When the month of May arrived, our entire family was suffering from cabin fever. After so many months of school, cold weather and deadlines at work, we were more than ready for a little family vacation—one that’s warm, one that’s outdoors, one that’s in Casper, Wyoming. My best friend had taken her family there the summer before and was still talking about the fun memories they made, so this destination felt right to me.
The kids had never heard of Casper, but couldn’t wait to get going once my husband, Jon, and I informed them that there would be hiking and biking. The kids—Claire, 17, Patrick, 15 and Anna, 12—were old enough that we knew we could really enjoy an active trip all together. And it was sure to help us rid ourselves of cabin fever for good.
We arrived in Casper, unhooked our bikes from the car rack and immediately set off exploring the trails of Casper Mountain, just 15 minutes away from the same city center that boasted a thriving nightlife. The bright blue sky was filled with fluffy white clouds as we set a comfortable pace surrounded by towering pine trees. Anna easily kept up with her older siblings, and Jon and I shared a smile as we watched them laugh together, happy to be active outdoors again after a long winter. There were a couple climbs, followed by fun downhill tracks. Challenging enough to keep us on our toes, but not so difficult that we weren’t still up for a couple adventures after.
My friend had told us about the Platte River Parkway, an urban set of trails connecting many of Casper’s attractions, and since the kids still had some energy to burn, we decided to explore. Starting at White Water Park, Claire, Patrick and Anna got a kick out of spotting kayakers, clad in bright orange life vests, weaving their way through the rapidly flowing water. Patrick exclaimed “I bet I could do that! Can we try it the next time we’re here?” I smiled. I loved his enthusiasm, and that after only one day in Casper, he already wanted to come back.
Continuing on the parkway, we strolled past the Three Crowns Golf Club—which boasted rolling greens and gorgeous river view—and made our way to Fort Caspar, a reconstructed 1865 military post. All of us loved wandering into the old buildings, and we even learned a few things about Wyoming’s regional history. The kids were all familiar with pioneers who journeyed westward, and they were fascinated when they discovered that travelers on the Oregon, Mormon and California Trails all passed through Casper on their journeys. Soon it was time for our day’s journey to end, and we gratefully returned to our hotel for some well-earned rest.
We decided that our next day should be spent taking it easy, so we headed toward the National Historic Trails Interpretive Center in town. One of the state’s first museums, the center allows visitors to experience what it took to get to the area on the Oregon Trail, California Trail, Mormon Trail, Bozeman Trail, Bridger Trail and Pony Express Trail.
The entrance is shaped like the curved top of a covered wagon, and Claire, Patrick and Anna got to sit in one on a simulated crossing of the North Platte River. The center wasn’t all about fun, though—westward expansion came with turmoil and challenges, and diseases such as typhoid and cholera and dysentery.
“Cabin fever has absolutely nothing on these,” Claire said.
Visiting the center put into perspective what true hardship is for my children, whose lives are vastly different than the pioneers’.
We started our final day hiking the Garden Creek Falls trail, a 2.5-mile loop—located in Rotary Park, at the base of Casper Mountain—that leads to 120-foot falls. The trek was easy, and it was exciting to hear rushing water get louder and louder as we got closer to the falls. We felt small gazing upon the white water—plants sprouting from fissures in the rocks added bursts of green, and the sun highlighted different rocks to create ever-changing shadows as it moved overhead. Our family munched on the lunches we brought with us as the falls cascaded down the wall of rock behind us.
It was hard to leave this area’s beauty, so we decided against it. We hiked back into town to collect our car, then took a scenic drive to the top of the mountain—at 8,130 feet—to see if we could spot any wildlife and gaze at Casper below us. I turned around halfway through the drive to see Claire laughing with Anna, and was thrilled that all this outdoors time was so invigorating for all of us.
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