Friday, November 23, 2012

We spent some time in South Eastern Wyoming. One of the highlights was visiting many of the small communities that folks call home. We wanted to see Fort Laramie and the town of the same name. Fort Laramie was an important stop on the Oregon, California and Mormon Trails. It was also a staging area for military excursions in the area.

We left  I-25 and headed east on US26, a well paved and scenic drive towards the town of Fort Laramie. This enjoyable drive follows the Platt River and the Burlington Northern Railway through towns like Guernsey, Fort Laramie and Torrington.

Just outside the town of Guernsey we found this State Historic Site. Since this area was a hub for the Oregon, California and Mormon Trails, many travelers stopped in this area to take advantage of the safety of nearby Fort Laramie, abundant water for their livestock and grassy plains. Register Cliff was one of the key checkpoints for travelers on the Trails as it allowed them to ensure they were on the correct path west.

These sandstone cliffs were created by the Platt River. While sandstone is relatively soft, these cliffs have withstood the perils of Mother Nature and stand as a tribute to the hardy travelers who passed through this area. It was custom to carve your name in the cliffs. The earliest located name was inscribed in 1829.

They have identified 375 names and locations of families that had passed through this area and inscribed their names on the cliff face walls. The W. R. Foster family passed here in 1852. They were from Vernon, Iowa. Their destination was unknown.  Of interest, is that while this is a State Historic Site, you are encouraged to continue the tradition and carve your initials in the sandstone, but asked to respect those whose names are already inscribed.

After inscribing our names, we left Registry Cliff and continued toward Fort Laramie. The clear blue skies began to give way to some puffy white clouds and some ominous looking clouds in the distance. It looked like we might be in for some showers later in the day.

We arrived in Fort Laramie, pop.230, as one of the Burlington Northern trains made its' way westward toward their large switching yard just west of the city. Fort Laramie was a Pony Express stop in 1860. A sign in town proclaims it is "Home to 250 Good People and 6 Soreheads". We were left to discover for ourselves which was which.

Turning Left in the town of Fort Laramie takes you across the railroad tracks and the Platte River. The Platte River was important to the Fort itself as it provided needed water and a natural barrier to attacks on the Fort. Since it was at the confluence of the Laramie and North Platte Rivers, it also provided much of the animals the fur traders of the time needed for their trade. It was originally constructed by these fur traders and later instituted as a Fort for the US Army.

Wagons, such as this one, were called "Prairie Schooners". They were designed to haul about 2500 lbs of "stuff" although one that heavily loaded would be very slow. These pioneers often walked the entire trail and slept under the wagons at night. Most pioneers averaged about 10-15 miles per day with the entire trip west taking in excess of six months. In 1846, the ill fated Donner Party stayed at Fort Laramie. This actual wagon was meticulously restored.

Fort Laramie began as a fur traders' trading post in the early 1830's and was purchased by the United States Army in 1849 for $4,000. Barracks and Officer's quarters were built along with mess quarters and stock pens and barns. This is the mess hall set up for the men's dinner. Note the large wood burning stove/heater in the middle of the room.

Along with the mess hall above, the men had dorm style sleeping quarters. Besides these dorms, set up for the single men, there was a hotel type setting for the married couples and a very formal and elegant building for the officer's. Note the same heating facility in the middle of the room. Adjacent to this facility was a leather room, a barber shop, a bath house and a recreation room with a bar.

Interesting to us was the use of these large metal structures on top of various hills all around Wyoming. I was unable to find out any information as to their significance, who constructed them, who maintains them or why they are there. We saw images of Bison, Cowboys, Horses and this Covered Wagon. Note also the deteriorating weather in the form of threatening clouds. It was to get worse very quickly.

Ever wonder what a storm brewing over Wyoming looks like? We were headed back to the coach when this huge storm rose up in front of us. While it certainly got our attention, it was a slow moving, yet massive weather front so we easily outmaneuvered it and arrived back at our coach safe and sound.
Even though we were safely inside our coach when the storm arrived, it brought with it rain, wind, lightning and thunder. Jasmine hated it, Debi wished it would go away, and I went outside and snapped some pictures of the lightning was pretty spectacular....

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