Thursday, September 3, 2009

The Oregon Trail in Eastern Wyoming

Last night after work I ate some dinner and hit the road. My destination was Casper, Wyoming where I would camp for the night and then follow the Oregon Trail west to Muddy Gap Junction. I spent the night under the stars at the beautiful BLM managed Canyon Rim Campground on Muddy Mountain. When I awoke this morning I hiked a few of the short interpretive trails there and then got back on the road. I stopped for gas and breakfast in Casper and then followed the trail west. My first Oregon Trail stop was Bessemer Bend/Red Buttes, the last trail crossing of the North Platte River.
Red Buttes

From the Red Buttes site I followed a backcountry road that closely paralleled the original Oregon Trail. Often times I could see trail ruts along the side of the road. My first stop on the backcountry road was the Avenue of Rocks. The pioneers called these tilted rocks the Devil’s Backbone.
I spent some time climbing around and exploring them. I even found two pioneer inscriptions in the rock. From Avenue of Rocks I moved west past the Poison Spring and Willow Springs. Next, I stopped at Prospect Hill for a very good view of the surrounding terrain and a look at some trail ruts.
Prospect Hill
Interpretive sign on Prospect Hill
Finally, I made it back to paved road near Independence Rock.
Independence Rock
Independence Rock was an amazing site. There were hundreds of pioneer inscriptions carved into the rock here. I spent some time circumnavigating the formation and scrambling around on top looking for carvings.
View from Independence Rock Summit
I found quite a few of them.
Lowry Signature
Fitch Signature
July 4, 1850
I also found one spot where a pioneer had written his name using axle grease.
Axel Grease Signature
It’s hard to believe that that signature has lasted so long!

From Independence Rock I headed over to Devil’s Gate where the Sweetwater River has carved a small, deep gorge into the rock.
Devils Gate

I also visited the strange Martin’s Cove site.
Martin’s Cove was the site where a group of Mormon pioneers headed to Utah took refuge during a blizzard in 1856. The LDS Church leases the site from the BLM and they have stationed volunteers along the trail to the site to interpret and protect the site. I guess the LDS Church sees the pioneers of the Martin Party who died as martyrs. I think about it a little bit differently, however. I see it as a major mistake on the part of Bringham Young to allow this group of pioneers (which consisted of a large number of elderly and children) to allow the group to leave Iowa City so late in the season.

From Martins Cove I checked out Rattlesnake Pass where there is a pioneer grave and a few pioneer inscriptions and then headed west then south away from the Oregon Trail. I headed to the town of Saratoga, Wyoming where there is a free hot spring pool. When I got to the free pool, known as the Hobo Pool,
Hobo Pool
I discovered the water in the pool to be much too hot to bathe in. I opted instead to soak in the North Platte River where the cool river water mixed with the hot spring water. It was a nice soak except for the dumb fish that would jump into the hot spring water then die because it was too hot. My last stop after leaving the spring was a campsite at the Ryan Park Campground.        

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hey Eric and Noelle! Here I am at work, trolling around for pictures of signs at one of the sites that we manage (because I can't find any in our files) and I came across your blog! Its been awhile since you've been out here, perhaps you need another visit?!

Tammy (Wright) Owens