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  • Writer's pictureInger and Jeff Latreille

Trail Ruts & Leaving a Mark

~Sunday, May 22, 2022~

Day 707

We got a call from the manager this morning saying that we did in fact overpay for our 4-night stay. Nice of them to be so honest. Nice to see a bill for $60 instead of $120. Hmm….does that mean more visits to the local coffee shop or a nice dinner out? I did express that for those unfamiliar to the campground, things were a bit confusing to which she apologized. She said that normally, the office is open until 8:00 p.m. but once the temperatures dip to 45 degrees, they close. Would that have something to do with the golf course, since they’re run by the same people.

Our last day in Guernsey was spent visiting a few other historical landmarks, and both within walking distance from our campground. One was the Oregon Trail Ruts, established as a National Historic Landmark in 1975. But what the heck is a rut? Other than a word used to describe the way I feel on occasion, I had never heard of it related to roads. Though there were very little of these four-foot deep tracks

or depressions (ruts) in the sandstone, these were the very tracks left from the tens of thousands of wagons that helped emigrants on their migration westward nearly 150 years ago. As we made our way up the hill, on a short loop trail, the ruts were easy to find. Of the entire westerly route, these are among the best-preserved. It was amazing to be standing where hundreds of thousands crossed this land many years ago, leaving over time, deeper and deeper depressions from repeated use. The cross-country journey took anywhere between 4 to 6 months to complete and was filled with danger and hardship. Accidents, disease, and provision shortages took the lives of many emigrants along the way. Never more than a rocky, rutted trail, the road west began in Missouri, crossing the plains before entering Wyoming along the North Platte River. As you can imagine, travel became more difficult upon reaching Wyoming, as the terrain changed from wide-open plains to the rugged, arid landscape typical of the west. Eventually the westward migration by wagon trains and the trail that led them, would become obsolete with the completion of the transcontinental railroad in 1869. However, it didn’t keep local travelers and rancher’s herding stock from using this route. But we must not forget the people who blazed the Oregon Trail in the first place…..the scouts, like Kit Carson, who led an expedition west in 1842, that in the end produced maps that proved indispensable for the pilgrimage west.

Having walked to the Oregon Trail Ruts, we were about to walk the bike trail back to the campsite, when a white obelisk on a hill caught our attention. Was it something related to the route? As we got closer, we found the monument to be in poor condition with peeling paint and cracks. The name on it read “ The grave of Lucindy Rollins, 1849-1934, dedicated to the pioneer women of Wyoming”.

Not knowing who she was and why this sole headstone was placed on this knoll, we did our own research. Evidently, she was one of thousands who traveled the Oregon Trail, starting from Dayton, OH, and died at this scenic spot overlooking the North Platte River in 1849. The original headstone was vandalized, and replaced with the white obelisk in 1934. Though it makes sense that the year of her death be on the plaque, we didn’t quite understand the significance of indicating the year in which the headstone was replaced??

Our final point of interest in Guernsey was Register Cliff, one of the most prominent features along the Oregon Trail.

It is here that over 700 emigrants chizeled their name, sometimes dated, into the soft sandstone as they had passed the area over a century ago. It’s amazing to see how old some of these markings are (I think 1855 was the oldest date we saw). Somewhere on the cliff is a carving dating back to 1797, but we never saw it. The rock certainly has a story to tell beyond the inscriptions. It is a memorial to the emigrants who felt a need to leave their mark on the significant journey they were undertaking. To Native Americans, the marks represent a different legacy….one of loss rather than achievement. Many of the older carvings are protected by a chain link fence. Other sections are left accessible, which sadly invites many visitors to leave their insignificant mark. Just curious, at what point does it become vandalism? There was a sign that said the area was under video surveillance, but considering how many modern day carvings we saw, park officials must be bluffing.

Preparing for our next, more isolated RV destination, we decided to stock up on a few groceries. Not surprised with the small town of Guernsey that we’d find $4.00 avocados and $6.00 bread. Ouch!! Miss my Trader Joe prices!!

With still a few hours of daylight left and the fact we’re in a roomy campground, Jeff wanted to get the trailer washed. After weeks of desert dust and slushy grime from Colorado, Billie Jean was needing a little beautification. Even without a hose, a plastic cup was good enough to see a vast improvement. It may not have been the most thorough job, but it looks waaaaay better!!

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