If you’re just joining the Unminivan Road Trip party, check out this post to find out what we did in Wyoming before we got to this point.
Today’s lesson: Always take the scenic route.
We very nearly skipped our planned highway detour from I-80 through the Medicine Bow National Forest because the weather forecast was so bleak. Dark clouds engulfed what we could see of the distant Snowy Mountain Range, and as sea-level-accustomed Floridians, we didn’t quite know how to react if faced with a storm on windy, steep, high-altitude mountain roads. The idea of getting stuck at 10,000 feet in a summer deluge was more than enough to make us stop our Ford Transit Connect at the fork in the road and have a serious conversation about safety.
It was a total Robert Frost moment. And like Frost, we’re so glad we took the road less traveled.
After a quick pit stop at the Visitor’s Center, where the curious rangers asked if we were in a country music band – thank you, cowboy hats from Party City – we were on our way.
The Snowy Range Scenic Byway in southern Wyoming crosses the Medicine Bow Mountain Range for 29 miles of Wyoming Highway 130. The route rises from about 8,000 feet in the adorable little pioneer town of Centennial to a height of 10,847 feet above sea level in the midst of the byway.
Moose? Caribou? We don’t know – they were big and awesome and almost the same size as the mosquitoes.
Roadtrippers.com told us that driving from one end of the byway to the other would take about an hour, but we were in no hurry to race through the wilderness. We must’ve pulled over our Transit Connect every 100 yards – there was so much natural beauty, so many vistas, so many pictures to take.
As we stopped and photographed along the way, I told Alex and Rae that I’d read somewhere that there might be snow in the Snowy Wyoming Mountains. We totally dismissed the notion outright.
It was July. There can’t be snow in July… right?
The moment Alex first saw snow
I should probably explain what the sight of unexpected snow can do to a Floridian, because if you grew up with snow or you come from a family who travels to ski, it might not seem like a huge deal.
For the three of us, snow is just the be all, end all.
It is mythical, holy grail-type stuff. Something we get to experience much less often than the Olympics. Magical, mysterious, once-in-a-lifetime white rain from the clouds that comes down expressly to make everything into a winter wonderland ready for hours and hours of fun.
Snow came to our house once, in 1989. If you ask any kid from Jacksonville about Florida’s one and only White Christmas, you’ll likely hear a weather story that sounds absurdly ridiculous to anyone who lives “up north.” That 1/2 inch of white Floridian snow was the most amazing thing that ever happened to me… at least up to that point.
Now back to Wyoming, where we three Orth siblings on our #OrthAmerica adventure, at the same time, saw a pile of what looked like it could possibly be snow.
A pile of snow and my two siblings racing to chuck it at each other.
We whipped off to the side and jumped out of the Unminivan, running over to the nearest pile.
Why hadn’t it melted? It wasn’t all that cold outside. You can see Rae and I are wearing summer dresses, and we weren’t freezing by any stretch… so what’s in this magical non-melty stuff?
We kicked at the pile to confirm our suspicions.
It’s snow! SNOW! In July!
We frolicked and made icy snowballs with gloveless hands. We pelted each other and laughed our heads off and brushed icy crystals off cowboy hats. Wyoming Wyoming
We smiled those big smiles you only get when you’re kid-happy, like nothing-in-the-world matters but this moment, this playtime, this adventure… that kind of happy. Wyoming
If anyone had seen us out there in the wilderness, whooping and hollering in our wild west attire, they’d likely have reported us to the authorities. We undoubtedly looked like true lunatics.
But it really was such a fun treat.
July snow, crisp mountain air, brooding clouds, that particular brand of silence you can only find way out in the wilderness, snowmen, dinosaurs… and those ginormous mosquitoes.
What’s more Wild, Wild West than all that?
The only downside of road-tripping through the Snowy Mountains was the length of the byway — 29 miles was much too short. We lamented over and over how we wished we had more time to camp and hike.
I expect we’ll be back to do just that.
Wondering what in the world we were doing out west with Ford? Check out the details here, or check out our video trailer below.