Trip to Nebraska, Wyoming, Idaho, Montana, South Dakota 1983
Day 1, May 21, Saturday.
We got up at 4:30 in the morning for the United Flight to Omaha, Nebraska. Carl, our son, got up around 5:00. Carl was so excited that both his mother and father had to tell him to calm down. We had a ride to the airport in a fancy car. Car says: "I'm glad I did not forget Kitty." Kitty is a yellow and white cat with pink ears.
Had a half hour wait at the airport because we were early. Carl is checking under the seats here to see if he can find any money. He is good at finding pennies. Sometimes I wonder if he goes around examining all the floors instead of looking at the sights.
We have prepared for this journey for quite some time. Carl knows quite a bit about the Old west, cowboys and Indians. He says he wants to see real Indians, Custer's battlefield and horses. Carl's mother just finished taking two photos of us.
Waiting At the Airport
Day 2, May 22, Sunday.
Stopped in Chicago to pick up and discharge passengers. One hour and five minute flight to Omaha. Saw the grandparents in the waiting room while we were still on the plane.
Dad bought some postcards at the airport and I was able to send one off to Judy Nelson at our place of work (Prentice-Hall publishers).
Saw the Hanafans (Jim and Charlene). Charlene is grandfather's cousin. They took us to Sears to get some binoculars. (My two pairs were stolen from the trunk of my car just before we left on the trip.) Charlene treated us to Burger King which has cheaper prices here than in New York. We go back to the Winnebago about 4:00 p.m. Rosemary and I fixed spam, pork and beans and green peas. Got to bed about 9:30 p.m.
You can tell you're in Iowa by all the modified baseball caps that the men wear. Jim Hanafan looks like a farmer or a railway worker,-but Monday through Friday he wears a business suit. The house sit on large yards compared to New York.
Carl says he loves his trip and that he's bigger than the wagon wheels here at the campground (just barely bigger). Carl saw a robin and a blackbird! (We stayed at the Omaha-Council Bluffs KOA, Crescent, Iowa.)
Day 3, May 23, Monday.
Yesterday we went to Missouri Valley to see my mother's brother Dean and Carl's great grandmother Jenkins. Compared to our visit with great grandmother Cooney (with dementia), grandmother Jenkins looked pretty good. I felt the situation was a little awkward. Not helped by the fact that we arrived at 9:15 in the morning and almost everyone in the house was sleeping. They had been out quite late at the Dog races last night. We only stayed about an hour.
We then drove to Boy's Town, Nebraska. It is a very large area, very well kept-up and quite oriented to visitors. Carl liked the play grounds best. They have Father Flanagan's first home here and it is also nicely set-up for viewing. Rosemary says about : "It's big!" Grandfather says: "It was nice. Didn't see any boys. But it was nice." He bought himself a coin souvenir as he usually tries to do on trips.
We had lunch in Bellevue at a park there. Then we went to the Strategic Air Command (SAC) Museum. [28210 West Park Highway, Ashland, NE] They have a large selection of planes. Carl was most interested in foot races with his grandfather. I was impressed with the size of the B-52. It was very pretty with its camouflage paint job.
Grandfather got lost trying to get back to Omaha. The rest of us kept trying to tell him he was going in the wrong direction, but he was not about to admit misdirection. That famous Cooney temper came out a bit. He even maintained that the car compass was wrong -- nothing wrong with it, however.
We tried to go to the Lewis and Clark monument, but the railroad bridge overpass was only 8 feet and 8 inches tall and we could not get through. [Rainbow Point, north on Eighth Street, Council Bluffs, IA.] Had chili and green salad for dinner. Got to bed around 9 p.m. I got up at 3:30 in the morning and was very anxious for 4:30 to arrive.
Boy's Town & Strategic Air Command Museum
Day 4, May 24, Tuesday.
On Monday we drove to Ft Kearny. [Fort Kearny was an historic outpost of the United States Army founded in 1848 in the western U.S.. It was located along the Oregon Trail near present-day Kearney, Nebraska.] It was not very impressive because there is very little there. They reconstructed a blacksmith shop out of the sod material. They also had up a small wooden stockade that was erected during the fighting activity following the Sand Creek Massacre (November 29, 1864).
Carl and grandfather were running races. Carl enjoyed the running more than anything else. I was a little annoyed at this, but have to remind myself that this is probably very normal behavior for a six year old boy.
Fort Kearny was an important fort because it guarded the junction of the three trails: Oregon, Mormon and California. Mostly the area just has post markers to show you where the army buildings once stood
Rosemary and Carl liked the cat that was sleeping in the museum. He lives in the sod house by himself. We ate lunch there in the Ft. Kearny parking lot.
Next, drove to Harold Warp's Pioneer Village in Minden, Nebraska. Mr. Warp was involved in the invention of some type of plastic wrap and then used his earnings to collect almost anything imaginable: buttons, typewriters, tractors, cars, airplanes, etc. He brought a lot of buildings to Minden and put them around in a circle. Some of the buildings are interesting. I like the old school where Mr. Warp actually went to school. Grandmother liked the building with the old household appliances. Grandfather registered and said: "Outstanding (we're in that age bracket)." Rosemary says some of the cars were interesting -- but especially fascinating was the tractor that was more the size of an airplane than a tractor. Carl can't think of anything in particular that he liked. I was not impressed, except for the fact that Warp saved everything, including the kitchen sink.
We were going to stay in Minden, but we finished about 2:30. We were tired of so many exhibits. So we pushed on to North Platte, Nebraska and stayed right off Route 80 at Cutty's of North Platte. Rosemary, Carl and Grandmother went over to watch the go-cart racing, and knowing Rosemary, she took Carl on a ride. Grandmother came over to get grandfather and me to watch. Rosemary challenged grandfather and son to a race. We were not able to pass her. I was afraid of running into her and Carl. Got to bed around 10 pm.
We walked to Ft. Cody, which is a souvenir place. Rosemary bought Carl an old kid's book entitled The Texas Rangers published in 1939 (cost $6.00).
Tuesday morning. Got up at 6 a.m. I was the first one up. I used to be able to sleep more than eight hours, but not any more.
Went to Scout's Rest Ranch at around 8:30. It is located west of North Platte, Nebraska. Enjoyed going through Buffalo Bill's house there -- Second Empire style with Eastlakian features. It was considered a mansion at the time. Eight rooms to start out with and then 10 rooms added later (1909). He died in 1917. Huge dining room. Rosemary like all the displayed photos of the people who lived in the house.
Got a kick out of the barn with the rafters under the eaves shaped like rifle stocks and Annie Oakley's trade mark (a hole in the middle of the ace of spades) pinned up under the eaves of the main gable.
Wanted to go to the Western Heritage Museum, but it was closed as quite a few things have been on our journey. The Museum is right next to Scout's Rest Ranch.
We next drove to Ash Hollow. This is the most beautiful place we have yet seen on the trip. And it's ironic because from the travel books and history books, I thought it was just a quick side stop that would take 10 or 15 minutes. I thought they would just have a marker about the Battle of Blue Water Creek and a nice view. [Also known as the Battle of Ash Hollow, it took place in the First Sioux War on September 2 and 3, 1855 between United States Army soldiers under Brigadier General William S. Harney and a band of the Brulé Lakota along the Platte River in present-day Garden County, Nebraska. The battle was a punitive expedition for the "Grattan Massacre" in August 1854.] In actuality, you cannot see the battlefield at all since it is on private land about a mile away from where we can stop to view Ash Hollow.
