Devil’s Tower….Aliens?

Devil’s Tower National Monument

Devils Tower, Wyoming

 

Devil’s Tower is one of the most recognizable landscape oddities in the world. I remember looking at it through my View-Master Gold  that I got for Christmas one year as a kid. It was on the National Parks Slide and every time I clicked through that slide I stared at that Tower it in wonder…..mainly because it was called The Devil’s Tower…. ”is that where he lives?”

The Devil's Tower National Monument - Wyoming.  Note the Prairie Dogs staring up at the Tower in awe.

The Devil’s Tower National Monument – Wyoming. Note the Prairie Dogs staring up at the Tower in awe.

Today, as a fairly intelligent and practical older woman; I’m more concerned about the reports of Alien Beings visiting this site (Close Encounters….).   Now that’s just nonsense – isn’t it?

The Devil's Tower taken from the Pine Forest section of the Red Bed Trail.

The Devil’s Tower taken from the Pine Forest section of the Red Bed Trail.

Interesting, many American Indian people have long considered the Tower a place of spiritual worship. Northern Plains Indians honor the towering rock formation and consider it a sacred place; in fact, over 20 American Indian Tribes have a cultural connection with The Tower. Today, many ceremonies are still held here including pipe ceremonies, the tying of prayer cloths and vision quests. Group rituals include sweat lodge gatherings and sun dance ceremonies.   All of the sacred items associated with these ceremonies are left undisturbed on the trees, rocks and trails that surround The Devil’s Tower.

But today we were on a quest of our own: To hike the Red Beds Trail that circles the Tower….surly if alien beings landed here we would see evidence of it on the surrounding landscape.   Our campsite sits in the shadow of The Tower so it was an easy hike up the mountain side to the Red Beds Trailhead.

Red Bed Trail Info:  2.8 mile loop, moderate to difficult, very steep in places.  Mostly a foot-path trail.

Red Bed Trail Info: 2.8 mile loop, moderate to difficult, very steep in places. Mostly a foot-path trail.

This trail is described as moderate-difficult. It is a 2.8 mile loop that takes you from the Visitor’s Center, down to the Fourche River, and then back up a rugged climb to the Tower. It is well-marked and for the most part you are following a well-worn foot path that winds up and down the volcano mountain. I could imagine Indian Tribes following these grassy trails single file going to The Tower.  No matter where you are on that trail, The Devil looms above.

The Devil's Tower taken from the Red Beds Trail Grassland area.

The Devil’s Tower taken from the Red Beds Trail Grassland area.

At one point, the trail enters an ancient erosion area that was formed eons ago. The views were spectacular!

The Red Beds Trail at Devil's Tower.  This is the ancient erosion section near the Fourche River.

The Red Beds Trail at Devil’s Tower. This is the ancient erosion section near the Fourche River.

Trail completed and back at the Visitor’s Center we started watching some of the Rock Climbers on the Devil….Unbelievable!   We decided to walk the 1.5 mile Tower Trail to get a better look. Zoom in on these photos of The Tower and you’ll see as many as 6-climbers on the rock face.   They climb in pairs.

Devil's Tower Wyoming. Zoom in on this photo and you'll see at least 6-rock climbers scaling those columns.

Devil’s Tower Wyoming. Zoom in on this photo and you’ll see at least 6-rock climbers scaling those columns.

Devil's Tower.  Zoom in to find the rock climbers.

Devil’s Tower. Zoom in to find the rock climbers.

As you can see by all of the photos of The Devil’s Tower, it never really looks the same way twice……odd…. it is almost as if it is (somehow) living…..always changing its face…..never the same size or color….Alien in Fact!

Thanks for Riding Along,

Coll

Yellowstone: Climbing Mt. Washburn

Peter D’s RV Park

Sheridan, Wyoming

 

We left Yellowstone on Friday and spent another enjoyable weekend in Cody, Wyoming at the Buffalo Bill State Park. There is so much to see in Cody…..you could easily spend a week there. This is a photo of the Buffalo Bill (all things are Buffalo Bill in Wyoming) Dam. The Dam has been designated a National Historic Landmark because, at the time it was built, it was the tallest dam in the world.  So, while there, I was able to get another “stamp” for my National Parks Pass-Port Book…Yippee!

