August 24, 2017

I have called Wyoming’s Wind River Country home for six years now, and like so many residents of so many places, I have seen too few of the attractions that lie beyond my routine and within a day’s drive.

In an effort to remedy this, I have set out to discover Wind River Country as a traveler might: googling, strolling, chatting up locals, and taking plenty of pictures doing things you’d only dare be caught doing away from your hometown.

My first hometown tourist destination was Dubois.

Absaroka Mountains Photo: Bill Sincavage
Absaroka Mountains Photo: Bill Sincavage

I tagged along with a colleague on one of her regular trips to and around Dubois, and we tacked on a stop at the Triangle C Ranch.

We made our first stop at Wind River Gear. The shop is sizeable and stocked with everything an outdoorsperson might need for a Wind River adventure. We browsed, got to know co-owner Amy Dvergsdal, and asked after the early summer traffic into the shop. Despite finding some adorable items in the bargain corner, I found a full-price fedora I couldn’t walk out of the store without. It will forever remind me that the reasons that make you want to call a place home are the reasons you should tirelessly explore it.

From there, we walked around the corner to Marlow’s Fly Shop and chatted with the fishing guides about the water and fishing conditions. My colleague never misses an opportunity for social media posts, which is why Wyoming’s Wind River Country has such faithful followers. When asked to play the social media star, Dennis passed the photo op to the younger Kurt who shyly obliged.  Some travelers stopped by to ask about lunch recommendations, and they took one of our tips to head next door to the Nostalgia Bistro.

Hometown Tourist: A Day in Dubois
The new managers of the Branding Iron inn were welcoming and entertaining.

Because part of what drew my colleague to Dubois was delivering visitors guides to lodging providers and businesses, we stopped at the varied hotels and motels along the main street of Ramshorn Street. I found myself planning stay-cations in several. Welcoming, cozy, luxurious, and character-rich lobbies and hosts welcomed us at every stop.

Having worked up an appetite, we pulled in at the corralled outdoor setting of Heart-Bar BBQ just off the main street, Ramshorn Street. Identifiable with buck-and-rail fence, a large sheep wagon, and assorted cowboy accoutrements, it is surrounded by old-school western music. The space welcomed us to Texas in the Wind Rivers. I was raised in a ranch-town in Wyoming and spent a handful of years in North Carolina, so I like to think I have a sharp nose and quick palate when it comes to identifying quality barbecue. This was absolutely divine barbecue. The owner/cook Buddy is entertaining, kind, and original.

Heart-Bar BBQ
The scene at Heart-Bar BBQ takes you from the mountains of Wyoming to the heat of Texas, just for a minute.

The lemonade that accompanied the ribs inspired our sweet teeth, so we also had to make a stop for chocolate and to indulge in a classic Dubois tourist activity: taking photos riding a giant jackalope.

In fact, there are two giant jackalopes residing at the Exxon gas station on Ramshorn Street in the heart of Dubois. Both are meant to be climbed on and photographed. So we did. The jackalope is a comical mythical rural legend to tease tourists with: a jack rabbit with deer antlers (nope, not antelope horns). In Dubois, you’ll find the jackalope’s absurdity elevated to about 10 feet and with a saddle on top. Twice. If you don’t climb on up at get a photo, you’ll see someone else post a photo next week and wish you had!

From the kitschy West, we moved on to the dude’s West: The Triangle C guest ranch, one of many historic dude ranches in the valley. Recently purchased by world-class horse trainer and clinician Chris Cox, the guest ranch is now offering horsemanship clinics on top of the traditional dude-ranch experience. We spent a few hours chatting with the new owner and touring the grounds, which you can read about here. My colleague and I both admitted to imagining family reunions and board retreats on the ranch.

From the new, we moved next to the gently used. Dubois’ thrift store is one of the more impressive retail settings I’ve experienced. The grocery-store sized building is packed—tightly—with opportunities and sparks of inspiration ranging from pajamas to kitchen fixtures. Hence the name: The Opportunity Shop. Travelers frequently stop in for an extra jacket, hat, or book while on the road, making this thrift shop in Dubois, Wyoming a place full of stories from around the globe.

Coffee drinks
Cheers! We were worn out from a fun day, so our last photo of the day wasn’t our best!

After a full day of exploring a town I now know better, we had to refuel and re-caffeinate. From The Opportunity Shop, we crossed the street and picked up some frappuccinos at The Perch. We headed home from Dubois with our thirst and our wanderlust satiated—at least until our next hometown destination exploration!

Posted in Notes From the Field