I am migrating south through the southwestern corner of Wyoming right now, but not quite at the same spot as in July, when I was heading north. Then, it was the famous South Pass. This time it is Ft. Bridger. This must bring a smile to the face of anyone who is a fan of the classic TV western, "Wagon Train."
Just think how many tourists have been disappointed -- and probably appalled -- by southern Wyoming! They hear the word "Wyoming" and immediately think of the front cover of a National Geographic magazine, the Grand Tetons, Jackson Hole, "Jellystone Park" and Yogi Bear, and maybe even the movie "Shane" and its opening shot and musical score by Victor Young, or the fictitious "Medicine Bow" of the classic TV western "The Virginian."
Then they look out the windows of their car and see brown, treeless, hills and plains. It is about as bleak as anywhere in the West, bitterly cold in the winter, hot in the summer, and windy as all hell all year. Maybe it is even bleaker than the Mohave Desert in southeastern California -- at least the Mohave has Joshua trees.
I saw a faint two-track road going to the top of an ugly and uninteresting hill, and wondered what it would be like to camp there in the winter! That's all it took for the imagination muscles to kick in. And why not?
At the western edge of Wyoming a historic highway followed closely to the path of a historic railroad. Both routes followed a meandering swale formed by ugly featureless shallow brown hills. But at the bottom was a nice creek that was still flowing despite it being the end of a dry summer. The signs kept saying "Oregon Trail" and "California trail."
But think how merciful and lovely that gentle swale was to those wagon trainers! It was the opposite of this miserable section in the photo:
|from the National Park Service|
No mountains to cross! Their sore horses or mules would get a little relief. The wife had probably been walking alongside the wagon since Scott's Bluff, and was looking for a bush or two for privacy so she could whelp a baby (exaggerating a little!). The creek kept them comfortable and alive. That was a real experience. It is humbling to compare their experience with ours.
I was trying as hard as possible to connect with their experience, and when I saw that swale and creek, I might have actually succeeded a little.