For almost a year, we have been moving across the United States with our most worldly possessions towed behind us, partially in search of the next place we will call home. Needless to say, our visit to the National Historic Trails Interpretive Center hit a little close to home for both Will and me, and we left with even more perspective on our journey and a fresh gratitude that we are making this journey now and not the 1850s.
The Oregon, Mormon, and California trails all passed through Casper, Wyoming, crossing the North Platt at Fort Caspar then heading on to South Pass before diverging toward their respective destinations. The Interpretive Center does an amazing job of capturing stories from the trails and gives an incredible look into the life of an emigrant heading West.
The westward surge was a human instinct, like the need to love or to taste spring air and believe again that life is not a dead end after all.David Sievert Lavender, Westward Vision, 1963
From the moment we entered the building, we were greeted by a ranger who welcomed us and introduced us to the center. Every single person we encountered on our visit was so nice and informative. We explored the exhibits, rode the wagon simulation across the North Platt (we survived!), and watched the video that ties the whole story and history together.
Bird loved spending time with her grandparents (who met us in Casper for the week), and there were a surprising number of things there to engage her and keep her interested. She particularly loved seeing pictures of all the horses and had to get a new stuffed “Neigh” before we left.
Over the past year, there have been plenty of times where we wonder what exactly we are doing and if we really are a little crazy, but visiting this center, learning even more about the people who traveled these trails, we did not feel as alone in our quest to find our new home. It was rather comforting knowing that we are, in fact, making our own pilgrimage, finding our own path, and it is something people have been doing throughout history.
As we continued our journey across Wyoming and further into the West after leaving Casper, we have returned many times to our experience at the center and what we learned about the people who forged this path. And I have never ever been so grateful to have a truck that can take us hundreds of miles per day, a camper with a nice mattress and air conditioning, and methods of communicating instantaneously with our family and friends. There are days I am not sure I am cut out for this journey of ours, and we are not riding in a wagon or pulling a cart.
If you are visiting Casper, a stop at the National Historic Trails Interpretive Center is a must.
I don’t want to settle. I love to roam over the prairies. There I feel free and happy, but when we settle down we grow pale and die.Santana, Kiowa