Such a Peaceful Spot!

Driving along Route 21 in Wyoming we spotted a sign saying “Ayres Natural Bridge.” The sign was small and from its appearance did not indicate anything of importance. Still, we love to get off the main road and so we decided to take the secondary road and see what this was all about.

What a great discovery! It was one of the most beautiful and spectacular sites I have seen in our many road trips.

Surrounded on three sides by sharp bluffs there was only one way into this beautiful park. The road in was narrow and I was having a panic attack afraid of what would happen if we met a vehicle coming down as we were going up. Fortunately that did not happen.

Ayres Natural Bridge is one of the few natural bridges in the world that has water flowing under it. Part of the Casper Sandstone Formation laid down during the Pennsylvanian Age, time and water eroded a hole in the rock and the stream flowing there now is call the LaPrele Creek.

The arch is 50 feet high and 100 feet long. Surrounded by lots of trees with a picnic area, playground, hiking paths, a sand volleyball court, fishing areas and horseshoe pits, it was the perfect place for a family outing.

Indian legend said that an Indian brave was struck by lightning near the bridge and was killed. An evil spirit, “King of Beasts” lived beneath the bridge and had swallowed the life of this brave. From then on, Indians would not go near the bridge. It became a sanctuary for those fleeing from the Indians. If they could make it t the bridge, they would be safe because the Indians would not come near the bridge.

The bridge and the park are named after Alva Ayres. Ayres was an early day freighter who settled on the lland. In 1920 his son gave a deed for 15 acres of land to Converse County. This land included the bridge and so it became known as Ayres Natural Bridge. Later, others donated more land to the county and the park was established.

The creek running the park and under the bridge had such a peaceful sound. Standing there by the water surrounded on three sides by the high cliffs, seeing all the majesty of God’s creation it was to me a moment to worship the Creator.

Oh come, let us sing to the Lord!
Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation.
Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving;
Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms.
For the Lord is the great God,
And the great King above all gods.
In His hand are the deep places of the earth;
The heights of the hills are His also.
The sea is His, for He made it;
And His hands formed the dry land.…..Psalm 95:1-5

We are not campers but at that moment I wished we had camping gear because I would have loved to camp by that creek and go to sleep listening to the water running under the bridge.

We have been blessed to see much of the USA on our road trips. This place will always be one of my favorite memories.

Once again, getting off the main road always leads to great discoveries.

History Written in Stone

Following the Oregon Trail we came upon a large rock made of limestone. The rock stood high above the Platte River Valley. The soft limestone rock made it easy for people to carve their names in.

Travelers heading for Oregon carved their names in the rock. More than 700 names are on the rock. At one time the names included dates as early as 1829 and one reportedly from 1797. Historic experts judged these names as authentic. If true, they would represent the earliest white people to pass by here. They would have been mountain men who were fur traders.

Soldiers from hereby Fort Laramie also carved their names here. As the state of Wyoming first became a territory and then a state, cowboys and ranchers added their signatures.

Of course many of the old names have been lost due to erosion of the rock. Also many tourists have added their names. But the oldest names are protected by a tall wire fence.

I wanted to get closer to the area where it appears the oldest names were, but my husband was not sure how safe that would be. You could see that the rock had been crumbling for a long time. Who knew when the next portion of the rock might come down.

While we enjoyed seeing the names and to us it was a wonderful history lesson of our westward expansion, I had to realize to the Native Americans this was not something to enjoy.

Native Americans also used this rock for writing their own pictographs and marks. Years ago these markings were visible. But, just like the land that was once their hunting grounds, these markings have been lost as the white men added their names and marked over the Indian markings.

As I looked again at these pictures and remembered our trip west, I was reminded once again that our history lessons in school have been one-sided. We have read of the bravery and courage of those who left the east and traveled mile after mile to the west to build new cities and create farms. Little is said of the Native Americans who were pushed off their lands and had treaty after treaty broken by our government.

Still, for one who is a history nut, it was awesome to stand there and think that I was standing where some young family had stood almost 200 years ago. I tried to imagine what their thoughts were. Excited, scared, unsure.

What really excited me was standing in the ruts the wagons made in the soft limestone. In TV programs and movies we always see the wagon trains being pulled by horses and moving at a reasonable fast pace. In reality, these wagons were pulled by teams of oxen, mules or heavy draft horses. The horses we see on TV could never have made it over the mountains pulling those heavy Conestoga wagons.

The Mormons who followed this trail actually used push carts and walked the entire distance.

Traveling through the open terrain where you could see for miles in our air-conditioned car with restrooms, restaurants and hotels easily available, I really could not imagine what those first brave families heading from comfort and home to the great unknown.