The view from the Visitor's Center was very beautiful. Looking from left to right standing on the rocks in front of the center, we could see the valley through which the settlers came over the Oregon Trail, the spring at which they camped (whose waters many travelers said tasted the sweetest since they had left the Missouri River), the Ash Hollow Cemetery (where the Rachel Paterson grave is located), the bridge over the Platte River and the Platte River itself. Beautiful rolling hills and cliffs. Green grass because of all the rain Nebraska has had recently. We saw a 17 minute film on the history of the area which was interesting.
We ate lunch there in the parking lot. It was a hot day and we all were getting sun burnt -- especially me. I had to put on suntan lotion.
After lunch we drove to another section of Ash Hollow known as Windlass Hill. This was also fascinating and beautiful. It gave us a great views of the rolling hills. And it was fascinating because of the wagon wheel ruts worn into the rock at the top of Windlass Hill.
Next stop: Jail Rock and Courthouse Rock. Very large hills all by themselves virtually in the middle of no-where. The young girls there at the Mobile Museum of the Nebraska Historical Society were glad to see us because so few people had been by today. The one girl is the granddaughter of the woman and man who run the Mobile Museum at Chimney Rock. I said hello to Mrs. Plocker for the granddaughter at Chimney Rock. You can only see Chimney Rock from a distance of about a mile as it is on private land.
We are now staying at Scottsbluff KOA Campground. We have several horses for neighbors (quarter horses). They turned up their noses at the carrot that Rosemary and Carl offered them. Rosemary, Carl and grandmother, not having any luck with the horses, are now trying their luck with the cows across the road (Rt. 26).
We double back tomorrow a little ways to see Scott's Bluff. [Scotts Bluff National Monument. Scotts Bluff rises over 800 feet (240 m) above the plains at its highest point. The five rock formations are named Crown Rock, Dome Rock, Eagle Rock, Saddle Rock, and Sentinel Rock.]
Scout's Rest Ranch
Ash Hollow & Nearby
Day 5, May 25, Wednesday.
During the night we noticed the goings and comings of a lot of railroad trains. A lot of them seemed very long.
Drove to Scott's Bluff. They have a Visitor's Center at the base of the bluff that is also a small museum. We walked along Mitchell Pass that goes through the pass between Scott's Bluff and another bluff. They have some ruts of the Oregon Trail here too. We could not go too far on the path, however, because there was too much mud and water. Took several photos with two covered wagons as foreground and Scott's Bluff as background.
Took the Winnebago up to the top of Scott's Bluff through 4 or 5 tunnels. The maintenance crew was preparing to stripe the road, so we only had time to go to the north overlook point. Chimney Rock is easily visible, but we could not see Laramie Peak (120 miles away). It is a nice view of the town of Gering, Nebraska from the top. They also have a miniature version of the badlands which can be seen from the top (very miniature).
We looked for an historical marker outside that would say something about the Grattan Massacre, but there was none. [This was the opening engagement of the First Sioux War, fought between United States Army and Lakota Sioux warriors on August 19, 1854, east of Fort Laramie, Nebraska Territory. The Sioux killed a total of 29 soldiers, Lieutenant John Grattan, and a civilian interpreter.] It seems to me they are trying to gloss over these dubious battles because the historical slide presentation at Ash Hollow also glossed over the Battle of Blue Water Creek, not even mentioning the Grattan Massacre as the basic cause of the Battle of Blue Creek Needless to say I was very annoyed at missing the Grattan site.
The site of Fort Laramie is only a short distance from where the Grattan Massacre occurred. The fort has been kept in pretty good condition (comparatively speaking). Carl says he liked the Doctor's House. He says it was nice and fancy. Rosemary says it was interesting as regards the big differences in living quarters between the officers and the enlisted men, There were quite a few buffalo hides used as rugs and blankets. I bought my father and myself a record of military music which includes the song "Gary Owen" which was Custer's favorite. I should have had Rosemary take some photos of the military uniforms.
Carl wanted to go around walking with his grandfather, but I wanted him to stay with Rosemary and me so he could learn something. I guess he was listening -- sort of.
We went to Guernsey Lake State Park for lunch. It is a man-made lake and is very pretty because it's protected on all sides by high bluffs. After lunch we went up to the museum on top of one of the bluffs. The building was constructed by the CCC (Civilian Conservation Corps) during the Depression. We got a good view of Laramie Peak (covered with snow) from the entrance of the museum building.
Drove a short distance through the town of Guernsey to a site where there are Oregon Trail wheel ruts cut into the hard clay. These are the most prominent ruts we have seen thus far on the trip. Drove a little further to Register Cliff, one of three main places where the Oregon Trail travelers wrote their names into the bluffs. There has been a lot of people who have recently added their names to the cliffs. They have put a semi-high fence around the oldest section -- here it's hard to read the inscriptions as erosion and weather continue to do their work.
Drove to Douglas, Wyoming to stay at the Jackelope campground. From the looks of things, apparently quite a few of the people here are either permanent or staying for an extended period ( a lot of people have their trailers on jacks). I don't think I would like to live like that for any extended period of time.
As in Scottsbluff, we are neighbors to a herd of cows and some horses. Several people have motorcycles here. They look like they are the transient type (like the truck drivers -- the last of the American cowboys). Rosemary did the laundry with Carl helping and Rosemary saying to Carl "Don't tilt it! Don't tilt it!" referring to the bundle of towels he is carrying.
Scott's Bluff & Fort Laramie
Guernsey Lake State Park & Nearby
Day 6, May 26, Thursday.
I awoke at 5:20 in the morning. Tried to read some material I had bought on Wyoming so as not to get everyone up. But grandmother went to the restroom at 6 and I used the occasion to get up. Grandfather slept to around 7 or so.
First stop Wyoming State Fair grounds at Douglas. Since the Pioneer Museum was not open, we walked on the grounds of the rodeo arena. Rosemary and Carl fed some grass to three horses corralled there. We also too a look at the shoots where the cowboys get on the horses and/or bulls. Grandfather thought this was interesting as he he had watched some rodeo TV production from Douglas.
Visited the Pioneer Museum which is probably the most interesting and biggest of the museums we have seen thus far. Exhibits include: rifles, knifes, Indian artifacts, a saloon set-up with a dummy bartender and dancing girl, men and women's clothing, etc.
We saw postcards of the so-called jackalope (a huge rabbit with antlers) and Rosemary asked directions from the curator for the location of the jackalope statue. The statue is in the middle of town. After taking a few photos of the statue with Carl we went to Chet's Cowboy Shop. Grandfather bought a straw cowboy hat and I bought two: a straw one and one of the color an an Appaloosa horse (although Rosemary is not so sure of this). I also bought a cowboy shirt. Carl got a cowboy hat and shirt also.
Went to Fort Fetterman, just a little distance from Douglas. [Fort Fetterman was a wooden fort constructed in 1867 by the United States Army on the Great Plains frontier in the Dakota Territory approximately 11 miles northwest of present-day Douglas, Wyoming.] There are only two remaining structures here and so it is no way near as impressive as Ft. Laramie. But the view was very interesting as the fort is located on a rise surrounded by wide open spaces -- very wide open. It would have been difficult for the Indians to sneak up on the fort as they could be seen from miles away. Chief Red Cloud's Indians never got this far down on the Bozeman Trail.
Rosemary's comment: "There is not much there."
Drove to Ft. Caspar in Casper, Wyoming. [Built in 1859, Fort Caspar was a military post of the United States Army named after 2nd Lieutenant Caspar Collins, a U.S. Army officer who was killed in the 1865 Battle of the Platte Bridge Station against the Lakota and Cheyenne.] Had a picnic lunch on the grounds in front of the museum. That is after we cleaned up the relish and syrup that had spilled, probably after we hit a big bump on the way to Ft. Fetterman.
