Why oh Wyoming

By Phil Plait | July 18, 2009 1:56 pm

I’m in Wyoming. This place is friggin’ gorgeous. And it’s only an hour from home!

Wyoming rock formation

It’s hard to believe some of these rock formations are almost 6000 years old!

I’m here for Launch Pad, which I wrote about earlier. I already had lunch with Gay and Joe Haldeman, Scott Sigler, and other people who have up until now only been names and words on a page to me. The next three days will be very, very cool.

CATEGORIZED UNDER: Cool stuff, Pretty pictures

Comments (72)

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  1. Spectacular Launch Pad Starlinks | July 24, 2009
  1. Why is it hard to believe? Everything is 6,000 years old. :)

  2. «bønez_brigade»

    The smooth, Flood-worn look is just… amazing! Isn’t He just… just… amazing?!? *sheds tear*

  3. It’s hard to believe some of these rock formations are almost 6000 years old!


  4. Kyle

    Used to live in Laramie so windy in the winter, so beautiful in the summer. You should see if they will let you go to the observatory up on Jelm mountain, you can see it looking to the west on the peak south of the closest Snowy Range ridge. It really shines when the sun has set behind the range. Or you could go to the Summit there on I-80 and go right from the exit and follow a dirt road and look across the valley after sunset, and you can understand why Laramie is “called” the Jewel City. It really is pretty.

    I live in Jackson, WY now but still love Laramie. I can give you many more things to see if you want to let me know. And if at all possible, if not this trip then make a new trip and go to the Dinosaur Cabin up by the town of Medicine Bow, worth the drive.


    Thats just cool to see.

  5. Kyle

    OK here is another one that is closer than Medicine Bow, the Ames Monument. Even many locals don’t know about this one. Got some great photos at sunrises and sunsets.




  6. 4. ZERO Says:
    July 18th, 2009 at 2:11 pm

    @ CafeenMan,

    If that’s not a joke then,



    Back atcha. The smiley sort of gives it away.

  7. Mena

    Yeah, WY is wonderful. I also love Montana, Saskatchewan, and Alberta but since I majored in geology and biology, that’s kind of a given isn’t it?
    Give me land, lots of land under starry skies above, don’t fence me in.

  8. There is some beauty in that state. Yellowstone is my favorite national park. And I loves me many a national park.

  9. @ZERO i guess you never read Phil’s policy on comments?!

  10. Steve

    6000? C’mon, a rock formation that gorgeous can’t be a year over 4k, 4.5k tops.

  11. John

    Zero, I find you to be incredibly rude.

  12. Whoa!

    What is Sigler doing in Wyoming!? :)

  13. Every atom is REALLY old. You see them all the time. 😀

  14. Richard Carnes

    You have to zoom in to single pixels, but it don’t look a day over 5,999 to me. I’m just sayin’…

  15. “It’s hard to believe some of these rock formations are almost 6000 years old!”

    You’re right – that *IS* hard to believe! 😀

    WY is really wonderful, and sounds like a great time. You’re lucky it’s so close!

  16. Carter

    Look at those joint sets! Such amazing stress history just inside this picture. I wish I had a few more photos up close. As my geology adviser once said, “Nothing like a good joint!”

  17. javery56

    Oh so its the same age as the earth then… zing. joking.

  18. Conspeeracy Theoriser

    Oh yeah? If them rocks are really in whyoming then why does one near the center top center have a leter C on it? Ill tell you why. Your the prop man from NAZA who helped place the rocks for the so called apolo missions and left one of the marked ones in plane view. it looks Like you DID it AGAIN! its obviusly a ploy to let the sheep minded masses know that the rocks are really not 6000 years old. in facet they are probably not any older then the Usa.

    any one with since knows that sinetists aften try to tweak the evidence to prove or unprove what they want to show. in this case you put up some false rocks to try to make us think that the state of whyoming is 6000 years old… or even OLDER! anybody with the internets can cheque that whyoming was only made in 1890. 2009 mineus 1890 meens that it is only 119 years old at the least. so what do you smartie pants sinetists have to say about that? it proves that the world is a lot younger than you claim, what wit you’re 6000 years old or even OLDER line of evedence!

    and all because you’re prop peopel left that rock with the C on it so that it can show on the camera.

  19. Moose

    > It’s hard to believe some of these rock formations are almost 6000 years old!

