Lost in Wyoming

When I left Australia, after a year of backpacking, I wasn’t sure what the next step was. I had the last twelve months traveling around a beautiful country but feeling pretty alone and stressed about money. I wanted to put down roots. I wanted friends that I saw every week. I wanted to be a part of a community.

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But moving isn’t cheap and going to any new place without at least enough for rent isn’t a good plan. I was home for about six weeks before I found a job on CoolWorks.com in Wyoming. CoolWorks.com is a website that lists seasonal jobs all over the US. It’s an awesome website and I used to apply for several positions. My criteria included:

  • Job must be in or near a national/state park
  • Job must be in a location I will probably not get the opportunity to live in otherwise
  • Room & board must be included

And so for one six month season I ended up near the east entrance of Yellowstone National Park. The closest town was Cody, Wyoming population about 9,000. My job was pretty all over the place. I worked in the kitchen cooking both guest and staff meals and doing a lot of the meal planning. Multiple mornings a week I ran the front desk, answering the phone and booking rooms at the lodge. Some nights I tended bar making drinks by looking up the recipes or having the customers explain the exactly “how they liked it”. If I wasn’t doing any of those things, I was cleaning rooms. It was a small staff and everyone was expected to pitch in no matter the task.

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I can’t stay I enjoyed working there although I’m glad I went. I learned my way around a kitchen in Wyoming. I baked enormous batches of bread, dinner rolls and cinnamon rolls multiple times a week, kneading it all by hand. We’d make every soup from scratch and fresh pies and cakes a couple times a week. We did it all without the help of the Internet. Just cookbooks and calls home. I didn’t learn to delegate or ask for help and most of the time my frustration was out of proportion to the situation but I gained an enormous amount of confidence in myself. I do not fear recipes any longer.

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Photo credit: Elephant Head Lodge

I also learned to hike. I’ve mentioned here before my friend who taught me about hiking. Sure I’d hiked before in North Carolina or even in Australia but never in a challenging situation. North Carolina’s highest peak is 6,500 ft which is the same altitude of the lodge where I lived. So…everything’s up from there. If you haven’t experience high altitude before, it can be a bit of a shock. In Yellowstone, on a day off by myself, I hiked to a peak over 10,000 ft. I did it to prove it to my coworkers and myself that I was tough enough. It was fantastic.

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My six months in Wyoming are some of my least favorite to reflect on. Yes, I like thinking about all the beautiful nature I experienced and all that I learned  but I don’t like the person I was during that time. I felt more lost than I’ve ever been having failed to have the epiphany I hoped for in Australia. My interactions with others encouraged them to treat me with less respect and my negative attitude, I fear, bred more negativity in others.

Despite all of that I met some pretty great people there, many of whom were going through their own tough times. This week the second of two friends from that season passed away. My heart feels heavy with all the distance that was between us when once I valued that friendship so highly. My heart breaks for his short life and that those he leaves behind will feel his absence for such a long time.

So I’m spending this week reflecting on the good memories from Yellowstone Highway and the good folks I was fortunate enough to spend time with. I highly recommend you try it too.leftovers

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