This museum was not open, but a very cordial worker let us tour the buildings and even admitted us to the museum. They had a nice sheep herder's wagon in the museum, but otherwise it was not that great. I feel they could have told the story of poor Lt Caspar Collins, who was killed there, in much more detail, thus more interesting, fashion. They ignore the human interest side of the story.
The most interesting part of the Fort visit for me was just seeing the position of the buildings, the bridge over the Platte River (now changed course and dry) and the approximate place where the lieutenant was killed. But all this is the advantage gained from reading about the Battle of Platte Bridge. Let that be a lesson to you Carl! I had visualized the battle scene and now it all came to life for me.
Next stop was Hell's Half Acre, located about 40 miles (64 km) west of Casper, Wyoming on US 20/26, which has some of the appearance of the bad lands. It is located behind a motel and souvenir complex. The views were very pretty. Rosemary says these appear, from her memory, to be sharper in relief than the Dakota bad lands. All you can do is look down as there are no paths down into the area. They had a cute devil face placed in a kind of cave there that gave us a laugh.
Drove about 75 miles to the Owl Kampground, six miles north of Riverton. This is one of the nicest camps we have had so far. Grandfather was taking a lot of photos at Ft. Caspar only to find out later that he had no film at all in his camera. Lucky for him he discovered it before he left the area. He took photos of the fort over the outside fence.
Fort Fetterman & Nearby
Day 7, May 27, Friday.
Went to the grocery store at Riverton and got food for four dinners. Then drove to St. Stephens Jesuit Mission and Wind River Indian Reservation. The photographer (Ron Manet or Monet) for their magazine gave us a brief tour of the mission and their editorial offices.
We had to hurry over to see the church as it was about 9:45 and a funeral was scheduled for 10:00. The church was decorated with Indian symbols which made it very interesting. The ceiling was very colorful with alternating large tiles (yellow, red and blue). The priest said we could attend the mass if we wished, but I, of course, declined.
There were a lot of Indians there at the mission. There was a boy-girl softball game going on when we arrived.
The Indian's way of life is, apparently, not that much different from the rest of the population in the area. Some are in agriculture, some in town and some in mining (although the mining of uranium has completely stopped due to the protests against nuclear energy plants -- giving rise to greater unemployment). I think Carl was kind of disappointed how much like us the Indians are, at least in terms of physical equipment.
Drove to Ft. Washakie (accent on the first syllable) where we took photographs of the graves of Sacagawea and her two sons and Chief Washakie. Also took a picture of an adobe structure, the only remains of Ft Washakie (used as a fort to protect the Shoshone Indians).
Next stop. Dubois. Had lunch on the main drag at a picnic area by their museum. Then we went shopping at an Indian Arts and Crafts store. Rosemary did not buy anything.
Drove to Flagg Ranch between Yellowstone and Grand Teton Parks only to find out that the trailer camp there was not open due to excessive snow. So we had to drive back sixteen miles or so to Colter Bay Village. We also learned that today is the first day of opening for the parks. Funny how sometimes things work out for the better. Colter Bay seems to be more in the heart of things anyway.
They told us that just four days ago they had a lot of snow here. Officially, they open May 15, but the opening was delayed by the snow. Everyone is a little upset that they do not have a picnic table here. We have to eat inside therefore. There are very few bears up here since they have trapped them and transported them quite a distance away. Carl is relieved.
St. Stephen's Jesuit Mission & Fort Washakie
Day 8. May 28, Saturday.
Got up at 6 o'clock. Fixed bacon and egg for breakfast for the first
time. Grandmother and grandfather did the dishes, while we three walked
down to the Visitor's Center. Rosemary found out where we will stay
tomorrow. We will stay on the outside of Yellowstone Park on the west
Walked to to Colter Bay.
Went horse back riding for almost two hours. The horses stayed in single file so there was not much need to guide them -- especially since the horses just walked the entire way. My butt was a little sore, as well as my thighs. Rosemary enjoyed it We were the only paying customers as al the rest were young kids working at the park for the summer. The scenery was very pretty, especially with the Tetons as backdrop. Our horses names were Necktie, Cougar and Raspberry. Carl rode later at 1 p.m. He was too little to ride with us. He was upset when he couldn't go and started crying. We came back after lunch and we had to hit Raspberry a few times to make him go. He would only walk fast on the way back to the corral. There were a lot of fallen pine trees in the woods. We walked to Swan Lake and back. Carl really enjoyed the ride. He liked the idea of riding on a big horse and not a pony.
After the horse ride we went on a float ride down the Snake River. Carl did not want to go, but he had to go with us. He was a little unsure of being on the water. The only animals we saw were birds on the raft ride: osprey and bald eagle. Saw the handiwork of the beavers: lodges and felled trees. Carl liked Volkswagen Rock -- a rock the size of a Volkswagen in the river. Rosemary and Carl got splashed going over that area. Otherwise, it was a pretty calm trip.
The trip turned out to be longer than we thought it would be because of some foolish would-be rafters. Two guys and two girls apparently launched without filling out a permit (because none of them had life jackets) and got themselves in trouble. They probably lost one of their oars and in trying to retrieve it, one of the girls either fell or jumped into the water. That water is ice cold and we imagine she was suffering somewhat from the chill. Our guide asked them if they needed assistance and the girls said yes. So the guide tied the raft to one of the logs in the river and walked via a log in the river close enough so he could ask them if they needed assistance. This time they said they were all right. They got back in the raft and paddled a ways downstream, but soon pulled onto the river bank. Our guide soon caught up to them and asked them if they wanted to follow us downstream. They said yes, but then they did not follow us. We suppose the women were too scared to continue. We lost about 45 minutes with this operation. We kept looking for them in my binoculars, but could not see them.
Then we lost more time because the guide had to fill out a report at the ranger station. They launched a boat and sent people via the shore to look for them.
Got back to the Winnebago, but my parents were not there. This was a long day. I personally thought the horse ride and the float ride were too long, but Rosemary enjoyed both. Carl enjoyed the horse ride more than the boat ride.
Horseback Riding & Rafting in Grand Tetons National Park
Day 9, May 29, Sunday.
Left the Tetons at 7:40 in the morning. Drove to Old Faithful Geyser site. We timed it almost perfectly as ten minutes after we arrived Old Faithful spouted. "Nature at work", says Rosemary. More impressive to me is the area of which the geyser is only a part. There are ten miles of trails in the immediate area going past all types of geysers, hot springs (beautiful turquoise color) and fumaroles (just hot steam rising from the holes). The colors were very impressive. The area surrounding the thermal plain is also beautiful. It makes for a very nice walk.
The Inn there is also impressive. It is constructed completely of rough timber. The effect is a very rugged one. Inside the lobby, you can see three floors above you, all constructed of the rough timber.
We ate lunch at a picnic area a little north of the Old Faithful area. The buffalo roam virtually everywhere judging by the buffalo patties they leave behind.
After lunch, we saw some mud pots where the gas bubbles grind the mud into a wet flour consistency.
There are a lot more viewable animals in Yellowstone Park than in Teton Park. We saw elk and buffalo in many different spots. Five buffalo sunned themselves in front of the Yellowstone Inn. At Old Faithful, there was a marmot that was a real ham. We took quite a few photos of him. No moose were to be seen. Perhaps, like the bear, they are too wild for a park and are moved to the more remote areas.
As we drove through the park, people warned us to watch out for the bears. People like to tell horror stories I guess -- for there are no bears in the tourist areas. (?)
Stopped at the Explorer's Museum at Madison Junction, which was really small. It was dedicated to the later explorers of the park, who, in a sense, rediscovered Yellowstone leading to President Grant's designation of the area as a national park in 1872. There is a nice view in the rear of the museum and two bronze plaques.
