24 September 2010

I Freakin' Love Lander, WY!

Yes, Lander!  Every time I go I am reminded again of its charm. Of course, I've never been there in the winter...

I like Lander's location, nestled into the Rockies about halfway up the state; I like its small-town, friendly atmosphere; and I like the great beer and food.  Oh, and did I mention how cheap everything is?

Lander Brewing Company, at 128 Main Street, is always my first stop. It's  now managed jointly by the owners of Cowfish, Gannett Grill, Lander Bar and Scream Shack, collectively forming the “Coalter Block” and creating a unique sense of community amongst the eating and drinking establishments on Main Street. Cowfish and Gannett provide a slightly more upscale dining experience (but at a fraction of the price of similar establishments in Denver or Boulder), and LBC offers a homey, laid-back outdoor beer garden with good grub and no dress code.  Together, the Cowfish (creative New American cuisine), Gannett (hand-tossed New York style pizzas and gourmet salads), Scream Shack (delicious ice cream treats, summer only), Lander Bar and Lander Brewing Pub represent the simplest, safest, and most satisfying pub crawl you’ll ever experience.

And then you can just keep crawling right down the street to bed; you don't need your car for anything in town.  There are more posh places to stay, but I love the old charm of the National Outdoor Leadership School (NOLS, to locals). Housed in the grand old Noble Hotel (284 Lincoln Street), a relic of the 1930s oil boom, you can rent a dormitory-style room (bathroom down the hall, large kitchen on each floor) for a mere $15 per night. You will have to make your own bed and strip the sheets at the end of your stay (and you will be sharing a shower with whomever walks in while you’re there), but the still-glorious front lobby and billiards room make it an interesting mix of grubby and chic. Call ahead, though—if a course is in session, room may be tight: 1-800-710-NOLS.


Then there is the inevitable morning after, when you start to recall all the great brews Lander had to offer the night before. Have no fear—a mere stumble across the street gets you to Main Street Books, a great bookstore with a full-service coffee bar and breakfast pastries (300 Main St). You can linger in this peaceful environment, browsing New York Times bestsellers as well as works by local authors while their strong espressos prepare you for the day ahead.

Lander is home to a multitude of city parks, but none are as stunning as Sinks Canyon,  just 7 miles outside of town. Sinks is renowned for its beautiful, pristine scenery that hosts a variety of outdoor activities, as well as for the mystery of the river that seems to just disappear into the side of a mountain.

The real story is that it’s a geologic phenomenon in which the Popo Agie River vanishes into a large cavern (the Sinks) but reappears in a trout- filled pool, the Rise, about half a mile down the canyon. No fishing is allowed, but a visitor center features wildlife and recreation exhibits, viewing sites and interpretive signs about wildlife and habitat requirements. The park contains hiking trails and offers camping, picnicking, rock climbing and fishing. Sinks Canyon is home to a wide variety of wildlife, birds and plants. Visitors might see porcupines, black bears, red squirrels, bighorn sheep, mule deer, moose or golden eagles.

Doesn't this place sound cool? Don't tell too many of your friends, though, or we'll have to start dodging tourists.

Directory:

Gannett Grill: (307) 332.8228
Lander Brewing Company/ Cowfish Grill: (307) 332.8227
Main Street Books: (307) 332-7661
NOLS/ Noble Hotel: 1-800-710-NOLS
Sinks Canyon Visitor Center: (307) 332-3077