Jagged rocks of South Gap Lakes Trail are slick with Wyoming’s first snow of the winter. This morning this Ontario Canada girl left Vee Bar Guest Ranch near Laramie where the scenery was all golden light, faint autumn breezes and babbling brooks only to find winter here.
I came to explore Wyoming and had zero intentions of finding snow. My city in southern Ontario nets more than enough snow from December through end of March that I need not hunt more down. And yet here in the mountains of Medicine Bow National Forest finding the first snow of the season is bizarrely up-lifting. It somehow warms my heart knowing ski season is just around the corner. That first snow is just a taste of what will come.
Up We Go
Up a rocky granite ledge, I trail behind several other women. I am not the fastest or the youngest member here, nor am I the oldest of the group. Slow but steady finishes the race. You got this, I tell myself. My goal is to finish this hike.
Earlier this morning we met at Mountainview Historic Inn and Cafe for a hearty breakfast before a briefing from Rebecca Walsh, owner of Hike Like a Woman. Then we take a twenty minute drive into the mountains up towards the trailhead. There’s a picnic stop and there are washroom facilities at the trailhead.
The scenery in Laramie rolls on for hours, or so it seems and then suddenly mountains, lakes, trails reveal themselves against topaz blue skies. The contrast is everything. The Gap Lakes trail is divided by south and north. There are several other trails out here as well.
Rebecca Walsh, is leading us answering our questions, and talking about Laramie. Near the end of the line, there’s a trail guide who resembles Arya Stark from Game of Thrones.
Morgan and Marley also work with Hike Like a Woman.
Overnight, Wyoming’s first snow of the season has made the edges of the mountains of Medicine Bow National Forest crisper, the ripples in the water cleaner. Jagged rocks land like a chaotic 3-dimensional puzzle. But that chill air is nipping at my lungs. It’s no minus 20 Celsius for sure, but the air, the cold and the altitude altogether with the rocky terrain are reminding me I am not twenty or even thirty any more.
South Gap Lakes Trail begins at Lewis Lake and it rolls up hill, across a small stream. A break in the trail reveals a tiny pica skittering in between the rocks, barely visible.
On an average morning, this trail through the forest would be challenging. Today it’s a bit slick and the rocks are in some spots not broad enough for the width of a foot.
Gap Lakes Trail ranges in elevation from 10,760 feet at the trailhead to 11,000 feet between North and South Gap Lakes Trail. Planning to visit? Check out Just Trails information on the Gap Lakes Trail.
Just over an incline, we pause to watch two cyclists tackling the same path we’ve just came up, jackknifing up and then down. When one gets stuck, he climbs back up from the top and starts again. He does this maybe three times before finally mastering the hairpin turn, cycling down perfectly, bouncing from rock to rock and we all applaud when finally they succeed.
I am with a group of travel writers touring Wyoming on a media trip. This group of women hails from Oregon, Denver, California and Canada.
The hike planned for today is two miles out and two miles back. Less than halfway through the hike at least two of our members turn back. This is my most challenging hike to date. The air is thinner than I am used to, and my legs are slowly turning to lead. I could have turned back at several points, but didn’t. At the end of the hike when we all pause to eat, hydrate and reflect, I realize the length of the hike and am filled with pride. It is a highlight of my trip to Wyoming.
This group, and this hike, is just a sample of what Rebecca and Hike Like a Woman women’s hiking tours, often offers groups just like ours. She also does overnight women only hiking excursions.
Walsh, who was in the army for 8 years, decided to settle in Laramie when she and her husband were getting ready to leave active duty. “We asked ourselves where the last place was that we really enjoyed. The answer was Laramie.”
Hike Like a Woman offers: hikes and retreats. The business also has a thriving online community. Rebecca started her business with a parenting blog and now has a Podcast all about hiking. She is a mother of two, ages five and seven.
“There are people that sit back and say oh I can’t do that. I’m not smart enough. I’m not brave enough. I can’t do that, period and there’s others just do it. …When I’m out on the trails with Hike Like a Woman on a retreat or what not I think that’s when we are our best selves. We don’t care about our homes or a children’s behaviour,” says Rebecca.
Laramie is a good area for small business in general according to Walsh. Laramie is 7200 feet above sea level, so people come specifically for hiking. The Gap Lakes Trail is a big draw.
Walsh also owns an outdoor sports gear store called Basecamp, a store for people who want to get outside.
“We have women who come on a hike and they are in their late 50s and 60s. Age is not an issue.”
“Ultimately, I just want to help people get outside.”