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Travelogue -- Sinks Canyon State Park, WY

Sunday, July 17, 2016

"The Sinks" of Sinks Canyon.

And the Rise of the Popo Agie

From Boulder, we took I-25 North into Wyoming, retracing our steps from last week towards Cheyenne. We had researched various cheap campgrounds and Walmarts where we might sleep and planned to get about halfway to Grand Teton National Park, our next intended destination, but as we drove past a climbing area whose name Todd recognized we got sidetracked. Diane was driving, so Todd took the opportunity to do some research and concluded we should stop and consider camping so they could climb in the morning.

We stopped at a rest area whose claim to fame is that it is the highest point on all of I-80, a road that crosses the entire country! The elevation was 8,600 feet. We weren't really in the mountains at that point, but rather on the high plains. 

Todd did some more research and concluded that the climbing area he had first considered would be too hard for Diane, who is just a beginner at climbing, but he found an easier one in Laramie, which was only 10 miles down the road, so we drove to the Walmart there to sleep for the night.

It got very cold overnight and we all woke up feeling very chilly. We weren't that far from Boulder and yet we were in a whole different climate.

After Diane had fallen asleep the night before, Todd had done more research and decided the climbing area in Laramie was no good either, so we got a nice early start towards the Grand Tetons. As we drove, Diane and Todd were really excited to cross the Continental Divide not once by twice! We skipped crossing it in Colorado, but now we've had the experience.

Late morning, we took a break at a national historical marker at a place called Split Rock. Split Rock is a massive, rocky hill that rises from the plain. It earned its historical marker by being a landmark used by travelers on the Oregon Trail, who would travel along the rocks for an entire day on their way West, and who could see the rock behind them for two more days as they continued on the trail. Split Rock was also a station on the pony express.

After a good stretch of the legs at Split Rock, Diane had the brilliant idea that Todd should call his friend Ben, who has spent several seasons in Jackson Hole, to get some suggestions of places we might go on our way to the Tetons, and he suggested Sinks Canyon State Park, which is in Lander, WY, about 130 miles from Grand Teton National Park. 

We took Ben's advice (Thanks, Ben!), and for once we got to our campsite early in the day! We arrived at it was only about 3:30 on July 13. we scouted out the campground and choose a nice site in the Popo Agie Camping Area.

The camping area is what is described as "primitive sites," meaning there's no electricity or plumbing, but it is very nice. There's a good flat spot to park the Big Rolling Crate, a big picnic table, a fire ring, and a designated area for a tent. There are composting toilets here and a well for water, but no showers or any other sort of facilities. It's really the best of both worlds--campground meets Boondock. 

There are twenty or so sites here, but they are arranged to be fairly private and even though they are closer together than the dispersed camping sites we used on Colorado, this is a much quieter place with a more peaceful vibe. 

Our campsite

The Popo Agie (pronounced Po-Po-shuh)  River flows right behind our campsite, and there's a swinging suspension bridge for pedestrians to cross the river to a nature trail and a climbing area. I was highly uncertain about the bridge and had to walk very slowly and cautiously, but I made it and the walk on the other side was worth it.

Downstream the Popo Agie flows through what's called the "sink," hence the name "Sinks Canyon," and into a pool called "the rise."

Geologically, the sink and the rise and very strange. At the sink, the river disappears into a narrow, unexplorable cave. A quarter-mile down the hill, it emerges again at the rise. Here's the wacky part: It takes the water--which is a fast-flowing, rushing stream--two hours to make its way through the cave and back out, even though it's only a quarter-mile! Even stranger, more water comes out of the rise than goes into the sink! No one knows where. It was only relatively recently in history that it was proven that the sink empties into the rise. 

The Popo Agie from the pedestrian bridge

After we settled into our camp, we went out and explored the nature trail, which was quite beautiful, and we checked out the climbing area where two groups of climbers were doing their thing. They gave Todd advice about which routes would be good for out-of-towners like us, particularly since Diane's only experience so far is in the climbing gym and top roping, and then we made our way back to camp for a delicious dinner of macaroni and cheese with broccoli and bratwurst. Diane dinner and Todd washed the dishes afterwards, and it was the most peaceful evening we've spent since our second night in our Colorado Boondock. 

Todd doing the dishes.

We had thought we'd stay here one night, but it's so nice--and so cheap! Only $11 a night--that we're going to stay for two instead. This morning (Thursday, 7/14), we had pancakes and bacon and lounged in the cool morning air, and I think we could stay here a long time and that would be just fine with me.

It was only in the 50s this morning, but Diane warmed up with some hot coffee.

This is the river right behind our campsite.

None of us have ever seen flowers like these before, but the big bees really like them.

As aspen grove we passed on the nature trail.

The view looking out the door of the Big Rolling Crate towards one of the climbing areas.
Diane, working on our blog.

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