July 30-August 5, 2012 – Fort Bridger, WY and Garden City, UT

We left Flaming Gorge and drove across the southwest corner of Wyoming.  We stopped at Fort Bridger, WY and toured the Fort Bridger State Historic Site.  Fort Bridger was first established by Jim Bridger and Louis Vasquez in 1843 as an emigrant supply stop along the Oregon Trail.  In the 1850’s the trading post was obtained by the Mormons who ran it until it became a military outpost in 1858.   The army operated the fort until it was abandoned in 1890.  During this time Fort Bridger had a variety of duties.  In addition to keeping the emigrant trails open and safe, it was a stop for the Pony Express and the Overland Stage, a distribution center for government supplies to the Shoshone Indians, a source of supplies for workers on the Union Pacific Railroad and for scientists exploring the Yellowstone area.   A replica of the original trading post built by Jim Bridger and Louis Vasquez has been constructed on the original site.

After the military fort was abandoned most of the buildings were sold at a public auction and moved off the grounds.  A few original structures still exist like this ice house.


The commanding officers house was very nice. 


Many of the rooms in the house were set up as they were when a commanding officer lived here.  We found these two chairs made from horns and antlers very interesting.

  Restoration work on the fort is ongoing and archaeological research has been done so that the story and buildings of Fort Bridger can be preserved and protected.   After we finished touring the fort we had a picnic lunch in the adjacent park and continued to Garden City, UT.

We are staying at Apple Garden Park, a very nice park in the Camperworld membership park system.


We are just north of Garden City, UT and across the street from Bear Lake.  Bear Lake lies on the border of Utah and Idaho and is 20 miles long and 8 miles wide.  The beautiful turquoise blue color is created when the sunlight reflects off suspended particles of calcium carbonate in the water.

We drove Logan Canyon which follows the Logan River between Garden City and Logan where we stopped at Tony Grove Lake.  Tony Grove is a beautiful mountain lake and during the 1880’s and 1890’s, wealthy families from Logan would spend six weeks in a lush grove of trees that once existed nearby.  Early Logan residents dubbed the area Tony Grove because of its popularity with the “tonies” or high-toned, uptown set.  We spent part of the morning kayaking around this gorgeous little lake.

Farther up Logan Canyon, we did some 4-wheeling on a side road to Old Ephraim’s Grave.  The plaque on the monument reads

 “In Memoriam.  This rugged four and one half ton native stone is symbolic of a giant grizzly bear called Old Ephraim who ranged this area for many years killing sheep, cattle and game, and was trapped, shot, and buried near here Aug. 1923 by Frank Clark of Malad, Idaho.  Standing upright he equaled the height of this monument (9ft. 11in.) and weighted about 1100 lbs.  Smithsonian Institute Washington DC has his skull.  Erected by local scouts and scouters, Aug. 22, 1966”.  

At the base of the monument was inscribed 

“Old Ephraim, Old Ephraim, your deeds were so wrong, yet we build you this marker and sing you this song.  To the king of the forest so mighty and tall, we salute you old Ephraim the king of them all.  Dephi J. Bott”

 One description we read said that he was the last grizzly bear in Utah, but this monument did not say anything about that so we aren’t sure if it is true or not. We enjoyed this scenic drive through Logan Canyon.

One night we went to the Pickleville Playhouse where we had a great BBQ dinner outside at Bandito’s Wild West Grill before going in to see The Hanging of el Bandito Reimagined.  The cast did an excellent job with the melodrama but we were a little disappointed because we were expecting an old fashioned melodrama and this was not.  It had the melodrama theme with the damsel in distress, a good guy and a bad guy, but there was a lot of rap and hip hop music and dancing with the volume way too loud for our taste. 

 The next day we drove north into Idaho and visited Minnetonka Cave in the Cache National Forest.  Edward Arnell discovered the limestone cave in 1906 or 1907 while hunting.  It was originally called Porcupine Cave because a live porcupine and porcupine bones were found in the cave.   The 90 minute tour goes to the cave’s 9 rooms.  We walked about ½ mile and climbed up and down 444 stairs during the tour, of course we had to climb up and down the 444 stairs on the way back out of the cave.  Although this cave was small and not as spectacular as other caves we have toured we did enjoy it.

