Camping at Ryan Park Campground in Medicine Bow National Forest

Published: July 8th 2013
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Our Drive Through Wyoming to Ryan Park Campground

When You Gotta Go, You Gotta GoWhen You Gotta Go, You Gotta GoWhen You Gotta Go, You Gotta Go

We were in the middle of nowhere in Wyoming when Oliver announced he had to poop. It's a good thing we thought to bring a kid potty with us on the road trip. We pulled over and let Oliver do his business on the roadside.
From Bear Lake State Park in Utah, we set out for our destination for the night: Ryan Park Campground in Medicine Bow National Forest (Wyoming). We made another big stop in Rock Springs, Wyoming, to stock up on some groceries at a Walmart. They didn't sell firewood, but we got everything else we needed. We took I-80 to Wyoming Highway 130, which led us through the small town of Saratoga. We kept our eyes peeled for signs advertising firewood but saw none. It wasn't until we found a little general store just outside of Medicine Bow that we found some firewood to purchase. The couple running the store sold bundles for $5. I bought two. On the one hand, it was a good purchase because our campground didn't sell any. It still ended up being a waste of money, though, because the last people who used the site left a ton of wood!

Medicine Bow is beautiful. We drove through the western part and enjoyed thick forests of trees. Sadly, the area was heavily damaged by pine beetle. We have that problem in Colorado, too. The invasive species of beetle kills trees, leaving the dead tree standing and creating perfect
Medicine Bow National Forest in WyomingMedicine Bow National Forest in WyomingMedicine Bow National Forest in Wyoming

There are so many dead trees--killed by the pine beetle--here.
fuel for wildfires.

We finally pulled into Ryan Park Campground around 6pm. Google Maps had us turn off of Wyoming Highway 130, but those directions were incorrect. The campground is right on the north side of the highway, no need to turn until you are turning directly into the campground. The camp sites are $10 a piece. I was worried about everything getting booked up for the holiday weekend, so I reserved online ahead of time, which cost an additional $9. We drove through the campground a bit. There were some open sites, some occupied sites, and a number of sites with reserved tags on them. When we finally located campsite number 7, which I'd reserved a week ago, it was unoccupied but wasn't reserved. It looked like that previous occupants had recently left because the fire was smoldering. I'd paid for the site, but there was nothing marking the site paid. I decided we would deal with any issues later if they came up, so we just set up camp and didn't worry about the fact that we didn't have a ticket hanging on our site.

The campground itself was gorgeous. The sites weren't all crammed together
Jo (AKA "Pig Pen") Loves Dirt.Jo (AKA "Pig Pen") Loves Dirt.Jo (AKA "Pig Pen") Loves Dirt.

We set up camp at Ryan Park Campground in Medicine Bow National Forest, and Jo immediately made herself at home in the dirt.
like you see in some campgrounds. There was space, and there were trees everywhere that provided shade and privacy. I couldn't see any water, but we could hear water running from a nearby creek or river. It was peaceful. While there might have been some sites with RV hook-ups (I'm unsure), ours was a primitive site with no electricity or water. In fact, there was no potable water in the campground at all. We had to make due with the gallon of water we'd purchased "just in case." There were no flushing toilets at the campground, either, but the outhouses were very nice, odorless, and clean.

When I reserved the site, I read a very brief but interesting note that Ryan Park Campground used to be a WWII prisoner of war camp. That seemed a little odd (doesn't it?). Why would prisoners of war from a war in Europe be kept in the United States at all, much less in the Wyoming mountains? It's odd, but it's also the truth. Apparently, due to overcrowding, some POWs were brought to the US. Some Italians, Austrians, and Germans were kept at Ryan Park. When I tried to dig up some more
Setting Up TentSetting Up TentSetting Up Tent

We set up our tent at campsite number 7 in Ryan Park Campground.
information, I even read that you can see a collections of items that those very prisoners made at the Wyoming State Museum in Cheyenne (free admission!). I think that is so fascinating, but I also know there was no way we'd get through a museum exhibit with a 3 year old and 1 year old already grumpy from a road trip. It will have to be a stop for another time. If you are interested, there is an online exhibit from the Wyoming State Museum here:

