wyoming’s first tourist attraction

One night when I was pouring over my atlas with new friends in South Dakota, they pointed out Ayers Natural Bridge Park and I circled it on the map for when I got into Wyoming.  Floyd and Shirley mentioned this place was gorgeous and the camping was free.  

Ayers Bridge is apparently just a mile south of the Oregon Trail and many emigrants would visit it as they passed through (hence one of Wyoming’s first tourist attractions).  It was the homestead of the Ayers family for decades.  I believe the story goes that the Native Americans in this area were fearful of this place because a young brave was struck by lightening and killed at the arch, which led to a legend of an evil spirit, “King of Beasts,” who lived under the bridge.  Since the Native tribes stayed away, it was a protected place for settlers who came through the area and, eventually, for the Ayers family to settle.  Andrew Ayers donated the land to the county back in 1920, making it a public space.

Michael and Erica joined me for two of the three nights I was there before we finally decided to break up our camping love affair and part ways.  Much like Cheyenne Campground, Ayers Natural Bridge Park was a respite - a place where we got to explore some of the incredible beauty of this park, but didn’t have this nagging feeling that there was a lot to check off our to-do lists.

We met a couple who was from the area and we spent our second night with them, listening to recounts of crazy life experiences, tutorials on nature’s medicinal plants and how varied they are, and stories of love through World of Warcraft.

Much like a few posts before this, it is also a collection of photographs of my time there.

The golden road to Wyoming

Campsite 6, Ayers Natural Bridge Park

Over yonder with Polar sleeping bag dresses

Morning light under the bridge

Roads of Wyoming, number 4 in a series of 17,965

Glowing rocks

Group selfies on the bridge

Obligatory sunset panorama

This is Naomi and Charles.  They met about four or five years ago through World of Warcraft.  She was living in Eastern Washington at the time and, after spending seven months on the phone every night, Charles eventually came to visit Naomi for a week.  He was miserable after getting home and moved to live with her a month later.  They moved back to Douglas, Wyoming a few years ago after having a hard time finding work in Washington.  Naomi took us on a weed walk where she pointed out different plants and weeds and their medicinal uses, which was fascinating.  That was a true highlight of this camping spot and Naomi really did have a healer quality about her.  Our second night, Charles told us a lot of stories from his life...and has he ever lived a life.  He's traveled all over, been homeless at times, had two of his teeth kicked out in a bar fight outside of Houston - when the cops showed up to reassemble the peace, he had nine teeth in his hand and knew two were his.  The were a colorful couple who were very much in love and had each other's backs.  I was glad to get to know them.

Still life with ukelele

Our last group picture before our time together came to an end.  Sometimes it's amazing to me how strangers can come together and, in a matter of just a few days, form a friendship that sometimes takes others years to accomplish.

The sun shone down in the most gorgeous of ways on my journey out