After touring Minnetonka Cave we drove to Montpelier, ID where we had a great lunch at Lott’s Restaurant.  After lunch we went to the National Oregon/California Trail Center which is built right on top of the Oregon Trail.  The display outside the Center depicts emigrants descending the “Big Hill” which is about 4 miles south of Montpelier.  The Big Hill is said to be the greatest impediment the emigrants faced on their way west.  The descent is so steep that the wagons had to be let down by ropes tied to trees - similar to the hill we saw in Oregon on the Barlow Road portion of the Oregon Trail last year.

 Inside the center it is the year 1852 and we are starting our 2,000 mile 5-month journey from Independence, Missouri to the Oregon Territory on the Oregon Trail.  Our Wagon Master helped us purchase everything we would need for the journey west – it will cost between $1,200 and $1,500, a hefty sum in 1852!  Everyone over the age of 12 had to carry a gun, even the women so we bought two 54 caliber Hawkins rifles at $20 apiece.  We had to purchase a wagon and oxen - we were told oxen were better than horses or mules as they did not have to stop during the day to graze, they were cheaper to buy and, most important, the Indians would not steal them.

After getting the weapons, wagon and oxen we headed for the store to purchase our one ton of supplies necessary for the trip.  We bought bacon, beans, coffee, flour, rice, sugar, salt, lard, and hardtack to name a few or the many food items we need.  We also need clothing, bedding, tools, candles, matches, pots, pans, tubs, buckets, rope, axe, a milk cow and chickens among other supplies.  Our Wagon Master is showing Nancy which grinder to purchase for grinding grain into flour.  

 After purchasing our supplies we boarded our covered wagon and headed out.  The wagon was set up to bounce and jolt just like it was being pulled by oxen over a rough trail.  Along the way we heard stories from emigrants about their hardships along the trail.  After our harrowing descent down the Big Hill, we stopped at Clover Creek Encampment (an actual Oregon Trail camp which the Center is built over).  Mrs. White welcomed us to camp and told us many stories about her journey on the Oregon Trail so far. 

  She then took us to her camp where she showed us the quilts and rugs that she makes.  The rugs are called “wagon wheel rugs” because the material is tied to a wagon wheel rim and then woven together to make the rug – she said she uses old shirts and dresses.  She invited Nancy to sit in a large rocker which she and her husband carried in their wagon all the way from Missouri.  The chair kept falling out of the wagon and after picking it up numerous times, Mr. White said they needed to discard it.  This chair has been in Mrs. White’s family for many generations so she said if the chair does not go then she wouldn’t go.  Well to make a long story short, Mr. White continued on down the trail and left her.  Another man at the end of the wagon train put the chair in his wagon and when they caught up with Mr. White later, he was certainly surprised to see her and the chair.

What a great way to learn the history of the Oregon Trail – by experiencing it!  The center also had a railroad museum in the basement and a quilt display and traveling exhibit on Sasquatch on the upper level.  We really enjoyed the National Oregon/California Trail Center and encourage anyone visiting this area to go see it.  On the way back to Garden City we drove around the other side of Bear Lake.

We took another short trip to Fossil Butte National Monument outside of Kemmerer, Wyoming.  Fifty million years ago this area was covered by a large lake called Fossil Lake.  The lake is gone now but a wealth of fossils was left in the lake sediments that turned into the rocks known as the Green River Formation.  The fossils are among the world’s most perfectly preserved remains of ancient plant and animal life.  In 1972 Congress designated Fossil Butte National Monument to preserve the fossils in this area.

 We were amazed at how clear and detailed the fossils are that were displayed in the visitor center.   There are fossils of all kinds of plants, flowers, fish, birds, turtles, insects, reptiles, and mammals.  This palm frond was beautiful – they have found palm fronds up to 9 feet tall.

This large dragonfly was very detailed – they have found fossils of dragonflies with wing spans up to 4 inches.


They had a number of turtle fossils on display – the brochure said they have found turtle fossils up to 6 feet long.

While we were at the visitor center a ranger was using a small air gun under a microscope to sand blast a fossil.  He said they do not use sand they use a grit that is harder than the stone but softer than the fossil so as not to damage the fossil.  A camera was mounted looking into the microscope so we could watch a close-up video of him as he worked.  It was interesting to watch and see how tedious the work really is.  This was a very interesting national monument and we enjoyed our visit.

We enjoyed our visit to the Bear Lake area – especially the raspberry shakes they sell in Garden City.  This area is known for its raspberries and was celebrating Raspberry Days this weekend.  We went to the arts and crafts fair and found some really good raspberry salsa and some great kettle corn.


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