Burning daylight!" a booming voice rang across the flats. We peered sleepily at our luminescent watch hands. It was 5:30 a.m. We had two hours to dress, pack our gear and tent, care for our horses, eat breakfast, tack up, and be ready to ride. We were on the Outlaw Trail Ride near Thermopolis, Wyoming, and definitely feeling like we were "on the run."
The Outlaw Trail Ride is a seven-day, point-to-point, 110-mile adventure that follows portions of the Outlaw Trail, an old stagecoach road, and an ancient Sioux trail. Volunteers transport gear from camp to camp, while riders travel by trail, road, and cross-country to see great sights of the Old West. Best yet, this is a nonprofit ride. The price is right!
Trail boss Vince Hayes was instrumental in organizing the first Outlaw Trail Ride 16 years ago. He was the first chairman of the Outlaw Trail Committee and is still a dedicated chairman today. He says he enjoys "having people share history and giving them a good time." People from all over the world - including Australia, Canada, Germany, and England - as well as from across the United States, have come to ride this historic trail.
We gathered at the fairgrounds in Thermopolis, Wyoming, before being bussed to the trailhead. If you have time, take a couple extra days before the ride to enjoy Thermopolis attractions. It has world-famous hot mineral pools, water slides, and a free public hot-springs bathhouse.
At the public bathhouse, you may soak in immaculately clean pools or have your own personal bathtub. My sweet little mother-in-law, Betty Shadduck, and I decided to go the tub route. Lounging in warm mineral water up to my neck with an exciting book was a great way to prepare for long days in the saddle.
History buffs, you're in for a treat! The Hot Springs Museum is a treasure trove of artifacts and historical information. (Proceeds from the ride help support this museum.) If you go, be sure to read about Chief Washakie and his life-and-death battle. Fascinating! The museum also displays the original back bar from the Hole In The Wall Saloon, where Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid would bend an elbow.
Other town attractions include a wax museum that showcases local history with lifelike figures in realistic displays, and a Dinosaur Center.
The Pageant Days celebration is held before the start of the Outlaw Trail Ride. It commemorates a treaty in which the Indians gave the hot-spring area to the state of Wyoming so the springs would be free to all people for all time; the result was the public bathhouse.
This celebration includes Indian dancing and a parade. Outlaw Trail Riders are invited to ride in the parade - a fun, exciting way to begin seven days of riding and six nights of camping. The entire town is involved, and it's a great send off for riders leaving on a journey into history.