    I lolled.

  20. LOL… looks like I missed the fun… Zero got excommunicated….

  21. Paul

    I, too, once lived in Laramie. The rock formations in the picture include one which bears a striking resemblance to Elvis in profile. Pareidolia. Wish I had a photo.

  22. Grizzly

    Well, let’s be scientific about it now, shall we? It has to be more recent than 6000 years because it is of volcanic origin. See, the Rockies in Canada aren’t, and were likely there first. So, maybe 5950.

  23. I'd_rather_be fishin'

    1. CafeenMan Says:

    Why is it hard to believe? Everything is 6,000 years old

    I just look like I’m 6,ooo years old. Remove the grey hair (already happening) & I’m a youthful 58!

    Actually, the formation is YOUNGER than 6,000 years. After the Flood came the Ice Age which smoothed out a lot of the surface and scraped off all the mud and fish poop left behind. Wait a minute, the fish were in the Ark.

  24. Welcome to my current neck of the woods. It is always such a beautiful place during the summer. Most of my fellow students have gone home for the summer and the wind dies down. And while we have some warm days, it usually never gets unbearably hot.

    Another perk about summer, if you have the time and the snow has melted off, is the Snowy Range. About an hour west, through Centennial. I try and make a yearly run right before the semester kicks into full swing and the snow starts falling in the mountains agan. Definitely a must if you have the time.
    Anyways, glad you were able to document a tiny bit of the beauty that permeates this area. Enjoy your short stay and Comic Con.

  25. Stone Age Scientist

    Obviously, Phil is also an astrogeologist. What can be gleaned from the study of Earth’s geology may also apply to other planets.

  26. MH

    You’re right, that IS hard to believe!

  27. That was a trap. Phil is doing a purge. Zero is just one of many. How many? Only the good doctor knows.

  28. Okay, everyone else seems to be joking, but seriously.. 6000 years? Come to Maryland and see some really old rocks. The rockies are little bitty babies compared to the Appalachians.

    Or do you want these particular exposed rocks to be that old? Come down in Mammoth Cave and you can see passages that were carved out millions and millions of years ago.

  29. Byron

    I just drove through 23 states on a short road trip (short in time not distance) and Wyoming was easily the most beautiful as an entire state.

  30. Flying sardines

    @ 26 26. John Armstrong :

    Come to Maryland and see some really old rocks. The rockies are little bitty babies compared to the Appalachians.

    South Australia can beat that – come down under BA & I’ll show you the Flinders Ranges, Gawler craton & Ediacara fauna fossils! 😉

    @ 22. I’d_rather_be fishin’ :

    Wait a minute, the fish were in the Ark.

    Fish in the ark? What would be the point of that – fish swim don’t they? 😉

    Is there to be nothing more from ‘Zero’ then? What happened did he divide by himself or something? 😉

  31. Stone Age Scientist

    Of course the fish were in the ark. Noah and company couldn’t feast on the other beasts.

    Or maybe they did, which would explain why the wooly mammoth went extinct.

  32. 27. Flying sardines Says:

    Wait a minute, the fish were in the Ark.

    Fish in the ark? What would be the point of that – fish swim don’t they?

    Fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly
    but they won’t get far if they try.

    Pollution by (Professor) Tom Lehrer

  33. Christina Viering

    Love the wilderness!

  34. DTdNav

    Hey Phil, when you get back from Laramie tell my son Matt (he reads your blog) that UW is a fine institution and that it would be OK to go there. We live in Cheyenne and he refuses to stay in Wyoming. Maybe I’ll charge him back rent to make up for the out-of-state tuition I’m paying.

  35. Stone Age Scientist

    Pssst, John Paradox. (Tugging at John’s sleeves and trying to whisper.) Please already stop mentioning the matter about fish. Can’t you see this is a sensitive issue for Flying Sardines?

  36. multipath

    Wyoming is the epitome of “a great place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live there.” Unless you’re a rancher or geologist (or professional skiier or something like that).

    I lived there for 18 years. Left less than a week after graduating high school. The remoteness from the rest of the world really gets to you after that long, unless maybe you’re in Laramie, which brings in some diverse people for the university, or Cheyenne, which is reasonably close to outside civilization.

