Laramie, WY – Pt. 1

Laramie, WY

We left Cheyenne and headed west on I-80 for one of the shortest moves we have ever made.  It’s only about fifty miles to Laramie, our next destination.  The highway basically follows the path of the original transcontinental railroad as it slowly gains elevation.  After about thirty-five miles we reached Sherman Pass, the highest point on I-80 between New York and San Francisco at about 8,800 feet.  A rest area/visitor center is located at the summit.  The area is dominated by Lincoln Memorial Monument, a bust of Abraham Lincoln twelve feet high and resting on a thirty foot high granite pedestal.  The monument is in recognition of Lincoln’s signing of the legislation that lead to the building of the transcontinental railroad.

Below is a photo looking east from the visitor center.  Its difficult to believe you are at an elevation of just under 9,000 feet when you see the flat terrain.  West of the visitor center the highway goes steeply down hill for about fifteen miles to Laramie at 7,200 feet.

Looking east from the Sherman Summit Visitor Center

We drove on to Laramie where we set up at the Laramie KOA.  It’s a pretty basic, over-priced park but there’s little to chose in the Laramie area.  The next morning we headed back east on the interstate past Sherman Summit to do some hiking in the Medicine Bow National Forest.  But first, since it was near the same exit as the national forest, we made a visit to the Ames Monument.

Completed in 1880, the monument is dedicated to brothers Oakes Ames and Oliver Ames, Jr., Union Pacific Railroad financiers. The brothers are credited with financing and completing the transcontinental railroad in 1869.  The Ames Monument marked the highest point on the transcontinental railroad at 8,247 feet.  But the railroad relocated the tracks further south to avoid deep snow , so there are no tracks nearby today.

We left the monument and drove just a few miles to the Vedauwoo Campground and found the trailhead for the Turtle Rock Trail.  The trail is three miles in length at 8500 ft. and circles the large outcropping known as Turtle Rock.

Turtle Rock (John doesn’t see a turtle, do you?)

Looks like a rabbit from the back

One side of the rock is a popular site for rock climbers.  See the climbers in the photo below?

A zoom shot will help you.

After our hike around Turtle Rock we drove back to Laramie and stopped at the restored Wyoming Territorial Prison Historical Site.

The visitor center

Built in 1872 it is one of the oldest buildings in Wyoming.  It operated as a federal penitentiary from 1872 to 1890, and as a state prison from 1890 to 1901.  It was then transferred to the University of Wyoming and was used as an agricultural experiment station until 1989. In 1991 the facility was opened to the public, and in 2004 was designated as Wyoming Territorial Prison State Historic Site.

The front of the prison

Is that a dummy in the wagon?

The prison followed a penal system of the time called the Auburn System.  It was a bit harsh by today’s standards.  The the main rule is shown below.

Typical cell

The most famous prisoner was a Mormon from Utah named Robert Leroy Parker who was incarcerated for eighteen months after buying a horse he knew to be stolen.  Apparently the stay in prison didn’t reform him as he went on to be a famous bank robber under the assumed name of Butch Cassidy.

Later we drove across town (not far, it’s a small town) to visit the campus of the University of Wyoming.

The school has a beautiful campus on the east side of the city.  The center of the campus is a quad area called Prexy’s Pasture.  The name is attributed to an obscure rule that the university president, or “prexy”, is given exclusive use of the area for livestock grazing.  No cattle were present during our visit.

The school’s nickname is the Cowboys and a large stature of  the Bucking Horse and Rider, the registered trademark of the state of Wyoming (it’s on their license plates) is located in front of the Arena-Auditorium, their indoor arena on campus.

Football is played in War Memorial Stadium.

Whew, that was a busy day!  Fortunately there is one of those Seattle-based coffee shops in town so we had a place to rest after our busy schedule.  We have one more day in the area and the nimble hiker has a hike planned.  Look for that in the next blog, which will be creatively titled “Laramie, WY – Part 2.”



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24 Responses to Laramie, WY – Pt. 1

  1. Deb says:

    I see both the turtle and the rabbit. In the next shot I see a grumpy old man. Wait, was John behind the camera?

  2. paul weaver says:

    Can’t say if it’s true or not (I didn’t read it on the internet) but the saying is that when WY plays a home football game something like 25% of the state population is in the stadium…:-)

  3. Sherry says:

    Me too on the turtle and rabbit. Not so much the grumpy old man. You two really do find interesting sights every where you go. Loved the info on Butch. I had no idea he was a Mormon. Beautiful view from the visitor center. Love the rocks.

  4. Marsha says:

    Lincoln…my favorite!

    Never heard of the Ames brothers. Great story. I like the thought process they put into the placement of the monument.

    I see a turtle shell and the rabbit.

    Yes, I believe that is a dummy in the wagon…lol

    The campus does looks so beautiful and so close to a drinking hole.

    Also, I am now exhausted. We do a ton in one day, but you two may have topped us.

    • placestheygo says:

      Yes, Marsha, this was a Weaver type day:) And John didn’t put a few things in! But we decided we only wanted to stay a couple days since our KOA was very tight quarters. Not a place to sit outside and relax.

  5. Jodee Gravel says:

    Seriously? Tortoise and hare on the same hike, and it looks like the hare is in the lead! Like Lisa, I just saw the shell. That was a very full day – I especially like the monuments and the history of the prison. Interesting rule – wonder why they prohibited talking….. Had no idea Butch was Mormon – he does look like such a good boy 🙂

  6. Gay says:

    You sure pack a lot into a day! Their prison reminds me a lot of the one we visited in Yuma. But I don’t think anyone quite so famous as Butch Cassidy was ever there. Didn’t know he was a Morman. Love the hike as always!

    • placestheygo says:

      It seemed like a lot for one day, but it was just a lot of short activities. And we were only staying a couple days. We didn’t realize Butch Cassidy was detained there either.

  7. Mary says:

    Lots of great stuff to see. I’m glad you liked the vedauwoo area.

  8. Ingrid says:

    You two always manage to scope out some interesting sights!

  9. You did have a busy day! We missed most of those places when we were in Laramie. We do remember we thought it was a nice little college town.

  10. They sure make big monuments in that part of the country!

    Laramie sure was a seriously western/cowboy town…Cody was too. We were amazed that the enrollment in UofW makes up about half the population of the town! We have a friend who went to UofW and was Miss Wyoming back in the early 80’s!

  11. Thanks for the tour! We did not know about Butch Cassidy being a mormon either.
    I see the turtle and the rabbit, take a third or fourth look, John,
    And you made it to the Ames monument, thanks for checking it out for us.

  12. Laurel says:

    What a fun-filled day of varied adventures! That sounds like our kind of day. But I can’t figure out how in the world you manage to do so much AND get a great blog posted! (Interesting tidbit about Butch Cassidy — who would have guessed??)

  13. LuAnn says:

    I did see both the turtle and the rabbit. That looks like a beautiful campus. Interesting history of the area, particularly the piece about Butch Cassidy. Another one to add to the list!

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