The Buffalo Bill Reservoir Dam, Cody, Wyoming.

The Buffalo Bill Reservoir Dam, Cody, Wyoming.

On Sunday, we  visited the site of Buffalo Bill Cody’s original town – today it is called Old Town and it includes buildings dating back to the mid to late 1800’s including the tavern where Butch and Sundance’s Hole-In-The Wall gang reportedly hung out. Also on this property is the grave of “Jeremiah Johnson” the mountain man that Robert Redford made famous.

The original site of Buffalo Bill's planned town, "Cody".  It has been recreated with period structures from all over Wyoming.

The original site of Buffalo Bill’s planned town, “Cody”. It has been recreated with period structures from all over Wyoming.

Now, back to Yellowstone Adventures:  One of our best days there was the day we climbed Mount Washburn. If you can only take one hike while you’re at Yellowstone – Mount Washburn Trail has to be it! It is located in the Canyon Section of Yellowstone and no other trail gives you the breathtaking views and majestic climb that you will experience on this trail.  But be warned – it is not for beginners. The trail head is located at Dunraven Pass – 4.75 miles north of Canyon Junction.

The Washburn Trail Info.

The Washburn Trail Info.  FYI: We had bear spray!

The elevation at the trailhead is 8,750 feet. Your goal is the ranger station at the very top of Mount Washburn. This photo was taken from the trail about ¼ mile into the hike.

I circled our goal: the Ranger station more than 10,000 feet high; over 1400 feet above us at that point.

I circled our goal: the Ranger station more than 10,000 feet high; over 1400 feet above us at that point.

It is a 3-mile one-way climb up to an elevation of 10,243 feet with unbelivable views along the way.

The trail itself is fairly well maintained. At some places there is a lot of loose stone and gravel where you have to be careful – especially coming down. As you climb you pass through mountain meadows; then thick pine forests where you expect to see grizzly’s around every corner; and then high cliffs where you can see big horn sheep at home on nearly vertical outcroppings. And all the while the feeling that you are “actually doing this” is incredible!

Those little white spots on the ridge are long horn sheep.

Those little white spots on the ridge are long horn sheep.

Coll climbing Washburn Trail at Yellowstone

Coll climbing Washburn Trail at Yellowstone

This is a good photo of Washburn Trail.

This is a good photo of Washburn Trail at a pretty level spot….most of the time it is straight up.

There were not many on the trail the day we climbed….maybe 15 in all, so for the most part you are alone on the mountainside. This is another photo of our goal as we approached the tree line- it still seemed a long way away.

Mount Washburn Ranger Station from below...almost there!

Mount Washburn Ranger Station from below…almost there!

The final switchback trail to the top was brutal and the feeling when we made it was euphoric.

Ted triumphant at the top!

Ted triumphant at the top!

We hung around up there for a while. There is a ranger who mans this post 24/7 during fire season. He watches after the weather station and tolerates the giddy climbers who make it up to his domain. He is a man of few words but did tell us, when we asked how often he was relieved up here, that he has no reason to “go down”. They bring him food and whatever else he needs. I don’t think he wanted to go down….and who can blame him….it is a peaceful world unto itself up there. Although, I don’t think I’d want to be up there in winter. In fact, the day after our climb they recorded snow at the ranger station!

Thanks For Riding Along,

Colleen

Yellowstone National Park

Buffalo Bill State Park

Cody, Wyoming

 

For the last week we have been camped in Yellowstone National Park. Internet was really poor (hey you’re 8,000 feet plus up in the middle of wilderness!) so we didn’t post while we were there. So glad we went….If you’ve never been, make sure you put it on your bucket list.

Yellowstone was the World’s first National Park and has served as a land preservation model for many other nations. All of my life I have heard about Yellowstone but never realized that it is actually a huge Volcano!   The last major eruption was more than 640,000 years ago….it was huge and spewed debris that formed the 45-mile volcanic basin that is Yellowstone today. In fact, the massive heat that powered that eruption still lingers within the park’s geysers, hot springs and mudpots. Nowhere in the world are there more active geysers than right here at Yellowstone.

