I took an extended hiatus from my habitual daily walk by trading one messy urban path for a more pristine, mountainous route in my beloved Wyoming.
Some friends and I recently took to the trails that weave through the central Bridger Wilderness in western Wyoming’s Wind River range. We found it wholly devoid of trash and debris. For the surprisingly higher-than-expected volume of hikers we encountered, many campsites could have been expected to show signs of litter.
At most, there was a stray oatmeal package and other minor flotsam here and there. Nothing like the debris ‘recovered’ at high altitude last year. There would seem to be a concerted ‘carry in-take out’ ethos among most backpackers/day hikers to keep the back country clean.
Tidiness was also pretty much the name of the game along the byways we took along Rte. 191 from Rock Springs to Pinedale, Rte. 189 up through Jackson, the roughly 90 miles that is the ‘Daniel Cutoff’ through the middle of the Wyoming Range as well as the roadsides of I-80 all the way to the border with Nebraska. Not a lot of trash to be seen blowing in the high plains wind.
My friend Tom and I talked about this as we motored through sageland populated with antelope (and the occasional herd of wild horses) on either side of the road. It may well be that Wyomans know that what attracts visitors to the sparsely populated state is a good environment. The coal digging and fracking aside, Wyoming is a relatively well tended-to state.
Of course, on the drive home through Illinois, Indiana, southwest Ohio, West Virginia and North Carolina, the name of that game changed – lots more trash. Perhaps that is the residue of lots more people. But at least it was nice to be in the mountains and away from mountains of trash for a few days.
Then there is the other side of Wyoming – the side influenced by Republican neanderthals in Washington, D.C.
Some days it doesn’t pay to read back issues of the Charlotte Observer.
Buried in the main section of a post-vacation newspaper was a short item that will impact Wyoming and the rest of the West (and other states, too).
Congressional Republicans are hatching a plan to “roll back the Endangered Species Act” – all because protections of danger or threatened animals runs afoul of business interests. The law, according to the GOP, “… hinders drilling, logging and other activities.” That’s a ‘screw you’ deal all the way around.
Notably for Wyoming, gray wolves (their howls will send shivers up your spine) will no longer rate protections, nor will grizzlies near Yellowstone National Park. Under review, too, are federal conservation efforts to protect the sage grouse – Wyoming’s open range brushlands are one of the bird’s last strongholds.