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June 12, 2012 9:16 am

CULTURE SHOCK: A call of the wild

Written by Dante Geoffrey

Nature’s signal must be strong here, because the call of the wild has been ringing louder within me now than it ever did in California.

It’s no surprise that I – or anyone – would be drawn to the majesty of Yellowstone, Bighorn Canyon, Shoshone Canyon or any of the many other enticing locations near Powell.

But I’ve started to wonder why I was never heavily drawn to California’s many parks and natural attractions. What makes me – and so many others – dismiss the beauty they’re so accustomed to?

Is it that Wyoming’s beauty is so much greater than California’s? I certainly wouldn’t say so. And I’ll gladly stand up and defend my home state’s natural aesthetic against anyone who would.

I’m quickly learning California has a reputation as an overcrowded, smog-riddled, traffic-jammed, big city nightmare.

And in certain parts, that’s true. But it’s also a mecca for ecological diversity and wonder – something people don’t get to see on episodes of “Entourage” or “Keeping Up With The Kardashians.”

According to the 2010 census, almost 79 percent of California’s total population – more than 37 million – lives in just 13 of the state’s 58 counties. The rest of the state contains thousands of open acres waiting to be appreciated.

Muir Woods in Northern California – with its giant redwoods reaching heights of 300-plus feet – makes for a breath-taking hike. The Sierra Nevada to California’s east offers a variety of ski resorts and mountain trails, not to mention the pristine waters of Lake Tahoe. Yosemite, America’s third designated national park, boasts waterfalls, sequoia groves, the famous Half Dome, and was a favorite of renowned photographer Ansel Adams. And of course, California has plenty of beaches, from the commercial shores of Southern California to the Lost Coast of Humboldt County in the north.

So there is certainly no shortage of high-quality outdoor opportunities in the Golden State.

I lived within reasonable driving distances to most of the above locations, so my lack of exploration in California had nothing to do with lack of opportunity.

I think it was from a lack of provocation.

A girl I’ve only heard tale of, or vaguely remember seeing as a child isn’t nearly as tantalizing as a girl who is aggressively teasing and taunting me in person.

The latter girl is Wyoming. Wyoming flirts.

Out in the open for all to see, Wyoming dares you to avert your eyes. The small towns that freckle its land leave nothing to the imagination.  

Conversely, California wears metropolitan areas as a barrier between its citizens and nature.

Jagged skylines and miles of housing tracts can separate people from what used to span the entire state. I guess you can’t miss what you forget.

But it seems that no matter where you are in Wyoming – or Park County at least – nature is unavoidable. The towns here can’t insulate well enough to make you feel like you’re living in a human-only vacuum.

From my apartment window here in Powell I can see the rocky tops of McCullough Peaks, where I plan to hike and mountain bike soon. On my drives to Cody I cross the Shoshone River, in which I’d like to kayak. And from nearly everywhere in Powell I can see the odd-shaped peak of Heart Mountain, on top of which I stood this past weekend.

As I stood upon my new limestone vantage point, the feeling of accomplishment I thought I earned during my last few steps to the summit faded. I peered over 360 degrees of Wyoming terrain and realized I had checked but only one box on what seems like an endless outdoorsman’s to-do list.

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