It would've been a nice leisurely walk if not for the cold wind and 44F temps. I reached the top in just a couple minutes and tucked my hands in my pockets. It was the last day of summer. I alone stood at the top and read the sign. Not sure what to expect, I turned around and saw this:
It reminded me of a film set. The rules at the start had said only foot traffic could leave the designated paths. I had feet . . . so I stepped off the path and saw this:
I stared for a long time. All I had to do was take a step forward and I'd be in the middle between the ruts left from countless wagon wheels. I took that step and without conscious thought, closed my eyes. The feeling of being there was so intense I started to cry. I looked up the hill to the north and saw this:
How many pioneers had stood where I stood and looked east across the North Platte River wondering if they'd ever see their loved ones again? No matter how many years had passed, except for the plaques and cement path, this is what they saw:
I followed the Trail south, sometimes on it, sometimes beside it. I found many instances of survival with trees growing out of rocks and cactus on the ground. I actually took over 200 photos and I'll be putting more on Inktropolis this Friday, so only a couple more here. Look closely . . . sometimes beside the wagon ruts, sometimes I didn't see it, but to me it looks like the path of the women and children who climbed the hill as their men coaxed their oxen forward.
After walking around for over an hour, I was ready for a rest so I started the path down. In this next photo if you look close, you'll see a bench at the end of the path just before it turns to the left. I sat there and made notes on my iTouch while everything was fresh in my mind.
My next stop was Register Cliff just a couple miles south of the wheel ruts. It's a wall of limestone, common in the area, where hundreds of pioneers and present day people as well, have carved there name in the soft stone:
I didn't have time to research, but someone even made a tunnel:
I walked up to the gate, peeked in, and took this shot:
I started up the trail, hoping no boulders would slide down the cliff:
This 1840 inscription is the earliest one I found:
Unfortunately, those written on the south and southeast walls can't stand up to the winds of time:
I walked past the security fence, around to the west until a fence stopped me. This next shot was taken on my way back with the fence on the left and a small monument to the pioneers.
On the way back, I followed the path on the other side of the boulders which had fallen and found this jewel hidden in the prairie grass:
Back in my van, I drove north to Douglas and then west toward Casper but I had one more stop before I slept. Five miles south of I-25 is Ayers Natural Bridge. I parked beside a red wall and went for the 3rd walk of my day:
It was a short walk over a metal bridge to where I saw this natural wonder:
The place where I stood with the natural bridge was cool and surrounded by tall cliffs. I took a walk around and saw this:
Also, these trees caught my eye:
And these bumpy trees. Now they may be the norm for this area, but they sure look different to me:
And that's it for the Wheatland to Casper run. Tomorrow I hope to start Emma's journey which is why I'm sitting in Casper tonight.