Yellowstone Norris Area Geyser Baisin

Yellowstone Norris Area Geyser Baisin

There are seven main areas within the park that are setup to cater to the visitor. Each has a campground, lodge, cabins and restaurant(s). We stayed in the Fishing Bridge region where the only RV Campground with hook-ups is located.   At first, the campground was a disappointment. It has over 400 campsites that are very small and very close together. There are no fire pits and no picnic tables in the campground because of the bears….yes, grizzly bears. They don’t want any food outside that could tempt a bear. You can cook on a gas or charcoal grill but you cannot leave it unattended and you must put the grill away when you’re done. But, after the initial disappointment, you realize that very little time is actually spent in the campground because there is so much to see!

Bison watering in the Yellowstone River near a picnic area.

Bison watering in the Yellowstone River near a picnic area.

The Canyon Area was one of our favorite spots.  There you can hike to massive waterfalls or around the Yellowstone Grand Canyon rim.   Unbelievable!

Yellowstone Grand Canyon near Canyon Village.

Yellowstone Grand Canyon near Canyon Village.

Ted hiking the Canyon Trail.

Ted hiking the Canyon Trail.

 

Yellowstone Upper Falls at the Canyon.

Yellowstone Upper Falls at the Canyon.

And of course, the main feature of the Old Faithful Area is….Old Faithful! This geyser erupts every 45 to 65 minutes….just like clockwork.  This is one of the most visited geysers in the park because of it’s dependable reputation.  There had to be at least 500 people there that day.

Old Faithful: Before and After

Old Faithful: Before and After

At the West Thumb Area and also at the Mud Volcano you can follow wooden boardwalks through the geyser fields.

West Thumb Geyser Field

West Thumb Geyser Field

Yellowstone Mud Volcano.

Yellowstone Mud Volcano.

The Sulfur Cauldron

The Sulfur Cauldron

 

And of course there is plenty of wildlife. We didn’t see any grizzly bears but we did see big horn sheep, mule deer and lots and lots of bison.

A herd of bison strolling through our picnic area.

A herd of bison strolling through our picnic area.

Massive Bison just feet from our jeep!

Massive Bison just feet from our jeep!

As you can imagine, we have a file full of photos, and a couple of really neat videos. Hope you are up for seeing more because I’m going to do a couple of more posts about our adventures at Yellowstone.

Thanks for riding along,

Coll

 

Buffalo Bill Cody Really Got Around!

 

Buffalo Bill State Park

Cody, Wyoming,

 

This is our 2nd night at Wyoming’s  Buffalo Bill State Park, just 6-miles “up” from Cody, Wyoming.  That’s right!  Cody, Wyoming was founded by Buffalo Bill “Cody”!   When we were in Nebraska, Buffalo Bill was the number one most famous person there ….especially in North Platte where his “Scouts Rest” Ranch is located.  But they have nothing on Wyoming!   It seems that Buffalo Bill spent even more time here in the Yellowstone area….even founding the town of Cody.   I never realized what a positive influence Bill Cody had on the West.

 Bill Cody statue in front of the Buffalo Bill Center which houses 5 separate museums.

Bill Cody statue in front of the Buffalo Bill Center which houses 5 separate museums.

The town of Cody is a real tourist Meca.  It is the last town  before you start the 50-mile drive up  to Yellowstone National Park’s East Gate.  Here you can buy anything Western….boots, hats, shirts, guns; and anything you may need for outdoor activities…. hiking gear; clothing; tents; bear spray….you name it.

You can also visit one of the many western hotel/bars including the famous Silver Dollar where gun slingers still hang out, and, the renown Buffalo Bill’s Irma Hotel. There is a Rodeo here every night during the season at the Buffalo Bill Stadium.  It is a fun place and if you are ever anywhere near Yellowstone, you have to come to Cody.

The scenery here is truly breathtaking and hard describe – so I won’t….. in this case, pictures are truly worth 1000 “foolish” words.

 

The Campground at Buffalo Bill State Park, Cody, Wyoming

The Campground at Buffalo Bill State Park, Cody, Wyoming

Buffalo Bill State Park at the Campground.

