|Today's post cover our travel day on Wednesday, June 17th:
We got a leisurely start this morning as we were only traveling about 100 miles, from Rawlins to Casper. No sense in hurrying as we'd booked a spot at Fort Caspar for the night and check-in wasn't until noon. Most years when traveling from Ely, NV to Custer, SD we stop in Casper, WY to spend at least one day visiting with my aunt, uncle & cousins. It's fun to catch up with them and we always enjoy having dinner at the Guadalarja Mexican Restaurant, their favorite & one of ours as well.
It was a pretty drive between Rawlins & Casper as we traveled US-287 N to WY-220 E although there aren't any businesses or facilities along the way. There are however plenty of pronghorn, cattle, horses & the very large Pathfinder Ranch. We didn't stop today, but in the past have visited the Mormon Handcart Visitors' Center at Martin's Cove and viewed exhibits recording the tragic circumstances of two handcart companies. If you've not visited Martin's Cove as you travel this route, here is a bit of info to encourage you to do so.
In early 1856, Mormon converts began their long trek from England to Zion. They made their journey by ship, train, wagon and, finally, pushed handcarts west across the plains. The Martin and Willie Companies left Iowa City late in the season, too late to safely make the crossing. The Martin Company, unable to afford the toll at Reshaw’s Bridge, chose to ford the North Platte in bitterly cold weather. The next day, October 19th, a blizzard dropped between 12 and 18 inches of snow. The temperatures dropped well below zero. Before the Martin Company had traveled eight miles beyond the Platte, 56 of their members had died. The Willie Company, farther west, had also become trapped by the storm. When Brigham Young learned, in early October, that the parties were still out on the trail, he sent rescue parties east from Salt Lake City to assist them. By the time these rescuers reached the Martin Party, they were spread out over 60 miles of trail from Red Buttes to Martin’s Cove.
With the assistance of the rescuers, the Martin Company took refuge in a sheltered pocket on the south side of the Sweetwater Mountains, now known as Martin’s Cove. Nearly one-fourth of the 576 members of the Martin Company died before the company finally arrived in Salt Lake City on November 30, 1856. There are several parts to Martin’s Cove. Near or inside the large historic site named Martin’s Cove are Rattlesnake Pass, Devil’s Gate, Fort Seminoe, Prairie Park, homestead site buildings and the actual cove, a hallowed area where many of the handcart pioneers died. We enjoyed visiting & recommend you stop at least once. In the summer it is open daily from 8am-7pm.
A bit further down the road, at mile marker 63, stands Independence Rock State Historic Site which includes a large rest area complex right off the highway and an interpretive kiosk and paved footpath leading to the Rock. We decided to take a break & stretch our legs and you know me, I just had to take the mile loop around the rock for some photos. Looking somewhat like a large whale, the large granite outcropping is 1,900 feet long and 700 feet wide and rises 128 feet. Larry decided to walk Onyx & wait as I made the one mile loop around the interesting rock formation.
The rock derives its name from the fact that it lies directly along the route of the Emigrant Trail and that emigrant wagon parties bound for Oregon or California, which usually left the Missouri River in the early spring, attempted to reach the rock by Independence Day, or July 4th, in order to reach their destinations before the first mountain snowfalls.
Known as the "Register of the Desert," Independence Rock was a key landmark for pioneers as they picked their way across the American frontier. Hundreds of names have been carved into the hard stone over the years. The names were placed on the rock through engraving or by painting them with wagon grease, tar or a combination of buffalo grease and glue. Over time, many of these name have flaked off or been obscured by lichens. Historic inscriptions on Independence Rock, including JW Morgan, PM Edwards, PW Edwards, AJ Jack, J Epley, J Panning and SS Slater. I didn't see all of the inscribed names of course as I didn't venture to the top like many of today's visitors did. Wow, it's a steep climb for sure & looked a bit slippery. And hot! I took several pics of the informational signs so I won't bore you with any more details, you can read them for yourselves if you like.
Moving along we flew past the pretty Alcova Lake & just took pics of it at 65 mph out the window! We understand there is a bit of road damage down near the marina due to recent heavy rains & we decided to not take the rig down. Besides, I was ready to arrive at the campground for a much needed long, hot shower. And I wanted to bathe Onyx as well before meeting family for dinner. We got all settled in & bathed and arrived promptly at 4:30 as promised. We spent nearly 3 hours together catching up but finally said our goodbye's with hugs & kisses & promises of another visit next year. We'd like to stay for 3-4 days next time & float the Platte river again. We floated the river a few years back & had a wonderful time. We did go down to Morad Park where folks like to let their dogs play in the river & enjoyed watching several of them for a bit. Onyx doesn't enjoy interacting with other 4 legged critters much & besides she was clean from her earlier bath so she stayed home & slept, lol!
So, that's it for now. Tomorrow we travel the final leg of our journey. We're traveling our least favorite way, through the grasslands, but recent flooding damage in Lusk, including the loss of a major bridge, is forcing us the longer, less attractive route into Custer, SD. But that's okay, we will just be grateful to have finally arrived to our 'second home' away from home! Hopefully the rain will hold off until we get settled in. See you on down the road & thanks for stopping by!