Up early on a Saturday morning we shuffle out the door and heap into vans ready to embark on our 10 day road trip around the state. First stop: Independence Rock. A weathered feature of the Granite Mountain range, this outcrop was originally named by Native American tribes across Wyoming and the Rocky Mountains as the Timpe Nabor or “Painted Rock” as they would inscribe carvings and petroglyphs onto its surface. This practice of leaving messages, dates, names, and other such inscriptions was later continued by American settlers traversing across the Oregon Trail and was renamed by fur trappers who had arrived at the rock on July 4th in the early 1800s. To the pioneers of the pilgrimage west Independence Rock came to symbolize the eastern border of the Rocky Mountains. Furthermore, with the Oregon Trail taking 4-6 months to traverse, it was not only a critical landmark, but also a necessary timestamp as settlers who were able to reach the rock by or before July 4th were likely to make the end of their journey without being trapped by incoming winter weather over the mountains like that of the Donner Party. A walking path circumnavigates the massive outcrop permitting it to be viewed from all angles in addition to visitors having the privilege of climbing it.
After spending the morning admiring a particularly historically valuable and impressive clump of granite we returned once again to our chariots and were whisked away to Lander to visit Sinks Canyon State Park. Quite honestly one of my favorite places we had visited to date, Sinks Canyon featured towering cliff sides formed from the Wind River Mountains that were thrust upward demonstrating almost 8 miles of vertical and 16 miles of horizontal displacement that dipped to the North. Geologically, the glacially scoured canyon was a true phenomenon as it demonstrated a perfect stratigraphic column representing 18 distinctive rock layers/formations almost completely visible to the naked eye flaunting wonderfully observed and accessible regional earth history. Through this valley cuts the Popo Agie River, that was named by the Crow Indians meaning “gurgling water”, in part of the river’s course it dives underground into a cave system that the water had dissolved through the Madison Limestone layer. Where the Popo Agie reemerges creating a rise that gave way to the Trout Pool home to the finest, fattest, frenzy of fish I had ever seen.
Though the hours racked up driving were tiring, each stop we made was incredible in its own way and certainly worth a visit. I highly look forward to the rest of our trip and learning more about other geological structures, especially the formation of the Grand Tetons.