September 3 - 9, 2015:
On the road again, heading on route 20 through the Wind River Canyon and the town of Shoshoni to Casper, Wyoming. The 100 mile stretch of highway between Shoshoni and Casper was totally barren rangeland with one town site, population 10 according to the sign. I stopped at the Hells half acre overlook adjacent to the road which was truly amazing. It was a deep eroded pit in the ground filled with all sorts of rock spires, hoodoo’s and all manner of rock formations. They have erected a sturdy chain link fence all around the perimeter to keep people from falling into the chasm.
|I just love these lonesome roads|
|That is "Hell's half acre" and then some|
Entering Casper there was much road construction and rough road conditions adding to the normal confusion when navigating into a strange city. I made it without incident to the East Casper RV Park where we have a reservation for a week. Our neighbor has converted a Volvo tractor into a RV with a custom body and ramps to load a smart car on the back. It’s a pretty cool arrangement I must say, but I question the practicality of it.
The town of Casper started with the arrival of the Fremont, Elkhart and Missouri railroad in 1888. Casper was a shipping point for cattle and sheep in the early days until oil was discovered in the Salt Creek Oil fields 40 miles north. Casper then boomed from about 1910 to 1925, several refineries were built, the town grew prosperous. Since then there have been a series of boom and bust cycles, the oil fields are still producing, but most of the refineries are gone.
We found the Rotary Park hiking area in the foothills of Casper Mountain overlooking the city. A very short hike there takes you to the Garden Creek Falls which was pretty special. There are several trails there which look interesting, but we weren’t prepared for a serious hike, we’ll save it for another day.
|A refreshing spot on a hot day|
|A trail view|
The town of Casper started with the arrival of the Fremont, Elkhart and Missouri railroad in 1888. Casper was a shipping point for cattle and sheep, which was the main industry in the early days. Oil was then discovered 40 miles north in the Salt Creek Oil fields and Casper became a boom town. Casper boomed from about 1910 - 1925, several refineries were built and the town grew prosperous. Since then there have been a series of boom and bust cycles, the oil fields are still producing, but most of the refineries are gone.
I explore downtown Casper followed by a micro brew at the “Wonder Bar”. It was built in 1914 and has been beautifully restored, almost too beautifully for purists like me. It also has excellent food and occasional live music. The Lou Taubert Ranch Outfitters is awfully impressive western store and there are three old theaters. The Rialto Theater is the most impressive from the outside and on the ground floor is an original Cigar shop and soda fountain, quite remarkable. There are several impressive western themed sculptures around town, the usual cowboy and indian stuff for the most part.
|The Wonder Bar is the place for food and drink|
|The Rialto Theater|
|The place for western gear|
|The iconic western cowboy|
|Burlington Railroad Depot|
|Water fountain at City Hall|
|Painting in the Post Office|
|Beautiful building and great name for a fly shop|
The double rainbow after the short rain storm in the evening was very impressive. The weather out here on the great plains can be volatile at times.
In the mid 1800’s if you were desperate or daring enough to get rid of most of your worldly processions, pack your essentials into a wagon and join a wagon train to start a new life in the west you would have come through present day Casper, Wyoming. Regardless of your starting point, you would follow the trail west along the Platte River and the North Platte River to a river crossing near present day Casper. You would then ford the river and take one of several optional trail routes to continue the journey westward. The Platte River crossing could be treacherous in the early days, wagons overturned, people and livestock drowned, until a ferry was built and eventually a bridge. It was a torturous trip at best, deadly at worse, with many hazards and unknowns to overcome.
