Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Northern Wyoming

Unlike the desert of southern Wyoming, northern Wyoming is a mixture of beautiful mountains and grasslands.  Moving from east to west, you leave the Black Hills into the Thunder National Grassland.  At Buffalo and Sheridan you enter the Big Horn Mountains.  Buffalo is the county seat of Johnson county, location of the famous Johnson County War between the open range ranchers and the homesteaders.  It's quite a story.  The Wyoming Stock Growers Association wheeled as much power as the state legislature (several people were members of both)  It is reported that the WSGA hired some Texans to run the homesteaders out of Johnson county.  Some of the settlers were murdered but they rose up and surrounded the cattlemen.  The US Calvary arrived and escorted the ranchers to safety of a jail and everything quieted down.  The book "The Banditti of the Plains" by A.S. Mercer was written about the incident.  In the 1900's the books were destroyed and it was dangerous to own a copy as late as the 1950's.  My grandfather hid his and only a few people in the family knew of his acquisition.

North of Sheridan, in Montana, is the Little Bighorn Battlefield National Monument, location of the battle between Gen. George Custer and the Indians (Lakota Souix and the Northern Cheyenne).  Although not in Wyoming, a trip to Sheridan would not be complete without visiting the battlefield. 

Sheridan is also the headquarters for the International Association of Turtles.  For those of you who are Turtles, no explanation is needed.  For those of you who would like to know more click here.  There is only one correct response to the question, are you a turtle?

West of the Big Horn mountains is the Big Horn River and the plains containing the towns of Lovell, Greybull and Worland; the smaller towns of Basin, Ten Sleep and Meeteetse.....  And then there is Powell and Cody, the east entrance to Yellowstone National Park.  Cody was founded by William F. Cody (Buffalo Bill) in 1897.  It is the location of the Buffalo Bill Historic Center and the Whitney Gallery of Western Art (containing many Charley M. Russell paintings...my favorites).

The northwestern corner is the home of The Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Parks.  Yellowstone is probably one of the best know of the national parks, for it was the first.  Thank you Teddy Roosevelt.

Here are several photos I would like to share.  My father took these pictures in 1953 when he returned from Korea with his brand new 35mm camera.  Many of them were framed and hung in my parents house for years.  The original photos are on slides.

Yellowstone lodge before the fire.  The lodge survived but the forest didn't.

Old Faithful gyser.  I have a funny story about my friend Chris and his trip to Old faithful.  I'll share it on the Teton Post

Lower falls of the Yellowstone River.

Elk or Wapiti

Our next visit to Wyoming will be Jackson Hole and the Teton Mountains.  Until then, remember, life ain't about how fast you run, or high you climb, but how well you bounce. 

Don't squat on your spurs!

Friday, October 20, 2006

Following the Oregon Trail through Wyoming

The early settlers of the American west mostly traveled through Wyoming without staying.  They followed known rivers to a point that they could easily cross the continental divide.  On the other side of the continental divide they would follow the rivers that flowed west to the Pacific Ocean, and their final destination, Utah, California or Oregon.  The three main trails that cut across Wyoming are the Oregon, the Morman and the California trail.  As I mentioned in an earlier post, they followed the North Platte river.  You can still find wagon wheel ruts and places where the early pioneers carved their names in the sandstone cliffs.  On the south side of the North Platte, across from Fort Laramie, is Register Cliff.  North of Rawlins and northeast of Whisky Gap is Independance Rock, also known as the "Register of the Desert".

The towns that sprung up along the old trails are Torrington, Fort Laramie, Guernsey, Douglas, and Casper.  Just north of Douglas (home of the famous jackalope) is the site of the most notorious gambling resort and saloon in the territory. In 1882 it was known as the "Hog Ranch".  Northwest of Casper is the "Hole-in-the-Wall", Butch Cassidy's hide out. 

As the trails moved west they crossed the continental divide at South Pass and then moved southwest to Fort Bridger.  After Fort Bridger, they split, some going south into Utah and California, the others going west toward Oregon.  Fort Bridger was the home of the early fur trapper, Jim Bridger.

One of my favorite places in Central Wyoming is Lander.  Is is at the southern edge of the Wind River Indian Reservation, and the grave of Sacajawea, the famous Shoshone girl guide and heroine of the Lewis and Clark Expedition of 1805-06.  West of Lander is Pinedale.  This is the location of one of my not-so-secret fishing places.  There is a series of lakes in the Wind River Mountains east of Pinedale.  My favorite is Burnt Lake.  Unitl the late 1970's you could only access it with a four-wheel drive vehicle.  It  holds many memories of fishing trips with my father in the 1950's.  If you plan a trip to Jackson Hole (The Tetons) and Yellowstone via this route, take along your favorite tape or CD to listen to.  That is unless you enjoy listening to country and western music on an AM radio.  The only station you can receive is KMER-AM, Kemmerer, Wyoming.

Before I move on to Jackson Hole and Yellowstone, I would like to share one of the strangest sensations I have ever experienced while driving.  On US20 between Shoshoni and Thermopolis, is the Wind River canyon.  The river flows north through the canyon (contrary to most in the area that flow south).  The highway slopes down ever so gently that it gives the illusion that the water in the river is actually flowing up hill!  The first time I drove it alone (1970), it freaked me out so much that I almost drove off the road and into the river.  To top it off, I was listening to the sound track to "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" and could imagine ol' Butch and Sundance riding horseback along the river.......  And I wasn't even smoking anything!