As an American living abroad, when I meet new people for the first time who aren’t from the US, the conversation almost always, at some point, includes my new acquaintance listing out all of the US states they’ve ever been to. This would usually be a safe topic of conversation, but with me it inevitably goes something like this…
New Acquaintance: Oh, you’re from the US? I love the US! I’ve been to New York three times!
Me: That’s so cool! I would love to visit New York!
NA: I also love California. Napa is beautiful and San Francisco is such a great city.
Me: I haven’t been to California either, but I’d love to visit someday!
NA: Well, for sure you’ve seen the Grand Canyon? Las Vegas?
Me: Nope, haven’t seen those either.
NA: So, where have you been in the US?
Me: ….. (walks away)
It’s embarrassing how little I’ve traveled in my own country, especially since I lived there for 25 years. Eventually when we move back, I’m going to remedy this on a grander scale, but in the meantime we’ve been adding an extra stop on our annual trips back to Tennessee so we can see some new places. At Christmas I got to add Arizona to my list (still haven’t blogged about that yet), and on our most recent trip we stopped in two extra states, one of which was new to me and brought my list of US states I’ve visited up to a whopping 13! (My usual rules dictate that a new country or state can only be counted if it was both the destination on the trip AND I stayed there overnight, but despite it only being a day trip, I’m counting this one!)
Even though our time was short visiting my sister in Colorado, my sister (who kindly planned our entire trip) made sure I got to add an extra state to my list by taking us just across the border to hike for a day in Medicine Bow National Forest in Wyoming!
For a while, we thought this side trip might not happen. Both Colorado and Wyoming got late snows this year, closing many of the roads to the best hiking trails in the area. Luckily, despite it still being incredibly snowy (who knew this much snow could still be falling in mid-June?), we were able to get to where we wanted to start our hike from in Medicine Bow National Forest just fine.
We parked at Lake Marie and got out of the car to the unpleasant shock that is discovering you’re under-dressed for the weather by about three layers. We had just come from about an hour away in Colorado where we’d stayed in a remote cabin overnight, and it had been chilly, but not cold. Now it was cold, like shivering, teeth-chattering cold. We scrambled to find as many jackets, hats, and extra pairs of pants that we could in the back of the car, but it still felt like we were back in the Arctic Circle again. (Or maybe I’m just too Singapore-climatized now?)
Bracing ourselves against the cold, we walked around Lake Marie, stopping to take pictures every few feet. The overcast day and a still half-frozen Lake Marie with the appropriately-named Snowy Range looming directly behind it and rows of pine trees created one of the most photogenic lake and mountain scenes ever. (Not that I’ve seen enough lakes in the mountains to have the authority to make a claim like that, but you know.) I think I took somewhere around fifty pictures by the lake alone, which may have been part of the reason we never actually got very far on our hike. The other reason was the blizzard.
Well, not an actual blizzard per se, but a tropical island-living person’s idea of one at least. As we approached Mirror Lake, the second stop on the trail, a light snow began to fall. I was pretty stoked because the only thing that makes being miserably cold worth it is if it’s snowing, right? Plus, snow falling by the Snowy Range. How perfect is that?
However, by the time we reached Lookout Lake, the wind had picked up and what had been a light snow turned into tiny ice shards flying in our faces. Never one to make good choices, I decided it would be a good idea to climb up an icy mountain of rocks beside Lookout Lake so I could take a dorky picture (see Exhibit A above) and fell three times trying to get up there. After that I was pretty much over the snow and ice, which was just as well because the weather was forcing us to turn around and head back to the safety of our car anyway.
I wish we’d been able to make it a little further on our hike, but even just walking along the lakes at the base of the Snowy Range was a unique experience. Both Mirror Lake and Lookout Lake were almost completely frozen over, which was pretty cool to see. Growing up, the only lakes I ever saw were the ones we went water skiing and tubing on every summer, so getting the opportunity to see wintry lake scenes surrounded by mountains and snow was totally worth the hike!
In a less snowier month, one of the most rewarding hikes (scenery and photography-wise) in Medicine Bow National Forest is the hike to the top of Medicine Bow Peak. At an elevation of over 12,000 ft, I can only imagine how beautiful the view must be from up there. From Lake Marie (10,500 ft elevation), it’s a 3 1/2 mile hike to the top over supposedly mostly gradual terrain. I’d love to come back and give it a go next time!
If you’re visiting the area, check out this website for more information about hiking to the top of Medicine Bow Peak and other great hiking trails in Medicine Bow National Forest!
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