The National Historic Trails interpretive Center in Casper has excellent exhibits to give you some appreciation of the various trails and the hazards of the trip. This interpretive center is a BLM function and they are excellent, I also visited a similar one outside of Elko, Nevada, which was equally excellent.
|Memories of Bison on the plains|
|The Platte River crossing at Casper|
|Twinkles trying out the Mormon push cart, 1,000's of|
Mormons actually did this
I go to the Beacon Club in the evening, “where the cowboys go sneakin’, according to their sign. It’s a large country bar with a huge dance floor and casino. I’m sorry I will miss the midget wrestling scheduled for September 12th. They had a good country band playing and lots of dancers. People, especially men really know how to dance in the west, lots of twirls and spins, very impressive for a basic non-dancer like me. I love the cowboy look as well and have the costume, but I feel so phony wearing it and don’t agree much with the ideology that goes along with it.
|It's way more interesting inside|
On Sunday afternoon we return to the Rotary Park for a hike. We ended up doing a hike to Split Rock which climbs fairly steeply with lots of switchbacks and some good views overlooking Casper and the surrounding plains. On the way back down Twinkles slips on one of the steep downhill section with loose gravel and takes a nasty spill. She manages to sprain her left ankle and wrist, but she doesn’t think anything is broken. Luckily, we weren’t so far from the end so I help her limp back to the jeep. I offer to take her to an urgent care, but she refuses and instead wants to stop at Walmart for a wrist brace and ice cream for the pain.
|That's the Split Rock|
|The view from the trail|
On labor day while Twinkles is resting and icing her wounds, I go for a ride up to the Casper Mountain recreation area. Casper Mountain peaks at 8,130 foot elevation and provides a great view of Casper which sits at 5,150 feet.. The paved road up is steep with several switchbacks and 15 MPH hairpin curves, but only for about 4 miles. The recreation area has lots of trails for winter cross country skiing, mountain biking, ATV and snowmobile. There is also a downhill ski area, Hogadon Ski Area, which looks (from the parking lot) like something from 1965, about my speed.
|I never think much of nordic skiing in Wyoming|
Casper was a crazy, happening place in it’s day, hard to believe today. The various Indian tribes roamed around here on the open plains 200 hundred years ago hunting Buffalo as they had for centuries. The wagon trains then started rolling through on their way to the west with homesteaders seeking the free land being offered along with the Mormon’s on their way to Salt Lake City. Next were the gold seekers heading to the California gold fields to strike it rich, followed by the Pony Express mail riders followed by the trans-continental telegraph line and then the railroad. By this time the indians were fed up and became more hostile and started to rip up the telegraph line and train tracks. This prompted the government to build a series of forts to protect the infrastructure.
Platte Bridge Station, was eventually built for this purpose, but was renamed to Fort Casper to honor Caspar Collins (the Army misspelled his name) who was an officer at the fort killed in an early indian ambush.
Fort Casper has exhibits on the early emigrant trails, the river crossings in the area and a reconstructed fort complex. The Mormon’s were the most organized group that passed this way on their trek to Salt Lake City for religious freedom. They built a ferry and left men at the site to operate it and help other travelers get across safely. The museum site is in close vicinity to where their first Mormon Ferry was located and a replica of it sits on the museum grounds. This was replaced after a few years with a wooden bridge and the museum also has a replica of it.
|Caspar Collins sad fate|
|I'll trust my fate on the triple Bell instead|
|Inside one of the reconstructed army cabins|
|A vintage oil drilling machine|
|A replica of the 1858-1859 Old Platte Bridge|
|A replica of the Mormon Ferry|
After the museum I stopped at the nearby "G-Ma's Diner, I love the sign and there were several cars out front. I liked the vibe too, but the hot turkey sandwich was a poor choice. Need to stick to beef out here.
|G-Ma's Diner was folksy|
The town of Casper started with the arrival of the Fremont, Elkhart and Missouri railroad in 1888. Casper was a shipping point for cattle and sheep in the early days. Oil was discovered shortly in the Salt Creek Oil fields 40 miles north. Casper boomed from about 1910 - 1925, several refineries were built, the town grew prosperous. Since then there have been a series of boom and bust cycles, the oil fields are still producing, but most of the refineries are gone.
|Oil Capital days|
I took a ride out into the range country to see what I could find, big wide open views but not much else. After that, a stop at the art museum for a colorful exhibit.
|Another one of those as "far as the eye can see" views|
|Another view with wispy clouds|
|Let me study this up close|
Next stop is Laramie, Wyoming;
Twinkles and Slick