The rocky spire rose before me, some 50 feet into the air. I was in a cul-de-sac created by Mother Nature, surrounded by cliffs, rocky outcrops and other cool rock formations. If I were a geologist, I’d likely be drooling and certainly could describe the scene better. Alas, my rock knowledge is minimal.
Still, I stood in awe, amazed and very appreciative of what I found. Dobby, my one-year-old Australian shepherd wasn’t as much in awe as he was relishing the opportunity to frolic up and down the rocky escarpments. His mountain sheep imitation made me nervous. I feared he’d take a header or get caught on a crag where he couldn’t get back down. His agility is phenomenal, but his climbing experience is lacking, as is some basic common sense.
I continued up to the object of my curiosity: what likely was once a prairie falcon nest. The nest was in good condition with some “whitewash” bird poo, but no sign of any birds. Prairie falcons are ardent nest defenders and make quite a racket when they feel the need to ward off intruders. All I heard was a bit of wind, wafting around the higher spires. If this was a prairie falcon nest, it wasn’t in use this year.
I turned around and paused to appreciate what I had found before heading back across the basin to my truck. I was in one of Mother Nature’s little cathedrals, surrounded by rock faces that rose to rocky ledges, sheer faces and then open blue sky.
It was a very interesting little hidey-hole. That’s what I call cool, unexpected areas that abound across Wyoming – but are not typically easy to find. Hidey-holes aren’t usually found on maps. If they are, they have just benign names that give little hint as to the wonders they offer.
All those motorists crossing the state on Interstate 80 have no idea the hidden jewels to be found in what most consider nothing but miles and miles of sagebrush. Zooming by at 75 miles per hour is certainly not the way to see the real Wyoming.
Hidey-holes may cover only an acre or two. I’ll round a corner and then stop in my tracks at the unexpected find. Maybe it’s copse of old-growth fir and spruce with tree trunks so big around, they should be in the Pacific Northwest and not arid Wyoming. Maybe it’s a field ablaze with wildflowers in all colors of the rainbow. The beauty takes my breath away. Or, in my case on this day, a rocky cathedral hidden back in the recess of what I thought was just going to be a bland sandstone cliff.
I found another hidey-hole — at an undisclosed location — that reminded me of Utah’s Canyonlands National Park Near Moab – the mountain biking mecca. This area lacked singletrack bike paths but, instead, had singletrack mule deer routes, meandering in the rocky canyon bottom. In my exploration, I got myself “rimrocked” — a term I use when I get to a point where, minus a parachute, I can go no further.
This secret Mini Moab covered maybe 150 acres. It isn’t a mountain bike magnet by any means. On the other hand, I had the place to myself without a soul around. In the course of about three hours of hiking up and down rocky faces and timbered bottoms, I spotted four eagle nests, although none were active. Mule deer popped up, startled at my presence, before hopping off the other direction. I got myself rimrocked twice in the process and had to scramble back the way I’d come. It was all such fun.
Even out on our sagebrush sea, hidey-holes abound. One day, when looking for an overnight camping site so I could look for birds in the morning, I found a two-acre stand of big sagebrush so tall, they looked like trees. It was one of the few times I actually camped in the shade of sagebrush.
Look for your own hidey-holes. The way to find them is to just get out there. Wander, explore, hike and bike. Get off the beaten track. Pause and look around, sometimes the hidden jewel is the view behind you. You never know when you just might stumble upon an area or a view that will take your breath away.