Buffalo Bill State Park at the Campground.

Buffalo Bill Reservoir Lake

Buffalo Bill Reservoir Lake

8-14 Buffalo Bill St Pk Wy

Buffalo Bill State Park

Ted at Shoshone Canyon enjoying his favorite DQ!

Ted at Shoshone Canyon enjoying his favorite DQ!

Thanks for Riding Along!

Coll

Wyoming State Fair – Mud-Wrestling Pigs

Fairgrounds Campground

Douglas, Wyoming

 

A couple of days ago, on our way here to Douglas, Wyoming, we stopped at Fort Laramie – a restored US Army Fort that protected settlers and thru wagon trains from the local Indian Tribes. Actually, Fort Laramie was never under attack but their presence out there on the Oregon Trail was a comfort to travelers. Today it is a fun stop that is not too far off Route 26 as you head west into Wyoming. Park Service Role-Players demonstrate cannon fire and other frontier skills like fire building and campfire cooking. There is even a completely restored saloon on the Fort property that sells sarsaparilla – just like they drank back in the mid-1800’s.

Fort Laramie, Wyoming. This guy looked a little like Kenny Rogers.

Fort Laramie, Wyoming. This guy looked a little like Kenny Rogers.

8-10 Fort Laramie Wyoming9

Enlisted men's barraks

Enlisted men’s barracks

We spent a couple of hours at the Fort and then, back on Route 26, we headed to Douglas and the Wyoming State Fairgrounds Campground.

A few of weeks ago when we realized that the Wyoming State Fair was in August….and, we could get there….I went online to check out campgrounds. The Fair Website stated that the fairgrounds had a first-come-first-serve 400-plus site campground with full-hook ups. That cost was only $25 a night and that includes your entry into the fair. Sounded really good so we decided to go. Today is Sunday (the fair started on the previous Friday) so we figured that the weekend fair goers would be leaving and we shouldn’t have a problem getting a site. Well turns out we were really lucky! We arrived late Sunday afternoon and the campground was just about full….in fact, the veterinarian at the check-in gate (Andy had to be checked out before we could enter) told us that we’d better hurry because people had been streaming in there all day and all of the sites were just about gone.   Hurry we did.

We got one of the last sites that would fit an RV our size! Picture a large gravel parking lot with campers lined up row after row with about 20-feet between. Actually it’s not bad because the whole “Cowboy State Fair” is going on right beside us and everyone is just as excited as we are to be here. It is a real party atmosphere.

8-11 WY State Fair

We quickly got settled and headed over to see what was doin! First stop dinner. This is me enjoying a Wyoming Size Turkey Leg….Unbelievable!

The corn hanging there is fake but the Turkey Leg ...the biggest on I've ever seen...is not!

The corn hanging there is fake but the Turkey Leg …the biggest on I’ve ever seen…is not!

As far as other fair food, this is a pretty healthy place. You can get huge racks of ribs and big big steaks hot off the coals.   Ted had fried cheesecake for dessert.

Strolling around the grounds we were amazed (as only east-coasters can be) by the fact that everyone was wearing cowboy boots, cowboy hats, sparkly fitted shirts and big belt buckles…and they weren’t just dressing the part, they were in their comfortable clothes.

Last Night, we attended a Pig Mud Wrestling Event in the big arena. The place was packed. The way it worked was teams of 4-teens stood in front of the crowd and the “team” was put up for auction. You could bid to buy the team and, if your team won– you won a big purse. The teams were “sold” for anywhere from $50 to $150.00!

The Pig Mud Wrestling Competition in the Grand Stands.

The Pig Mud Wrestling Competition in the Grand Stands.

The Team has 1-minute to catch a slippery mud covered pig and put it in a barrel, butt first, in the middle of the mud-ring. They can’t grab the pig by his ears or tail. For the first time I actually heard a pig squealing for all it was worth. I started rooting for the pigs! The winning team caught the pig in about 18-seconds and the crowd went wild!

Tonight (Tuesday) Trace Adkins with Chancey Williams are preforming in this same arena. It will probably be standing room only. I don’t think we’ll go to the actual concert because everyone says you’ll be able to hear it no matter where you are on the fairgrounds.   Should be a great time.

