Traveling out west in Wyoming eases the soul and rests the mind. Just traveling the open roads without traffic congestion is a good stress relief.
All roads lead to somewhere and we’ll eventually get there. However, let’s relax and enjoy some of the beauty along the way.
Let’s not forget the simple wildlife too. These cute little prairie dogs were at the Sweetwater Rest Area. I had fun trying to sneak up on them to take their photos. Although they are a little camera shy I was able to snap a few while hiding behind a post. Sneaky, huh? Also, I guess the sign doesn’t apply to prairie dogs. 🙂
Following a beautiful, yet wide-open plains travel into Wyoming as we traveled toward the Grand Tetons and Yellowstone, we welcomed a respite in Lander. One could naturally feel the pioneer and western spirit.
While Lander is a stopping point, it is also a beginning point for those desiring to explore the mountains or the desert. It is surely a welcomed site for bicyclists and hikers. In 1906, Chicago and North Western Transportation made Lander the end point of its “Cowboy Line” railway and the town earned the slogan “Where the rails end and the trails begin.” The Cowboy Line ran from 1906 to 1972. (Lander Chamber of Commerce)
The Wind River Indian Reservation is quite stunning. I can see why travelers would consider settling there, albeit the winters can be quite brutal. I can see also why the Indians fought so valiantly to retain their dwelling and hunting land. Still, with the news of opportunity in the west continuing to bombard those in the east, it was inevitable that travelers would come.
“For 19th century prospectors and miners in the rich gold fields
of South Pass, the crimson mouth of Red Canyon meant a change in diet. From the
wind-swept sagebrush prairie, they could descend nearly 2,000 feet down a steep
wagon road to the fruit orchards and vegetable gardens in the warm valley below
where they purchased fresh produce – a welcome switch from wild game meat.” https://windriver.org/destinations/lander/
Since we had been traveling for a few hours along the Chief
Washakie Trail, lunch was calling. We
traveled through Lander and located a local, nice place to eat – Gannett
The menu was enticing as we examined something different. That’s one of the interesting and fun parts of travel, getting to try things different than our normal routine. The food was excellent and we enjoyed sitting outside, relaxing from the drive.
Before leaving Lander, we wanted to check out some authentic Native American gift items and stopped at the Indian Territory gift shop.
I liked Lander. The people were friendly. The town wasn’t large, but it had about all the conveniences you need.
Every heard of him? Chief Washakie was a prominent leader of the Shoshone people during the mid-19th century. He was first mentioned in 1840 in the written record of the American fur trapper, Osborne Russell.
Washakie’s prowess in battle, efforts for peace and commitment to his people’s welfare made him one of the most respected leaders in Native American history. In 1878, a U.S. Army outpost located on the reservation was renamed Fort Washakie. It was the only U.S military outpost to be named after a Native American. (Wikipedia)
There is also a statue of Washakie in downtown Laramie at the University of Wyoming. Many locations are named after him as well.
I didn’t know much of the history of Chief Washakie until I first saw his statue in Laramie.
Once we departed Laramie and traveled toward Rawlins and Lander, Wyoming, the chief’s background became more intriguing. We found ourselves on the Chief Washakie Trail that extends through the area and Shoshone Reservation.
Here is a little ride-along if you care to join me. The clip picks up leaving Rawlins, Wyoming on U.S. 287 traveling the open road with miles of sage brush and occasional hills. You’ll then notice a sign saying Chief Washakie Trail. We even crossed the Continental Divide a couple of times. Stay tuned toward the end of the clip and you’ll see us driving toward the Crow Heart Butte. I’ll explain that below.
Washakie was not born to a Shoshone tribe. No doubt he had a challenging childhood and was likely lost when he escaped with some of his family when his tribe was raided by an enemy tribe. He was later found and was adopted into the Shoshone tribe. He became a mighty warrior and eventually chief of the Eastern Shoshone Indians of Wyoming.
Washakie befriended white pioneers who traveled through his territory in wagon trains, and no doubt as individuals, in the 1850s. He helped overland travelers in crossing streams and recovering cattle that had strayed. It is stated Washakie was also a scout for the U.S. Army. (Wikipedia)
It is evident to me that Washakie knew he and his people needed to
adapt to the new life and work with the government initiative.