  37. multipath

    @DTdNav: I had a full ride to UW, and it’s a fine school, but for some people, when you’ve grown up in one place, you can’t stand being there anymore. They need to live in other places, meet new people, and, especially having been from Wyoming, want to be a part of the rest of the world. I have a lot of debt from college now but I don’t regret leaving for a second.

  38. Kimpatsu

    @Conspeeracy Theoriser:
    You are wicked. I bust a gut laughing at your post.
    There is a special place in Hell reserved for you.
    (And, of course, we know Hell exists, because Pastor Rick tells us it’s so…)

  39. I'd_rather_be fishin'

    yeah, I fish know swim. BUT according to a bible-literalist I would rather not know, Noah took all the animals onto the ARK. And since rain is fresh water, the salt water fish would die and that shows how scientific Genesis is!

    Eating mammoth? I bet that wouldn’t dare taste like chicken!

  40. Stone Age Scientist

    Eating mammoth? I bet that wouldn’t dare taste like chicken!

    My goodness!! If Noah & company ate all the beasts that have delectable meat, there’d be nothing left for us his descendants!! So it was the ‘unsavory’ salted mammoth meat for him. The whole year, sadly.

  41. Gary Ansorge

    The Grande Tetons are one of my fav images of youthful mountain building. Living on the East coast, all I get in the way of mountains are worn down old hills,,,and the skiing is SOOO slow.

    Gary 7

  42. I did Launch Pad last year. It was a blast. You guys going to go hiking?

  43. Jya Jar Binks Killer

    Sung in rhyme to a familiar tune whose title escapes me …

    Why-oming, Why-oming
    Why, why why, Whhyyyy-oming
    Six thousand years old today?

    Why-oming, Why-oming
    Why, why why, Whhyyyy-oming
    I think your much older than you say! 😉

  44. Flying sardines

    @ 34. John Paradox :

    Fish gotta swim, birds gotta fly
    but they won’t get far if they try.
    -Pollution by (Professor) Tom Lehrer

    Is that second line of lyrics meant to include the word ‘not’?

    Sorry I don’t really get it. Maybe I need to smoke what Lehrer smoked .. 😉

    @ 41. I’d_rather_be fishin’ says:

    @31 yeah, I fish know swim. BUT according to a bible-literalist I would rather not know, Noah took all the animals onto the ARK. And since rain is fresh water, the salt water fish would die and that shows how scientific Genesis is!

    But I guess the fresh water from the rain would’ve then made life hard for the salt water fish so they had to go aboard the ark too ..? Good thing Noah knew all about those really weird deep sea fish we only disappeared in the 1970’s – and had plenty of room for two of each species of whales too! Sheesh. :roll:

    I just hate to think what the Ark woulda smelt like – so many animals so few people to do the mucking out! 😉

    I can also think of a few animals I wish Noah had left behind, mosquitoes, cockroaches, stink beetles, plague bacteria, televangelists … 😉

    Eating mammoth? I bet that wouldn’t dare taste like chicken!

    Oh come on, *everything* tastes like chicken … 😉

    Actually, I think I read somewhere that some people (Siberians? Scientists) have in fact tried eating mammoth meat – from snap frozen mammoth bodies that thawed out of the ice in spring. Can’t recall what they said it tasted like but I bet a bit of research could find an account & discover if mammoth does indeed taste like chook – or not!

  45. Conspeeracy Theoriser

    I’m still amazed that you peeple are just excepting some sinetists word that these rocks are 6000 years old or EVEN OLDER!!!!!!

    As Ive already pointed out, one rock to the center top left of the fromation has a leter C on it so the prop man would know where to sit it down at.

    also, if you will zoom in really close to one of the rocks on the far left edge youll notice a freemasins symbol on the rock.

    Whyoming is only 119 years old!

    Come on, do i have to put it all together for you?

    okay, The president at that time was Benjamin Harrison. he was from Ohio and probably didn’t know a lot about how someplace like the yet to be created whyoming would look like. so, when it came time to add on a new state for tax purposes, the undeveloped territory of whyoming was chosen.

    Harrison then sent out a survey teem to see what they could do with the empty space to make it look attractive to voters. most of the surveyors were freemasons who decided to hatch a plan to make lots of rocky looking areas that would be visually interesting to see (and may also hide the holy greail, or the treasure of the nights templers). a set designer from holywood was brung in who helped set things up for the most pantoramic shots available. however, one of the prop men placed that one rock with the C on it where y ou can see the C. and the freemasons of course left there symbols on the rocks.

