the trail through Wyoming

At the Parkway Plaza, there were no free waffles, but they did have a restaurant on the premises, so we moseyed down there later than we should have for the first real breakfast of the trip. The food was good, there were a few too many flies buzzing around the windows, but this didn’t seem to bother anyone but us.

Before we left Casper, we spent the rest of the morning at the National Trails Museum (sorry, “Interpretive Center”), which is a fairly new place that covers the history of all the different westward trails and the throngs of pioneers who travelled over them. Apparently all the major trails converged in Casper because that was the westernmost point to cross the North Platte River before heading into the mountains. The Museum isn’t large but has a good amount of interactive displays along with several artifacts, with one area each for the Oregon Trail, Mormon Trail, California Trail, etc. The whole westward expansion via the trails ended in the early 1860’s with the transcontinental railroad, but in its heyday thousands of people a day were making the trip. The Native Americans started out friendly but ended up getting totally screwed.

Since we’d had a large and relatively late breakfast, we hit the road and headed south, the only other item on the agenda being Fort Laramie, one of the major outposts along the trails. Travelling through Wyoming can be a challenge, as you can drive for hours without seeing any place to eat. This is not necessarily surprising, since you can drive for just as long without seeing any people either, but it makes it problematic when you have kids who begin telling you they’re starving about an hour before each meal time should really start. Once we passed through Douglas, there was nothing bigger than Al’s Hot Dog truck between there and the Fort, so we went past the turn and drove an extra 20 miles to Torrington, a thriving metropolis of 5,000 near the Nebraska border which at least had a Hardees.

Then it was back to Fort Laramie, which hasn’t been a fort for over 100 years but still maintains a significant collection of structures from its prime, many of which have been restored and furnished. The kids weren’t terribly excited by most of this, but it gave them a chance to run around, and they did have a few people out among the grounds showing how people lived then, particularly one woman who was washing clothes and got them to try it out.

The storm clouds were looking ominous by the time we were ready to leave, and sure enough within five minutes of getting in the yet another Wyoming scirocco had blown in with driving rain and lightning in every direction. I still wanted to see the trail ruts that were just down the road, so we headed in that direction and took advantage of a brief break in the rain (although not the lightning) to drive down a couple of gravel roads and run up a hill to take a few pictures, but barely had time to get back to the car before it started pouring again. I decided to forgo the Register Cliff site as it was further into the storm front and it was getting late anyway.

We made it back to the highway, the clouds parted and we drove to Cheyenne unimpeded, stopped to have dinner at a Mexican place that wasn’t the one we were originally looking for, but turned out to be pretty good anyway. By then it was very late and we still had to get to Longmont for the night, so it was back on the highway and driving in the dark until we got to our hotel just about at 10pm. It seemed like we’d been driving since we got up, which we hadn’t, but fortunately our last full day tomorrow stays much closer to home base.