Sunday, July 17, 2016

Highs and Lows of Wyoming

When traveling west across Wyoming on I-90, it is distressing to see the amount of environmental destruction around Gillette.  One of the largest strip mines in the US is visible from the highway. The coal used to power the energy plants in and around Kansas City comes from Gillette, for example. Gillette provides about a third of the coal used in the US. Some of the people that my wife and I came into contact with during our trip said that Gillette has been losing population because of the decreased demand for oil.  Hydraulic fracturing is another energy industry around Gillette. Dick Cheney, the vice-president under Bush, Jr., and the former CEO of Halliburton, the company that patented the process, was partly raised in Wyoming.

It was equally distressing when traveling south from Gillette, through Thunder Basin National Grassland, to discover that the Forest Service allows the grassland to be destroyed by the drilling for oil and gas and the extraction of coal. I was expecting to see miles of undisturbed grassland. I had even convinced my wife to alter our route so that we could travel through the grasslands instead of passing through Casper.

Despite these low points, we were fortunate to spend two nights in Buffalo, Wyoming, which is approximately halfway across the state. Our hotel room looked onto the Bighorn Mountains. On our second day in Buffalo, we drove the Cloud Peak Skyway, US 16, from Buffalo to Tensleep. That route offers a lot of mountain scenery--something that makes the trip across Wyoming worthwhile.  It wasn't until we returned home that I discovered that a high school classmate of mine lives outside of Buffalo. My wife and I have since talked about moving to Wyoming, probably somewhere within sight of the Bighorn Mountains.