    Come on people its all there in the picture for you to see.. SEE the C?!?!?!?!?!?!?!? zoom in on the left and see the freemason symbol????? or if you need even more proof, look at the cleft in the rocks to the left.. doesn’t that look suspiciously like an inverse egyptian obelisk?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    I can’t believe you peeple who claim to be sineus minded and who supposedly look at evidence that proofs something can’t see that this evidence prrfs that wyoming is only 119 years old … not the THOUSANDS you claim.

  46. Flying sardines


    Sinus minded?

    Come on now, don’t get snotty! 😉

  47. @47
    This is a very good guess, but even you have failed to understand the true nature of reality being expressed here. Those rocks were only several minutes old when Phil snapped that shot. How do I know? God doesn’t have to fabricate anything until there is a witness. Phil being a renowned skeptic was given a test of his faith in the “truth of the Lord” which he and everyone on this blog has clearly failed.

    God need only manifest his creation when there is someone to appreciate it. While most will just naively look and goggle at the majesty without a thought or care about how or why, which pleases God immensely, not Phil. God knew that Phil would drop that snapshot into his blog and challenge us all to make a personal judgment about the age of those rocks.

    Ya see, the real trick of this faith thing is determining when what we see is God’s efforts to fool us about the nature of the Universe, and when it is the Devil’s efforts to fool us about the nature of the Universe. I’m not clear on the distinction myself, but I’m working on it. Whatever God wants me to blindly believe I’m all for that, as this thinking thing is really a bother.

    Oh yeah, and fish were what everyone ate on the ark, which is why God only now has time to micro-evolutionize those deep sea ones we are finding. It’s a busy job keeping the deception going but he’s the Man! :)

  48. The drive to laramie is gorgeous, once you get north of Ft. Collins. We were up that way a few months ago and couldn’t believe how nice it all was.

    If we hadn’t moved back here to Colorado, I do think that Jackson might have been our next choice. Also gorgeous!

    Have a great time Phil! oh, and yeah, those rocks don’t look a day over 5,999.9.

  49. JB of Brisbane

    Nobody mention Devil’s Tower.


  50. Darkhunter

    Head south to Springs and check out the Garden of the Gods somtime….

  51. M Burke

    Wow, talk about blind faith… most of you don’t have a clue what Christians actually believe. :) And here I thought you were actually interested in facts.

  52. M. Burke:

    How do you know what we know? Kinda jumpin’ to conclusions aren’t ya there pardner?

  53. Trebuchet

    Ah, Wyoming. Land of Dick Cheney. And my Mom, so it’s not all bad even if she has taken to watching FoxNews in her old age. I’ve spent quite a lot of time in northern WY but don’t care all that much for the southern part. Yellowstone is probably my favorite place on the whole planet.

  54. Scott Smith

    That depends on what flavor of the Christian religion you are talking about. The church I (and my alter-ego Conspeeracy) went to wasn’t quite so far in to the creationist line as to believe that the earth was only 6000-7000 years old… only the recorded history of man as laid down in the Holy Bible.

    On the other hand I have known people who have honestly believed that they were taught rightly to believe that Earth herself was only 6000-7000 years old. I’ve had arguments with them, both based on The Bible, and on science. I found that in the end it was easier for me to just go outside and try to teach a rock to fly.

    Over the years I’ve left the church behind and moved on with my life. But I still meet people in my daily life who believe a myriad of things that were taught to them by the church they went to and will go to their graves believing it because it was supposedly inspired by God the Creator.

    To presume that any one person Knows what every Christian believes is to presume wrongly. I’ve known Christians who believed the world was created, albeit millions or billions of years ago, Christians who believe the stuff they read in their Bible is only allegory, Christians who believe their Pastor/Minister/Priest can heal with the laying on of hands, Christians who believe in devils and demons and exorcism, Christians who believe that demons are only our own inner monsters, and yes, Christians who believe that Mother Earth is only, ONLY a few thousand years old.

    I live near the great smokey mountains of western North Carolina. And while those magnificent mountains are mere shadows of their former selves, there are places like the Cherokee Indian Reservation, the Nantahala Gorge, and the Blue Ridge Parkway where if you stop and listen with your whole being, you can feel a lot more than 6000 years bearing down on you.