Thanks For Riding Along,

Coll

America’s First RV

Riverside Campground

Scottsbluff, Nebraska

 

No matter where you go in Scottsbluff or any of the surrounding towns, the Scotts Bluff National Monument towers over you. It is beautiful and eerie at the same time – it is always there in the background. We have a perfect view of it from our campsite which sits at the base of the national park.

America's First RV!  Scotts Bluff National Monument, Scottsbluff, Nebraska

America’s First RV! Scotts Bluff National Monument, Scottsbluff, Nebraska

This photo shows one of America’s first RV’s heading west on the original Oregon Trail where it runs passed the Scotts Bluff. Covered Wagons used Scotts Bluff as a trail marker and often stopped in its shadow for the night because there was a clear clean spring running at its base.

So today, we headed over to do some hiking. By-the-way…..we got in free of charge because we have the American The Beautiful Senior Pass (yeah!). The benefits of age just keep piling up!

We decided to hike up the side of the bluff on the Saddle Rock Trail.

Saddle Rock Trail at Scotts Bluff National Monument

Saddle Rock Trail at Scotts Bluff National Monument

We hiked the trail round trip – total of about 3.5 miles. It is a switch-back trail that starts at the Visitor’s Center and takes up about 450-feet to the top of the 800 ft. bluff. It’s pretty steep and narrow at some spots, and if you’re afraid of heights I don’t recommend it.

We really enjoyed our day because the weather was perfect. I am happy to report that Andy kept right up with us. Here are the photos of our climb; none of them do the elevation justice.

At the bottom.

At the bottom.

Andy was a trooper!

Andy was a trooper!

A little scary here!

A little scary here!

Almost there!

Almost there!

At the top! None of our photos did this justice....but, I'm not going back for a redo!

At the top! None of our photos did this justice….but, I’m not going back for a redo!

The round trip with a rest break at the top, took us just under 3-hours, two bottles of water, 3 nature valley bars, gallons of sweat and lots of spunk!

Tomorrow we’re heading into Wyoming….

Thanks For Riding Along,

Coll

 

Westward Ho! On the Oregon Trail

 

Riverside Campground

Scottsbluff, Nebraska

 

This morning we left North Platte and followed US Route 30 west till we intersected with Nebraska’s scenic Route 26, or as the Pioneers referred to it…..The Oregon Trail. The Oregon Trail was the rugged, rutted wagon train road that ran roughly 2,000 miles from the Missouri River to the fertile valleys in Oregon. Today’s route 26 follows the route through the Platte River Valley. In fact, this same route also merged with the Mormon Trail and the Early Pioneer California Trail.

The scenery along Route 26 is other worldly in places. Off in the distance – beyond the acres of tumbleweeds and corn, you can see large rock formations.

The Oregon Trail near Bayard, Nebraska

The Oregon Trail near Bayard, Nebraska

The pioneers used the rock formations as landmarks to measure distances and to stay on the correct trail. We were pretty much alone on the trail today…not much traffic except for the occasional fellow-RVer’s. At one point we saw a very odd formation way off in the distance.   We admired it for miles as it slowly came closer.   Then we saw the sign: Chimney Rock National Monument – 5-miles.   “That has to be Chimney Rock! Let’s Stop!”

Chimney Rock National Monument on the Oregon Trail; Bayard, Nebraska.

Chimney Rock National Monument on the Oregon Trail; Bayard, Nebraska.

I guess I can understand why they named it Chimney Rock…..although I’m sure other possible names were considered and ruled out.

Lucky for us, we pulled over on the side of the road leading to the Chimney Rock National Park Visitor’s Center to take this photo because it was so clear and visible at that point. Lucky, because once we pulled into the Visitor’s Center parking lot, the actual Visitor’s Center building completely blocked the view of Chimney Rock!  That’s ok, we assumed we’d be able to get a better photo of the rock from the Visitor Center observation deck.

