August 29, 2014

8/15/14 - City of Rocks NR

The City of Rocks National Reserve is in way southeastern Idaho.  It was originally designated to preserve the most intact and authentic setting of the California Trail.  It was a big landmark for the pioneers’ wagon trains heading to California.  Now it’s an even bigger landmark for climbers from all over the world.

We stopped at the Visitor Center in Almo to register for a campsite in  Castle Rocks State Park.  They have replica covered wagons—minus the covers.  Maybe that’s why they called them “California Trail wagons”...

A couple of days later we drove over to City of Rocks.  This is the entrance sign...and George at the entrance sign...and me at the entrance sign.  It’s a nice sign, but not that great.  I must be having problems making a decision today.

The road through the park is gravel, so that makes it slow and dusty.  We took a side trip to the Circle Creek Overlook, but stopped before we went down this hill—not because we chickened out, but because the road was blocked.   We walked down it a little bit to see what was there.
A lot of people who headed west in the mid-1800s headed to Oregon.  But after gold was found in California in 1848, free land wasn't quite so enticing.  Over 200,000 people branched off and followed the California Trail through City of Rocks, a name coined by one of the pioneers who thought the rocks scattered all over the valley looked like a city.  Personally, I think the heat got to them.  Looks like a bunch of rocks to me!
They named this one “Camp Rock”, and camped nearby.  Like people everywhere, they felt compelled to leave their names behind.  Unlike Independence Rock in Wyoming, which is easier to carve, the rock here is granite, so they used axle grease.  Of course, axle grease doesn’t last forever, so much of it has faded, and some is gone completely.  

They called this one “Elephant Rock”, because someone thought it looked pachydermish.  I walked all around this thing, and still couldn’t see it.  There are some pretty good views around the corner.

Around back there were a couple of guys coming down after a climb to the top.  We stopped for a bit and watched.  Please note how I managed to get the jet trail pointed directly at him.
The directions to get to Window Arch say it’s a short trail (300 feet) behind campsite #37.  Seemed kind of odd to have a trail through someone’s campsite, or maybe it’s just pretty cool to be able to camp that close to something like this.  When we got there, George and I managed to take pictures of each other through the arch.

Register Rock is another big rock with emigrant signatures.  We walked around it too.

.A few years after the main bunch, my grandfather’s family headed west on the Oregon Trail from Missouri to Weiser, Idaho, so they must have come this way.  I've frequently thought how difficult it must have been--usually when we drive through places with lots of lava rock next to the road.  Now that we've learned more about what they went through (5 months, 2,000 miles, 15-20 miles/day, mostly walking), I realize I didn't have a clue. Or how about traveling with kids and their “Are we almost there yet, Mom?”

I really like my 21st century covered wagon.

Want more pictures of the park?  Click here:  City of Rocks Natl Reserve 

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  1. Hi Jane and George, what a great blog! I just added you to my blogroll so that I can see when you post. It was great meeting you.

    Kathy M.


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