The Red Wall

Famous as the site where Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid’s Hole in the Wall gang hung out, the Hole in the Wall area is quite the spectacle. The massive red wall seems to stretch for miles, only broken up when its wavy path is visually blocked by the wall’s own protrusions and dips. In the distance, hills made of the same red sediment disappear into the blue and grey of faraway vegetation, and the only sounds that pervade the landscape are the wind and the mumbling of cattle, insects and birds.

Vista from on top of the wall.

I was lucky enough to visit the Hole in the Wall via an odd route. While I had previously attempted to reach the site by the normal designated roads, the mixture of bad weather and a computer malfunction in the car meant we had to turn back before reaching the base of the wall. So this time, we went in over the top of the wall. Our goal was to see if the marked road was still accessible to trucks.

The road started off decent enough, with only a few tight spots and turns. But as we approached the edge of the wall, we found ourselves at our first really iffy area. The road sloped steeply downward with a layer of loose stone on top, making slipping inevitable. At this point, we switched drivers to that the member of our team who had been driving Wyoming roads since she was a kid could tackle these sections with much more confidence and know-how than me or my supervisor, both from the East. We made it down with little incident and continued on, getting right up along the edge of the wall at one point. Then came the scariest slope of all; what felt like 50% slope up on that same broken and loose stone. I’d be lying to say I didn’t close my eyes and grip the seat, knowing that even if we made it up, we’d have to take the same crazy slope back down on the way back. While we made it, I didn’t really relax for the rest of the drive, which became much more pleasant but less stunning as we moved into the grassy areas further in from the edge of the wall.

While in one of these grassy areas, we ran into a rancher herding his cows. Well, more like we were suddenly surrounded by cows and sat waiting in the truck until the rancher, some ways away, drove over in his ATV. It is clearly a lonely job, roaming the fields each day with cows and not interacting with people very often, so we all had a nice long chat. He also gave us a heads up on a mountain lion in the area, alongside a terrifying story of watching a hunter behaving oddly in the distance who, upon questioning, said that he had been preparing to shoot the mountain lion lurking on a ledge just above the rancher if need be. Needless to say, we proceeded with even more caution.

By the time we finally made it to the end of the road, three hours had passed since we first entered the gate. Though only 13 miles, the landscape had made the passage difficult and safety standards necessitated caution. But the final destination was worth it. We wandered the landscape above the wall, locating the specific sites our team’s archaeologist wanted to find. We found several pieces of flaked stone, likely broken off from the rocks used to form tools hundreds of years ago. Obviously, we left them at the sites, relatively confident that others would not find them, or if they did, have no idea what they were really looking at.

Stone flake from making tools – Archaeological artifact

When we walked over to the edge of the wall, we could see the hiking trail that lead from the official rec site parking lot winding its way through the landscape. This trail required hiking up the steep wall, with only one section of “iffy scaling” as my supervisor put it. While we did not plan on taking that trail today, I know it is in my future, a challenge for both my bad knees and my dislike of heights. In any case, we had our wander, examined the sorts of vegetation growing in this area, and made it back to the car without being mauled by a mountain lion. The drive back didn’t take quite as long, and the dangerous slope, which had us all slightly shaken, did not prove fatal. We returned to the starting gate and let out a sigh of relief, for while the landscape was incredible, its boldness only served to remind me that I am a mere speck in the history of this place, a land that can and should never be tamed by the ambitions or pride of humans.

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