Start odometer: 46807
We took Hwy 26 from Guernsey, WY to Scottsbluff, NE. En route, we drove through Fort Laramie (Not Laramie) - population 243, Lingle - population 510, then Torrington, whose population of 5000+ is higher than its altitude. When we had to stop at a red light in Torrington, it occurred to us that we hadn’t seen a traffic light in days. This is one of the joys of rural living that I could easily get used to.
Our first stop of the day was Scotts Bluff National Monument. Throughout time, Scotts Bluff has been viewed as a landmark for those trekking a trail through history. It’s a prominent landscape feature that can be seen for miles. The National Park Service runs a free shuttle to the summit and those interested can hike the Saddle Rock Trail down.
Since we hadn’t yet had a walk this morning we decided to exercise here. The first trail we took was the North Overlook Trail (.5 mile) which provided some amazing views of the North Platte River valley and the badlands that forced wagon trains to detour through Mitchell Pass. Along the trail, the highest point on the bluff is marked at 4,659 feet above sea level. This marker now sticks up above the surface of the surrounding rock, showing the amount of erosion that has occurred in the 60 years since the marker was placed.
Now that we were up on the bluff and our vehicle was down by the Visitor Center, we took the Saddle Rock Trail which the NPS pamphlet says is 1.6 miles one way. It’s listed as strenuous with an elevation change of 435 feet.
This trail winds along the side of the bluff in a series of switchbacks, no guardrails, and a path width that barely allows passing. The tunnel and trail were built in the 1930's as federal works projects.
We made it down to the visitors center but by a third of the way down T’s knees were “screaming”; they sure didn’t like all that downhill stress. (T’s calves, thighs, and other body parts weren’t too happy either.)
At any rate, that took care of our exercise requirements for the day and we could, in good conscience, revert to “vegetative states” for the remainder of the day.
We did note in the visitor center that prairie rattlesnakes reside in the area but didn’t see any. After watching the movie iand buying some postcards, we headed out again.
We stopped at Chimney Rock National Historic Site in Bayard, NE. Chimney Rock became a guide for early “mountain men” - Rocky Mountain trappers and traders - on their seasonal travels between the Rockies and the Missouri River trading marts. It is noted in the journals of hundreds of covered wagon emigrants. From far out on the plains, wagon train outriders could see the spire. To them it signaled that the second phase of their long journey west - the difficult mountain passage - was about to begin. We took some pictures and headed on, by this time we were a bit “rocked out”.
Because we like the funky and unusual, we decided to detour to Alliance, NE to see “Carhenge” a tribute to Stonehenge done in old cars painted grey. What a hoot! Once again the ingenious individual who created this “work of art” had few neighbors to complain or puzzle over what was going through his mind. We spent about a half hour or so walking around and taking pictures then headed back toward
Hwy 26 to continue our eastward journey.
We stayed at a combination motel and RV park in Bridgeport, whose name we don’t recall. We learned about the Prairie winds which continued through part of the night. Apparently, electric, water and sewer connections had only recently been installed in the area where we were camped and the dust that was blowing around was amazing in its quantity. It was here that we first encountered the FLIES, FLIES, FLIES. Three or 4 would hustle into the camper everytime we opened the door and we spent a lot of time just killing them. At any time, 10 or 12 would be sitting on the outside of the screen patiently waiting for admittance. We attributed this phenomenon to the two feed lots that we had recently passed.
This is not a campground we would stay at in the future so it’s good that its name escapes us.