Have You Ever Stayed in Baggs, Wyoming?
By Lynn Harlan
Last month, I invited my sister to come to Arizona and do some riding near the striking Santa Catalina Mountains, east of Tucson, Ariz. I loaded up the living quarters horse trailer, grabbed my good ol’ boy out of a snowbank and headed south on Feb. 2.
I had to stop in Alcova for three hours to wait for the road to Muddy Gap to open – if only I had known this was the precursor to my adventure.
I made it to Arizona in good shape, picked up my sister at the airport in Phoenix and headed south. We set up camp at Catalina State Park and had great days of riding on the trails, serenaded by stately saguaro cactus, tinkling waterfalls and warm weather.
Oh, and a couple of margaritas.
A few days later, we headed back to the Phoenix area for my sister’s flight. That weekend Phoenix was hosting the Super Bowl and the Phoenix Open Golf Tournament. Phoenix is big enough to handle all those folks.
My sister headed back to wintry Colorado, and I camped out at the home of my Wyoming/Arizona friend Renee from Buffalo. Then, the cool, rainy weather set in for a few days.
Arizona has had plenty of cool, wet weather this winter. The desert will be abloom with color this spring.
Unfortunately, at home in Wyoming, the only color was still white. I did some more riding and camping, but on one phone call home, Bob said, “We could probably use you.”
I looked at the weather only to see a big storm was looming, so I decided to try and beat the storm home. I made it to Baggs.
I arrived in Baggs before the big snow of Feb. 21-22, but I was unaware of just how much the wind was blowing old snow around and keeping most of Interstate 80 (I-80) closed through February, specifically the road north of Baggs to Creston Junction, where it meets I-80.
I had a window of two mornings where if the wind would die down, the road would be open and I could strike for home – it didn’t happen.
If a person is anything like me, they’ve only driven through Baggs on their way to Craig, Colo., Meeker, Colo., Grand Junction, Colo., Moab, Utah and on to Arizona – the shortest route from Kaycee.
Baggs has kind of a drab main street – in winter anyway. If a person turns east, they’ll drive through the Little Snake River Valley – population 406 – which is spectacular. I spent five days and nights in the area and learned more about the town.
There is a restaurant with a bar on main street. It’s worth a look for the wonderful blue pine interior – blue pine is made from resin left in the tree by pine beetles.
I stopped and asked about a place to stay with my horse and dog. Soon I was headed seven miles east to Dixon – population 77. There is a huge indoor arena complex a little east of Dixon – the Russell Community Park – named after the family who donated the land.
This indoor arena was built in 1990 with grants and is overseen by a local board which has added to and maintained the facility.
I was able to pull my big living quarters horse trailer inside the arena, hook up to electricity, turn my horse and dog loose and wait out the storm. The arena even had a heated restroom. It was going to be as good as it gets.
A nice neighbor helped me get settled in and even loaned me an extra heater for the cold nights. She told me the grocery store restocked on Tuesday, so I headed in for groceries and to check out more of Baggs.
There is a wonderful branch library where I picked up some books and a few DVDs. The grocery store is run by a pair of sisters who grind hamburger meat every day and cut steaks once a week.
They have an awesome selection from A to Z – alcohol, avocados and Zesta saltines. I stocked my fridge.
One day, I went to the community center and had a glorious five dollar shower with unlimited hot water. I found the laundromat and the gas station to fill my propane bottle.
In the end, Baggs didn’t get much snow or wind. But, just a few miles north, the storm struck with heavy snow and unrelenting wind.
The search and rescue team went out on Wednesday night to pick up an oilfield worker. They ended up bringing in 11 guys the same night.
I did treat myself to some socializing in the one restaurant and bar in town. It served good food, by the way. I taught the game of cribbage to a couple of young guys one afternoon – one from Georgia and one from Virginia. There were folks from all over waiting out the blizzard.
On our daily phone calls, I would tell Bob, “If I could just get to Rawlins.” He assured me I was in the best place.
There were days when sections of I-80 were open, but the road from Baggs to Creston Junction was not. Too much snow and wind, and the plows were keeping busy trying to get the interstate open.
Finally, on Feb. 25, I was able to get to Rawlins, where I pulled into the fairgrounds. My horse was getting spoiled – he spent the night in a heated barn.
The next morning, I headed out early for Laramie on I-80, as the two-lane road to Muddy Gap had little chance of opening anytime soon.
It was a beautiful day for a drive – clear roads and no wind. I drove through Laramie, Sybille Canyon, Wheatland and Casper. I didn’t hit wind until I stopped for fuel in Casper.
It took me a week to get home, and I drove home on the one day I-80 was open.
There are wonderful folks in Baggs, just like any small town in Wyoming. I’ll have to go back in the summer to visit the Little Snake River Museum, as it’s closed during winter months.
We’re still having winter at our place, and it’s getting serious with heifers calving, cows to start soon and sheep shearing coming up. There is still so much snow.
Can we hope for a nice day on March 20, the first day of spring? How about an Easter thaw?
At least when the snow melts it might fill the reservoirs. I’ll be glad when the winter of 2023 is in the books.