Thursday, August 1, 2013

Where the old west still lives

Earlier this week, we took our very first family road trip: up through Wyoming to South Dakota and back.  Filthy camping dishes, camping laundry and car-after-four-days-in-it-with-kids aside, it was a fabulous trip!

First stop: Fort Laramie, Wyoming.  We hit the Fort on Sunday.  It's part of the National Park Service, and had fallen into pretty serious disrepair before the Civilian Conservation Corps came into existence.  Today, many of the buildings have been restored to their 1850s or '60s appearances, and a number of volunteers in period dress can answer questions about the fort and its occupants.

From there, we proceeded three miles west to Boppie's cousin's ranch.  We camped there along the Laramie River, enjoying the hospitality of our cousins.  Joker fished (with, among others, a keeper small-mouthed bass), we relaxed, we saw shooting stars and a spectacular lightning storm in the distance and generally had a great time.  The next morning, we took a hike to the highest point in the ranch, with commanding views in all directions - where Native American scouts and cavalry commanders had clearly stood before us.
Dinner on the Laramie River
The final stop on the ranch - and a highlight, especially for the Bug - was the site of a former Native American burial ground.  All visible traces have been long gone, but the ants living there have unearthed, so to speak, some secrets.  Beads from the Native Americans' clothing, lost underground, are occasionally carted up as the ants excavate their tunnels.  We swept aside the pebbles and uncovered six of the old beads - an incredible treasure for us!  Many, many thanks to the Petersons for their hospitality - this leg of the trip would not have been so spectacular without our stay at the ranch!

The Bug displaying our treasure

Stunning ballhead waterleaf are all around the Wyoming plains
Before turning north, we went another 10 or 15 miles west to the town of Guernsey.  This tiny town is home to two incredible sites along the Oregon Trail.  Carved three or four feet into sandstone are the Guernsey Ruts - made by wagon wheels as over 30,000 people per year sought their fortunes in the west.  And when these emigrants passed Register Cliff, many carved their names into the soft stone.

One of the names on Register Cliff

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