Valley in the mountains and historic trials

3 Oct

Leaving Riverton on the 135 our route took us south, the road passed through quite flat ground until ahead we spotted it snaking upwards toward the top of a high ridge.IMG_1145 There was snow on the tops of the surrounding mountains and also on the ridge we were about to cross but as the sun was shining and the sky blue we were once again treated to fantastic panoramic views of the surrounding area.

We had expected that once we reached the top we would head down the opposite side of the mountains as this area is called the Sweetwater Valley, but we found ourselves on a plateau, open grassland and sage bush and outcrops of rock highlighted by the snow which was around two inches deep (not on the roads however) a few cows here and there but for around twenty miles this was it.

Sweetwater Junction turned out to be a roadside rest area and a small gas

station, we ate lunch watching the local cows and calves penned up across the roadIMG_1153

Jeffrey City not far down the road was a little more extensive in its buildings however they mostly turned out to be boarded up, I later discovered this was once a thriving town dependant on a Uranium Mine, the mine closed and the town went down with it. A new mine has been opened in the area however the new workforce have not taken up local residence it seems.

This stretch of road to Casper has lots of historical landmarks as it is criss crossed by the route of the Oregon trail, The California Trail, the Mormon trail and the Pony Express, who were preceded by trappers, mountain men and of course the Indians native to the areas.IMG_1157

The Pioneers and Mormon travelled this way in thousands, the pioneers transported their belongings in covered wagons but the Mormon pulled hand carts weighing over 500lb, and the ruts left by their wheels are surprisingly still visible. Many of the pioneers died along the route from Cholera and other illness or injuries. Their journey was not one to be taken lightly walking as they did up to twenty miles a day a total of two thousand miles from Missouri to the West Coast and a new life.

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Independence Rock was half way on the cross country journey, the huge granite mound was a way marker and resting place for the travellers, they attempted to arrive at the rock for the 4th July so that the grasslands beyond would be rich enough to support the animals they brought with them. The rock became a message board in that those passing it would carve their names on the rock face in celebration of their survival thus far. Later travellers were able to search the rock for relatives and friends names to reassure or otherwise of their fate. The few remaining names are very faint faded with weather and covered with lichen but still survive long after their scribes have departed.

This area of Wyoming is home to many Pronghorn antelope, pretty, small brown and white creatures with unusual horns, they were grazing in small herds all the way along the route, IMG_1171their numbers have increased after limitations to hunting were put in place, they graze on the sage bush and small amounts of grass, blending in with the background, just their white tails showing bobbing up and down as they run away.

We had located a campground beside the Alcova Reservoir, thirty miles from Casper, unbelievably a full hook up was only $15, we could not miss a bargain like that. The road wound down through red chugwater rock formations towards the reservoir, a sign indicated that the full hook up RV site was 4.2 miles along the road but the whole area seemed deserted. At the allotted mile point the campground was sign posted on the right opposite a deserted marina on the waters edge, there were three other RV’s on the small site so we chose our spot and parked up. Walking back to the marina area we chatted to two other campers from Michigan, over this way on a hunting trip, I thought about the lovely antelope we had seen…..there were Mule deer around the waterside here and what we believe were young turkey vultures flying over head, the animals taking back the playground of the city folk who have mostly all left for the winter.

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A short drive next morning brought us to Casper and the Trails Interpretive Centre where we spent an enjoyable and informative couple of hours learning more about the journeys of those who travelled the trails. For us this is a huge learning experience, we were so ignorant of the history of the United States, it seems every time we come across something new it sets us on another course, more questions lead to more knowledge and discovery, well I suppose that’s what learning is all about. It is a part of travelling that we had not contemplated at the outset however but has become a big part of our journey.

Forty miles from Casper we turned off the Interstate to view a natural feature which has drawn travellers to it for over a hundred and fifty years. Natural Bridge is a perfectly formed stone arch over the river which has carved it by washing away the softer stone beneath. It sits at the end of a canyon whose rocky sides are a deep brick red colour. The road was quite narrow and twisty, like old times back on US highway 1, now I can relax and enjoy the view most times, only occasionally IMG_1191getting nervous about the drop! We strolled around the small

park area beneath the bridge and enjoyed a little late afternoon sunshine in the sheltered canyon bottom.

We arrived at Douglas just before 5pm and booked into the campground, surprised to see it quite busy. Logging on to the internet (good connection for a change) and checking the weather we discovered our lovely blue sky was going to leave us again and a couple of days cold and wet was to take its place. True to form Sunday morning was grey and before long rain set in, we decided to sit tight and have a day of cooking, washing and cleaning, all very necessary from time to time. It actually felt like an ‘old’ Sunday as I also had ‘conversation’ on the internet with friends and family catching up on all the news and gossip!

PS. This edition of the blog I have written with the aid of Windows Live Writer, it has enabled me to embed photos again, I can compose off line, edit photos etc then upload when we have a good internet connection! This is how I had hoped blogger would work when I first started writing, there are a few gremlins I need to sort but generally it has made the whole thing very much simpler! Hurrah for technology – hmmm but I havn’t published it yet, maybe should not shout too soon.

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