Taking the Road Less Travelled

Surprise, surprise

A mining town and former staging area, Rock Springs may not be on the wishlist of many travellers, but it offers two fantastic diversions to a road tripper. The first is the Wild Horse Scenic Drive; around 2,500 wild horses roam free on a high plateau overlooking the city, and 1 felt the Mustang shake as a herd came pounding past. The second would be revealed to me by John Vase and Pat Doak, of Killpecker Tours, who are passionate about one thing: petroglyphs.

Rock Springs sits beneath mountains where the Shoshone would rendezvous with other tribes, etching into the sandstone symbols of their encounters. “Look here,” said John, as we explored, “drawings of a baby elk within a bigger elk.” He pointed to a slit-like cave, its entrance sprayed with red paint: “We think this is a birthing tunnel.” He gestured at a rock that looked as though it had been clawed by a person in tremendous pain: “The birthing stone”. With fertility symbols rife John believes this was where women gave birth.

Wyoming’s final surprise was its capital, Cheyenne. I only stopped to grab some lunch, but then the Cowgirl Museum caught my eye. Inside I met historian Ben Hilsen, a Stetson-wearing cowboy with a greying moustache. He told me that his great-grandmother had come here from Sweden in the 1800s as this pioneering state was the first to give women the right to own property. Not only that, here is where sidesaddles were thrown out, trousers could be worn instead of skirts and, as early as 1869, women got the vote.

“If you look at our state seal you’ll see it says ‘Equal Rights’,” explained Ben. “When we were trying to be recognised as a state by congress we were told we would have to repeal our suffrage law – but we wouldn’t. Our slogan was: we will remain out of the Union for another hundred years rather than come in without our women.”

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