November 8, 2012 – Thursday
First thing after our now-normal routine of getting free hotel breakfast and checking out was getting gas at the Common Cents market:
For the next half-hour or so we drove out of Casper on Wyoming 220, passing through the outskirts of town. We drove over the North Platte River. We passed by a drive-in which is something we personally don’t see every day. As I often do when I pass by these residential areas, I try to imagine what life is like for the inhabitants. I wonder economically what it is out here that supports all these people. What is the daily routine? Do you see the same people around town all the time? Checking the population information in the Wikipedia link above, it looks like it would be possible to squeeze the entire town into a football stadium. Wow.
Not long afterwards, we reached a turnout area with a sign that read Lake Ridge Estates and another sign that read Alcova Reservoir. Apparently there is land for sale here, with great views of the reservoir and surrounding geological features. Two houses had already been built, but otherwise it was completely empty for miles around. If you look at the satellite view on Google Maps, you’ll see a tiny patch of green around one of the houses. It reminds me of that Star Trek episode where an entire colony is obliterated, save for one house. Once again, I imagined what it might be like living here in relative isolation. I’d need electricity, water, internet, and storage for food, and each morning I’d wake up with the view of the reservoir. When I needed supplies, I’d drive back to Casper and stock up. I might try growing some of my own food. I’d probably need a firearm to protect myself and JC.
Continuing on, the next point of interest and highlight of this day was the rest area at Independence Rock, another geological feature.
The history behind Independence Rock fascinates me to no end. For the early American settlers moving westward, it was a marker in two senses of the word. First, it let them know whether they were on schedule: if it was by Independence Day on July 4th, then most likely they would make it to the west coast before snowfall (which in those days of covered wagons was probably pretty dangerous). Second, it served (and still serves) as a historical record of the people who passed through because people would carve their names on it. As we walked around, we made out some carvings dating from the late 1800s to the early 1900s. There was one abbreviated date written as “’87”. We wondered whether it was 1887 or 1987.
I am always excited when I get a chance to experience something from the past, to walk the same path as someone who did so decades or centuries ago, to touch something that he had also touched (like these). The person is now long dead, and yet there is something of his that has survived. How did he live? How did he view the world? What was going through his mind as he carved his name into the rock?
As we circled around the rock, we approached an area that looked climbable. I knew I had to climb up to the top despite JC’s concerns. As I stepped up each increasingly higher stone, I realized that it looked easier to climb from afar, when the distances between stones looked smaller. Up close, some of them were quite far apart, and the crevices between them looked nontrivial. With JC’s objections in my mind at the same time, I started feeling a little nervous and my heart started beating faster. I wasn’t in the best of shape, and with the camera strap around my neck and my clothes and shoes not exactly suitable for what I was doing, I realized I was in a clumsy position. I tried to keep going and pushed those thoughts to the side.
Once I made it up, it was a mix of relief and exhilaration. Wow! I made it! I could see the beauty of Wyoming in 360 degrees, being able to see for miles around. I could see our upcoming route (in photo above). I saw something white and reflective (photo below) and thought it was a salt field (looking at a map now, I’m guessing it was probably the Sweetwater River). After snapping a few more photos, I headed back, making sure to step on the rocks I used earlier to minimize the chance of accidentally stepping on a loose one. It was probably more difficult going down than it was going up, since I was mostly squatting in order to reach the next lower rock, and trying to balance myself with my hands. I met up with JC, who gave me an earful. It really could have been bad if something had happened. 😕
We continued on our way, hitting 287 South, the city of Rawlins, and then, lo and behold, our old friend Interstate 80. As I am prone to do, I couldn’t resist cracking a joke and asking where the Bay Bridge was. We stopped at one more rest area (Bitter Creek) before arriving in Rock Springs less than three hours after leaving Independence Rock.
The day ended with laundry, Chinese delivery, and TVB dramas. Not sure whether it’s funny or sad how I still enjoyed TVB dramas back then, before we moved to HK. Also, the Chinese food was pretty good, so have to give a shout out to my fellow Chinese diaspora at Wonderful House. Another great day!