I hurried inside waving my National Parks Pass Port book (you can get it stamped at all of the National Parks/Monument sites) to get the Chimney Rock Stamp and also the Oregon Trail stamp. I was totally focused on finding the stamp station so at first I didn’t see the “Admission Fee” sign.   Unbelievable! They want to charge people to view a millions-of-years-old famous landmark that you can see for miles around?   Not us! Ok, Ok, I know, someone has to pay for this facility and the staff it takes to man it but…..

Back on the road we were only about 20-miles from our campground for the weekend, Riverside in Scottsbluff, Nebraska. Scottsbluff sits in the shadow of yet another National Monument, aptly named Scotts Bluff.   Sitting here in our campground, the majestic Scotts Bluff Rock Formation looms above us. We’ll let you know how much it is to view it from the Visitor’s Center tomorrow.

Thanks For Riding Along,

Coll

Buffalo Bill Cody

Buffalo Bill Campground

North Platte, Nebraska

  

We had a very peaceful night here on Buffalo Bill’s Ranch. Only 4 other campers and they all left early this morning.

Today we visited Buffalo Bill’s “Scouts Rest” home place – an easy 1-mile walk from our campground. I have always heard of “Buffalo Bill” and his Wild West Show but never realized how magnetic and versatile old Buffalo Bill was.

Buffalo Bill Cody standing in the parlor of his "Scouts Rest" Ranch home in North Platte, Nebraska.

Buffalo Bill Cody standing in the parlor of his “Scouts Rest” Ranch home in North Platte, Nebraska.

Born in 1846, he got his first job – ox team driver – at the age of 11. From there he went on to be a messenger boy; a gold rush miner; a trapper; a pony express rider; a Santa Fe Trail guide; a stage coach driver; and a Union Army messenger all before he was 20 years old!  He continued his wild and rough way of life and began buffalo hunting because the Pacific Railroad needed buffalo meat to feed their workers. They paid Bill $500 a month to hunt – it is said that he killed over 4,200 Buffalo in just 8-months’ time – earning him his lifelong title of “Buffalo Bill”.   Actually I find that really sad – they nearly wiped out the whole buffalo species.

Anyway…. Buffalo Bill went on to be a scout for the US Government; he fought with Custer; and pretty much became the very image of the West. He often preformed feats of riding, roping, and shooting to entertain groups of people….especially here in North Platte…. And so the Wild West Show with the Rough Riders and Annie Oakley was born.

8-7 Buffalo Bill and the Rough Riders

Buffalo Bill's house at Scouts Rest Ranch

Buffalo Bill’s house at Scouts Rest Ranch

Bill Cody picked North Platte for the site of his ranch because the railroad came through here and it was easy to load his traveling Wild West Show on the train. He built this house and an enormous barn on the ranch so that he could house the Wild West Show animals and performers here when they were not touring the world.   He named the ranch “Scouts Rest” because he intended to spend his retirement years on the ranch.

After touring the house, we set off for the barn where they have preserved the original horse stalls and many of the photos and posters from those wild traveling days.

Horse Barn at Buffalo Bill's Ranch

Horse Barn at Buffalo Bill’s Ranch

Next, we visited the resident Buffalo at the ranch. It was nice to see these decedents of the few surviving Nebraska buffalo. It is only right that they should have a home here. Actually, the buffalo population is now out of the “endangered” zone….no thanks to Buffalo Bill and the Pacific Railroad! The baby was born this spring.

Buffalo Family

Buffalo Family

North Platte has been a great stop for us. You can easily spend 2 days here visiting the Golden Spike Tower, Buffalo Bills Ranch and the Lincoln County Pioneer Village which is also within walking distance of the campground.   We recommend that you add this place to your “travel stop” lists.

Thanks For Riding Along,

Coll

“Hell On Wheels” Town

Buffalo Bill’s Ranch

North Platte, Nebraska

We left Alma on Tuesday and headed for North Platte, Nebraska; home of the World’s Largest Train Yard, and where knew that we could find a fairly inexpensive campsite on Buffalo Bill Cody’s Ranch.   Buffalo Bill’s Ranch is now a Nebraska State Preserve located on the banks of the Platte River. It’s a first-come-first-serve campground and has about 30-sites with 50-amp electricity for only $14.00 a night.  No water at the sites except for one…we came first so we took that one.  The campground is surrounded by Bill’s peaceful pastureland.

