We got underway at 0814. Unlike yesterday, the sky was clear. Traffic was extremely light, so the interstate was not so bad. The scenery quickly became dry and rugged. We crossed through some Rocky Mountains and the Continental Divide (twice). The trip was 331 miles. That was 331 miles of endless vistas in all directions. The highway would disappear at the horizon and then when we crested a hill, the view would be endless again. This happened over and over
Last night I did some homework and picked out a Wyoming “scenic byway” to get off the interstate. It did not turn out to be much of a diversion; it was only twenty miles. But, it ended at the destination Andy had already chosen for the night, Fort Bridger. We arrived at 1427 and walked immediately to the Fort Bridger Historic Site, a state park.
The park web site has everything you’d want to know about this fascinating place, which is not just Wyoming history but also United States history as well. I have copied a bit of it here:
“By 1840, the Fur Trade Era, with its keen competition for beaver pelts, its raucous reputation for rendezvous, and its solid association with all that was wild and untamed in the Rocky Mountain West, was drawing its last breath. Mountain men who had survived the rigors of the wilderness were forced to seek new methods of employment. Two of those men, James (Jim) Bridger and Louis Vasquez, teamed up to operate a trading post in order to provide much needed services for the rapidly increasing number of settlers passing through on the way to their promised lands. After unsuccessfully trying two other locations, Bridger finally found the perfect spot, as stated in a letter he dictated and sent to Pierre Choteau Jr. requesting supplies in December of 1843.
“I have established a small fort, with a blacksmith shop and a supply of iron in the road of the emigrants on Black Fork of Green River, which promises fairly. In coming out here they are generally well supplied with money, but by the time they get here they are in need of all kinds of supplies, horses, provisions, smithwork, etc. They bring ready cash from the states, and should I receive the goods ordered, will have considerable business in that way with them, and establish trade with the Indians in the neighborhood…”
Thus, Fort Bridger was born out of the entrepreneurial spirit of its first owners, Mountain Men. The establishment of Fort Bridger in 1843 was unwittingly an acknowledgment that the frontier way of life was ending. No longer would a man be able to earn his living off the bounty of the land, explore new territories, and discover nature’s wonders, unfettered by the demands and luxuries of civilization. The Mountain Men had lived in two worlds, adopting the Native American ways for survival, meanwhile, keeping ties with family back in the “states”, also for survival. The settlers, however, brought civilization with them, and as Bridger had shrewdly observed, “ready cash”, which he gladly exchanged for supplies, fresh horses, food staples, clothing and smith work. For a decade, the Bridger Vasquez partnership worked successfully, with Bridger, who could neither read nor write, often traveling and trading, while Vasquez, kept the books and tended the store.”
Here is a bit more from the park brochure:
“Not only did the location “promise fairly”, it proved to be one of the main hubs of westward expansion used by mountain men, Indians, emigrants and Mormon pioneers, the U.S. Army, Pony Express, Overland Stage, and Union Pacific Railroad. Even during the1900s The Lincoln Highway, Highway 30 and Interstate 80 crossed in or near Fort Bridger.”
The outpost now sells tickets for park admission.
It is filled with interesting artifacts. And, they take credit cards.
William Carter served here when the outpost became an army fort. He stayed on and became the post merchant. He built this small schoolhouse for his children and hired teachers from the U.S. They were apparently well-taught and went from here to colleges in the east. (Jennifer and George – note that some went to Cornell.) The small building attached it the milk house. The schoolroom is fully furnished and very cute.
They collected ice from the river and stored it in this ice house. The building to the right was where they kept their “refrigerated” goods.
The fort became a military outpost in 1858. It was abandoned in 1890 when Wyoming became a state.
The Commanding Officer had a fine home.
I took over 200 pictures today but will share just a few.
Call me lazy, but rather than write out all the trails and roads that came through here, making this little spot a hub of westward expansion, I’ll just give you a picture of the sign. There is a large map where these trails and sites light up when you push the buttons. Route 66 has nothing on this place but kitsch.
And, lastly, this is a windmill in the RV park. It does not appear to be doing anything but is whirling around briskly in the strong winds we are having.