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Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Scotts Bluff National Monument

September 17 was a busy day on our trip west. After visiting the Pony Express station in Gothenburg, Nebraska, and Chimney Rock, near the town of Bayard, Nebraska, we drove on to Scottsbluff, Nebraska, where we had a motel reservation for that night. After checking into the motel, we drove to the Scotts Bluff National Monument. 
 
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A sign at the National Monument says that emigrants were thrilled at the sight of the bluffs, rising some 800 feet above the valley floor, after the many weeks of plodding across the plains. But the landmark was also a barrier. There were badlands on the north side of the bluffs that were impassible for wagons, and deep ravines ahead barred the way to Mitchell Pass. It took engineering assistance from the U. S. Army to open the Oregon Trail through Mitchell Pass in 1851. 
 
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The sign pictured above is hard to read in the photo, but it gives you an idea of how the bluffs appeared to the travelers. South Bluff is on the left of Mitchell Pass, and Scotts Bluff is on the right.
 
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Scotts Bluff

Lucy Foster Sexton, an emigrant on the Oregon Trail, wrote in her journal on June 13, 1849, "Made about 10 miles; halted about noon at Scotch [Scotts] bluffs,...a splendid pile of bluffs, probably nearly 400 feet in height, standing in an isolated position; the various views presented as we passed along our route were of large castles with their attendant offices, chapels, etc., magnificently grand, beyond any of the puny works of mortal man..."

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Mitchell Pass, with Sentinel Rock on the left and Eagle Rock on the right

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A Conestoga wagon with Eagle Rock in the background

Conestoga wagons were built with the floor curved upward to prevent the contents from tipping and shifting. The average size was 18 feet long, 11 feet high, and 4 feet in width. They could carry up to 12,000 pounds (5,400 kg) of cargo.

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Out on the prairie, wagons spread out to avoid the dust stirred up by wagons in front. But, here at Mitchell Pass, there was a difficult bottleneck that forced the wagons to squeeze through narrow ravines in single file. Deep ruts, traces of which remain today, more than a century later, were gradually worn deep into the soft sandstone.

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The trail that the wagons followed over Mitchell Pass
 
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Dome Rock, a rock formation to the left of South Bluff

By the time we arrived at Scotts Bluff National Monument that evening, the Visitor Center was closed, as was the road to the summit. We explored as much as we could, then decided we'd just have to come back in the morning to drive to the summit before moving on to other destinations on our trip.

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Back in the town of Scottsbluff that evening, we were treated to the sight of a beautiful sunset.


Saturday, October 26, 2013

A Little Dose of Cuteness

I decided to take a break from telling you about our September trip out west and show you today some photos of a 10-week old toy poodle puppy named Toby. His humans are friends of ours. We were at their house on Tuesday, which is when I took these pictures. I thought you might enjoy this little dose of cuteness as you go into your weekend.

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Have a great weekend, everyone!

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Chimney Rock National Historic Site

After our visit to the Pony Express Station in Gothenburg, Nebraska on Tuesday, September 17, we continued west to Ogallala, Nebraska, then turned northwest on scenic U. S. Highway 26. We hadn't gone far on that road before we came to a sorry-looking side road leading to a scenic overlook, overlooking Ogallala's Lake McConaughy.

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Lake McConaughy is Nebraska's largest lake, with over 100 miles of shoreline.

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This is that sorry-looking road that led us up to the Lake McConaughy scenic overlook.

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A rural scene along U. S. Highway 26. That dark spot on the horizon is a tree.

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Another look at the rural scenery along that scenic highway

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Our goal in traveling U. S. 26 was to see Chimney Rock, probably the most famous landmark along the Oregon Trail. In the above photo, you can see it in the distance, as it might have appeared to those approaching from the east, traveling by wagon train along that route. (Of course there would have been no fences or paved highway in the view they saw.)

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This one was taken from the side road leading to the Chimney Rock National Historic Site.
 
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This sign was enough to keep us from wandering from the designated access areas.
 
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Chimney Rock as it looked from the visitor area at Chimney Rock National Historic Site.
 
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This picture is looking back at it from the west.
 
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These are some other rock formations to the west of Chimney Rock.

Nearly half a million westbound pioneers passed by Chimney Rock, as part of the great western migration during the years 1812-1866. A few left pictures or words of encouragement for those who would follow. Chimney Rock marked the end of plains travel and the beginning of the rugged mountain portion of the journey for those traveling overland to Oregon, California, and Utah. It also became the site of one of the Pony Express relay stations in 1860-1861.
 
Visitors are not permitted access to the rock formation itself, but information and a museum are available in the visitor center. 
 

Saturday, October 19, 2013

The Pony Express

Since we didn't start our trip west until noon on Sunday, September 15, our main goal for that day was just to get Chicago behind us, so we traveled only as far as Joliet, Illinois. The next day, the 16th, we crossed the rest of Illinois and all of Iowa and stayed that night in Lincoln, Nebraska.
 
The first two pictures in this post were taken on the afternoon of the 16th, as we drove across Iowa.

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A farm scene in Iowa. Wind turbines are visible on the horizon, on the right.

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This tower is at a scenic overlook on I-80 at Mile 15. I didn't really think the view was worth the climb, but it was good for stretching the legs and getting some fresh air.
 
These next photographs were taken on Tuesday, September 17, in the Nebraska town of Gothenburg, where an original Pony Express station is on display in a local park.
 
