Camping

Camping“From West of Casper, WY to outside of Sacramento, CA free camping on public lands can happen almost anywhere you can find a place to put your sleeping bag down. I wouldn’t necessarily suggest a hammock as there aren’t very many tall things to tie off to out in the high desert.

Mile 1045: Rocky Ridge

Rocky Ridge, WY
Rocky Ridge, WY

“Rocky Ridge. Yes, the trail goes up this ridge.  Climbing over 700 feet in less than 2 miles, this ridge caused a lot of problems for pioneer hand carts and wagons alike.

In 1856, the rescue of the Mormon Willie and Martin Handcart companies crossed this ridge. From the base of Rocky Ridge to Rock Creek took the parties over 27 hours to travel the roughly 15 miles, partially due to a winter blizzard and a lack of adequate clothing. The hand carts companies had to be rescued before this point as 21 individuals perished in the valley below.

This section of the trail is known as the “Trail of Blood.” While I would say it’s possible to traverse the entire South Pass section, from Sweetwater station to Farson, in a single day, it’s not a trek to be taken lightly. Be sure to have a water filter and/or treatment with you and keep an eye to the sky. The weather can change quickly as you’re around 7,000 feet of elevation and at the foot of the Wind River mountain range, which is the edge of the Teton mountains. Oh, and pack plenty of food. You may find yourself out there a little longer than you plan initially.”

[N.B. There are two markers: Rocky Ridge Lower Marker and Rocky Ridge Upper Marker. These are not on the Pony Express Bikepacking Trail. To see these, take a turnoff at about Mile 1045 1/32. The detour rejoins the Bikepacking trail just past Mile 1049.]

Mile 1059: Rock Creek Hollow

Rock Creek Hollow, WY
Rock Creek Hollow, WY

“Rock Creek Hollow. A stop along the trail that holds significance for the Mormon faith.

Mormons made the trek to Salt Lake City with only hand pushed carts. They could only carry about 25 lbs [250lbs?] of items on these carts total. The cost was a fraction of that of a wagon and oxen or mule team. They could also make the journey in far less time as they could move at a quicker pace.

Along this section of the trail, from Casper, one will find a number of Mormon monuments and campgrounds.

I came upon this one with 4 hours of daylight left but decided I would set camp. There is a bubbling stream that I filtered water from and sat and watched a storm brew at the base of the Wind River range.

One of the best nights I’ve ever had in the back country!”

Mile 1075: South Pass

South Pass, WY
South Pass, WY

“The air is so dry out here that it takes forever for wood to rot. Some of these structures have been around for well over 100 years and haven’t been touched. They’re pretty cool to see.”

Mile 1115: Farson and the Green River Basin

“Crossing the Green River Basin redefines monotony. The plains roll on endlessly, blanketed by the same wearisome mantle of sagebrush and greasewood. Outside of the river bottoms and the few towns, there is not a tree in sight. Scabby buttes, eroded from the stacked limestone and shale layers of an ancient lakebed, pop up here and there across the plains. The landscape is riven with ravines, most of them bone-dry in summer. The scenery has hardly changed since emigrant days. For Edwin Bryant, it was “scarcely possible to conceive a scene of more forbidding dreariness and desolation than was presented to our view on all sides.” Only the wind seems happy in the Green River Basin. It shrieks with glee across the plains, sweeping up wraithlike clouds of grit.  “It has
been windy, and there is nothing but sand—sand all around us, which is  drifting constantly, filling our eyes and ears, as well as the frying pan,”  A. J. McCall groused, adding, “It is not strange that it affects the temper  of the men—marring all good fellowship.”

After a day of pummeling by Wyoming’s biggest bully, I can vouch that nothing is more welcome than  a building-shelter!—even if it is a run-down gas station in a run-down  town like Farson, a forlorn little hamlet marooned in the sagebrush wilderness  of the Green River Basin. I sipped burnt coffee there one afternoon,
hiding from the wind, while leaves, newspapers, and other flotsam  flew past the windows. Was this typical? Oh yes, the attendant sighed.  The windows appeared cloudy. A closer look showed that they had been  etched by windborne sand. Merciless wind and winter beat up the small  rural towns of Wyoming. The results are evident as potholes, peeling  paint, broken roofs, leaking pipes, and plywood windows. Yards spill  over with rusted cars, wrecked parts, writhing heaps of hose and pipe,  and tires-many, many tires. Anything that might be useful, might a save  a few dollars one day, joins the heap. But local folk brim with friendship and conversation, a pleasant upshot of life with so much open space and so few people to fill it.”

Keith Heyer Meldahl, Hard Road West, p. 142
Mile 915: Casper, WY

Casper, WY“Casper is definitely on my list for an off day or two for anyone looking for suggestions. Good food, lots of bike shops, campground with cabins right in the middle of town, as well as plenty of hotels. There’s even a handfull of outdoor stores that stock things one would need to head off on a few days ride without real resupply options, which is a definite added bonus. It’s like Salt Lake City on the route in that regard, only smaller! Bonus points for renting a car and driving up to Devil’s Tower for the day one day. Definitely worth the drive (or as an addition to the whole route…hrmm).”

Comments by Angela Paterna: “I highly recommend a visit to the National Trails Museum in Casper, Wyoming. I addition to a display on the Pony Express, it also has displays on the Oregon Trail, California Trail, and The Mormon Pioneer Trail. They have a pretty good bookstore and free literature that details the auto route. I have stopped twice on different driving trips I have made between Colorado and Montana. And the view over Casper isn’t too shabby either.”

[N.B. These statements are all in the Comments section of the post]