Stop #6: Lander, Wyoming
Jess and I arrived late Thursday evening to Lander. Our friend Michelle had given us a great tip: there was free camping in Lander City Park! It’s a large park with a baseball field, playground, tennis courts and a picnic area. Behind the baseball field is a large grassy area where you can pitch your tent for up to 3 days. So awesome! We met a friendly camp kitty. I think she was from the cattle farm right next to the park. 😂
The next day, we headed to Wild Iris, about 40 minutes southwest of Lander. The landscape in Wyoming is mind-boggling beautiful. It was a little hard to keep my eyes on the road; I wanted to keep looking at the landscape!
Wild Iris has some amazing sport climbs. The dolomite walls are filled with pockets and holes which made for some interesting climbing. Jess got to hone her rappelling skills and we did about 6 climbs a piece. It was another great day in the mountains!
Afterwards, at the local climbing store, Wild Iris Mountain Sports, we started talking to a girl we recognized from the campsite. Devin was on her own summer road trip with her dog, Dakota. We invited her to climb with us the next day.
Back at the campsite, we chatted with Devin and played with Dakota. We met a guy named Pavel who was biking (bicycle kind of biking) across the US, with no end place in mind. He had started in California in May! 😱 I can’t imagine biking on highways. He said he did about 70-80 miles a day. 😱😱
Dakota had made friends with a guy sitting on his crash pad, eating his dinner. Turned out he was a climber too and looking for partners! We all ended up going to the climber friendly Lander Bar for a quick drink. Poor Pavel was inundated by lots of climber talk, but was a good sport, asking about our climbing experiences and throwing in some quips about Free Solo.
The next day, we tried a new climbing area nearby, Sinks Canyon. It’s such a cool place! The Popo Agie River runs through the canyon, except it disappears (sinks) into the ground and then reappears 1/4 mile later. It takes about 2 hours for the water to go through that 1/4 mile and no one knows why!
Devin, Mica, and another climber named Ben met up with us and we set up a bunch of climbs. Mica is a strong climber and led a 5.11a for us to top rope. Sinks Canyon has all types of rock, but we were at a wall of dolomite, which means pockets!! Large holes dot the wall, some big enough to fit your whole hand into. They make great climbing holds. 😊
After we said goodbye to our climbing crew, we went back into town to grocery shop and make an early dinner. We headed back to Sinks Canyon for a short hike to the famous Popo Agie water slide. It’s a legendary smooth rock where hikers can slide down into a pool of water, just like at the water park.
At the parking lot for start of the hike, we met a woman who was unpacking her horse and mule. Her 3 Corgis were roaming the parking lot for pets and maybe some freebies. She was prepping for a 9 day pack trip by riding nearby trails with her mule and some weighted bags on her horse. It turns out she grew up in New York City! We chatted a bit about life in NYC and life in Wyoming. She left NYC as a teenager, came out West, and taught at NOLS for 40 years!
We set off on our hike as the sun was setting. Sinks Canyon has an interesting landscape. There are two climates within the canyon. The north side of the canyon is filled with conifers and gets more moisture from the storms that come through. The south side of the canyon is more arid and gets a lot more sunlight so there are fewer trees.
We finally arrived at the water slide. It was quiet since it was the end of the day, but I can imagine it a busy place on hot summer afternoons. We hiked back to the parking lot as the light was fading. It was a great end to our time in Lander. The next day we were on our way to Grand Teton National Park!