The last thing we saw was Gibbons Falls. It is hard to get a good view of the fall from the road because the trees block the view.
We are now staying at the KOA camp, six miles west of the small town of West Yellowstone. We got here early, about 3:30 in the afternoon. We are having our first barbecue. It is, however, really windy making things a little difficult.
Beautiful campground. There are mountains in the distance completely around us. The forest here is different with evergreens growing straight and tall and they are closely spaced. A lot different than our hone area with plenty of maples.
Yellowstone National Park I
Day 10, May 30, Monday.
Happy Memorial Day. Visited the Visitor's Center at the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. Saw a slide presentation about the Yellowstone River --more poetry than information. They also have a small museum here.
Drove to Inspiration Point a short distance down from the falls. Spectacular views. A lot of beautiful yellow rock and sand as well as other colored rocks. The canyon is quite deep.
Drove to other viewing points. Saw a big black raven in the parking area having his photo taken. He would hop around avoiding people and cars who came too close for comfort. Rosemary and grandfather got his picture.
There is a long, winding path (3/8's of a mile) down to the lower falls at Brink of the Falls station. These falls are three times as high as Niagara Falls. The water was a brown color. There were large glacier like accumulations of snow on either side of the canyon. The snow was layered with blue, white and chocolate layers.
You can see the upper falls from here. The last point we stopped at was Artist's Point. Spectacular view of the lower falls. This is the view you see on most of the postcards of the falls.
Had lunch at Lava Creek on our way up to Mammoth Hot Springs. A lot of the hot springs are dead now. There was only a couple of points of interest: 1) Minerva Springs, which is very pretty (like a many stepped fountain) and 2) New Blue Spring which is probably relatively new judging by the name.
Saw a film in the Visitor's Center dealing with the ideal of a national park service -- the importance of preserving wilderness for future generations. They also have a small museum here with a lot of stuffed animals and birds of the area.
We tried to see the Obsidian Cliffs, but we missed the sign for it.
Stayed again at the KOA camp outside the small town of West Yellowstone. We played poker from 9-10 p.m.
Rating the sights of Yellowstone and Tetons: number one is the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone; followed by the Thermal Area (with Old Faithful); Grand Teton View (from the drive to Mammoth Hot Springs); Minerva Springs; and Gibbon Falls.
This is a big park area. Eighty miles in width alone on the short side. It was fifty-one miles from Mammoth Hot Springs to Old Faithful.
Yellowstone National Park II
Day 11, May 31, Tuesday.
It was so cold last night that the water in the hose froze. Grandfather had to use the hair dryer and blow-dry the hose to get the ice out.
It was so cold it was hard for me to sleep. Got up and put Rosemary's coat over us. Got up a little later and then put my coat over us. We cannot get good radio reception in this area because it is surrounded by mountains so we had no warning it was going to be so cold out. (It was 25 degrees.)
Last evening we ate at a Dairy Queen in West Yellowstone It was a busy place. No other fast food places there in town. Rosemary bought a Wyoming t-shirt and a Montana t-shirt and some key chains for her male relatives. There are a hell of a lot of gift shops in West Yellowstone.
Drove to Virginia City. On the way we passed through nine miles of Idaho. Now Grandpa Jack can say he was in Idaho and so can we.
There really is not that much to see in Virginia City, Montana. The entire town is only about three blocks long. Virginia City is a restored ghost town, but it seems to me they have to do a lot more restoring. The buildings are in very poor shape. They are definitely in need of some paint. There were no guide books to the area. Thank goodness for the descriptions on the backs of the post cards. This way we were able to find the house where five members of Sheriff Henry Plummer's gang were hanged. We took a picture in front of "Bob's Place" which at one time was the administration building when Virginia City was the territorial capital. It's funny because Bob's Place is a very simple two-story building that is now a small grocery store.
Most of the town wasn't really open and was in the process of preparing for the tourists. Stopped in a small museum which was not organized at all well organized. Walked up and down the street and took a few photos.
Nevada City, Montana was also a disappointment. They have a museum that is composed of buildings gathered from around Montana and placed in such a way as to form the shell of a ghost town. The buildings are not in good shape. They have not really been "restored'. They used one of the buildings appearing in the movie The Missouri Breaks (1976) with Marlon Brando and Jack Nicholson. The front of the building, however, was modified so it was not really historically accurate.
We had planned to stay in Alder, but it took us very little time to go through Virginia City and Nevada City. The guide book I read had led me to believe that Virginia City was something like a Disney World of Montana. Believe me. It's not.
We then drove to a small two-story building outside of Laurin which was used by members of Sheriff Henry Plummer's gang as a hide-out. It was called Robber's Roost. It was a very small place and is now used to sell antiques.
One impression from the buildings we saw in the morning is how small they are. Even the so-called mansion there in Nevada City was not very large. The western sets for TV and movies have much larger buildings.
Had lunch at a rest area outside Twin Bridges.
Drove to the Missouri River Headwaters State Park, located near Three Forks, Montana. This is where the Jefferson River joins the Madison River which is then joined by the Gallatin River to form the Missouri River. We all, with the exception of Carl, enjoyed the walk to the vista point overlooking the rivers. Carl was still upset because we made him drink some milk instead of juice when he asked for a drink.
I was impressed by the dryness of the area over which we walked to the vista points. There were quite a few cacti growing up there on the top of Fort Rock Plateau. The trail was quite dusty. Rosemary took a photo of Carl by one of the sage brush plants which dominated quite a few hills on the highways (87 and 287). They had a history display up on the plateau which made the whole experience even more pleasant. We liked the rivers and the surrounding high hill areas. This is the place discovered by Lewis and Clark. We saw from the vista point the places where they camped.
The drive up the Three Forks is quite beautiful. We were often surrounded by mountains on three sides (in the distance).
We are now staying at Bear Canyon Kampground outside of Bozeman. It is 57 degrees out but the wind makes it feel much colder.
Virigina and Nevada Cities, Robber's Roost & Missouri River Headwaters
Day 12, June 1, Wednesday.
Got up at 7 o'clock this morning instead of the usual 6 o'clock. I guess I was sleepier than usual. We fixed eggs and sizzelean for breakfast. Drove back to Bozeman to the campus of Montana State University where we visited the Museum of the Rockies. The campus is largely built with brick and is not as impressive as a lot of the schools back east. Rosemary took a photo of Carl on the horse statue in front of the Museum of the Rockies.
I don't think anybody was too impressed by the museum. Exhibits included info on the town of Bozeman; mysterious death of town founder John Bozeman; an old style gas station (it was cute the way they reconstructed the station-living quarters); video theater dealing with Montana in the 1930s; small art gallery; Indian artifacts; and some fossils.
We drove to South Wilson Street and took photos of three of the older houses there. I wanted a few pictures of Western houses. So far, I have only gotten a few postcards of Western houses.
Drove to Billings (about 140 miles away). Went into the heart of the city. Grandpa Jack does not like to drive in the city. We have a hard time getting him to turn when we want him to turn. So we do some extra driving. And,. I suppose, his nervousness is expressed in getting mad if you say anything at all about the way to drive in a city. So I don't think we will be going back into Billings tomorrow. We did, however, get to see a few things. We saw the Western Heritage Museum on 2822 Montana Avenue. This museum was one of the poorest we have seen. There are very few exhibits there. Downstairs the children can play Indian games. Upstairs they had some very general information on Montana pioneers. It took very little time to see the museum. I bought a book on Billings history. Actually, the most interesting thing about the museum is the building itself. It's a Richardsonian Romanesque building.
