Our Lewis and Clark Journal – Day 25
Day 25: Wyoming – Jackson Lake to Cheyenne along the Chief Washakie Trail (August 20)
I woke up in the silence of the forest and mountains today. I had time to have a cup of coffee and do a bit of reading before anyone else woke up – a first on this vacation. Once we all had breakfast, we returned to Colter Bay and took a hike beside the lake – Noelle went on ahead around the lake, while August and I finished his requirements for his Grand Teton Junior Ranger Badge. Back at the Visitor Center, August turned in his workbook and took his final pledge (on this vacation) to “explore, learn and protect.”
We have begun to travel home, and we have a long way to go today. We are going to drive all day and will still be in Wyoming this evening. For the next ten hours we will watch the stunning landscape change slowly but inexorably.
On the way out of Yellowstone yesterday we popped into the CD deck a recording of The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis. During these final days of our vacation, which will consist of a lot of driving, we will listen to five of the seven books which comprise The Chronicles of Narnia. Not only was this enjoyable in and of itself, to listen to these stories as a family, but as August turned one part of his mind to the story he turned the other part, with extraordinary attention, to the passing landscape.
This was also pajama day. Since we will be in the camper for at least nine hours today, with only occasional stops for gas and to run through hillsides of sage brush, there seemed no reason for August to get dressed. Today, he was Batman.
Most of our travel from the Northwest of Wyoming to the great East-West Interstate 80 will be along the Chief Washakie Trail, US Highway 26/287 from Fort Washakie to Rawlins. Chief Washakie (1804-1900) was the leader of the Eastern Shoshone who were friendly to overland travelers, and Washakie was a scout for the U.S. Army. We stopped to visit his grave in Fort Washakaie, and take a stretch. While there we also sought out the grave of a woman who claimed to be Sacagawea. Her legend says that rather than dying in 1812, she left her husband Charbonneau and moved West to Wyoming, living until 1882.
[We apparently took very few pictures during our long drive, and none of the stunning landscape. The photo below of a stretch of the Chief Washakie Trail is lifted from the travel website of Mike and Joyce Hendrix. who write about their own journeys in this part of the country.]
When we reached Jeffrey City, Wyoming, Noelle insisted I get out for this photo. Why not? The story we learned on this historical marker alone made the stop worthwhile.
Here’s the story:
Long associated with Wyoming will be the “cowboy song” that August sang – for nearly 40 minutes! We have video. August sat at the kitchen table in the RV, drawing in his new stencil book, and singing. Set to a traditional sounding ‘cowboy tune,” the plaintive words of the singer consist entirely of the following.
Spinach don’t you cry, me dear. Spinach don’t you cry
Spinach don’t you cry, my love. Spinach don’t you cry.
Apparently there is a whole epic behind these lyrics, one August must have been composing in his mind as he sang. It involves a broccoli forest chasing the spinach off a plate. Noelle and I were fascinated at the minor variations in pitch and pronunciation, and occasional use of a new word, that August introduced which kept it from being completely monotonous.
We arrived in Cheyenne just before sunset. If Noelle had to roll into The Badlands listening to Bruce Springsteen, I had to arrive in Cheyenne listening to the Grateful Dead (I had actually been listening to different recordings of Jack Straw for over an hour when Noelle asked “Is this just the same song over and over?”). Since we were staying at a KOA, there was a swimming pool. August and I dove into the refreshing water while Noelle did laundry (we really relax in different ways).
There was no bedtime tonight, and we all stayed up late.