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Miller Mountain: Exploring Wyoming Hogbacks

Nissan Xterra
Larry E. Heck | Writer
Posted September 1, 2012

Wyoming Wheeling

Lone Writer and Happy Jack were relaxing on the banks of the Green River a few miles south of a community called La Barge, Wyoming. They had been exploring back roads along the Oregon Trail, but ran out of tracks at the river crossing.

During the 1800s there would have been no question about which way to go next. The route was carved into the landscape from the wooden wheels of many wagon trains. There were no highways or towns and no concerns about private property. The only concern in those days was getting through the untamed wilderness before winter snows stopped them in their tracks.

The mountains west of La Barge were never a part of the Oregon Trail. The first Euro-Americans to see that part of the country were fur trappers and trail scouts. The first documented expedition through that part of the country for the purpose of fur trading was led by Robert Stuart in 1812. He is credited with the discovery of South Pass over the Continental Divide, which eventually became the primary crossing of the divide for people traveling the Oregon Trail.

The Oregon Trail went southwest from where La Barge is located. About half way to where Kemmerer, Wyoming, is now located, the trail turned west and passed through current day Cokeville, Wyoming. Use of the Oregon Trail declined in 1869 after the railroad was completed.

Kemmerer was founded in 1892 and is now a major city. In 1902, James Cash Penney opened his first dry goods store. Mr. J. C. Penney went on to create one of the largest chain stores in the nation.

Lone Writer took a sip of Pepsi from a cup filled to the brim with ice. His lawn chair was positioned a short distance downstream from a bridge over the Green River. He was watching a critter swimming upstream with a large stick in its mouth.

"Is that a muskrat or a beaver?" he pondered aloud.
Happy Jack pushed his hat back on his head and took another drag on his cigar.
"Don't look like no beaver to me."
The critter swam under the bridge and went out of sight. Lone Writer leaned back in his chair.
"We can't follow the Oregon trail from here," he said. "It crosses into private lands. Probably faded out anyway."
He pointed to a mountain peak in the distance.
"I ain't never been to Miller Mountain. How 'bout we spend the night up there."

They followed Highway 189 going south to the intersection for Muddy Creek Road. After turning west, they followed the creek as it climbed gradually in elevation to a point where other creeks flowed into it. The road turned north and then back west making a steeper ascent along Delaney Creek. Eventually, the road reached the top of the hogback that makes up the foothills of Miller Mountain. There are actually two peaks along that hogback that are designated as Miller Mountain. Both of them can be found on the Internet and in other publications where someone has counted the mountain peaks in Wyoming.

The landscape in that part of the state has taken on the name of the Fontenelle Hogbacks. Imagine being in an ocean with enormous waves. Now imagine those waves frozen in place. Imagine the tops of those waves rising a thousand feet above the valleys between them. In that imaginary world, change the water to land and you have a visual of the Fontenelle Hogbacks.

In the hogbacks, the tops of the waves are ridges many miles long. The valleys between them have become the paths of least resistance for water flow and each one has its own creek. Some roads follow the tops of the ridges and some follow the creeks. Other roads cross the valleys and ridges connecting them together. Beautiful forests and fields of flowers flourish in the fertile lands along the creeks. The ridges are mostly covered with a semi-arid breed of brushy grass.

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