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Published: September 22nd 2009
It rained heavily through the night in Riverton and by morning the front was through and the temp 42 degrees. Brrrrr !!! We left under very cloudy skies and were surprised to see snow on the distant mountains. We headed east on US 20/26 towards Casper which would be a lunch stop and then on towards Laramie, our stop for the night. The route was once again to be the most scenic available. Along the way was a place named "Hells Half Acre". It is a canyon just off the main road and provided spectacular views. There had been a restaurant there at one time but it is now boarded up and deteriorating. Hell’s Half Acre is a geologic oddity - a craggy horseshoe-shaped gorge that drops away from an otherwise flat plain where Highway 20 runs east. The 150+ ft. deep gorge -- actually 320-acres total as it spreads south -- is filled in one section with jagged rock spires, naturally sculpted by an ancient offshoot of the Powder River. Alien bug planet scenes for the movie Starship Troopers (1997) were filmed here. Evidently the crew spent weeks one summer hauling props down into the hole and shooting among the
gnarled rock protrusions.
The canyon was an amazing scene and a most unlikely thing to find just beside a main road.
We reached Casper and had lunch. It wasn't exactly picnic weather today so it was restaurant food for us. We turned southwest onto route 220 and then took a semi circular diversion to view a couple of dams and reservoirs, the Alcova and Pathfinder. Along the Pathfinder was a gorge that was 200ft deep at one point and 500ft at another. Great views. There were also two camping areas along the reservoirs, Black beach and a new one not yet completed called Cottonwood Beach. Fabulous setting for camp grounds but not exactly camping weather so they were empty.
We carried on and made a stop at Independence Rock. It is a large granite rock, approximately 130 feet high and similar in shape to Ayers Rock in Australia although not as high. During the middle of the 19th century, the rock was a prominent and well-known landmark on the Oregon, Mormon and California emigrant trails. It was designated a National Historic Landmark on January 20, 1961. It is now part of Independence Rock State Historic Site, owned and operated by
the state of Wyoming.
The rock derives its name from the fact that it lies directly along the route of the Emigrant Trail and that emigrant wagon parties bound for Oregon or California, which usually left the Missouri River in the early spring, attempted to reach the rock by July 4 (Independence Day in the United States), in order to reach their destinations before the first mountain snowfalls. Graffiti on the summit of Independence Rock, dated July 4, 1850. During the period of westward emigration on the trail (from 1843 to 1869), it was common for emigrants to carve their names in the granite rock, especially near the summit. Other emigrants left behind messages, sometimes for parties behind them on the trail, in axle grease. Many instances of such carved graffiti are visible today at the summit of the rock, which is accessible by a supposed "easy free climb" up the surface of the rock. Needless to say, I did not climb the rock. Even though it was sunny by now with a temp of 49, it was quite windy and felt very cold to this Floridian. Sounds like a good excuse but the truth is, I don't believe my knees or back would have made it to the top.
At 3:45pm we were on route 287 crossing the Continental Divide once again at an elevation of 6730 feet this time. It was flat lands to the right and snow covered mountains to the left. From there, it was onto Interstate 80 and we dropped down into Laramie. The temp was 33 degrees at our highest elevation and the snow was covering the mountains and also the roadside fields. Evidently this is early for a snowfall and the forecast is cool for another day or two and then back into the 70's.
We spent the night in Laramie and will be heading for Colorado tomorrow.
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