Where the Pioneers Left Their Marks in Wyoming

These posts are getting further and further behind! I won’t tell you where I’m writing this from, but I will just say that I am perfectly safe and comfortable.

I left this blog at Day 10 of the overall summer road trip, and Day Four on the Oregon Trail.

Saturday, June 14, after heading to Fort Laramie, I proceeded toward Register Cliff. This was where Wyoming, already fairly attractive, started to get into “breathtaking” territory.

I didn’t realize until I got there that Register Cliff, where many emigrants carved their name into the rock, is located near a military base (for the National Guard, I think). It’s Camp Guernsey, as it happens, which makes this sign all the more amusing:

This just made me think of every army-movie cliche ever.

I was driving around with my windows cracked, and I heard a strange sort of thrumming in the background of my music. Remembering my years in the DC area, I looked around and sure enough, found the helicopter:

And that was all before I even got to Register Cliff:

The problem with Register Cliff is that the pioneer inscriptions were not always protected. Now, there is a chain-link fence around a good portion of the rock, but not all of it. And before that was posted, people in the decades since the Oregon Trail have come to leave their marks. I saw inscriptions from 2001, from the 1980s, the 1960s, and the 1920s, to the point that I despaired of finding anything authentic to the Oregon Trail, but eventually there were some.

I honestly question the authenticity of this one. I suppose some wagons could have come through in 1889, but the Oregon Trail was mostly defunct by the 1860s, so it strikes me as odd that there would be an Oregon Trail wagon train going through in 1889. But I could be wrong; I haven’t looked too deeply into this one.

As always, you can click on the photos to enlarge them for a better look at details.

Something else I wasn’t expecting at Register Cliff were the swallows. When you get there, you can’t hear anything but these birds chirping, shrieking, and flapping their wings, and their babies in the nests peeping for food. There are swarms of them flying back and forth to their nests (really cool structures built into the rock) feeding their young.

There is also a sort of cemetery by the rock. I cannot remember if it is an original site where Oregon Trail victims had been buried, and whether the graves contain known identities.

Another view of the cliff

Another view of the Platte River, I believe

Near Register Cliff, there is a place that has been officially designated an “Oregon Trail ruts viewing area” (seriously, it’s on Google Maps). By now, I was expecting to see “just” another set of dips and swells in the landscape, tempered by wind, water, and time. But no! Just like at Register Cliff, the emigrants had left more permanent marks on the landscape here:

I actually walked *inside* this path. It was creepy and beautiful and I couldn’t quite grasp it in my mind.

The area around it was beautiful, too. It made me wonder whether any of the plants I was seeing had been around when the emigrants passed through.

After the trail ruts, it was time to say goodbye to Guernsey and proceed to Casper. The city was the location of a very good Oregon Trail-related “interpretive center” because it’s where the Mormon, California, and Oregon Trails, all of which followed the Platte River for hundreds of miles, began to go their separate ways to Salt Lake City, Sacramento, and Oregon City, respectively.

Unfortunately, this was also the location of the worst hotel experience of my trip, where I mentioned I was in fear of my safety because of the poor conditions and general creepiness, but I lived to thrive and tell the tale!

But before getting to Casper for the evening, there was one more landmark to see: Ayers (or Ayres) Natural Bridge.

This isn’t the bridge itself, but I had to take a shot of the red, red rocks of Wyoming:

THIS is Ayers Natural Bridge

The bridge passes over LaPrele Creek, and is considered Wyoming’s first tourist attraction. It’s now surrounded by park, picnic, and camping areas, and there were quite a few people around. I didn’t get a lot of pictures, and there was one area that I didn’t go to at all because there was a wedding going on there. I did try to climb to the top and over the bridge, but a combination of fear of heights, general fatigue, and lack of reliable companionship discouraged me from venturing too far. So I took an unauthorized picture of a couple braver souls.

And that, at last, concludes my account of Day Four on the Oregon Trail.