The Wide Yonder
The size and scale of this huge country is never more apparent than on a road trip. We set out from Laramie after breakfast, heading vaguely northwest towards Casper, knowing that at some point, we’d pick up the Oregon Trail once again and begin the next chapter in the story of that vast population who ventured westwards in the 19th century in the hope of a better life.
We’d not gone very far when we found ourselves behind a slow moving convoy of vehicles.
Just when my hero was beginning to think that we might be stuck behind this crew for some hundred miles or more, they switched on a bunch of flashing lights and turned off the road. Phew!
Beautiful (and empty!) though this countryside is, we were glad of the occasional passing item of interest.
There’s a train!! Woo Hoo!!!
There’s two cyclists.
No, wait - two cyclists?! So far from anywhere? Wow.
Welcome to Rock River, pop 200 odd.
I’m sure life there is…ermm….interesting?
Next, a brown “historic marker” sign so we prepare to turn off and take a look. Since we are still driving parallel to the railroad line, this is an interesting diversion. and we read the story of Bill Carlisle, the Gentleman Bandit!
This area is Como Bluffs, site of dinosaur excavations though and the other brown board offers further information about that.
Although this was a closed up, desolate place, there was also a kind of bleak beauty here too and we stood a while enjoying the fresh air and warm breeze until another car pulled up nearby and spoiled our peace!
Out on the road again, finding the small town of Medicine Bow a few miles further on (pop 279)
Quite how it must be to live in one of these small places, some 80 miles away from the nearest place of any size, I have no idea.
I imagine one would get used to a commute like this? Or?
More entertainment was coming up in the form of a bit of activity in the “field” across the way.
Over on our right, those wide open spaces had changed into some rocky bluffs with what looked like hoodoos up there and we were humming along quite nicely, my hero thankfully obeying the speed limit because there on the roadside, in the middle of nowhere was a police speed check! Yes, I know I said we welcomed entertainment, but no, really, not that sort!
A good job I had my camera to hand for there was some real cowboy activity over there too!
As a distinctive and rather colourful rock formation came into sight, it was easy to see why the pioneers had placed such importance on these natural landmarks. Red Butte had been one of those landmarks and sure enough, here we were, back in Oregon Trail territory again. We turned right onto the Casper road and headed for our destination.
We had read of Bessemer Bend and decided it was somewhere worth stopping.
The site we were to visit was alongside the North Platte River - the very same North Platte as we’d become familiar with in Nebraska. This was where the pioneers had made their last crossing of the river and it was an important landmark on their journey.
The site had a memorial marker and several interpretive panels to read and learn from.
The first panel was worded most beautifully. Perhaps you can expand the photograph and read?
We signed the visitors record and marvelled at this place, recalling the magic of discovering the trail last year and immediately getting back in the groove. So glad we came!
Our overnight destination today was to be Casper, but we had timed our arrival to allow for time at a couple of museums, the first of which was just a short distance up the road.
The first, Fort Caspar Museum was a recreation of the 19th century US Army post, protecting the pioneers as they travelled through the area.
The star attraction here was a reconstruction of one of the "ferries” built to transfer the wagons over the fast flowing river. We’d forgotten how small the wagons are - imagine, your life’s possessions all in that small place.
The other museum here is the National Historic Trails Interpretive Center built high on a bluff above the place where the trails crossed. This modern museum was very impressive and we really enjoyed our visit. There’s rather too much to share about both of these museums right now - I’ll return to the subject when there’s a little more time.
So, here we are, very much back on the trail. This morning, driving along that long, straight road provoked my Hero to observe that he was getting a little bored. Mary and I agreed, it would be good to “get there”. We were all humbled by the stories of those pioneers, who endured day after day, week after a week of incredible boredom and discomfort. No a/c comfort, no cosy bed to sleep in - their determination to keep going leaves me in awe of their faith and tenacity. We’ll continue the trail tomorrow - but first, a good night’s sleep!