Walked to the Chamber of Congress a few blocks down and got some information on Billings and surrounding country. We then walked down a few more blocks to the historic district. This district is quit rundown now. You might say it's Billing's version of the 42nd Street area (before it's recent do over). We pass a few Indian indigents there close to the Rex Hotel. One of the Indians shook Carl's hand and said "Indian Power" to him. Carl was uncertain about what the Indian wanted. So, in this way, Carl did get to meet "a real Indian". Rosemary explained to him that there are white, black and Indian indigents. Grandfather told Carl: "You don't really look like an Indian." Grandfather was probably trying to make Carl feel better, but the reality is that Carl (from Guatemala) does look a bit Indian because he is a bit Indian. Carl just has to come to terms with this some day.
We took a couple of photos -- one of the railroad depot and one of the Rex Hotel, two of the older buildings there.
We are now staying at a KOA Kampground just on the other side of I-90, probably five minutes or less from downtown Billings. The Yellowstone River flows right by the campground. This is another pretty setting. They have a pen area where they have ducks, roosters, peacocks and rabbits Carl is feeding lettuce to the rabbit right now.
Day 13, June 2, Thursday.
Drove to Custer Battle Field. We stopped at the Visitor's Center and browsed through their exhibits on the battle. I had Rosemary take some pictures of Custer's uniform and of some of the weapons used in the battle. We then went on the eastern porch of the Visitor's Center to listen to a talk given by the park ranger Christopher Summit. We all thought that talk was very good. He gave a lot of details in a strong tone. His presentation of the battle was very balanced, neither pro-Custer or pro-Indian. I like it because it agreed with my position more so than my father's, who is very critical of Custer.
I think one becomes more understanding of the difficulties faced by Custer once one sees the terrain on which the battle was fought. It is extremely hilly with a lot of gullies and ravines (or should I say coulees -- which are wide ditches from which the rain drains into the Little Big Horn River). It is very difficult to see for any long distance because your view is blocked by other hills. This is especially true if you are standing on a low spot. It is very pretty ground -- but very hilly.
After the talk we went for a bus tour of the battlefield area -- which is very large -- five miles from the Reno-Benteen battlefield to the Visitor's Center. Rosemary was impressed at how large the area is. Our guide was Putt Thomson along with a Crow Indian bus driver and co-guide.
I bought several books on the battle and Custer (gave two of them to my father).
Had lunch at the battlefield site, after which we walked the Deep Ravine Trail which started below the Visitor's Center. We saw two snakes on the trail. Carl was a little afraid of walking on the trail because of the snakes. We walked quite a distance beyond the designated trail -- actually, almost down to the Little Big Horn River itself.
We drove the Winnebago up to Weir Point and we stopped to take a few pictures. I had Rosemary take quite a few photos of the battlefield. I hope to put the pieces together when we have the developed photos.
Carl says he was impressed by the diorama of Custer at the Last Stand.
When we were leaving the battlefield we could see it from the Indian point of view. The village was on a flat plain with the hills starting just beyond the Little Big Horn River. Quite a contrast between the two terrains. It was easy for the Indians to move north and south because of the flat ground. This doubtlessly increased their mobility during the battle.
We stopped at the Gary Owen Post Office and took some photos. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing the battle from this perspective.
We are now staying at the Sheridan KOA which is on highway 388 just north of Sheridan. This has probably been the most enjoyable sight-seeing for me thus far on the trip. I guess it's because I read so much about Custer and this battle.
Custer Battlefield National Monument
Exhibits in Custer Museum & at West Point, New York
Day 14, June 3, Friday.
Drove to the Sheridan Inn in Sheridan, Wyoming. We arrive at 8 o'clock. Unfortunately, the Inn does not open until 10 o'clock. So we had to content ourselves with walking around the building.
Buffalo Bill auditioned acts from the porch or veranda of the Inn. And it is a very large porch indeed. The building is not large by modern standards, but by the standards of the turn of the century, it is large. The hotel looks larger than it actually is because it is so long with only two stories. Took a photo on the porch to give some idea of its length and width.
We next drove to the site of the Fetterman Massacre. [During Red Cloud's War on December 21, 1866, between the Lakota, Cheyenne, and Arapaho Indians and soldiers of the United States army, all 81 men under the command of Captain William J. Fetterman were killed by the Indians.] Now I wish I had brought that book of Indian fights reevaluated. It had photos of the battle site. I think I remember the photo of the side of the hill where the civilians were killed. Rosemary took a photo of the site so I can compare this picture to the one in the book.
We next drove to the Fort Phil Kearny site. [The Fort was built in 1866 in northeastern Wyoming along the old Bozeman Trail. The Fort is nearby the Fetterman and Wagon Box battle sites.] I was impressed, just as at the Custer battlefield, with the difficulty of the terrain You just cannot see very far because of the hills and ridges. Very pretty country, but very treacherous if you were a soldier in the 1860s. The fort itself is on a relatively flat piece of land surrounded by hills and ridges.
We drove a long ways to the next spot: the site of the Wagon Box Fight. [On August 2, 1867, during Red Cloud's War, the outnumbered soldiers held off the Sioux Indians with newly issued breech-loading Springfield Model 1866 rifles.] Here the terrain favored the soldiers as the Indians would be attacking across relatively flat ground.
The historical display at the site of old Fort Phil Kearny talked about the bloody Bozeman Trail. This is what I had talked about with my father. So much blood spilled over this trail.
I really enjoyed these sites. I don't know if the others did or not.
These sites are between the towns of Sheridan and Buffalo. We next drove all the way to Devil's Tower in the Black Hills, Wyoming. It certainly sticks out.
I am writing this on a picnic table at a KOA camp which is right across from the main entrance to Devil's Tower. Grandfather Cooney just mentioned: "They couldn't have picked a better site for a KOA kampground." We can see Devil's Tower perfectly from the table here. And straight out from the Winnebago door we can see red clay bluffs which are very pretty.
We stopped to see the prairie dog colony on our way up to Devil's Tower. Grandpa has to feed them some bread even though you are not supposed to. But kids will be kids.
The most impressive thing about the colony is its size. There were hundreds of prairie dogs by the roadside fields. Carl thought they were pretty small.
We walked the mile and a quarter walk around the base of Devil's Tower. We saw five mountain climbers up on the side of the tower. And farther up the trail we saw a rattlesnake just curled up alongside the trail. He did not move while we took his picture. Grandpa wanted to throw something at the snake to see him move, but the women dissuaded him and less enthusiastic me.
One interesting thing about the tower is the large number of huge boulders at the base of it. Most of the boulders are on the side where the Visitor's Center is. Some of the boulders are cylinder-shaped because they fell from the shafts making up the tower.
We retired relatively early today -- got back to the KOA kampground around 4 p.m.
Day 15, June 4, Saturday.
Walked over to the post office at Devil's Tower to mail four postcards. Had poached eggs and spam for breakfast. We are three and a half days ahead of schedule. We have been trying to think of more places to visit to stretch out the time.
Arrived in Deadwood around 10 in the morning. There is really not much to do here. We went to the book store first and bought two books dealing with the area and some post cards. Then we started going into the souvenir shops. I found a button dealing with Mt. Rushmore. This is only the fourth button we have been able to purchase. We could have picked up a lot of bumper stickers, but very few buttons.
We walked around the 2 or 3 streets that comprise Deadwood. It is a very commercial town. Souvenir store after souvenir store. We went to the Adams Memorial Museum. Another hodge-podge museum with a lot of little items associated with various Deadwood-Black Hill characters. Grandpa noticed the pictures of the horse "Comanche" -- the only living creature taken back home by the troops from the Custer battle at the Little Big Horn. Supposedly the museum has the actual cards held by Wild Bill Hickok when he was shot down from behind.
Grandfather and grandmother say it's a lot different there now than in 1975 when they last visited. They say that it's more commercialized and more built up. Before it had more the appearance of a Western town -- now they have a giant car sales company on the Main Street as you come in from the north.
