Our next stop in our quest to follow the pioneer trail through Wyoming is Independence Rock.
After the emigrants left Fort Laramie they made their way to Independence Rock a major landmark as all the Trails, Oregon, Mormon and California as well as the Pony Express passed this landmark. In order to shorten the trip the emigrants made 9 river crossings before reaching Independence Rock.
Today Independence Rock is a National Historical Site located off Highway 220 between Casper and Muddy Gap, Wyoming. There is a large travel stop there and plenty of parking for large rigs. However no overnight parking is allowed. We arrived here late in the afternoon; too late to do any hiking before it got dark, so we decided we would rise early and so some extensive hiking around and over the rock in the morning. We parked about 5 miles West and spent the night at Martin’s Cove. Early the next morning at sunrise we took the jeep and headed to Independence Rock.
Independence Rock a large granite rock 130 feet high and 1900 feet long 850 feet wide.
Here is a view from the air:
We spent several hours walking completely around this historical rock. Then twice climbing to the top in two different locations and along some of the edges searching for the rock cave of shelter where there are signatures of the pioneers carved and also written wagon grease. It was a VERY windy day the day we were there. At some points as we found ourselves along steep edges of this rock, the wind would be almost more than we could handle. It was cold even though the sun was out. I couldn’t help but think about how it must have been for all those determined travelers. Here I was wrapped in layers of clothing, warm boots and gloves feeling pretty comfortable except for the power of the wind in my face. What about those women in dresses, carrying babies and men walking through the rivers several times in just a few miles. They also had very little provisions. How did they feel? But according to some diaries, they were so happy to make it to this landmark they celebrated in dance. What they had ahead of them would be almost unbearable to even think about, much less walk another 1000 miles.
As you can see in this photo, the trail of the wagons is clearly still visible. Again this is where all of the trails came together so Thousands of wagons and people and carts came on this route. In a barren land as this is, there is not much in the way of grass or trees to cover these tracks even after all this time.
We too were determined when we arrived at Independence Rock. We wanted to find the cave or rock shelter that some of the emigrants hiked into and while they found shelter from the elements, they signed or carved their names on the rocks inside this cave. On the sides and on the ceiling of the cave you will see where they left their marks. The used a variety of methods to do so. Some very carefully chiseled in a perfectly type set style, some carved roughly, and some who used the grease from their wagon wheels. All of which has been protected from the elements in this rock room high above the ground. If you find this room, be careful where you put your hands or where you climb; this is a room of history that needs to be preserved. Most of the names are on the ceiling.. It’s these pioneers who are the reason some of us live where we do today.
The climb to this shelter area is not an easy one, especially is you are short. But I was determined to see this place and both Mark and I are glad we did.
Next place to explore is DEVIL’S GATE, MARTIN’S COVE and SPLIT ROCK