"We proceeded (westward from Fort Laramie) and encamped outside the boundaries of Uncle Sam." So wrote Dr. J.S. Shepard in 1851 as he began the second leg of his journey west. "To leave Fort Laramie was to cast off all ties with civilization. It was an alien land." he noted.
The emigrants' elation at reaching the "civilization" of the Fort after 650 miles of monotonous, difficult overland travel was soon tempered by the realization that even more troublesome trail conditions lay ahead over the final two-thirds of the journey. "Here come the ascent of the Rocky Mountain." wrote an apprehensive Comelius Conway at mid-century.
To lighten their loads many travelers cast off thousands of dollars worth of food and equipment. This was especially true of the "49ers" who, in their hast to reach the gold fields, often invested little effort in planning their trip. Joseph Berrien reached Fort Laramie early, May 30, 1849, yet still referred to is as "Camp Sacrifice" because of the large quantities of abandon gear and foodstuffs he saw nearby.
Between 1849 and 1854 an annual average of some 31,000 overlanders passed trough or near this fort on their journey to Oregon, California, or Utah. Most passed on a trail marked by the ruts before you. Wagons travel near the Platte River, just to the north was difficult due to seasonal high
water and progressively more difficult terrain.