We saw a Shriner's parade at 1:30 p.m. Grandpa wanted Carl to see it --- so he says. Which of the two is really 6 years old?
The parade was as expected -- like all Shriner's parades. Men on little tiny mopeds, dressed as Arabs, etc. Carl enjoyed the parade.
Went shopping at the Safeway store and then got a campsite at the KOA kampground just outside of Deadwood. Had an early dinner of Swedish meatballs so we could go to "The Trial of Jack McCall" [the assassin of Wild Bill Hickok] at 8 p.m.
Rosemary says it's a small town and very commercialized. The town is situated in a pretty spot. They call it Deadwood Gulch and it is surely a narrow valley -- makes the town distinctive looking. The campsite here is also pretty. We are up on the third terrace of a relatively narrow strip of land. Right across from us is a very pretty, heavily wooded hill. Grandma and Grandpa said this was the only place they had ever been that they actually wanted to come back to. So far Rosemary and I are not that impressed. The town is so commercialized that you forget about the pretty geographical setting.
This is the end of our second week of vacation. Rosemary says she would definitely go on another another camping trip. "I like it. You get to see a lot." I am less enthusiastic. I guess I prefer hotels more. But we definitely have seen a lot.
We left the KOA kampground around 6:30 in the morning or so and drove to Mount Moriah Cemetery. The cemetery is on the top of a hill with a fairly steep ascent. I bet they had a bit of trouble getting the bodies up there by wagon and horse or mule in the old days. There is nothing particularly noteworthy about the graves of interest. Calamity Jane is buried right behind Wild Bill Hickok with Potato Creek Johnny buried to his right. There have been quite a few headstones here -- tourists have chipped away the previous ones. Now they have the name plates placed within a stone wall with a gate in front. It cost us 55 cents per person to go into the cemetery, which seem a lot just to visit a cemetery.
After the cemetery visit, we went down town to see the "Trial of Jack McCall" at the "Number 10 Saloon" where, after a gun shot, Jack McCall runs out of the saloon and is then captured after a short run up Main Street. Then everyone proceeds to the theater which is in the old town hall (next to the Wax Museum).
The play itself was made into a comedy with all the antics of the jurors and witnesses. This was especially true of Alkali Ike, who walked somewhat like a monkey and constantly scratched for fleas. Carl liked this character the most.
They used five members of the audience as members of the jury. They were surprised when their names were called out to come up on stage and be sworn in. Everyone seemed to like the production. I was not quite as pleased, being always perhaps too dedicated to historical truth. They had Calamity Jane in the saloon at the time of the assassination, which is contrary to fact.
Day 16, June 5, Sunday.
Went to the Terry Peak Ski Area Chair Lift. The grandparents decided not to go, but the rest of us did. The ride cost $6.00 dollar total, but was worth it since it is quite a long ride. At times you are quite high off the ground. Rosemary was a little worried going up. I must confess a little trepidation myself especially when we got way above the ground. Carl did very well, especially given his fear of heights. It was very cold up on the mountain, making the trip a bit uncomfortable. There is a beautiful view from atop Terry Peak. Supposedly, you can see 5 states, but they had no name labels to help you identify the sites. We could see the town of Lead in the distance. There are three chair lifts up to the peak -- red, blue and yellow. We were on the blue one.
Drove to Bear Country, U.S.A., which is eight miles south of Rapid City. Cost us $3.50 per adult to stay in the car and drive through the park. They certainly have a lot of black bears there. Carl says he likes the bears, especially the baby cubs. They have all the bear cubs in one play pen near the souvenir shop. The cubs are non-stop fun and they run and jump on each other as well as climb trees. They are the highlight -- the show stoppers.
There are a lot of other animals here also: elk, goats, buffalo, bobcats, etc. In pens near the souvenir shop they have badgers, goats, bobcats, rabbits, etc.
It was very overcast in the early afternoon and started raining. So we pulled into the Hill City/Mt. Rushmore KOA kampground at around 3:30 in the afternoon. Grandmother and Rosemary had a time evidently of convincing Grandfather to stop here rather than to continue on to the Custer KOA kampground. We are only five miles from Mt. Rushmore. It does make more sense to stop here since we are so close to the Presidents' monument. It stopped raining almost as soon as we got the camper fixed up.
We walked around the kampground, visited the kamp store and then decided to eat dinner at the Ponderosa Restaurant right here at the kampground. Everyone except yours truly had a buffalo burger. They all agreed that you can't tell any difference between the buffalo and the beef burger. I had salad and a "meal in a peel" that is, a large potato stuffed with bacon and onion and smothered with an American cheese sauce. It felt nice to eat out for a change.
At 8 p.m. we go to the bus here at the kampground which will take us to Mt. Rushmore for an evening showing. The bus is an old school bus and it certainly has a hard time getting up the hills. The driver has to keep down-shifting.
We walked down the Avenue of Flags to the Visitor's Center. Then out to the small terrace for a view of the monument. You don't really get a good idea of how big the statues are.
Then it's down to the amphitheater (100 steps, granddad says 125) for a brief introductory speech by a park ranger, then a 25 minute film on the sculptor Gutzon Borglum -- actually, mostly dealing with the four men comprising the monument. Grandparents liked the film, but Rosemary and I did not think that that much of it. The metal seats were cold.
At the end of the film, they have the national anthem and then light the monument. The lighting brings out the flaws in the figures -- dulled them. The faces look better in the daylight. The view from the amphitheatre is also not the greatest since the view is looking up the noses of the figures.
On the way back to the kampground a car with a sunroof passed us , and we were treated to a little show: we got "mooned".
Terry Peak Ski Area Chair Lift & Bear Country
Day 17. June 6, Monday.
Went back to Mt. Rushmore to see the faces in daylight and buy some more souvenirs. It was quite cold last night. Woke up 3 or 4 times during the night because of the cold -- had to throw Rosemary's jacket over our feet and her robe over our two blankets.
At Mount Rushmore we went to the sculptor's studio. There you can see the sculpture the way Borglum would have completed it if he lived. Instead of faces he had planned busts. (Rosemary tells me Borglum abandoned these plans before he died because of faults in the granite.)
Rosemary says they have added a lot since she was last at Mt. Rushmore about 22 years ago. They had a real tiny gift shop with mostly junk -- now they have a very fancy one.
From Mt. Rushmore we went to Crazy Horse Mountain. I thought this was more potentially impressive and interesting than Mt. Rushmore. It will be 5 or 6 times as big as Mt. Rushmore. They have a slide show that tells you about the work of Ziolkowski, who died October 1982. He worked on the project for 36 years of his life. And he worked alone, where Borglum worked with a team. The work is a long way from being done and it is going to take a long time unless the successors work with a team.
Rosemary bought three sand paintings for $80.00 dollars. This is what she really wanted. Unfortunately, we had a virtual plague of "love" bugs. I stayed outside the camper to brush off the bugs from the others. I must have placed the paintings on the ground and entered the camper without them because when Rosemary went to look for them in the afternoon they were nowhere to be found. Needless to say, she was quite depressed for the entire afternoon.
We drove to Custer, South Dakota and went to Flintstone's Bedrock City. The grandparents were not going to go, but we told them we would pay for their tickets ($3.00 apiece). When this did not work, Rosemary just told them that Carl really wanted to see it and that we did not want to have to hurry through it for fear of boring the grandparents too much. So they came along.
We would recommend it -- not highly -- but it was a reasonable price for what is there. You get a car ride and a train ride as part of the admission price. And we saw an animated review (a la Disney's Bear Jamboree) that was cute and then there was a short cartoon. The popcorn (50 cents) was tasty.