Another challenge for Washakie was having sufficient land to hunt large
game like buffalo and elk for their survival.
Other tribes had this problem as well, particularly with the U.S.
Cavalry making progress in pushing the various tribes to reservations as the
west was being populated.
Wyoming was one of the last areas to become a reservation for
Native Americans and this triggered intense competition. The Sioux were well-trained warriors and had moved
toward the area, as well as the Crow.
According to Jackson Hole History, in 1856 the building up of the competition erupted in a violent battle between Washakie’s band and a large Crow group. The fight took place when Washakie’s Shoshones traveled south from Henry’s Lake, according to the memoirs of Elijah Wilson, a white boy who spent two years with Washakie’s family during this time.
Wilson said more than 50 Shoshones and 100 Crow warriors lost
their lives, which is a tremendous loss of life and highly unusual in plains Indian
warfare. Wilson implied that Washakie
and the Crow leader called a truce and both groups departed the scene. However, it is quite possible and perhaps likely
that this battle is the legendary story of the Battle of Crow Heart Butte.
According to the story, following a battle like this one described by Wilson, Washakie challenged the Crow leader to single combat, with the loser’s people agreeing to retreat from the area. This event supposedly took place at the top of the Crow Heart Butte, a monolithic table-top mesa near the Big Wind River, about 30 miles south of Dubois, Wyoming.
Here is another account of the battle between the Shoshone and Crow leaders.
Crow Heart Butte was the site of a battle between the Crow and Shoshone American Indian tribes in 1866. According to legend, following a five-day battle for rights to the hunting grounds in the Wind River Range, Chief Washakie of the Shoshone and Chief Big Robber of the Crow agreed to a duel, with the winner gaining the rights to the Wind River hunting grounds. Chief Washakie prevailed, but he was so impressed with the courage of his opponent that rather than scalp him, he cut out his heart and placed it on the end of his lance. Library of Congress https://www.loc.gov/item/2017688173/
The following is another
story presented by the Historical Marker Project as it referenced the statue of
This bronze sculpture captures the moment when Chief Washakie first raises his lance challenging Crow Chief Big Robber to a duel. The Battle of Crow Heart Butte was ignited when Crow Chief Big Robber and his braves refused to leave an area near this unique geological outcropping at the middle northern boundary of the present-day Wind River Reservation.
Game had become
increasingly scarce in other areas, with more tribes looking to the Wind River
Valley for their winter supply of meat. Like the Shoshone, the Crow believed
that this was their territory too. When the Crow moved in, to hunt, Washakie
allowed them to stay for several weeks. Eventually, however, Washakie sent one
of his best warriors and the warrior’s wife as a peace envoy with a message
telling Big Robber that it was time to move east toward the Owl Creek
The Crow chief’s response
was to kill the Shoshone scout as the woman watched helplessly. Big Robber then
sent her home to relate the horrific scene to Chief Washakie.
considered Big Robber to be a very strong opponent who was revered among his
people for his steadfast bravery, the Shoshone chief immediately organized a
war party of men he had trained personally to military precision and set out to
attack the band of Crow camped on the Big Wind River near the Kinnear Ranch.
A group of Bannocks (another
tribe) joined Washakie in his attack on the Crow. Although taken by surprise,
the Crow proved to be formidable adversaries for Washakie’s men. The two sides fought for nearly a week
Finally realizing that
both chiefs were losing too many warriors, Washakie approached Big Robber with
a proposition: the two chiefs would fight each other. The warriors of the
losing chief would forfeit the hunting lands and go home.
Fearless and menacing,
Washakie rode close to the Crow chief and taunted him: “You and I will
fight. And when I beat you, I will cut out your heart. And I will eat it!”
