Thursday, September 24, 2009

Emma's Outlaw: Wyoming Recon

Last week I attended the American Christian Fiction Writer's Conference down in Denver, Colorado. Many people were surprised that I would drive that distance but I found it the perfect opportunity to do a recon for my Outlaw story. It worked out especially well because an editor from one of the big Christian fiction publication houses is interested in the story. I'm fortunate that the same agent who requested it last year is still interested. So the timing was perfect to see for myself what I could only see with Google Earth before. And while some things were confirmed, others took me by surprise. But, I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's start where Emma's story starts.

Emma's Outlaw (yes, I renamed it) starts in Casper, Wyoming with Emma walking down the boardwalk where she first encounters her outlaw. Here's the modern photo of Center Street, Casper which I've confirmed was the main street back in 1879. It ran north/south with the Laramie Mtns in the background however in my story, I have it east/west so I'll have to change that.

When Emma is kidnapped, the outlaws head north. At first the terrain is gentle with a few bumpy spots like this:

After riding a couple hours, the outlaws take the covering off Emma. She looks back at Casper and sees the Laramie Mtns in the distance.

The ground isn't too rough at this point although it takes time to ride around the small hills and piles of rocks.

The first chance Emma has of a landmark is the sight below. It's called Teapot Rock and although it's stood since before Emma's time, erosion has taken it's toll.

This is what it looks like today, but back in Emma's time, it had the shape of an actual teapot.

So Emma's outlaws are going to ride between Teapot Rock and this huge land formation you see in the background. If you look close, you'll see some dark caves close to each side of the photo. Emma's outlaws will make camp near the one on the right that first night.

The next day, they'll keep the land mass on their right and head northeast around it. The farther they go, the more uneven the ground becomes.

The 2nd day is slower going because they're either going down into coulees and draws or riding around them.

This is where they'll make camp the 2nd night because there's plenty of fresh grass:

Now here's where one of the surprises came in... On the map and on Google Earth, it said there were 2 buttes named Castle Rock. Well, here's the eastern half of Castle Rock in real life measuring 750 ft across:

And here's the western one measuring 400 ft across the front (north side). Can you believe it? I did a double take when I first saw them sitting there.

As the riders top a rise, they see the Pumpkin Buttes to the north. Now these were a complete surprise to me as well because I thought them to be just flat topped hills. Well, they are, but they're about 20 times wider than they are tall. I didn't envision this by looking at Google Earth. It took me awhile to find them on GE as well because the highway map calls them the 'Pumpkin' Buttes but GE calls them by their geographical location. There are actually about 6 of them but these 3 are the biggest. These measurements are approx. From left to right, they are:
- North Middle Butte (1260 ft X 3000 ft)
- South Middle Butte (2000 ft x 1680 ft)
- South Butte (1890 ft x 1650 ft)

Emma ingrains these spectacular landmarks into her brain in case the chance arises to escape. No, I'm not going to tell you any more of the story.

This recon proved 2 things:

First, the need to do a recon if you're going to refer to actual places.

And second, the wonderful resource of Google Earth because that's where I saw the first spectacular land mass and Teapot Rock which helped me choose this area in the first place.

Have you ever see a butte, either in pictures or real life? Have you ever seen land formations like Castle Rock and Teapot Rock before? Have you ever been to Wyoming?


Janet C. said...

Wow, Anita, that's quite the recon. Great pictures - I've enjoyed your pictorial journey both here and on your own blog. Looks like it's beautiful country down there. And I'm glad you were able to confirm and correct your setting for Emma's Outlaw.

I know you've probably done this, but I'll ask anyway. Have you researched the distances horse and rider can make in a day so that your stopovers make sense in real time? I was surprised when I did reseach for Lady Bells. Not being a farm girl or a horse girl, the information I discovered on gaits, realistic travel times, distances covered really surprised me. But I'm sure you've covered that ground :)

Great post - and congrats on the success you had at the conference.

Silver James said...

Wyoming has some gorgeous country. My dad grew up on a ranch near the Wheatland area. I grew up in Colorado, with lots of trips to New Mexico and Arizona. I love that landscape!

Like Janet, I was going to double-check that you did your research on traveling by horseback. It didn't go nearly as far or as fast and people tend to think, unless the riders could change horses, like the Pony Express.

