Sunday, December 21, 2014

Westward to Wyoming!

(I decided to launch Wyoming a day early since we're getting all in we can - bear with me this week posts will be hit and miss!  Tomorrow we'll be back learning about geysers (with experiments!), making a different edible coal with popcorn and the kids and are going to be hanging out and making some other Christmas treats.  It'll be lovely- check in then!)

Forty-Eight down and two to go over the next 10 days!  (Oh and we’ve apparently got to fit this Christmas thing in there too…)  Bear with me until the end of the year – I promise to do justice to ALL fifty states.  I mean, I stuck with North Dakota for a full week (yep, STILL bitter) and I’ve got plenty left to share!  We’re going to devote the next few days to taking a closer look at a state known for geysers, equality and one really big rodeo.  I didn’t have nearly the trouble as I did with North Dakota, but fair warning that while filled with beautiful scenery, the 44th state to join the Union isn’t filled with a whole lotta of noteworthy ‘famous for’ stuff.  So it’ll be a short blog!  Either way, I’m excited to introduce the great state of Wyoming.  So without further ado…

Even before I started any research, the first thing that popped into my head about Wyoming was Yellowstone National Park.   Established in 1872 as America's first national park, the purpose was to help preserve the wildlife and showcase the unique geothermic features throughout the Park.  Yellowstone spans an area of 3,468.4 square miles and is centered over the Yellowstone Caldera, the largest supervolcano on the continent.  It is this caldera (which is considered to be an active volcano) that creates 10,000 thermal features in the Park, including about 500 geysers, as well as hot springs and mudpots.  The most famed of these thermal features is “Old Faithful.”  The geyser was named by the first official expedition to Yellowstone in 1870 during the Washburn-Langford-Doane Expedition.  Though not the largest in the park, the explorers were impressed with not only the size, but the frequency of Old Faithful’s eruptions.  Old Faithful erupts every 35 to 120 minutes for 1 1/2 to 5 minutes with a height range off 90 to 184 feet.   When erupting Old Faithful can shoot 3,700 to 8,400 gallons of boiling water to a height of 106 to 185 feet!

Located very nearby (only about 10 miles separate the two) to Yellowstone, is Grand Teton National Park.  The Park contains approximately 310,000 acres and includes the major peaks of the 40-mile-long Teton RangeGrand Teton National Park is an almost pristine ecosystem and the same species of flora and fauna that have existed since prehistoric times can still be found there.  One of the most well-known features of Grand Teton National Park (just Grand Teton is actually a reference to the highest mountain in the range, for your information!) is the valley known as Jackson Hole.  “Hole” comes from early trappers who entered the valley from the north and east and had to descend along steep slopes, giving the sensation of entering a hole.  The trappers were drawn to the area for its many rivers and streams, which were good habitat for beaver and other fur-bearing animals.  Jackson Hole is a popular tourist destination, especially for skiers and snowmobilers in winter months and hikers, bikers and hang gliders when its warmer.

Speaking of tourists, outside of its draw via the Park system, the hands down largest event in Wyoming is Cheyenne Frontier Days.  The event began in 1987 and every year plays host to the world’s largest outdoor rodeo, which draws top professionals who compete for more than $1 million in cash and prizes.  The event also features a Native American Village, an old frontier town, a saloon, square dancing, a chuck wagon cook-off, pancake breakfasts, an art show,  a carnival midway, an air show, top-name entertainment, professional bull riding shows and several parades that include antique carriages and automobiles.  Annually, Cheyenne Frontier Days draws about 200,000 visitors during its 10 day run in July.  There is even an Old West Museum that showcases a history of the event as well as western artifacts, a history of pioneers to the area and an interactive area for kids. 

Sounds to me like the event has something for everyone, that it’s rather ‘equal opportunity’ – kind of like the rest of Wyoming!   It was on December 10, 1869 that Wyoming became the first U.S. territory to allow women the right to vote.  You read that correctly – BEFORE Wyoming became a state.  In fact, they granted woman this right partially just so they COULD become a state.  At the time, there were six adult men in the Territory for every adult woman, and very few children – not the most hopeful outlook for petitioning to be added to the Union.  It was the hope that passing the law would be a way to gain publicity and entice more pioneers to settle in the territory.  Once passed, the law extended voting rights to “every woman of the age of twenty-one years, residing in this Territory.”  Within a year, women were sitting on juries, acting as justices of the peace, and in 1924 had the nation’s first female governor in Nellie Tayloe Ross.  Upon the death of her then acting governor husband, Nellie was nominated by the Democratic party to run in a special election.  In 1933 she was appointed Director of the US Mint – a position she held for 20 years.  Nellie Tayloe Ross continues to be the only woman who ever served as governor of Wyoming.

You may remember back a few weeks ago to West Virginia, when I told you they were the second largest producer of coal.  Well, that’s because they fall behind Wyoming in coal production!  Wyoming accounts for a whopping 39% of the nation’s coal production.  In 2013, Wyoming mines employed around 6,500 Wyomingites (had to look that one up and offer proof!) and produced 387,995,072tons of coal.  The state’s largest producing mine (and second largest in the nation), Black Thunder Coal Mine, accounts for 20% of the state’s total coal output.  This one mine produces 8% of all the coal in the United States!  The coal produced in Wyoming is imperative for the nation as coal supplies more than half of the electricity used in the United States.  Guess it’s a good thing Wyoming let women vote, it attracted people to the area and it became a state (the 44th in 1890 in case you were wondering).

Since I started with a famous Wyoming icon in “Old Faithful” it seems appropriate to wrap it up that way as well.  Devils Tower is a National Monument located in the Bear Lodge Mountains.  And like Yellowstone was the first national park – Devils Tower is actually the first national monument!  The odd looking rock formation rises 1,267 feet above the surrounding terrain, to a total of 5,114 feet above sea level.  The ancient Native Americans have several stories that explain its creation. In one two girls playing in the woods are chased by an enormous bear. The girls jump on top of a rock, but it is too small to give them safety. The Great Spirit sees the girls' predicament and causes the rock to grown to an immense size. The giant bear jumps at the girls, but cannot reach the top. His claws leave the gouges in the side of the rock that can still be seen today.  (From the Museum of Unnatural Mystery)  In recent years climbing the tower has gained popularity.  The difficulty of these climbs can range from relatively easy (so sayeth the national parks system…) to some of the hardest in the world.  Personally, I think it’s cool to look at and speculate about how it came to be, no need to try to scale it.

Our culinary adventure in Wyoming is going to be pretty short lived due to Christmas this week.  In fact, I can’t say I was really overwhelmed by any of the recipes I found – anything that is super unique to Wyoming if you will.  Lots of stews, chilis and typical ‘western’ fair.  Keep checking back to see what I may decide to try my hand at this week.  Tonight I made our last Wisconsin dish of Broccoli Cheese Quiche (per Grant's request) before the crew headed off to Plymouth to see Polar Express at the Penn.  Me, I'm eyeball deep in Miss Direction getting ready for our official launch there!

And in the meantime…  stay with us for plenty of fun this week!  Until then…

Wyoming Fun Fact of the Day:  The Wind River actually changes its name in the middle of the stream becoming the Big Horn River at a site at the north end of the Wind River Canyon, where each year the Native Americans hold a ceremony depicting the "Wedding of the Waters."

Wyoming Wall is up!

We went ahead and tackled the We've Been There state - nope, no Gatchel's


They got Farkle today from the last "See Mom" on the advent calendar

So we of course had to try it out

Broccoli Cheese Quiche - so sad to be leaving our culinary adventure in Wisconsin

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