As the Shoshone and Crow
warriors gathered on opposite sides to watch, the two chieftains rode back and
forth taunting and yelling at each other. As the fight raged on, it
became impossible to distinguish one from the other in the distant haze of
Finally, Washakie emerged
with Big Robbers heart on the end of his lance, determining the winner. True to
his word, Washakie had indeed cut out the dead chief’s heart, but his
descendants say he did not eat it. Instead, he displayed it until after the
Shoshone victory dance that night. Out of respect for the triumphant Washakie,
the Crow gave him two young women. He later took one of them as his wife. https://www.historicalmarkerproject.com/markers/HM1SPZ_battle-of-crowheart-butte_Laramie-WY.html
Washakie accomplished what most other Indian leaders of his time could not; a negotiated deal with the U.S. Government, guaranteeing land for his people.
When Washakie died he was given a full U.S. military funeral, supposedly the only Native American leader so honored. His cenotaph states that he “was noted for his friendship towards the white men” and even his tombstone praises him as “always loyal to the government and to his white brothers.” https://www.roadsideamerica.com/story/36397
The railroad remains a constant mover of life and goods to keep the connections between east and west United States. Sure, aircraft can move people and goods faster, but think about the train – the volume of goods moved, support to towns and communities, the direct connection of those on the ground. The railroad continues to develop and maintain a unique way of life, particularly out west.
The clanging, rattling of the tracks, engines roaring, rails
came alive in May 1868, the historic day when a train whistle marked the
arrival of the first train in Laramie, Wyoming, on the newest section of the
Union Pacific Railroad.
Builders kept at the task and inched along, achieving
milestones little by little. The west was being explored, although with hardship,
and there would be success.
There is a remarkable difference from the trains and
railroad operations of years past to the modern trains of today. There remains still a little bit of the old
western feel though. Thankfully, the
Laramie Railroad Depot helps preserve the past.
In 1924 the Laramie depot was built to replace the town’s original Union Pacific Depot and Hotel that was destroyed by fire in 1917. The depot served as Laramie’s Union Pacific passenger depot until 1971, and as an Amtrak depot until 1983. In 1985, the Union Pacific Railroad gave the Depot to the Laramie Plains Museum, which then transferred ownership to the Laramie Railroad Depot Association in 2009.
“The Depot is the only remaining building left from the once
large Union Pacific presence in Laramie and was added to the National Register
of Historic Places in 1988. The railroad is the reason for the city’s original
existence, and the Depot is an important part of Laramie’s historic legacy.” More
history is located at https://www.laramiedepot.org/history.
I enjoyed standing on the railroad walkway watching the trains move along, thinking of the history, and wondering what people from 1868 would say about these trains today.
To me, there is something special about street art and murals that depict a local history or emphasis. Yes, there are unsightly presentations plastered on many walls, doors and wherever, but the artists who deliberately paint history and visual messages deserve special recognition.
I wondered about the artists of the various murals on buildings throughout downtown Laramie, Wyoming, during our brief stay there. We wandered the streets looking for the art, and ran out of time to locate all of them.
According to the Laramie Mural Project, http://www.laramiemuralproject.org/, the Laramie, Wyoming, mural project uses local artists to create one-of-a-kind, large-scale murals in the heart of downtown that reflect Laramie’s cultural life.
How do you prepare for travel? Sure, we pack the right clothes, determine the route, lodging, fuel and other important factors that make the trip successful. Did you check for weather?
During my recent trip to the Midwest states of the U.S., I thought more in-depth about the weather. During the first half of 2019 the U.S. has encountered numerous wildfires, floods and tornadic systems.
I’m from the southeastern U.S. and we have these events as well, including hurricanes; however, I have not encountered the tornado types and flash floods that arise in the western side of the country.
We heard of the floods through Mississippi, Arkansas and Kansas,
Iowa, Missouri and throughout the region.
I kept aware while traveling through these areas, mostly by checking the
respective state’s 511 system, WAZE and local radio stations. The primary highways were open, but some
secondary roads were listed as closed.
One of the state roads we needed to take in Arkansas was closed
and there were no signs of a detour. The
GPS took us down some back roads, including a dirt road, and we finally ended
up on the other side of the road damage.
I was questioning where the GPS was right though because it has diverted
me at times for no reason.
