Sunday, August 29, 2010

Fort Laramie and History

It never ceases to amaze me that we can stop in a little tiny town (Lingle, WY pop. 510) and discover so many wonderful things to see.

We found the Fort Laramie National Historic Site just a few miles west of the park near the town of Fort Laramie. It was established in 1834 as a private fur trading post and later became a military fort to help protect the thousands of migrants using the Oregon Trail and Mormon Trail.

Of course, our first stop was the visitor center which happened to be the old commisary of the fort.

And we loved the authentic teepee inside the visitor center.

Outside, we wandered over to the barracks. Some of the doors are open to the public and the inside is decorated as if the soldiers just stepped outside onto the parade grounds.

The bunks and equipment as well as the dining areas were a step back into time.

Then, we happened upon this marvelous woman who was not only dressed in authentic costume but acted the part as well. Referring to herself as if she had just stepped out of her covered wagon, she spoke at length about the trials and tribulations of being on the Oregon Trail for months.

She was able to answer every question from the construction of the wagon and the care of the oxen to the preparation of meals and clothing. Easily the most fascinating part of the day.

We strolled the rest of the fort, peering into the officers quarters (they lived quite well) and getting a feel for life in a military operation.

Leaving Fort Laramie, we drove 15 miles further west to the Oregon Trail Ruts Historic Site near Guernsey, WY.

This is the best preserved path of the wagons, animals and people crossing the Oregon Trail. The trail, across a sandstone ridge, was worn between two and six feet deep in places. Truly amazing, the hardships that were endured.

And just a few miles away is Register Cliff. It's the huge sandstone cliff in the background.

Adjacent to an emigrant campground, thousands of travelers have carved their names into the soft sandstone to declare that they had made the trek across the United States. Unfortunately the practice has continued until the present day and we had to search for the names and dates of original emigrants. There were many, many inscriptions dating back to the mid 1800's.

It was a long, hot day of sightseeing but the history came to life for a little while.

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