Laramie, Wyoming
June 1999 
"Isn't this great? Visit, have a good time, come back . . . but don't tell anyone!
We want to keep it to ourselves . ." Landra

O.K., it will be our secret!

Time to leave Colorado. North toward Cheyenne, Wyoming and westward to Laramie. Driving up the loop from Loveland-Fort Collins, Colorado opened Larry's eyes to the vastness of western vistas (He had never been to Wyoming before either). We began to catch glimpses of chamois and white pronghorn antelope. Our deceptively gradual ascent from Cheyenne, west to the peaks of the Laramie Range brought us alongside the Union Pacific rail line. We made a brief stop to view a curiously gnarled and twisted tree growing out of the rocks. For years it had been watered by train crews as they stopped here to take on more coal and water. Today it is protected by a fenced enclosure. And when you think about the endless wind, the lonely winters, and the sometimes scarcity of water that pioneers must have endured, the tree seems to represent their tenacity in traveling west, then carving out their livelihoods, and establishing their homes.

Can you tell that Larry was currently reading Rising from the Plains by John McPhee? He recommends it for its unusual blending of geology and history, and the book's insights into the region through which we are traveling. But McPhee readers are weird anyway; they (Larry, that is) would read his earlier published treatises about the orange tree (I mean hundreds of pages about oranges, really!), roadkill, canoeing and the like. Larry thanks fellow teacher at Urbana High School, Greg Chew, for steering him to McPhee's writing year's ago. But then others must also be drawn to his unique style, hence this year's (1999) Pulitzer Prize for a distinguished book of nonfiction.
We were leisurely working our way out to Lymon, Wyoming, where Annette was scheduled to speak at a regional education conference. But we made a planned stop in Laramie to visit colleague and close friend, Landra Rezabek. Landra is a professor at the University of Wyoming. She made time in her schedule to show us the neighborhood. Laramie, not your typical university town, sits in a basin plain west of the Laramie Range and looks westward to the Snowy Range and Medicine Bow Mountains. People around Laramie like the "small town" feel and hope that others will not find their "western paradise" and turn it into a "strip mall" city.

We made forays out into the surrounding mountains. Our last day there was spent in driving east to the Veda Vue area, turning off Interstate 80 near the statue of 'Old Abe.' There we hiked in the Happy Jack Recreation area with Landra and her two 'kids' (That's them above-left and again here left). She has two beautiful Akita's, Inu a female and a male named Okami. Inu is the Japanese word for dog. Okami is Japanese for wolf.

It was fantastic to hike out through the meadows, along the stream and lakes, into the mixed forest. Hardly anyone else around, all this space to ourselves. A few wildflowers including Indian Paint Brush (WY's state flower) were beginning to bloom; its just beginning to warm up here. The wind is rustling through the Aspen groves. It's quiet, peaceful, relaxing. We saw signs of beavers' working. Landra pointed out pink-tinted quartz nodules. The dogs ranged out from us and returned winded and thirsty.
After the great midday hike, we went 'rock-gathering' with Landra. We took our two vehicles to a rock quarry, where we loaded big, flat, reddish limestone rocks. When both had about all they should carry, we drove the stones to their new abode. We unloaded them in Landra's back yard where along with sagebrush and gravel, she is creating a landscaped patio area.

It was fun, it reminded us of all the home projects that we had worked on: a treehouse (not just the book, a real treehouse), remodeling, taking out a wall, and then putting the wall back before we sold the house -- its easier selling a three bedroom than a two bedroom house . . . that was when we had a nonmoving home. And now when we return on our next visit, we can feel a sense of 'shared ownership.' Hey Landra, I believe that I moved that great big rock over there!

All to soon it was time to get on towards the southwestern corner of the state. We left Laramie and headed west across the Medicine Bows, there's still a lot of snow up there. That's a frozen Lake Marie on the left and Libby Flats on the bottom-right. Then we headed on, cutting back up to Interstate 80 for the drive across the arid scrubland. We had a great time, did not come close to seeing everything, and will have to return. But Landra, the winters here must be fierce. Thirty below and these western winds!
Created by Annette Lamb and Larry Johnson, 1/99.
Updated, 5/99.
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