We got to work setting up camp. I explained to Oliver that we had to build our house, which was called a tent. He was fascinated by Andrew and me putting together poles and getting the tent set up. Joanna occupied herself by playing with dirt and rocks. She was filthy within a matter of minutes. Once we got the tent set up, I busied myself by setting up all the sleeping bags and Jo's pack-n-play. Andrew built a fire. Unlike in Colorado right now, fires are allowed in Wyoming, provided they are built in a permanent fire pit set up at campsites like ours. Oliver loved the fire, and we set up rules for him to enjoy it. He had to stay a certain distance from the fire pit, but then he could toss little sticks into it. He had so much fun! The firewood took a long time to burn down to coals, so Andrew set up a propane cooking stove that his parents had lent us. We were all so hungry, so he quickly whipped up some Ramen noodles to tide us over while he worked on other dishes. He grilled up some Gardein (vegetarian "chicken"), and Oliver mixed up some cornbread batter for us to cook in a cast iron pot in the coals later. We buy the Marie Calendar's mix for camping because you only need to add water. When that was all put away, Andrew whipped up some pancakes for dessert. It was delicious! It was also late. By the time we finished eating and getting cleaned up, it was 9pm. There was no time to hike or even to explore the campground. I was a little disappointed that we were in the middle of a national forest and wouldn't get to explore it at all, but it was fun camping just the same.

Camp DinnerCamp DinnerCamp Dinner

We have Gardein (veggie chicken) grilling, and Oliver is mixing up some cornbread.
the kids finally fell asleep, Andrew and I sat by the fire. I told him I was disappointed by the view of the stars (or lack thereof). I'd looked up a map of light pollution before the trip, and this part of the country was supposed to be perfect for star-gazing. Add to the fact that it was almost a new moon, and I was hoping to see the Milky Way for the very first time. I'm a city girl, and, in Chicago, I was lucky to see 3 stars at night. In Denver, I can sometimes see clusters of stars--even the Big Dipper and Orion, but there still aren't very many. I've camped up in the mountains and have been dumbstruck by the number of stars I can see, but there is still light pollution in the mountains hours from Denver, and so I have never gotten to see the Milky Way. I thought last night was my chance. Andrew told me not to fret. It was only 10pm, he explained, and I needed to wait until halfway between sunset and sunrise to look for the Milky Way. I quickly calculated that out: if sunset was around 8:30pm, and

This was the only way to keep Joanna clean for any length of time--zip her in the tent!
if sunrise was around 5:30am, that means I should be stargazing at 1am. Clouds rolled in before long. Then, the clouds opened up, and it started to rain. I felt disappointed and went to bed.

A few hours later, I woke up and needed to pee. I grabbed the lantern and quietly unzipped the tent. I stepped outside and realized I didn't need the lantern at all. Everything was lit up from the stars. It was beautiful. I let my eyes adjust a bit, and I saw the Milky Way. The star dust wasn't vibrant, but it was there. It looked like it was almost right above me. I was dumbstruck. Here I am at 30 years old, and I finally got to see it! I took a number of minutes to experience the night sky, and then I went and did my business. I was a bit sad to go back into the tent, but I looked forward to the morning when I could tell Andrew what I saw.

Morning came faster than I would have liked. I think it was before 4am when Oliver decided he was up for the day. No one wanted to get
Testing Out the Sleeping BagTesting Out the Sleeping BagTesting Out the Sleeping Bag

Oliver thought it was pretty cool.
up with him at such an ungodly hour, so he occupied himself with trying to lay on top of our heads. Andrew and I laid in a state of half sleep for a couple of hours before we gave in and finally got up. We released the hounds--oops, I mean the kids--and Jo immediately got to work with dirt and rocks. Andrew and I quickly broke down camp. Everything was wet from the rain. We didn't want things to get mildewy, so the put the tent and chairs in the car as is. We figured we would lay them out back home in Colorado in the hot sun, where they would quickly dry out for packing. It was a good plan (and it worked), but all the loose stuff made for a very full car and a blocked back window for the remainder of our road trip home.

Now, on our drive through the northern part of Utah this weekend, I came upon a number of chipmunks and even some prairie dogs on the road. I dodged them just fine, which wasn't dangerous to do since there weren't any cars on the road going our direction. On the drive
Good Morning, Medicine Bow!Good Morning, Medicine Bow!Good Morning, Medicine Bow!

We begrudgingly got up with the kids. As soon as we let her out of the tent, Jo got dirty.
up the mountains of Medicine Bow this morning, a marmot ran out on the road in front of me! I was able to stop and save the fat bugger, thankfully. The rest of the drive was uneventful, and it was also beautiful. We were only a few hours from Denver, but it was definitely more wet. There were lakes everywhere! In all, the scenic route through Medicine Bow adds about 20 minutes on the drive east to Laramie (as opposed to driving straight through on I-80). It's worth it! At Laramie, we grabbed a quick breakfast and then made the drive back home.

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