Sunday, June 9, 2013

Laramie and Lander Wyoming - Day 12 and 13

I said goodbye to Colorado and made my way north to Wyoming.  Rocky Mountain National Park had been spectacular and now it was time to more on.  Wyoming gave me a new landscape to marvel at.  It has pateau's, mesa’s, and canyons.

You see large jagged mountain ridges and sharp peaked mountains.  It has lots of wide open vista’s with little sign of development.  The terrain is rugged and rocky with scrub and sagebrush.  The terrain strata goes from green rolling hills, pale sandstones, jagged red rock cliffs and white capped mountains.  Livestock dots the landscape.  Ranching is a key occupation.  You don’t see any farms or cultivated land.  Its too rocky and the growing season is short.  It’s still at a pretty high elevation of 7,200 ft

Laramie sits in a wide valley all by it self; surrounded by open plains.  It has a population of 30,000 and my guess is most of that is made up of students from the University of Wyoming. Laramie is a college town.

One thing I came to see in Laramie was the Wyoming Territorial Prison Museum.  The Feds built a territorial prison in 1893.  It sat on 640 acres and was made of stone.  Its quite an impressive building.  For 20 years it housed the West’s major criminals.  “Butch” Cassidy was incarcerated here before his days with The Wild Bunch and the Sundance Kid.  “Butch” served 18 months for some cattle rustling.  His real name was Robert Leroy Parker.  He was basically low life thief.  He hung around with Mike Cassidy and decided to take on a new name.  The “Butch” part of it came from his time working in a butcher shop.  After getting out of prison, he took up with the Wild Bunch gang and it was there that he met Henry Longabraugh otherwise known as the Sundance Kid.  The movie with Robert Redford and Paul Newman romanticized these two, but that were nothing more and local hoodlums who were into stealing. 

Wyoming Territorial Prison

Cell Block
Also while in Laramie, I needed to undertake some auto repair.,  While in RMNP I noticed that my front passenger tire was wearing more on the inside tread and there was some minor cupping.  It was also pulling slightly to the right as I drove.  After spending the night in “Camp Walmart” I made an appointment at the Chevy dealer in Laramie to get the front end aligned and tires rotated.  The dealer did the work very timely and I was on my way. I didn’t want to prematurely wear the tire out so it was best to address it while the tire was still good. 
The drive from Laramie to Lander was pretty desolate but beautiful.  For 122 miles there was maybe one intersection and one lone gas station.  Some small cattle ranches came up here and there and I saw a lone car or truck about every 5 or 10 mins.  It was pretty scenery but very remote.   I spent the night in Lander at a small campground. 

From Lander, I drove northwest on Rt 287 through the Wind River Indian Reservation; home to the Eastern Shoshone and Northern Aprapaho. In Fort Washakie, I stopped to visit two grave sites.  The first was that of Chief Washakie (his name means Buffalo Rattle) of the Shoshone.  The Shoshone were friendly to the white settlers but their real enemy were the Crow, who were being pushed from their land and began encroaching on the Shoshone.  The two tribes battled each other to a stand still and decided to settled their differences by having their two chiefs fight it out.  Chief Washakie prevailed and as a sign of respect for his foe (Chief Big Robber), he cut out the Chief’s heart and placed in on his lance.  Pretty effective way to settle a dispute as long as you're the winner!  Crow Heart Butte on the reservation is named for this event.

The other grave site is that of Sacajawea, who helped lead Lewis and Clark to Oregon.  She is buried in Fort Washakie, were she settled with one of her sons until she died at the age of 100.  Sacajawea was only 16 and already a mother when she took up with Lewis and Clark.  Pretty incredible.  A young 16 yr old girl helps guide an expedition to the West Coast, helps them secure horses from other tribes, meets her long lost brother along the way, and comes back and lives to be 100!  Her grave site is pretty modest compared to other historical figures.  She is buried in the local cemetery. But at least she got her image on a coin!

The other grave sites are very colorful and most are decorated with flowers or some artifacts that honor the persons life.  The picture below must be of a young person because it has a pair of sneakers on the grave marker and toys on the grave site.

 I continued north west  crossing the continental divide again and was greeted by the Teton Range as I made my way into Grand Teton National Park.  More on this in the next entry.

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