Roaming Wyoming

The Road, Wyoming, I-25N – I-90W

6/7/2019

I couldn’t help myself when I put that title up there! Sorry. Wasn’t that a song? It sure fits though. What an incredible state. First to allow women to vote. First National Park, Yellowstone. First National Forest. First woman justice of the peace. First all female jury. First woman elected to state wide office. First National Monument. First town in the US to be governed entirely by women. First woman governor in the US. Does it get better than that? A downside – from my POV – the last time a democrat was elected to the senate was in 1970. Sigh.

 

 

 

My fingers are sore as I click the keys on my Mac today. I’ve not made time practice the Ukulele in a while and those babies are tender! Michelle, my uku teacher, suggested practicing while passengering, a shout out to Michelle: Great Idea!

From Colorado Springs traffic and busy-ness to the long slide of I-25, N, Wyoming.  Boy, is this road quiet – not much traffic and long distances between anything but farmsteads.

If I’ve already said this, forgive me, please. I once thought Kansas, Eastern Colorado, Wyoming and Montana had the longest most boring roads in the world. I must have missed the grandeur of the tall-grass prairies with their spring green heads moving in unison with the breezes. I certainly didn’t notice those tall-grass prairies as they slowly morph into short-grass prairie. I must have been belly button gazing or something to miss the outrageousness of the “Fourteeners” of the Rocky Mountains! And the long slow rising and falling hills bitten as by a giant’s teeth by white rock formations marching along the highway when I traversed Wyoming previously. 

I mean, how does one miss Wyoming’s stretch of snowcapped rockies; the cloud shadows deep purple on pistachio and emerald green hills that were carved by the wind, ancient seas and glaciers; or the pronghorns that dot the roadside pastures – oblivious to the RVs, trucks and cars roaring past? We just passed a mom with two tiny babies!

Boy, age has certainly given my eyes new vision and my heart the openness to soar with the wide landscapes.

 

Guernsey State Park, Guernsey, WY, is a go and do park. It’s not one you want to sit around in at all… Sure, the sites are relatively new, spacious, some lakeside and quiet. The kicker is that this park has a whole lot of buildings erected by the young men of the Civilian Conservation Corps.

I can’t tell you now many parks across the nation we have visited that bear the elegant, rustic architecture of the CCC. At the top of a tall cliff you’ll find Brimmer Point – yup, there’s a big rock edifice (quarried here on the park’s own land) built by the CCC – you climb up the steps and gaze dizzyingly down at the Guernsey Reservoir – a damming of the North Platte River. Awe inspiring, though not as deep as the Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park, that was remembered to us as we looked down and over the towering cliffs that hug the lake. The CCC also built from locally quarried stone, a picnic shelter, museum and a “million dollar biffy” (no, it didn’t cost a mil$ to build, but it was so upscale for the guys they felt that was its value.)

Wyoming in the spring is wildflower country. Great swaths of tiny blue flowers, blue grass and silver salvias and sages paint the hills. From tiny white stars growing not two inches from the ground to the mounded silver bushes with their yellow flowers, there is something for everyone!

 

Speaking of wild flowers… what birds did Guernsey give us? How about the Lark Sparrow? The Lark Bunting has been dazzling us with it’s flashy white wing windows since Kansas. Ten feet from the front of our toad the Bullocks Oriole chewed on seeds and bugs on the salvia bushes. Just outside the windows of the RV, the brilliant neon yellow of tiny American Goldfinches grabbed our attention and made us hop outside, lunch forgotten, with the binoculars. We kept hearing the Common Night Hawk buzzing away somewhere nearby on walks and our visit to the CCC Museum and it was there that one finally scooped and swirled around the tree tops like a WWII bomber, the stripes of white on the wings  accentuating the likeness. Oh my yes, between using the camera to discern the Western Kingbird from the Cassins (hard to tell) and the binoculars to pick the House Wren from the cottonwood trees, our eyes have gotten a workout!

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Western Kingbird or Cassins?

After exploring the park, we decided to visit some of the best known of Oregon Trails Historical sights.

First off, Wagon Ruts Historical Site.

 

This park has some of the best preserved ruts made by pioneers’ wagons. The trail cut through rock, sometimes to a depth of four feet or more.

 

A beautiful, accessible path rises gently to the ruts site, parallels them and moves down the hill in a gentle loop. Looking at those ruts, it’s hard not to allow your imagination to wander to what it must have been like for the thousands of women and children, walking barefoot beside and behind the wagons as they traversed these rocky hills. 

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Birding the Ruts.

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Next stop, on the same dirt road, Register Cliff State Monument.

 

The parking lot butts right up to the cliff! What a cool place, hundreds of names from 1757 to contemporary times incised, scratched, cut and artistically arrayed over the face of the cliff. Graffiti!

 

Folks coming across the plains obliterated pictographs made by early native peoples at this site, those graffitist! The North Platte River moves with its quiet power not far away and this made a sensible stopping point for many pioneers and with the evening ahead, what better to do than carve one’s name on a somewhat blank cliff face?

 

 

There was even a trading post not far away. A chain link fence protects some of the cliff from the depredations of those who can’t restrain making a mark

And the day of discovery continued with a 26 mile ride east to visit Fort Laramie. Even before the wagon trains made their way out there, the fort was a trading post and rendezvous point for the many tribes of plains Indians and fur trappers. 

We’ve visited many of these forts and never heard the story we read at Fort Laramie. One of the worst massacres of the settling of the west was started by an Army commander choosing to take a battalion of soldiers out to scold an “Indian” who had “stolen” a cow from a wagon train and used it to feed his family. By then white folks had already broken one local treaty that could have kept peace and dignity for both the whites and the native folk. By then so much had been taken from folks who lived on these lands for ages. Well, the commander went out to a Chayenne camp, most who were there that day were women and children. The Army massacred every living being in that camp. Thence, the wars began in earnest. 

The fort is well restored and truly gives an idea of life there at its heyday. Officers’ wives imposed a sense of Eastern gentility on its residents though there were only 53 regulars living at the Fort at any given time. A couple of fancy officers’ houses, a la Boston, and a wonderfully restored and furnished barracks filled our imaginations with the sounds of bustle and hustle of an everyday pioneer fort. 

Our day ended in Guernsey, WY at the small but lovely Guernsey Public Library, the Visitors Center and the central park. They all offered Guernsey Park Wifi – very strong and fast connections, even with our VPN working to protect our transmissions! We got caught up, a bit, and drove home to put the day to rest with one of our favorite recipes, Soba Noodles with baby Bok Choi – with a poached egg topping its deliciousness off. Mmmmm yummy! Comfort food of the spicy good variety.

This morning we took off at a leisurely pace to go to our next camp spot in Sheridan, WY. On the way we stopped at Ayers Natural Bridge State Park. A small park not far from I-25, Ayres Bridge is one of the only Natural Bridge formations in the world with its creek still running and carving away beneath. A great breather from the road and for photo opps it can’t be beat! Like a bowl carved by water and ice a million years ago, the red and orange cliffs hold you as you explore. Scout squeaked in and out of the parking lot okay, but I don’t know as I’d drive a 40 footer through the trees and rocks.

 

Barb just remarked that the mountains just  west of us  – backed by snow topped peaks – remind her of Switzerland. We’re on 90 now and moving closer to the Rockies.

It’s simply lovely, dahlings!

Breathe, y’all. See you in Sheridan, Wy.