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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Laramie in Pictures: Lincoln Highway

To be honest, I don't really know why somebody felt like naming the highway running from Evanston to Cheyenne after Abraham Lincoln, but the state of Wyoming has always had some sort of Lincoln fetish; we were almost named "Lincoln" instead of Wyoming, there's a Lincoln county.  As far as I've figured out, it's had that name at least since 1913, and that original road became the route for Interstate 80 some decades later.

At the highest point of the pass and just off of Happy Jack Road is an enormous, random monument for Lincoln, standing next to the Interstate named after him.
Lincoln Monument 3It's one of the more eerie feelings as you're driving along on I-80.  You're surrounded by tractor-trailers going twenty miles under the speed limit as they limp their way up the deadly incline, there's nothing but high pink granite walls on both sides, and then, startled, you jerk your head up and say, 
"Oh look, there's an enormous disembodied head of Abraham Lincoln."  
Once you see that behemoth for yourself and the way he hunches over to observe the traffic, usually the second thought in your head (and everyone else's) is this:
"What a minute... um, Mister Lincoln looks like he's standing at a urinal..."
You can see it, can't you?   I guess that the designers of the statue never really considered that most adults have exactly the same imagination as a twelve year-old boy.  

All immature giggling aside, this really is an impressive piece of statuary.  The monument's placement makes it absolutely dominate the landscape, but the natural rock of the pedestal asserts that it is nevertheless a part of the land he gazes upon.  For many this monument is a symbol of Laramie's values.   Some even appeal to the monument to appeal to The Equality State's values of freedom and tolerance.

To be honest, until recently, all I could ever see when I looked at this statue was a giant herma, and that always made me break out into infantile giggles.  (I blame Dr. H., my Laramie Classics professor.  Man, I love that guy.)

I finally had an experience on the Fourth of July this year that forced me to look at the monument in a new light.  I had brought some cool new toys with me to Laramie, a tripod and a remote shutter release, and I wanted to try taking some long exposures of the stars.  I headed up to Happy Jack to my favorite stargazing place only to find that the entire canyon was locked up in heavy, super-low clouds almost brushing the ground.  Rats.

So, I grumbled and stomped my way back to the car, and when I turned around I saw President Lincoln bathed in an eerie orange glow from the sodium lights, with rays of light shooting out of his head.  So, without further ado, here's a view of the Lincoln Monument like you may never see again:

Tree, Lincoln, and Nimbus
This is hands-down my favorite picture I've ever taken.  I just love the rays of sodium light shooting out of his head, like Moses, which light up the world.
Next is a picture of the otherworldly Lincoln from the front:

Abe Lincoln Casts a Long Shadow!

You don't normally think of sky shadows at night. Here's a clearer picture of old Abe's shadow carving shadows on the surface of the fog.  In person it looked more like a deeply layered, three dimensional hole in the sky.

Abe Lincoln Casts a Long Shadow!

After about an hour, the clouds cleared and I finally had a chance to try some night sky shooting.  I'm standing about a mile away from the monument when I took this, which is creating the orange glow at left:

Laramie Night Skies

I hope you enjoy them!


the first picture taken of Lincoln during the daytime comes from Steve-stevens' Flickr photostream, and is available under a Creative Commons 2.0 license.

1 comment:

  1. These are spectacular pictures, especially the first. Almost otherworldly. I can imagine an entire film script being born out of that supernatural light.