We exit Estes Park on Hwy 34, an even more beautiful winding road than Hwy 36. The Big Thompson River is wild and mesmerizing and the tall walls of the gorge are spectacular. Keeping my eyes on the road is really hard!
There are very few turn-outs, but just as I find one along the river our tire-pressure-monitor starts beeping rapidly. I'm so glad we've already found a place to pull off, especially when Bill tells me the reading is 15 pounds in our inside right rear tire!
I check my cell phone and we have no service. Great. But then I look across the road and there's a pay phone right there. I think we can't possibly be any luckier than that. Until Bill comes back in from checking the tires and tells me it's a false alarm. The tire is solid with over 110 pounds. Whew!
Through the town of Loveland, CO, and we're back on Interstate 25 heading north.
In 1993 my sons and I made a ten-state road trip. At one point in our travels we saw "something" on a hillside that we thought was a tree. Then we thought it was a sign, then a buffalo, then we realized it was a buffalo sign. Ever since then, when we would see something along a road and couldn't tell what it was, we'd say "it's a tree.....it's a buffalo!" Silly, but although I didn't remember where it was, it's been a great memory.
As we approach the Wyoming border I see something familiar in the distance. It's a tree......you know what's coming :-)
Now we're in Wyoming. Our eighth state in 13 months. Although we'll see more at a quicker rate during our eastern travels this winter, we do like this comfortable pace.
|That's our buffalo sign!|
Our destination is Wheatland, WY, and my expectations are not high. I'm sure we'll see a lot of flat and dry and brown. But I very much want to see Fort Laramie, so we have reservations for two nights in this little nearby town.
It is beautiful here! After all the congestion of our last three stops, being back in a small, quiet town is heavenly. There are rolling green hills, trees, rivers....and a tornado watch. It's our first, I'm sure we'll remember it.
The watch that is, we don't even get any clouds.
Mountain View RV Park is possibly the strangest "park" we've stayed at. The sites are all on a city street. You pull into your home right off 20th Avenue. There's a nice clean laundry/shower house, but no office. Camp Hosts are easily identified on the corner, and we do the check-in on a clothes dryer in the only building. Level dirt site, 50 amp FHUs, no noise from the interstate, a nice view of open space from our windows. It's great for our needs.
Tuesday morning we head northeast to Fort Laramie. We come to the small town of Guernsey and see signs for a couple historic sites along the Oregon Trail. Let's go see them!
The first is Oregon Trail Ruts. One of several National Historic Trails, at this site the trail was forced away from the North Platte River and crosses a ridge of soft sandstone. It is worn to a depth of up to five feet, and is considered "...some of the most spectacular ruts remaining along the entire length of the Oregon-California Trail." Because of the geography of this area, it was necessary for practically every wagon that went west to cross the ridge at the exact same place - "with impressive results."
The trail from the parking area has many interpretive signs about the history of the trail and the military posts along the Oregon Trail. In addition to the ruts and the signs, there are wonderful grasses in all directions. More than any other flora, I love wild grasses. They are delicate looking, and yet so hardy - and they move beautifully in the wind.
|Heights of the "walls" differ along the trail|
There are also interesting wild flowers along the trail.
|Blend of pretty and I will cut you!|
|These little guys looked like periscopes peeking out of the grass |
|Ginormous seed pods - we saw these in Colorado too|
Just two miles up the road is Register Cliff. Between 100 foot limestone cliffs and the North Platte River, emigrants made this their first camp west of Fort Laramie. Their carvings were added to tribal pictographs already there. The earliest "dated" inscription was carved in 1829. Donated to the state in the late 1890's, the cliff is one of the best "registers of the desert". There are hundreds of inscriptions, most from the 1840's and 1850's. Sadly, none of the native pictographs remain as noted in the signage below.
|A wonderful piece of history |
Not surprising, there are more recent inscriptions from the 1920's to 2016. The historic carvings are protected behind tall fences, but it is the circling swallows overhead that are the greatest deterrent from accessing the wall. As soon as I get there I wish I brought an umbrella!
|Hand carved 1868|
|Looking more like stamps, you can see the faint lines drawn as spacers for these more formal letters|
|Plotting their next bombing run from 30-50 feet up the cliff|
|Over a century of recording|
|The Frederick family who donated the site, blew an opening in the cliff to store produce - cool in the summer and frost-free in the winter|
Bill "finds" a different route to the fort, and soon we're on a narrow paved road through "Tank Farm" which is an area of oil storage tanks - lots of oil tanks. He only takes me to the best places.
|Every surface inscribed around the opening|
Soon we leave them behind and are enjoying a dirt road through wide open spaces - green plains, rock formations, farm land. We see no other people.
|Stretching our eyes|
13 miles later we arrive at Fort Larmie National Historic Site.
|No people, but not alone|
I'm excited to see this piece of history, to walk where Red Cloud negotiated and signed the Treaty of 1868. I have long been a "fan" of this Lakota Chief who made great strides trying to ensure peace for his people without sacrificing their culture. Although short-lived, the treaty not only gave lands and protections to the tribe, it also closed three military installations along the Bozeman Trail. This is the "why" we're here.
Bill and Tessa go check out the Laramie River and lovely park area, and I head to the fort grounds. Entrance is free so I am amazed by the restored buildings, staff in period clothing giving tours and talks and working in the gardens, rooms furnished and staged, and beautifully maintained grounds.
|Preservation continues |
|Bachelor officers' quarters|
|Burt House was built for officers with families|
|Officers' wives brought "culture and style" to the fort|
|Love this old newell post - worn smooth |
|The trading post was stocked for fort residents as well as emigrants passing throuh|
|Many of the larger buildings on "officers row" have been preserved|
|Wives of enlisted men tended gardens, helped with laundry and cooking|
|Weapons magazine - reminder that this was a military installation for most of its "career"|
Bill and Tessa join me to see the visitors center where we watch a short documentary on the fort's history. Here we learn more details about the relationship of the military, the emigrants and the native tribes of the area. What I had not read, or didn't remember, was the role of the gold miners invading the Black Hills that lead to the Battle of Little Big Horn. Until then it seems Red Cloud's treaty was being enforced on both "sides".
|Wagon replicas - the original "down-sizing" movement|
|The grounds are beautiful this time of year|
Although there is a nice breeze all day, the 90 degree temps are getting uncomfortable, and we're ready for a late lunch. The little town of Fort Laramie (population 320) has one eatery so we give it a try.
|No need for a lot of detail|
|The interior is all red, white and blue and Bill notes the initials spell FLAG - very clever :-)|
Not only is this a funky, quirky local stop, with the owner doing the serving and the cooking, but the food is outstanding! We don't even mind that CNN is playing on the TV, although it's the first news we've seen in 18 months. So when you come to see the area - and you should - stop for FOOD at the F.L.A.G.
|Huge clouds follow us home|
|Sadly he is in a large fenced pasture, but he is our first bison|
|Gray Rocks Road takes us through more beautiful country|
|and past Gray Rocks Reservoir|
Our drive home is on another dirt road. There are no turn-outs through the Gray Rocks Canyon that gives the road and water their name, but it is a gorgeous section of large formations surrounded by grass and trees. We stop at the reservoir and meet a young family whose three children are swimming in the cold water with giant smiles - they're so cute!
Today's thunder storm warning brings us strong winds that didn't materialize in yesterday's tornado watch, and I bring in the large slide. The storm passes us to the north, and doplar shows we missed a big one.
We enjoy the cool breeze and smell of rain and tuck in for the night.
This has been a great stop, not only for the visit to a piece of history that matters to me, but for the surprising beauty we've found.