Travel Diaries: Idaho and Wyoming

Upon finding myself so close to the border of Idaho while in Salt Lake City, I couldn’t resist making the 2-hour drive to Malad City, just north of the border from Utah. I have wanted to visit Idaho ever since I met a wonderful, young American in Germany. He offered to show me the world and Idaho, where he was from, since I loved good thunderstorms and was missing them. Our paths eventually diverged and we lost touch with each other, but I put Idaho on my bucket list.

Sadly, it wasn’t thunderstorm season when I visited Idaho last week. In fact, it had just recently snowed again, and in May. The residents of Malad City I ran into at Dude Ranch Cafe, a local, historic restaurant, couldn’t wait for the weather to warm up. Malad City is quite small and still retains that Wild West small-town look and feel I’ve seen in movies. I ordered hash browns with my burger because Idaho is famous for its potatoes. They tasted just like regular potatoes, and did nothing to displace my love of sweet potatoes.

It’s funny how landscape changes from one state to another. While Malad City is similar to the borderlands of Utah, I noticed when the faces of the mountains began to gentle. Idaho mountains are less craggy than the ones in Utah, and its valleys are wider. The highway is flanked by cattle and horse ranches, and small towns nestle in the shadows of majestic mountains. The views are amazing.

Come to think of it, I’ve met only one person from Wyoming and I also met him in Germany (I actually met more people from around the world in Germany than I have met in the US). He was taciturn and always wore cowboy boots. I concluded that Wyoming must be cowboy country, and my short trip on I-80 across the southern part of the state confirmed my suspicions.

Southwestern Wyoming alternates between dry, rocky, hilly ledges and flat stretches of barren land. A sign proclaimed that cow-women were raising beef cattle, and I wondered what they feed on. I suppose there’s enough grass further inland. I can only report what I saw from the freeway. There are lots of ranches and wind farms in Wyoming.

After all that barren land, I was shocked to encounter snow in Laramie and Cheyenne in southeastern Wyoming. Thankfully, the three or so inches of snow on the ground had dumped a few days before I got there and I didn’t have to drive in it. I specifically planned my trip for this time so I wouldn’t have to contend with snow.

The landscape in Wyoming changed drastically as I got closer to the small town of Elk Mountain, the northern edge of the Rocky Mountains. Barrenness gave way to grasslands and then to tree-lined hills and mountains. For much of my drive through Wyoming, I had no cell phone or radio reception. Now you know where to go if you want to be “off the grid.”

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