WHERE LIFE - AND TRAVEL - COME TOGETHER

WHERE LIFE - AND TRAVEL - COME TOGETHER

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Leaving Marks

Written by Karen.
The white-hot sun is blazingly relentless and the white sandstone that surrounds me reflects the dry and intense heat.  We have pulled off to the side of the road outside of Guernsey, Wyoming to see and learn a bit more about the history behind the journey of heading west on the Oregon Trail during the 1800's.  I am standing at the bottom of carved out wagon wheel tracks that in some places are up to my shoulders.   

It is easier to imagine the way life might have been some hundred and fifty years ago when you stand in the same place the westward bound travelers stood.  I touch the soft warm rocks of today and wonder about the huge number of teams of horses, families and covered wagons that passed through here day after day in order to create wagon wheel tracks that are four-feet deep. 

There is little shade, and the ground - even now - is parched, dry and thirsty.  I walk along the well-traveled rutted road, and imagine the noise that would have come from the hundreds after hundreds of cows, horses,  wagons, and travelers as they put one foot in front of the next on their journey westward. I look behind me and can see the permanent scars on the ground caused from the wagon wheels and turn back to see the path marked ahead of me.  I could follow the historical tracks today - so many years later - as clearly as these tracks provided a road map back then to the wayfarers in the 1800's. 

Close by the deeply cut wagon wheel ruts is the Register Cliff.  This  sandstone cliff hugged the perimeter of the well-traveled wagon trail and seemed to invite those who passed by to etch their names in the soft rock. This Register Cliff, located right outside of Fort Laramie, Wyoming, is located perhaps a third of the way along the approximate 2,000 mile journey and is considered to be the one of the best preserved signature rocks from the 1800's still remaining.  We witnessed the names of some of the 500,000 people who had traveled this trail in the 1800's, and marveled at their perseverance and grit to walk to this point, knowing the dangers and hardships that still lay ahead. The informational marker let us know that one out of every three people who started on the journey west died along the way.  

However, this sandstone cliff and the approximately 700 pioneer names that can still be seen from the trek during the 1800's doesn't tell the full story.  Prior to the pioneers walking westward, the Native Americans previously used this sandstone cliff to mark their own stories with petroglyphs and pictographs.  Over time, the original marks left by the Native Americans were covered by the names of those who traveled along this road in the 1800's.

Today, I can see many contemporary etchings on the Register Cliff: 'Sue loves Charley, 1961' and 'The Edwards Family, 1982, or 'John was here.' There are numerous names and dates of recent individuals who drove up to this sandstone cliff and felt compelled to etch their names next to the names of those who already passed through this way in the past.

The need to leave a personal mark - even if for a short time - on this world seems universal, reaching back hundreds of years ago.  Eventually, over time, the pioneer names - like the Native American stories before them - will fade and the new, crisply etched names, dates and stories will dominate this sandstone wall.  Perhaps in another hundred years, people will stand where I stand today and contemplate the historical significance of 'Sue loves Charley, 1961' or 'John was here.' And perhaps not.  

Looking down into the tracks made from thousands of wagon wheels
A tiny flower blooming amidst the dried grass
The Register Cliff
Mud nests that look like baskets placed on the Register Cliff
The mounds are the remains of the wagon wheel tracks near the Register Cliff.  The North Platte River is to the right of this picture. The Register Cliff is to the left of this picture.
North Platte River.  This river looked very benign from my vantage point.  But the marker said that crossing this river was very treacherous in the 1800's and often the pioneers would chose to traverse the rugged terrain rather than take a chance fording the North Platte River.
Names on the Register Cliff


We happened to see both our names: Adam and Karen already etched in the soft sandstone rock, and so took the picture. But, if we didn't find our names....rest assured that we would have not added our names to the Register Cliff!

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thanks for another fascinating entry!
A sound movie that perhaps shows best what the pioneers experienced: THE BIG TRAIL (1930). It was shot on many real locations and in widescreen. --Steve S

Observers of Life said...

Thanks Steve! We'll check out the movie.

Karen.

Anonymous said...

Hi Karen and Adam
Hope this works!

Observers of Life said...

Hi Sabine!

It works! It was great to see you and Jack over the weekend! :) Take care.

Love,
Karen.

Anonymous said...

Yes it was great to see you both! You are both so special
to us. Your love and support is appreciated
more than you'll ever ever know.
We love you both!
Jack and Sabine

Observers of Life said...

Hi Jack and Sabine!

Thanks! :) Best of luck as you move forward...

Love,
Karen.