So, I drove to Wyoming yesterday. And back. Why? Because I can.
I wanted to see Fort Laramie National Historic Site. I’ve driven by it, but never seen it. So, I climbed in my car yesterday morning, went to the bank, and then set out in a northerly direction. It took just over four hours to get there and since I hadn’t topped off my gas tank prior to leaving, I stopped only once. To get gas in Guernsey, Wyoming. Yes, there is a town named Guernsey. And it’s a town–no stop lights that I could find. I drove through Chuckwagon, too. And over Fish Creek. Seeing the names of some of these places quickly confirms you’re in the back country. Had it been a weekday, I would’ve detoured from the freeway for one stop, to tour the state capitol. I drove through Cheyenne, but the capitol building is closed on the weekends. Bummer. I’ll just have to go back.
It was fun to walk around Ft. Laramie because you can still see some of the foundations for the original buildings. I think they said only one of the buildings is original, but many have been restored. Some buildings still have walls standing, too. Inside the restored buildings are period pieces of clothing, quilts, furniture, musical instruments, etc.
Fort Laramie is a crucial piece of our nation’s history. It played host to settlers on the Oregon Trail, California Trail, and Mormon Trail (a.k.a. Mormon Pioneer Trail). It was also a stop for the famed Pony Express.
My camera and I had a good time. Some of the other tourists–I was surprised at the number of people, including two German tourists and four French, milling around because you don’t “accidently” end up here!–were fascinated at my technique for getting pictures. First, my camera doesn’t have a flash. Pro-grade cameras don’t come with flashes, generally speaking. You have to buy a separate flash unit that attaches to the camera. As such, I don’t have to worry about getting a glare from the flash off of the glass in the doors and windows. You’re not allowed to walk through the rooms, touching items. Everything has glass, or more probably plexiglass, that you look through. I would also use my hands as shades to eliminate glare from the sun as it streamed through. I’m pretty sure all of my photos came out with nary an unwanted splash of sunlight reflecting off the glass. Yeah! And, without the flash, I should have plenty of warm tones in the photos.
And before you ask, no. I haven’t uploaded a single image to my computer yet. I have to finish up the coffee table book and then work over the photos from the Memorial Day weekender at Badlands National Park, Minuteman Missile National Historic Site, Mount Rushmore National Memorial, Wind Cave National Park, and Jewel Cave National Monument. But I did get five stamps in my passport! (I know you’ve been chomping at the bit for that little piece of information.)
On my way out the door, I grabbed my lunch box, some ice packs, and some formula. It was kind of nice to
eat drink on the road. When I made it back into town, I stopped off at Bird Dog BBQ to see my brother and pick up some turkey for dinner. After ten-and-a-half hours on the road, I wasn’t cooking dinner! Anyway, Brian, Ally, and I are going to dinner this evening. Should be fun. We’ll try a restaurant none of us have frequented, Tucanos Brazilian Grill. Dad has bragged on this restaurant for months, so we’re going to give it a go and find out what the hubbub is about. I haven’t seen Ally in a few weeks, so it’ll be an especially nice visit. (I see Brian about once a week when I go grab lunch at his restaurant.)
I also slept eleven hours last night. Finally! While I slept through the entire church service this morning, for the first time in weeks I feel like I’m rested. Apparently, I should’ve taken a one-day road trip weeks ago!
I had hoped to get to Scotts Bluff National Monument as well (it’s something like 1.5 hours east of Ft. Laramie), but there was more to see at Ft. Laramie than I had anticipated. I guess I have another Saturday road trip in front of me in a week or two.
I’m also considering an overnighter in October. I have a 5-day weekend scheduled then and I could go to Canyonlands National Park and Arches National Park in Utah. I’ve not been to either. The drive there isn’t too bad (6.5 hours), but to properly tour Canyonlands, I’d need more than a day because elements of the park are very spread out and you can’t just drive a loop, you have to go to each one individually and then return to a central location. That stacks on a lot of drive time. And there are four “districts” I’d like to see… Island in the Sky, Needles, Maze, and Horseshoe Canyon. Don’t get me wrong, I’d check out the others, but I really, really want to see these. They look like a photographer’s dream! The National Park Service recommends 4.5 hours to drive all of Arches and upwards of six hours to see everything at Canyonlands. Thus the overnighter option. And if I’m there that long, I’ll probably drop down a little ways to see Natural Bridges National Monument and then up to Orem to visit a friend from high school (and get some In-N-Out! (“In-N-Out, In-N-Out, that’s what a hamburger’s all about!” (if you know, you know; if you don’t, your loss))). I have to check with said friend and see if she’ll be available for a visit, chances are she will be. And it would be oh-so-fun to see her!
Basically, I got the annual pass from the National Park Service, the America the Beautiful pass, prior to going back east. I’m determined to get my money’s worth out of this thing! So far, I’m doing great! It’s good through March, so I have time to use it a bit more, too. Considering I didn’t have to pay entrance into Colonial NHP, Jamestowne NHS (part of Colonial NHP), Yorktown NB (also part of Colonial NHP), Manassas NBP, Minute Man NHP, Acadia NP, Badlands NP, Jewel Cave NM, and Fort Laramie NHS, I’ve almost paid off the pass. Originally, I had planned to hit another national park back east and the entrance to that park alone was $20.00. Now I’m just paying off the rest of my investment and getting awesome photos in the process.
I may take a loop through Rocky Mountain NP on one of my upcoming weekends as well. I’ve been there many times, but I’m hoping to catch up with a friend in Longmont on a coming weekend and I may just leave early and take the super scenic drive. There’s also talk of a handful of us possibly visiting my aunt and uncle in Arkansas. If we do, that’ll mean a trip to Fort Smith NHS and Hot Springs NP. (You didn’t think I was the only NPS nerd in my family, did you?)
I don’t mind doing these drives on my own… they’re incredibly relaxing, even if they’re tiring. (That many hours in a car just tires a body.) And I enjoy the solitude. My introversion gets to run rampant when I do something like this. It’s one of the things that made my trip back east so enjoyable. The day I drove from Williamsburg to Manassas, by way of Monticello and other stops in between, was all to myself. The same for my time in Gettysburg, the drive to Telford, my day in Philly, the drive to Boston, my day in Concord and Lexington, and the drive to Acadia NP. I enjoyed the solitude immensely.
So there you have it, I’m feeling quite rested. And it’s quite nice!