Casper Mountain rises 3,000-feet above the town of Casper, reaching a height of more than 8,000 feet. It’s a focal point of the community and a recreation hub with snowmobiling, Nordic and Alpine skiing in the winter and hiking, biking and ATV riding in the summer.
The North Platte River, famous for its fishing, runs nearby. But the mountain wasn’t always like this.
In the 1970s, when the first edition of “A Field Guide To Casper Mountain” was published, there were far fewer trails and homes on the mountain. The river was viewed as an irrigation canal and a sewer dump. And the mountain pine beetle epidemic hadn’t yet struck, said Maria Katherman, an author of the original book.
So much has changed that Katherman and others involved in the field guide, last printed in 1978, have put together the first updated version. The second edition of “A Field Guide To Casper Mountain,” will be released at the end of May.
The book is written by Katherman, Terrence J. Logue, Peggy Knittel, Dana Van Burgh Jr. and Beecher Ed Strube.
The guide covers the Casper Mountain and Muddy Mountain areas. A self-guided tour in the book starts in Casper at Wolcott and College Drive. It takes readers up the north face of Casper Mountain and eventually leads them to Alcova Highway. Side trips outlined in the book include Rotary Park, Hogadon Road to the Archery Range, the Strube Loop, Braille Trail and more.
“It’s a very broad canvas, but it’s very local,” Katherman said. The original field guide grew from the efforts of Van Burgh and Strube, two Casper science teachers who started a program for ninth graders to spend a week exploring the geology and biology of the Casper mountain region.
In 1969, Katherman, who had always been interested in the natural world and enjoyed being outside, signed up for the program.
“It was the first time I realized school had something to offer me,” she said.
Katherman went on to study plant biology at Cornell University, but returned in the summer to work as an assistant in the field science program. By then Van Burgh and Strube had decided they wanted to share the information they’d gathered through years of teaching field science with the public and had started on the book. They invited Katherman to contribute and she wrote about the plants on the mountain.
The out-of-print book became cherished. “There’s some people that really see them as a treasure they don’t want to let out of their hands,” she said. “People really love that thing.”
The new edition started with an effort several years ago by Logue, who works with the Wyoming Field Science Foundation that printed the book. People kept requesting the book and he wanted to print more copies, but realized it needed to be updated first, Katherman said.
While there are physical changes on the mountain like new trails, science has also changed how people understand the natural world. In the 1970s, the theory of plate tectonics was still relatively new and not widely understood, Katherman said. Understanding it can explain the geology of the area, and why certain types of rocks are found in certain places. The new edition will have these types of updates offering a deeper understanding and connection to the area, she said.
The original guide was 80 pages. The new one is 130. The book features new color images, as well as some of the original photos. There’s a geological map, a topographical map and guide to birds, mammals and insects you might see in the area. There’s information on major geological formations. Wildlife drawings by Russell Hawley supplement an assortment of illustrations from the original book by Gary Keimig. The book includes information on common and notable trees, bushes and wildflowers. There’s also a smattering of local history, Katherman said.
The book is expected to be sold in Casper-area stores at the end of May.