    So do I or my alter-ego Conspeeracy Theoriser know anything about Christians..? Yes, we do. We were them at one point. Do others here? I’m sure they do… after all lots of us were before we opened our minds to the fact that there is too much imperfection in Nature to have it be some great created thing, and even more wonder in the fact that it all came together in this highly imperfect mass of life and energy. I have no doubt that some of my fellow travelers still believe even though I have serious doubts based on a lifetime of things that make no sense from my Christian upbringing. I guess that in time I just found the irony of the church pushing science to prove The Bible is truth, only to have science prove otherwise, to be the one thing to make me start to think and not blindly believe.

    In the final summing up, yes there ARE Christians who believe the world is only a few thousand years old and basically do deserve the flack that a lot here are giving them. Prove that it is only a few thousand years old, and use something besides a collection of books that were written to make the people follow the leaders or to illustrate how bad behavior could bring any one down low. Creationism–especially the 6000 year old branch–just doesn’t hold any water.

    P.s. As for Noah and his ark… just where in the name of all that’s semi-sorta-kinda-maybe-almost-nearly holy did he store all the hay and bugs and meat and such it woulda took to feed all those animals, or was it a closed loop system with every thing making a meal of everything else on board?

  55. RE: Tom Lehrer
    For those unfamiliar with his music: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tom_Lehrer

    Lyrics to the song “Pollution”: http://www.sing365.com/music/lyric.nsf/Pollution-lyrics-Tom-Lehrer/E439EF548F571DF548256A7D00258670

    Flash animation of his “The Elements”: http://www.privatehand.com/flash/elements.html

    One of the ‘great lyricists’ of parody, and also someone who had a strong effect on my childhood.


  56. KSK

    UW alumnus here, ’93. Man, I miss going to Vedauwoo. And I so wish I had been into astronomy while out there; the views from those rocks, at 8,500 feet above sea level, were spectacular. First place I saw the galactic band.

    Eventually, I’m going to LASSO’s star party in Foxpark. Just not this year… :(

  57. M Burke

    “How do you know what we know? Kinda jumpin’ to conclusions aren’t ya there pardner?”

    Well, if the words of those posting here doesn’t express it… what does?

  58. going back near the top of the thread…
    I would guess that ZERO wasn’t out of order….he just thought that CafeenMan was serious

    could be wrong

  59. SourBlaze

    Careful about saying they’re 6000 years old Phil. VenomFangX may come back to YT and use that statement in a video. 😛

  60. Steve V

    Not sure if its been mentioned above, but parts of Starship Troopers was filmed in Wyoming.

  61. Joe Meils

    If you’d like to look at another tourist attraction that the Christian Right is really proud of, go take a look at the fence outside of Laramie where a couple of good het boys beat Matt Shepherd, tied him up to the fence, and left him for dead. Yeah, I just love the Christian right. They’ve done so much for making my life a laugh riot while I was living in Colorado. (Ammendment #2, anyone?)

    We’ve got to stop treating these people like a joke, and take them as the serious threat to mankind’s long term survival that they really are.

  62. Dori

    6000 years old? C’mon, Phil. They don’t look a day over 5995.

    By the way, the original song goes like this:

    “Why, oh why, Ohio–
    Why did I leave Ohio…”

    It’s from a Broadway play in the 1950’s called “My Sister Eileen.”

  63. Mike

    “It’s hard to believe some of these rock formations are almost 6000 years old!”

    Impossible to believe, actually.

  64. DGKnipfer

    Man I loved visiting Vedauwoo on family trips as a kid. That place is great. Almost makes Cheyenne worth living in.

  65. Prowler67

    That place looks familiar. I live not too far from there. I remember years ago when you could climb around on those rocks. It is a site of a Native American battle. Very cool place.

  66. GregB

    There are many spots in Joshua Tree National Park in Southern California that look exactly like that.

  67. JT

    “Well, if the words of those posting here doesn’t express it… what does?”

    Try actually reading the words of those posting here. They aren’t saying what your prejudiced mind imagines them saying.

  68. Steve

    In case after case where geochronolgists have used the hapsburg/dothan method and tested residual helium nutrons using a subatomic chronology deconstructionator, it has been found that these rocks are over 14 sextillion years old, or 8,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 years older than the “Big Bang” or maybe I just pulled some scientific jargon and a big number out of my…. which is what most “scientists” do when they date rocks.


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