Last day on the trail
Even though we still have a few day's holiday left, today was a day of "last times". So, we left our hotel in Guernsey and almost immediately screeched to a halt having seen one of the last historical markers.
We were on our way towards Fort Laramie, retracing our steps from yesterday afternoon to visit a major stopping point on the trail, marking about one third of the journey to Oregon. Yes, that's right, one third!!
First thing to do on the way to the fort was to cross the river Platte. In the late 1860s, the military needed a more efficient means of getting supplies from one side of the fast flowing river to the other and won permission (and funding) to build the bridge.
The fort consisted of several buildings built around the square. Some stuctures were derelict, others had been restored, such as this two storey barracks, which housed the cavalry.
Whilst we tried to work out what was where from the strangely confusing map, my hero spotted someone else standing nearby - a Wyoming Wabbit!
The other natural phenomenon floating around in the air was the fluffy seeds of the Eastern Cottonwood trees. A bit like dandelion "clocks", these seeds have been everywere we've been and the Ranger in the National Park visitor centre said they'd all been praying for a high wind to blow them all away as soon as possible.
Whilst in the visitors centre, I spotted a cute motif running through the exhibits which I thought I might just use in my journal.
Here was the first instance I'd come across describing the chaos of the huge numbers of people travelling across the continent. It was interesting to read about Horse Creek too, for we'd passed the site of that meeting yesterday afternoon.
Here too was the story of Narcissa's little trunk which I find so touching.
We decided to begin our wander around by looking inside the Cavalry building, where an Oregon Trail wagon was standing outside. Every time I see one of these wagons, I am surprised how tiny they are!
The dormitories had been so well reconstructed - and no, that's not a ghost in the far corner but one of the National Park staff cleaning all the fabrics.
We loved the details; the individual kit assembled on hooks for each soldier with a handwritten name pinned to the shelf above the bed.
Reviewing my photos of the renovated buildings I'm struck by how modern they look. In reality, they were pretty much in keeping with this 19th century fort and didn't really look quite so contemporary.
The interiors of each had been carefully arranged and someone had taken a great deal of trouble to ensure the differentiation between the officers quarters and those of the lower ranks.
We enjoyed looking around but would have liked a few more details of each building. There were signs indicating links to an audio guide, but we'd not seen or been offered one, so what we didn't read in the map/leaflet, we just made up!
Before we left, we asked the Ranger for directions to the one remaining set of ruts in the area. Our last ruts of the trip!
They were not easy to find, but a mile or so on an unmade road led us to a sign.
The Old Bedlam Ruts were named after the dormitory we'd just seen at the Fort, which had itself been named after the mental hospital in London.
The midday sun was beating down on us as we braved the track down to the ruts, fearless of the possibility of rattlesnakes in the area!
Ruts are not easily photographed but there in front of the sign are a set of clear dips in the terrain. Having viewed several sets of such ruts over the last week or so, we -ahem- experts discussed the description and wondered if they might be more aptly described as swales?
Whatevs. Here we were standing in front of the last ruts/swales before leaving the trail (for now?) What a trip we've been on and how fascinating it's been to learn about the people who came this way before us. The trail continues across Wyoming and beyond, passing several significant landmarks along the way, but we don't have the time to go further this time round. Maybe we'll return and explore the other two thirds? Who knows?
Feeling slightly rueful, we returned to the car and turned south, towards our stop for the next couple of nights, Cheyenne. It seemed strange to drive along a road without markers or significant landmarks and yes, we were already missing Nebraska!
The road ahead stretched out in front of us and in a couple of hours we were in Cheyenne.
We'll explore the city tomorrow, but for now, we're working on the transition to cowboy mode.