Great good luck on EMMA's OUTLAW! The book sounds wonderful!

Karyn Good said...

It's been a lot of fun exploring with you via Facebook and your blog. It sounds like you had a wonderful time! Love the pictures!

Last year our family went on a two week summer excursion through N & S Dakota, Wyoming and in to Montana to Glacier National Park. It was fabulous! We camped in Cody, Wyoming, traveled through Yellowstone, etc. So much to see and do!

Emma's Outlaw will be all the stronger and richer for you having traveled her path.

Jana Richards said...

Hi Anita,
Like everyone else, I've been enjoying your pictures from your recon. You can get a lot of information from the Internet and sources like Google Earth, but there's nothing quite like seeing it for yourself, is there?


Anita Mae Draper said...

Hey Janet, yes, one of the first things I checked out was how far the riders could go on any given day. I used a topographical map and when I came to approx how far there horses could run based on the time of day they left, looked around for somewhere to camp and I marked it on the map. The same for all the other days although I only mention a couple here. Can't give away the whole story. LOL

Thanks for the nice words about the pics and the conference.

I'm actually having trouble getting through blogger today so please bear with me. I was very tired last night after the long drive/trip and spotted several errors this morning in the post. Plus, I want to give dimensions for the buttes, etc. But after a week of Hi-Speed, this is driving me crazy!!!

Anita Mae Draper said...

Silver, I stayed in Wheatland on Sunday night and visited the Oregon Trail ruts and Register Cliff on Monday. So much history in that one area!

Actually, the amount Emma and her outlaws travel that first day until they make camp isn't even 40 miles cross country and as you can see, most of that is softy rolling. 40 miles is about normal for a horse in one day but since they're loping for a good part of that, I figured they could do it in the time they had. It's Day 2 when the fun starts. :)

Thanks for the well wishes, Silver.

Deb H said...

awesome posting Anita!
i've really enjoyed your revelations about your MS through your recon pix. i'll be excited to read when you're all done too.

having grown up in Colorado - i've had the pleasure of visiting Wyoming. I particularly like the castle rock formations in the territory. They've been inspriation for me and some of my writing as well.

i hope you have time to rest up from your trip. it sounds like it was quite great.

Anita Mae Draper said...

Hey Karyn, I think it's wonderful that you took your family on a tour of those states. I've wanted to see Wyoming since watching The Virginian as a young girl.

You are echoing many others who've said my journey will enhance Emma's story. Now I just have to translate that onto paper...

Thanks for following along with me. I really enjoyed the adventure.

Anita Mae Draper said...

No, there sure isn't anything like seeing it. Those buttes totally blew me away. Castle Rock because it (they) looks man made. And the Pumpkin Buttes because of the sheer magnitude of their size. Now that I've found them on Google Earth, though, I'll have more of an idea next time I go looking.

Thanks for coming along, Jana.

Anita Mae Draper said...

Hey Deb, I certainly slept good last night! But I went and posted Emma's journey after a 7 hr drive and that wasn't such a good thing because the post has errors. I should've rested before I posted but it was due today.

Tomorrow is my 1st Poetry post at Inktropolis and it's going to be about how I felt standing in the Oregon Trail ruts. I wrote most of it while on site but it needs turning into poetry now. Need to do that now before I get too tired. LOL

Thanks for coming along, Deb.

Anita Mae Draper said...

Okay, just wanted to let you know I've finally been able to get into blogger, change my post and republish it with the dimensions of all the buttes. Enjoy.

Captain Hook said...

Actually, Anita, I lived in Wyoming last summer. I did some time working on a ranch in Laramie and then spent the rest of my time in Cheyenne.

How'd you like the wind?

Anita Mae Draper said...

Hey Capt'n. Wind? What wind? I guess I'm just so used to the wind here on the Prairies that I didn't even notice it down there. :)

There is so much history in the Laramie and Cheyenne area, I wanted to stay and explore but it wasn't on my agenda. I must say I was unimpressed with Cheyenne, though. I only drove by, but with the hills on both sides and the windmill parks atop each, it just looked so... modern. sigh

The one thing I did notice was the cattle guards every time I took an exit although I was never sure if they were for the cattle or the pronghorns.