Mark Twain’s Travel Review


Sam Clemens traveled through Wyoming in what was then the Nebraska Territory while heading for the Nevada Territory with his brother Orion.

Sam often sat atop the stagecoach and drank in the scenery mile after mile while Orion sat inside the coach, bouncing on top of the mailbags. In 1872 Clemens, now more widely known as Mark Twain, published his book “Roughing It” sharing the tale of cross-country experiences.

His book was a bit like a modern-day travel review. He mentions Wyoming several times, and while he marveled at the beauty, he was also happy to get through the state.

“And now, at last, we were fairly in the renowned South Pass,” he wrote. “We were in such an airy elevation above the creeping populations of the earth that now and then when the obstructing crags stood out of the way it seemed that we could look around and abroad and contemplate the whole great globe.”

He was unimpressed with Laramie Peak, though.

“Laramie Peak at our elbow. looming vast and solitary — a deep, dark, rich indigo blue in hue, so portentously did the old colossus frown under his beetling brows of the storm cloud.”

In a letter to Buffalo Bill Cody two decades later, Twain recalled his trip more fondly.

“I have seen your Wild West show two days in succession, enjoyed it thoroughly,” Twain wrote. “It brought back to me the breezy, wild life of the Rocky mountains and stirred me like a war song. The show is genuine, cowboys, vaqueros, Indians, stagecoach, costumes, the same as I saw them in the frontier years ago.”

It is possible that had Twain been writing a travel review, he would have given Wyoming three-out-of-five stars.

“The stagecoach was crowded with mail bags and a brother and there was little room to move,” he might have offered. “The time to travel was too long, and while the views, when able to be seen, were wonderous, the cloud cover prevented us from seeing all we desired. Rest stops are far and few in between, so bring a spare jug and mark it properly. And fair warning the Saints are a bit stingy with their honey.”

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