Unlike a lot of places, Wyoming is both a globally known destination and a very nice spot to live. Many vacation paradises lose their luster when you consider the logistics of everyday life and expenses; some locales are cozy places to call home but aren’t able to attract tourists. Wyoming has all it needs and more to shine in both arenas.

That meant that when my parents visited from the Midwest recently, they had the opportunity to enjoy Wyoming’s unique landmarks and landscapes, and my husband and I had the privilege of playing tourists in our own state. We love living in Casper, but I’m embarrassed to admit we don’t often make the time to travel to some of our state’s more far-flung attractions.

So during their visit, that’s exactly what we did. We planned a trip to the northeast corner of the state, where I have visited only a few times. Devils Tower would be the centerpiece of the excursion, but we would drop in on local cities for a meal and a cold drink, with the additional understanding that a dish of ice cream would not have to put up much of a fight to overcome our resistance.

That situation was precisely what we found in Gillette, where the golden evening light was settling softly over the city as we arrived. We asked for recommendations and soon enough found ourselves at a local wood-fired pizza joint, where we were delighted at the freshness of the ingredients. My father in particular became quickly devoted to a beer called Cowboy Joe, brewed using City Brew beans at Black Tooth Brewery in Sheridan. Shortly thereafter, we became very taken by the Ice Cream Cafe, a downtown Gillette institution that was buzzing on that weekday evening. (I can highly recommend the cookie dough flavor.) Downtown was tranquil as the sun sank low in the never-ending sky we share.

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We also toured Sheridan, a rustic beauty of a mountain city that I’ve never quite spent enough time in, to find meals that were memorable and views that were simply unforgettable. The little town of Story and the Bighorns, even in the height of the summer heat, were verdant and welcoming, and the whole area charmed all four of us. Kendrick Park’s resident bison and elk barely flickered an ear toward us during our visit, but we were enchanted by their proximity. Where else can you see bison solemnly overlooking a bustling swimming pool, as if on lifeguard duty? All they needed were red swimsuits and polarized sunglasses.

Devils Tower, of course, was to be the main event, and it did not disappoint. My husband and I had visited once before, when the SyFy channel hosted a screening of the cult classic “Close Encounters of the Third Kind” at the base of the tower a few years ago, but my parents had never seen the geological giant in Crook County. My dad had expressed interest in seeing it because he liked the movie, whereas my mother just appreciates a good rock formation. We parked easily and followed the trail around the tower, which rises suddenly from the surrounding hills like a magnificent fistful of pencils glued together. For much of this journey, we were surprisingly alone — barely aware that we were sharing the trail with other visitors. We watched spellbound, from prime viewing angles, as climbers descended almost effortlessly from the top of the tower. Our national parks may be getting more crowded as the years go by, and for good reason, but Devils Tower was a tourist’s playground that day. I’d guess it’s only a matter of time before everyone in the world finds out about it, so if it’s on your list, now is the time to explore.

When we arrived back at home, I felt renewed — as though I had been solidly away on vacation without the stresses of travel. I felt both incredibly lucky to have traveled the state with my family and incredibly lucky to have returned home. Wherever you go — out of the state, out of the country or out of the county — returning to your Wyoming hometown will never be a letdown.

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Mandy Lasky, a former Star-Tribune opinion editor, currently works for Make-A-Wish Wyoming in Casper. Her column about life in Casper and Wyoming has appeared on this page since 2016.


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