Drove into a northern entrance of Custer Park. Paid $3.00 for the entrance fee. We got up a little ways until we hit the first tunnel and grandfather decided that he could not get through it. I think he could have, but it's his vehicle. We saw a few of the needles which were quite pretty, but Rosemary and I were still brooding about those sand paintings and we did not really take that good of a look. Grandfather took us back to Crazy Horse Mountain to see if anyone turned the paintings in. No such luck. But grandfather did not get his $3.00 back from the young lady at the Custer Park entrance. This peeved him somewhat, especially so when he realized that she did not even give us a permit sticker. So when we went back into the park from Crazy Horse Mountain we had to pay again, even though grandfather tried to explain the situation to the attendant at a more centrally located entrance to the park. He got even more peeved after this.
Saw a herd of 19 buffalo in the park. A little farther south there was a lone buffalo very close to the road. We stopped and Rosemary got a photo of it. These buffalo had horns, while the ones we saw at Yellowstone did not.
Drove to Hot Springs KOA. Tomorrow we continue on to Ft. Robinson, Nebraska where Crazy Horse was bayoneted to death.
Finally had weather warm enough to sit outside and eat. The Black Hills are certainly more commercialized than Yellowstone. There are more little towns like Deadwood and Lead there.
Mt Rushmore, Crazy Horse Mtn & Flintstone Bedrock City
Day 18, June 7, Tuesday.
Got up later than usual -- about 10 minutes after 8 o'clock. I awoke earlier but went to sleep again hoping that the rain would stop. It didn't.
Needless to say, the rain made the area quite muddy. We drove to Ft. Robinson State Park and visited the museum there at the Post Headquarters. [Fort Robinson played a major role in the Sioux Wars from 1876 to 1890. The Battle of Warbonnet Creek took place nearby in July 1876.] There was quite a bit of information on the Fort there, but the stories were told in a rather confusing way. They could do a better organizing job.
After viewing the main museum, we took a guided tour by auto train. The guide was a very poor speaker as he did not pronounce his words distinctly. We had to listen carefully, but it was probably worth the $1.25 as we learned things that we would not know otherwise.
Forgot to mention how changeable the weather is here. It was beautiful when we started the auto train trip, but the black clouds soon swept over us, the wind picked up and the temperature dropped. We were cold and then we started getting rained on. After 15 minutes of discomfort, the rain stopped and soon the weather turned beautiful again -- just to turn colder again later.
We went to the gift shop in the old officer's quarters and grandfather decided to eat there. Everyone, except the author, had some type of buffalo dish. Grandfather had buffalo spaghetti, Carl had a buffalo burger. Grandmother and Rosemary had buffalo dogs (hot dogs) and I had a hamburger steak. The prices sure are cheap here.
At the luncheon, grandfather suggested that we stay the night right here in Fort Robinson. So here we stay. We would have had too far to get to a full service camp -- all the way to Rapid City or the Badlands.
Walked over from the campsite to the site about where Crazy Horse was killed. Crazy Horse was going to be imprisoned in the Guard House; the guard did not quite get the jail door closed before Crazy Horse took out a concealed knife and forced his way out; Little Big Man tried to stop him, but got slashed on the arm for his efforts; somewhere outside the guard house, Crazy Horse was bayoneted by Pvt. Gentles who was on guard duty at the time. Crazy Horse was taken to the adjutant's office where he expired sometime later in the arms of his father.
Right next to the adjutant's office was the barracks where Dull Knife's tribe was imprisoned and from which they escaped; they were hunted down; and 62 of their number were killed. In fact, the barracks were right where the Crazy Horse death marker is located.
We next went to buy tickets for the play "Egad! What a Cad!" performed at the Post Playhouse.
Went to the Trailside Museum which has a lot of fossils, many from the Agate Fossil Bed south of Ft. Robinson. With his birthday money Carl bought miniature zoo animals in match boxes at $1.00 dollar a box and he bought ten boxes. Also bought him some scientific games with magnets. The zoo animals are made in West Germany.
Next stop. The Activities Center. Carl dressed up in a Western outfit and the attendant took a Polaroid. Lousy lighting for the picture which did not turn out very well. Rosemary took a couple of photos herself using her camera, which should turn out better.
They have a lot of things to do here at Ft. Robinson -- jeep rides, stage coach rides, boating, history, guided tours, museums, gift shop, camping, archery, horseback riding, etc. An interesting blend of history and recreation. There is a lot more here than we thought.
Fort Robinson State Park
Day 19, June 8, Wednesday.
The play "Egad! What a Cad!" was one of those audience participation plays where you boo and hiss at the bad guy, sigh for the heroine and cheer for the hero. I do not care for these types of plays and I did not care for it. Grandfather had the same reaction.
Rosemary said it was a little long. Grandmother said she liked it. Carl was the most enthusiastic as usual. He always says: "I like it" no matter how boring the play, movie, event or whatever.
Grandfather and I left after the play was over. We did not stay for the singing. The others said they really enjoyed the singing -- this part was probably better than the play itself.
At 8 o'clock in the morning Rosemary, Carl and I went on the jeep ride to the bluffs where the Cheyenne Indians tried to escape to. I can see why it's a jeep ride because a regular vehicle could not go up to the top of the bluffs where we went. The ascents and descents are really quite steep. The guide showed us Dull Knife Pass named for Chief Dull Knife, whose people tried to escape. Some actually made it through the pass. All of them were killed or captured.
The view from the bluffs is very pretty. You can see, on the proverbial clear day, 60 miles away.
After the jeep ride, we drove straight back to the KOA where we had stayed two nights previously (at Hot Springs) and on past Rapid City, back to Highway 90, and did not stop until we got to a rest area at Wasta (about eleven miles from Wall). Ate lunch at the rest area.
Stopped at the Wall Drug Store which is a miniature mall in-and-of-itself. They had tons of different souvenirs representing the surrounding tourist attractions: Black Hills, Badlands, Pierre and Mitchell. They had a nice little book store and post card nook where you could write and mail the card right there at the table in the center. Wall Drugs is something like South of the Border on North Carolina and South Carolina border off US 95, but I enjoyed it better than the eastern coast establishment -- more interested in the western theme than the fake Mexican theme of South of the Border.
Drove through the Badlands National Park. I was not too impressed as we already saw some "badlands" at Hell's Half Acre and Scottsbluff. I thought the terrain was actually more impressive at Hell's Half Acre. It's just that the Badlands here are much, much larger.
We are staying at a KOA kampground about 6 miles south of the Badlands National Park. We are right across from the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. We have seen quite a few Indians stop by the KOA office.
Views from Red Cloud Buttes
Day 20, June 9, Thursday.
Grandmother got up at 5:15 in the morning and the rest of us soon followed. Today was set for a traveling day as we at least had to make 200 miles to Mitchell, South Dakota, where the Corn Palace is located.
We drove to the Badlands National Park and stopped at the Windows Overlook. The windows are large cuts in the sandstone ridge where you can see what is behind the ridge. We took the 3/4 of a mile walk that goes behind the ridge. The Badlands are composed of what appears to be baked mud. Rosemary said that they do not get that much rain in this section of the country, but the rain comes down in buckets when it does rain, thus producing the erosion effects one sees in the Badlands. It was a very interesting walk -- up and down and around the mounds.
Our next goal is to get to Mitchell. Have a good highway in highway 90, four-lanes and with good rest stops. Especially noteworthy is the rest-information stop at Chamberlain. Beautiful view from here of the Missouri River below as if in a small valley. The water was a pretty green color. Three bridges cross the river in this area. Lewis and Clark camped in this area. We took a few photos from here.