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The plaque in front of the building says: "This old station once stood on the Upper 96 Ranch west of here and south of the Platte River, on the original Pony Express route. It was moved and restored by Gothenburg Post No. 64, American Legion."
 
The Pony Express was a private, non-governmental, mail service that carried mail from St. Joseph, Missouri, across the Great Plains, over the Rocky Mountains and the Sierra Nevada, to Sacramento, California, by horseback, using a series of relay stations spaced every 10 to 12 miles. Horses were changed at every relay station. Riders changed about every 75-100 miles and rode day and night. In spite of the many hazards on the route, only one mail delivery was ever lost.

Founded by William H. Russell, William B. Waddell, and Alexander Majors, the Pony Express operated for just under 19 months, from April 3, 1860, to October 24, 1861, when the completion of the Pacific Telegraph line ended the need for its existence. The Pony Express was never a financial success, but it has become part of the legend of the American West.
 
On display inside the Pony Express station in Gothenburg were some items of interest from the Pony Express days.

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The mail was carried in a "mochila (pronounced mo-CHEE-lah)," a removable, lightweight, leather cover placed over a regular saddle. There were slits cut into the leather that allowed the saddle horn and cantle to protrude through. The mochila pictured above is an exact replica of those used by the Pony Express riders and is set on a Mexican saddle that is over 100 years old.

The mochila had four pockets, each of which could carry five pounds of mail. The price to send mail via the Pony Express started at $5.00 per half-ounce, although it had dropped to $1.00 per half-ounce by the end period of the Pony Express.
 
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Above is a photograph of a painting depicting the change of horses at a relay station. You can see the bare saddle on the tired horse, the mochila having been quickly transferred to the saddle of a fresh horse.

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Buffalo Hide Coat

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The flyer advertising for Pony Express riders says: "WANTED...Young, Skinny, Wiry Fellows not over eighteen. Must be expert riders, willing to risk death daily. Orphans preferred. Wages $25 per week." It also states the goal of covering the distance from St. Joseph, Missouri to California (roughly 2,000 miles) in 10 days or less.

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A flyer showing the Pony Express schedule

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A map of the Pony Express route and locations of the relay stations

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The Pony Express Rider Oath: "I, ........, do hereby swear, before the Great and Living God, that during my engagement, and while I am an employee of Russell, Majors, and Waddell, I will, under no circumstances, use profane language, that I will drink no intoxicating liquors, that I will not quarrel or fight with any other employee of the firm, and that in every respect I will conduct myself honestly, be faithful to my duties, and so direct all my acts as to win the confidence of my employers, so help me God."

To read that oath is to be sadly reminded of how far America has fallen from those days when she honored and trusted in "the Great and Living God."

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

An Outdoor Fall Concert

We went to an interesting event Saturday night. It was an outdoor gospel concert, held at the home of an individual who annually invites the community to come and hear good gospel music without any charge of any kind, not even the traditional love offering. As if that weren't enough, this gentleman also provides food and soft drinks for his guests.
 
Our host for the evening is a retired school teacher who now owns and trains Standardbred horses for harness racing. In addition, he leases a number of ponies to the local Children's Zoo for pony rides.
 
He views this annual event, called "Janet's Gospel Sing" in memory of his deceased first wife, as a way of giving back to the community.

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In addition to the food and music , there were reunions with old friends.

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In the above photo, our friend Pat is connecting with a couple she hadn't seen in years.

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Folks enjoying some of the food.

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The Schwartz Family was the first group to sing.

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Then our host and his grandchildren took the stage for some cute moments and a song.

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Then the Dixie Melody Boys Quartet sang.

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And the concert continued long after the sun had set.

It was just a perfect fall day for the event. The daytime temperature had reached 80 degrees Fahrenheit, which is very unusual for this time of year. It cooled quickly when the sun went down, but a light jacket was sufficient to ward off the chill.

May God bless our host and his family for their hospitality and generosity in giving to the community in such a big way.

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Autumn Leaves and Berries

We spent Thursday afternoon at Ouabache State Park with friends, Dave, Kay, and Pat. It was a beautiful fall day, and we were looking forward to getting some autumn photographs.

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We were disappointed to find the lake drained (and a bit smelly when the breeze came from that direction).
 
I learned later that the Indiana Department of Natural Resources had drained the lake last month to remove the carp, small bluegills, and dense population of rusty crayfish. They say the carp and crayfish roil the bottom and muddy the water to the extent that few aquatic plants are present and oxygen is available for fish only in the top five feet of water.
 
The DNR's hope is that restocking the lake with a mix of largemouth bass, bluegills, channel catfish, and redear sunfish will result in improved habitat conditions and restore balance within the fish community.
 
So I couldn't get any photos of the fall colors reflected in the water.
 
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I liked the way the sun was lighting some of the red berries while leaving others in semi-darkness.

I'm still going through the photos from our trip to some of our western states and will begin sharing some of those in the near future.

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Blossoms and Berries

These images were all taken on September 12, during our visit to the Leila Arboretum near Battle Creek, Michigan, and are the last of the photos I'll be sharing from that day.

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I do hope you've enjoyed seeing these late-summer blooms from the arboretum as much as I've enjoyed sharing them here.

Doug and I have been traveling for the better part of three weeks, and I know I've missed some of your posts. We didn't always have good internet connections, and sometimes the days were just too short to keep up with all your blogs. But we're home now, and I hope to be more faithful about returning your kind visits.

Of course, our trip yielded lots of photos that will be posted here over time. I hope you'll enjoy seeing the photographs almost as much as we enjoyed seeing the subjects first-hand.
 
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