoming.

            Of course back in the early 1970s, nuclear power was still growing and there were (and still are) huge deposits of uranium in Natrona, Converse and Fremont counties. This was before Three-Mile Island and Chernobyl, though, and most recently Fukashima. The thought was to build the power plants here and then transmit the energy over power lines.

            Wyoming also has more than a 300-year supply of low sulphur coal, which would provide fuel for coal-fired power plants.

            We are number-three in the country in natural gas. We are the “windiest” place in the country, and I think even solar has a place at the energy table here.

            There is a place in North America where this energy reservation concept seems to be working and some Wyoming politicians went there recently to get a first-hand look.

            Alberta, Canada, has an area of over 200 square miles full of energy development of all kinds. The place employs 7,000 people with an average income of $150,000 per year.

            Democrat Rep. John Freeman of Green River was quoted as saying: “Sometimes city and county governments can’t agree that the sky is blue. But 15 years ago, the folks in Alberta decided it was blue.” He said the Canadians turned their area into a gigantic energy hub and have been making history ever since. Freeman said the most interesting component of the complex to him was the emphasis on adding value to the raw commodities. “The big push was to add value to energy products.   They used byproducts to produce everything from plastics to fertilizer to asphalt shingles,” Freeman says.

“The local governments worked together to make sure there was infrastructure. Laws and regulations were crafted to ensure that it was a business-friendly environment,” he concluded.

            Nine Wyoming legislators including Freeman flew to Canada on a state jet to view the area commonly called “heartland.” Sen. Ogden Driskill of Devils Tower was quoted as saying: “They are taking everything but the squeal out of the pig. All that’s left is just some brine water.”

            Others making the trip included Representatives Kermit Brown, Michael Greer, Steve Harshman, David Miller, Bob Nicholas and Senators Larry Hicks and Jim Anderson.

            There are many areas in Wyoming that might already qualify as energy reservations. The Gillette coal area, the Jonah Field area south of Pinedale, the area around Rock Springs, areas in Converse County and the area north of Casper all come to mind. Plus there are huge energy areas in Fremont, Carbon and Johnson Counties that might qualify.

            Wind is becoming a major player, especially when states like California demand that a percentage of all energy imported be from renewable sources such as wind and solar.

            Yet, wind, especially, can be fickle. By combining a huge wind complex like what is being proposed for Carbon County with some natural gas-fired power plants, the ability to send consistent power over power lines to California is much more viable.

            Historically, it always seemed to make sense to me to group different types of energy producers together but when I would mention this to people in the know, they would roll their eyes. Birds of a feather flock together they would tell me, implying that a fossil fuel producer would just as soon not be in the same room as one of those windmill fellas.

            Yet, you now see our biggest energy company Rocky Mountain Power, abandoning plans for coal plants in favor of windmill farms.

            The people in charge are now viewing energy as the commodity that it really is. It is just electricity. It does not matter to them where it comes from as long as they can produce it reliably and in the most inexpensive way (and safest way) possible.

            The concept of an energy reservation is definitely on the table here in Wyoming. And it is about time.