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Greetings, my fellow port swillers! A rainy Saturday morning at Port Swiller Manor allows me to duck mowing the lawn and instead bore those two or three who still gather over the decanter with my first impressions of the great state of Wyoming, or at least of its south-easternmost parts.  (Ol’ Robbo was taken camping in Yellowstone as a toddler, but that hardly counts.)

This area is pure High Prairie, the westernmost part of teh Great Plains lapping up against the Rockies, and resembles, in large part, nothing so much as the Ocean.  George Armstrong Custer puts it rayther well in the early part of his “My Life on the Plains”:

Starting from almost any point near the central portion of the Plains, and moving in any direction, one seems to encounter a series of undulations at a more or less remote distance from each other, but constantly in view.  Comparing the surface of the country to that of the ocean, a comparison often indulged in by those who have seen both, it does not require a very great stretch of the imagination, when viewing this boundless ocean of beautiful living verdure, to picture these successive undulations as gigantic waves, not wildly chasing each other to or from the shore, but standing silent and immovable, and by their silent immobility adding to the impressive grandeur of the scene.  These undulations, varying in height from fifty to five hundred feet, are sometimes formed of a light, sandy soil, but often of different varieties of rock, producing at a distance the most picturesque effect.

The constant recurrence of these waves, if they may be so termed, is quite puzzling to the inexperienced plainsman.  He imagines, and very naturally, too, judging from appearances, that when he ascends to the crest he can overlook the surrounding country.  After a weary walk or ride of perhaps several miles, which appeared at starting not more than one or two, he finds himself at the desired point, but discovers that directly beyond in the direction he desires to go rises a second wave, but slightly higher than the first, and from the crest of which he must certainly be able to scan the country as far as the eye can reach.  Thither he pursues his course, and after a ride of from five to ten miles, although the distance did not seem half so great before starting, he finds himself on the crest, or, as it is invariably termed, the “divide”, but again only to discover that another and apparently higher divide rises in his front, and at about the same distance.  Hundreds, yes, thousands of miles may be journeyed over, and this same effect witnessed every few hours.

In fact, thanks to modern speed (80 mph speed limit, baybee!), these “gigantic waves” do seem to chase each other wildly.  I’ve been on the Plains before, mostly in Illinois and Iowa.  I’ve driven between Omaha and Lincoln.  Because I flew in and out of Denver on this trip, I got a chunk of Northern Colorado, too.  But it was only once I got into Wyoming, especially north of Cheyenne, that I really got the full effect, most of these other areas being either urbanized or else thoroughly tamed farmland.  It was absolutely humbling – wave after wave after wave of land, all under an enormous sky.  However, it was not all plain sailing, because these hills are also broken up by a succession of creeks and rivers.

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