Wyoming Part II: Casper

Casper was an easy drive over the rolling plains north on I-25. We got lucky and traveled on a day that wasn’t too windy, and we were thankful for that. When Mike was researching campgrounds in Casper, he selected two other options before making reservations at the Fort Caspar Campground. The other two choices had full occupancy, so we went with Plan C. The campground wasn’t much to talk about, just a gravel lot with hook-ups spaced out on a tight grid. But it was on the North Platte River (which meant Mike could fish), and it was in a convenient location, so we didn’t have too many complaints. Sometimes we get lucky and stay in really nice places, and sometimes we get the basics.

The weather was gloomy for most of the week we were in Casper, so we didn’t get a chance to enjoy too many outdoor activities. I had researched some nice hiking trails on Casper Mountain, but the wet weather prohibited us from ever making it up there. We made an outing to the National Historic Trails Interpretive Center and learned about the western migration of settlers along the Mormon, Oregon, and California Trails  – as well as the Pony Express Trail. When the sun came out on another day we drove southwest on State Highway 220 to Independence Rock, which was a prominent landmark on the trails before they separated so travelers could chase gold, religion, or land.

We ate out a couple of times, ran our basic errands, and waited for breaks in the rain so we could get the dogs their daily walk. I got to downtown on our last full day and shopped in some of the local stores for a couple of hours. All in all, Casper was pretty low key. I would l have liked to have been there when the weather was better so we could have taken advantage of more outside activities.

We stayed at the Fort Caspar Campground, it was our third choice for parks in the area. The first two choices were booked and this one stayed pretty full for the week we were there.

We stayed at the Fort Caspar Campground, it was our third choice for parks in the area. The first two choices were booked and this one stayed pretty full for the week we were there.

The campground was primarily inhabited by long term residents who were in town for construction and other temporary jobs. The spots were tight and there wasn't much to look at.

The campground was primarily inhabited by long term residents who were in town for construction and other temporary jobs. The spots were tight and there wasn’t much to look at.

The campground was located on the North Platte River, so there were some trails down by the water where I could walk the dogs in the morning. That was a nice perk.

The campground was located on the North Platte River, so there were some trails down by the water where I could walk the dogs in the morning. That was a nice perk.

It rained much of the time we were in Casper, so Mike only got to go fishing once during our stay.

It rained much of the time we were in Casper, so Mike only got to go fishing once during our stay.

Casper Mountain, on the south side of town.

Casper Mountain, on the south side of town.

Fort Caspar was a military post of the U.S. Army. It was established in 1859 as a trading post and a toll bridge on the Oregon Trail. The Army eventually took it over and made it a post to protect emigrants and the telegraph line against raids from the Lakota and Cheyenne Indians.

Fort Caspar was a military post of the U.S. Army. It was established in 1859 as a trading post and a toll bridge on the Oregon Trail. The Army eventually took it over and made it a post to protect emigrants and the telegraph line against raids from the Lakota and Cheyenne Indians.

The City of Casper had a nice trail system through town along the North Platte River. Even though it rained almost every day we were in town, we did manage to find a daily break in the weather and get the dogs a proper walk.

The City of Casper had a nice trail system through town along the North Platte River. Even though it rained almost every day we were in town, we did manage to find a daily break in the weather and get the dogs a proper walk.

The North Platte River with Mount Casper in the background (to the south).

The North Platte River with Mount Casper in the background (to the south).

A covered wagon and a Pony Express Station outside the National Historic Trails Interpretive Center.

A covered wagon and a Pony Express Station outside the National Historic Trails Interpretive Center.

The National Historic Trails Interpretive Center was created in 2002. The building itself is set up on a bluff with expansive views of Casper. The design of the building honors the regional climate and is set into the side of a bluff to protect it and its visitors from the usual unrelenting Wyoming wind. The museum does a wonderful job of explaining the geographical obstacles and personal motivations for those early settlers that traveled the Oregon, Mormon, California and Pony Express Trails.

The National Historic Trails Interpretive Center was created in 2002. The building itself is set up on a bluff with expansive views of Casper. The design of the building honors the regional climate and is set into the side of a bluff to protect it and its visitors from the usual unrelenting Wyoming wind. The museum does a wonderful job of explaining the geographical obstacles and personal motivations for those early settlers that traveled the Oregon, Mormon, California and Pony Express Trails.

I hope this is not how Mike and I feel as we make our way through the rest of Wyoming, Montana, Idaho and Washington before we reach Oregon!

I hope this is not how Mike and I feel as we make our way through the rest of Wyoming, Montana, Idaho and Washington before we reach Oregon!

One of the interactive exhibits in the museum was this simulated river crossing. The screen out the front of the covered wagon was of cowboys guiding our wagon through the rough water. The wagon itself swayed and jolted as if the whole scene was real. It was very interesting, and I had motion sickness at the end. Guess I wouldn't have been too great of an adventurous western settler if I had to ride in the "economy coach" section on the trail!

One of the interactive exhibits in the museum was this simulated river crossing. The screen out the front of the covered wagon was of cowboys guiding our wagon through the rough water. The wagon itself swayed and jolted as if the whole scene was real. It was very interesting, and I had motion sickness at the end. Guess I wouldn’t have been too great of an adventurous western settler if I had to ride in the “economy coach” section on the trail!

Wyoming from State Highway 220.

Wyoming from State Highway 220.

Lots of rabbits were living in the crevices of Independence Rock.

Lots of rabbits were living in the crevices of Independence Rock.

As travelers reached Independence Rock, one of the most famous landmarks on the Emigrant Trails, they carved their names in the smooth rocks. That is why is it also referred to as the "Great Register of the Desert".

As travelers reached Independence Rock, one of the most famous landmarks on the Emigrant Trails, they carved their names in the smooth rocks. That is why it is also referred to as the “Great Register of the Desert”.

The Rock is about 25 acres in mass and was a popular camping spot on the trail. Early settlers would have had views like these from their campsites.

The Rock is about 25 acres in area and was a popular camping spot on the trail. Early settlers would have had views like these from their campsites.

There is a trail around the base of the rock which is approximately one mile long.

There is a trail around the base of the rock which is approximately one mile long.

The rock is smooth and round, unlike other rocks of the surrounding landscape (which are sharp and jagged)... so it was easy to recognize. People said it looked like a huge whale coming out of the earth.

The rock is smooth and round, unlike other rocks of the surrounding landscape (which are sharp and jagged)… so it was easy to recognize. People said it looked like a huge whale coming out of the earth.

Downtown Casper was a fun place to explore.

Downtown Casper was a fun place to explore.

I was surprised by the quality of retail Casper had it its downtown. I visited several stores that had a great selection of high-end clothes, shoes and outdoor gear. This Lou Taubert Ranch Outfitters store was enormous!

I was surprised by the quality of retail Casper had in its downtown. I visited several stores that had a great selection of high-end clothes, shoes and outdoor gear. This Lou Taubert Ranch Outfitters store was enormous!

A nice metal sculpture in front of the public library in downtown Casper.

A nice metal sculpture in front of the public library in downtown Casper.

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