There was a stretch of more than 50 miles where all exits were closed. Imagine the impact to the farm community as well as the businesses that couldn’t receive customers.
We saw many areas where water had been over the Interstate itself, and it still was not receding quickly. There were also signs of damage to farm equipment and property. At times I could not tell where a lake was because of the flooded plains. It looked like continuous lakes.
One of the major concerns I had was the possibility of encountering
a major tornado that we hear about on the news many times. These Midwest systems are much larger than
ones in coastal areas. I kept a keen
watch for cloud formations and kept the radio on when I saw suspicious clouds
and kept aware of potential areas to take cover in event a tornado formed
Just look at these clouds as we arrived in Laramie, Wyoming. I didn’t let my guard down and made sure my phone was on during the night in case an alarm was sent out.
There aren’t many places to shelter when one is driving in the
open terrain. That’s where radio
information is invaluable and can tell us the direction of the system. It’s also good to know your directions
too. Do you have a compass?
I had already decided if I was stuck in the open terrain and had no place to shelter, I would stop somewhere with a ravine, ditch or depression in the ground to minimize flying debris. I also brought extra rain gear and coats to cover up while lying in a low area if needed. Of course, you always have to consider the potential for flash flooding in these areas as well.
Remember! Highway overpasses are NOT tornado shelters and should be avoided. They can create high winds funneling through that can bring debris and/or sweep you away.
It was interesting that tornados hit some of the areas just before and after our visits. For instance, a tornado (I think EF-3) traveled just north of Laramie a couple of days ago. https://laramielive.com/tags/tornado/
I compared the clouds we saw to the clouds in these tornadic systems. They looked the same to me, except our clouds apparently lacked strong wind circulation.
So, when you travel – don’t forget to check weather and know the
conditions in the area that could lead to dangerous weather.
Don’t do like the example of storm chasers in this video clip as they chased the tornado near Laramie. Safe travels.
More information is available at https://www.weather.gov/ama/severesafetytips.
The high plains of southeastern Wyoming are now inviting to those with quick means of transportation, as compared to more than 100 years ago, although they had dreams and desires to start a new life, regardless of how long it took them.
Just envision the slow, cumbersome wagons and laboring livestock meandering their way to places unknown as the western U.S. was being formed. Let’s take a quick glance at Laramie, Wyoming.
I’m glad we were able to travel the area in June. Here are some tidbits I collected for the post.
Laramie today is a town of nearly 31,000 people. It is near the Medicine Bow Mountains and recreational parks. It is home to the University of Wyoming.
Laramie is also the historic place where a woman first cast a vote in a general election. Some of the street art depicts pioneer women making significant milestones toward individual freedom.
In the early days, American Indians scattered the area during hunting season as they looked for large wildlife to sustain their livelihood.
Laramie is another example too of the influence from those outside
the United States who made lasting impacts toward societal growth.
A French-Canadian trapper
named Jacques La Ramee, sometimes spelled La Ramie, arrived in the area about
1817, and is thought to have explored the area around the Laramie River in what
is now Wyoming.
Euro-American settlement commenced in
1862 with the arrival of Ben Holladay’s Overland Stage line.
The impending arrival of the Union Pacific Railroad on the Laramie Plains was assured when company surveyor James Evans laid out the general course of the line in 1864. The 1866 construction of Fort Sanders basically ensured settlement would continue in the area.
The Dinneen Motor Company building is a prominent two-story corner brick structure in downtown Cheyenne, Wyoming. It seems like it hasn’t changed since 1927, when it was an auto dealership. It was enlarged and repurposed beginning in 2011 and is now renewed. http://www.dinneendowntown.com/history
Something that caught my eye as we rode around on the tour bus was the beauty of the building. It seems to stand out as a late-model structure. I guess, in a sense, it is early-model and late-model. I didn’t realize when we rode by the Dinneen building that the Rib & Chop House restaurant is also at this location. We didn’t have time to check it out but maybe some of you have, or maybe you’ll be able to visit the restaurant in the future. I’m certain it is an outstanding place to dine. Here is their website. https://ribandchophouse.com/