Next stop -- the Corn Palace. It is an interesting building to see with its murals made of corn. They have a wildlife theme right now with pictures in corn of buffalo, antelope, deer, squirrels, etc.
The central area of the auditorium has a souvenir-gift shop. We bought a centennial button of the Corn Palace, a post card and a place mat. This stop only took about 15 minutes or so.
Next stop -- the Lewis and Clark Lake sandwiched between Nebraska and South Dakota. We are staying at the Yankton Camping Area. From here we can see the Gavins Point Dam and the Dam's Visitor's Center. It is becoming overcast here and it just might rain. But at least it's not cold here, as it has been in so many places we have been. The cool breeze is very welcome. The park is not very busy at this time of the year. A lot of people go boating here.
We figure we drove around 280 miles.
Badlands National Park & Nearby
Day 21, June 10, Friday.
Drove over to Yankton, South Dakota to the Dakota Territorial Museum. It was closed. We found out that it does not open until 1 p.m., which is way too late for us.
So we proceeded on to Vermillion. We stopped to see the W. H. Over Museum. W. H. Over was an archaeologist-natural scientist who evidently worked with the University of South Dakota. They have a nice music collection there, but our group really does not know much about that subject. They also had a natural history section with wildlife displays. Carl and grandfather liked the hands-on section, with grandfather especially looking at the collection of rocks.
We bought a W. H Over Museum button. They had another button dealing with "Save Old Main". As we walked around the campus a little, we realized what this was all about -- a beautiful building, probably the older main administration building, is currently being used as a storage place. It would be a shame to lose this beauty with five towers.
Grandfather asked the museum shop attendant about taking off his spare-wheel cover which has a picture of two glaring, menacing Indians juxtaposed above a covered wagon train of settlers -- with the words "Winnebago Indians". Granddad did take it off, but it really was not necessary because when we went through the Winnebago and Omaha Indian Reservations, there was really no place to stop and buy any souvenirs, or even get any information. You really can't tell much of a difference between the reservation and the surrounding county. It's all farmland, more or less, except that the Indians themselves are on the reservations.
Grandfather said years ago (20 or so) you used to see Indians selling things on the road. We all wonder if the renewed civil rights consciousness has discouraged the Indians from pandering to tourists.
Stopped in the small town of Tekamah to have lunch at the small park by the ball field. Then we stopped in the center of this one-main-street town to go to the dime store. We bought the grandparents a plastic table cloth and a dish towel. We had bought Granddad a couple of books and wanted to get grandmother something.
Drove to De Soto National Wildlife Refuge. We had quite a bit of confusion about how to get to the park. According to the maps and my guide book, the park is in Nebraska. But you have to cross the Missouri River into Iowa itself to get to the Park. We were thinking that grandfather was going the wrong way, when he kept on driving farther into Iowa. Come to find out the park is shaped like a thumb, which is in Nebraska, but the surrounding area, including the Visitor's Center, is on the Iowa side. Evidently this De Soto Bend was quite treacherous -- sunk a number of steam boats -- and so the Corps of Engineers straightened the Missouri River here connecting the two points comprising the base of the thumb. And they left the boundaries as they were, leaving a part of Nebraska on the east side of the Missouri River.
Drove back to the Nebraska side of the Missouri River to the town of Blair and then down nine miles to Fort Atkinson (just east of Ft. Calhoun). [The fort was erected in 1819 and abandoned in 1827. A replica fort was constructed by the state at the site during the 1980s–1990s.] There's really not much there at Ft. Atkinson -- one long barracks basically. The Missouri River used to be just below the fort, but it has moved five or six miles east since 1827. We walked along the old bluffs, down a long, steep staircase to where the Missouri River used to flow. It was like a forest down there. The vegetation was so thick you really can't see very far. Maybe the soil is really rich here.
Next we drive to the campground at 84th Street right in Omaha. Grandfather does not like driving in city traffic and he complained about it later. The place there at Omaha is the worse we have been in yet. The trailers were packed very close together with no grass or at least dirt separators between trailers. There was no hot water in the showers when we went. We were, however, surrounded by strip development on all sides. We walked over to Wendy's and had dinner. Grandfather complained about the crowdedness of the urban street strip.
After dinner we walked a long way to a shopping center. Omaha is not made for walking (at least in the outer parts) because it was difficult walking along the road - no sidewalks, sloping areas, mud, obstacles, etc. Omaha is more like L.A. I guess -- the car is king.
Fort Atkinson State Historical Park
Day 22, June 11, Saturday.
We rented a car for one day and were supposed to pick it up by 8 o'clock in the morning. The guy said either he or someone else would be there at 8. So imagine our disappointment when he did not show up until 9:15. We had walked down to rent a car from someone else, but the agent was also gone. So we had to return to wait for our original car leaser. The only excuse for lateness was: "It's Jim's turn to open up."
Our chariot -- a 1977 Camaro with 77,000 miles on the odometer. I drove because Rosemary was a little too short to reach the pedals comfortably. Our first stop, the Golden Spike Monument in Council Bluffs. The monument notes that Council Bluffs is the eastern terminus for the Union Pacific Railroad. Remembering your history, the Union Pacific worked westward while the Central Pacific worked eastward to meet at Promontory Point near Ogden, Utah in 1869.
We took a photo of granddad's old high school (Thomas Jefferson) and one of his old house.
Next stop. A tour of the home of Gen. Grenville Dodge, who, during the Civil War, served as Ulysses S. Grant's intelligence Chief in the Western Theater. Later he was a big railroad baron. We never dreamed that we would be there for two hours, but it was a very large house and the tour guide described many of the objects in the multitude of rooms. I was praying that we would not go up to the third floor, but we did and then on top of all this we went down into the cellar for more. The guide went into all the details about interior decoration (too much for me) and not enough into the personalities of the Dodge family members.
Drove up to the Lewis and Clark monument at the top of one of the bluffs. There is a good view from here usually of Council Bluffs and Omaha in the distance, but there was just too much fog on this day. Their monument is chipping away at the top and needs a paint job.
Drove to the Mormon Pioneer Cemetery in Omaha and took a look at the statue there of two parents who are grieving over a lost child.
Next stop. The General Crook House Museum, located at 5730 North 30th Street in Fort Omaha, Miller Park neighborhood of North Omaha. [Crook was a very important Indian fighter in Arizona (especially at Fort Bowie) and New Mexico facing off with Cochise and Geronimo.] We were given a quick tour which was just fine with us given our limited time. The guide liked Crook a lot more than Custer. He was more of a thinker than Custer. I would like to read about Gen. Crook some more when I get home. This tour like the previous one stressed interior decoration more than anything else -- no human interest stories.
We drove to downtown Omaha after this. Went to the Old Market to shop. We were not impressed by the quality of the goods in the shops.
Drove to around 110th Street to the Cattle Company restaurant. Had a good steak dinner for a total of $69 dollars. Pretty good price considering we often pay $50 dollars or more just for our group of three and we get smaller pieces of meat.
Drove back to the campground, returned the car and drove here to the Honey Creek KOA (really the Omaha-Council Bluffs KOA). This camp is about three times as busy as it was when we were last here. I was kidding my parents about their not liking cities and a lot of people when the campgrounds really get busy.
Council Bluffs & Nearby
Day 23, June 12, Sunday.
Last day today. We fly home. Rosemary is exhausted. I can't wait to get to a bath and relaxation. Carl can't wait to say hello to our cat and his stuffed animals and his own bed. Grandmother said it would be lonely when we are gone.
Rosemary says: "Three weeks is too long." Carl says: "I liked the trip." I say: "It was often uncomfortable but these little inconveniencies are worth it because we have learned a lot and will have some terrific scrap books and lots of memories. I look forward to reading more about the West as I put the scrapbooks together."
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