Here in Wyoming, we have always been tied closely to our vast lands and beautiful waters.
Our rivers, sagebrush rangelands and mountains offer us so much. They are places to work and play, to seek solace or community and to restore our spirits.
These days, as we navigate through the need for social distancing, concern for our loved ones and our communities and impacts to our economy, nature remains a constant in our lives. Seasons may change and rivers may carve new channels, but the power and steady resilience of nature endure and, I hope, we can take comfort in that.
Here in Park County, we are fortunate to have a truly special place to enjoy nature – one many folks think of as their own backyard. The Heart Mountain Ranch Preserve offers us sanctuary for reflection and inspiration during trying times.
For the most ambitious, there is the challenging trail to the top of the mountain. For others, the pace may be slower, taking in the aroma of the sage and the splash of color as the wildflowers lift their heads from winter slumber.
In March, I joined The Nature Conservancy in Wyoming as the state director. In many ways, this is a dream job for me. It allows me to pursue a lifelong passion for conservation with an organization that works for both people and nature. It’s one forged early in my childhood growing up in the shadow of the mountains, wading the rivers and hiking and camping with family and friends. I am delighted to now count the care of Heart Mountain Ranch Preserve as one of my responsibilities.
I had hoped to join the community for this year’s annual hike up the mountain. For now, that will have to wait. Foremost in my mind is the safety of both the community and our staff. But, while we have had to postpone our organized activities at the preserve for a time, we are happy that we can keep our gates open for everyone to visit and enjoy it in their own way – as long as everyone can do that safely. To that end, we ask all of our guests to take some simple precautions during your visit.
• Support social distancing by giving people not in your party at least 6 feet of separation.
• Avoid or minimize contact with high-touch surfaces, including handrails and interpretive signs; practice good hygiene and use hand sanitizer.
• Leave no trace. Please take trash and other personal items with you when you leave the preserve.
• Note that the restroom will not be available.
• If you are feeling sick, visit us another time.
• Be bear aware: Travel in groups of 3 or more, carry bear spray and know how to use it and make noise while on the trail.
• Please remember that no dogs are allowed on the preserve.
We are truly in this together and by supporting one another and by being kind and patient we will make it through together.
(Hayley Mortimer is the state director for The Nature Conservancy in Wyoming. She spends every moment she can exploring the mountains and wild places of the West and is excited about finding new adventures in Wyoming.)