We were just setting up camp when a bunch of cowpokes passed through….lucky for us they just kept going….no iron was shown.

Buffalo Bill Campground, North Platte, Nebraska.

Buffalo Bill Campground, North Platte, Nebraska.

After supper, we took a walk around to make sure there weren’t any varmints lurking in the brush. All’s we saw was this herd of cows on the edge of the campground…..wasn’t long before they headed home.

Buffalo Bill Ranch, North Platte, Nebraska

Buffalo Bill Ranch, North Platte, Nebraska

8-6 Cows going home

So this is when the cows come home!

This morning we went into town to visit the Golden Spike Tower. Built by Union Pacific, it gives the visitor a birds-eye-view of Baily Yard – the World’s Largest Train Yard! (silly me, I wondered why Ted wanted to visit North Platte, Nebraska….fool that I am).

The Union Pacific's Golden Spike Tower in North Platte, Nebraska

The Union Pacific’s Golden Spike Tower in North Platte, Nebraska

During the construction of the transcontinental railroad, North Platte was platted as a railroad town by Union Pacific’s Chief Engineer.  It was chosen because of its close proximity to good water, and its distance from Grand Island, Nebraska. In 1866 the first train rolled through what was known at the time as “Hell on Wheels” town. They quickly constructed major shop facilities and winter quarters and by 1867, main line operations began.  Just two years later on May 10th, East met West at Promontory Summit in Utah, 690 miles east of Sacramento and 1,087 miles west of Omaha. The railroad crossed two-thirds of the continent over some of the most difficult terrain on earth. It was called, “The Work of Giants” and it was the end of the frontier, as we knew it.

Today Bailey Yard, named for former Union Pacific president Edd H. Bailey, is the world’s largest train yard. Covering a massive 2,800 acres, each day Bailey Yard manages 10,000 railroad cars. Of those, 3,000 are sorted to make sure the cargo reaches its final destination. And, you can see it all from the Golden Spike Tower and Visitor Center.

View of Union Pacific's Bailey Yard.  The World's largest train yard in North Platte, Nebraska.

View from the Golden Spike Tower  of Union Pacific’s Bailey Yard. The World’s largest train yard in North Platte, Nebraska.

Ted spent an enjoyable hour talking to a life-long railway man … soaking up fact after fact about the rail yard.  I spent an enjoyable hour wandering about the museum soaking up history…..did you know that back in the early 1900’s New York City was so overrun by immigrants from Europe – many of whom brought sickness and disease with them – that New York soon had over 100,000 orphaned children living homeless on its streets.  The railroad played a major roll in handling this problem.  The orphaned immigrant children were put into a foster program that was run by numerous charities.  The children were put onto trains and sent into the mid and far west where, at most stops along the way, farm families took them in and cared for them.  Does this problem sound familiar?  History often repeats itself.

As we gazed out at this massive train yard, we realized that the far edge of it reached the borders of Buffalo Bill’s Ranch!  So that explains why we could hear the sounds of trains coupling and rumbling over the tracks last night.

Tomorrow….we visit Buffalo Bill Cody’s house.

Thanks For Riding Along,

Coll

 

 

 

 

Are You A Shafer?

Methodist Cove Campground

Army Corps of Engineers

Alma, Nebraska

 

A week or so ago when I made a reservation here at The Army Corps Campground on Harlan County Lake, I was surprised that there were only two 50-amp (gotta have 50-amp in this heat!) campsites available. After all, this is not a big tourist area; not a holiday weekend; and summer is drawing to a close around here – school starts in a couple of weeks here in Nebraska. Why so crowded?

Methodist Cove at Harlan County Lake, near Alma, Nebraska

Methodist Cove at Harlan County Lake, near Alma, Nebraska

Well we got the answer to that question when we arrived on Tuesday. As we entered the campground we saw a big banner on the main pavilion that said, “Welcome to the 45th annual Shafer Shindig!” “Shindig!” was a very popular word back in the 60’s (about 45 years ago). It was used to describe any Big, Fun, Party with Food! (always the explanation mark!). So….we felt right at home since we attended many a Shindig! back in the 60’s. Lucky for us, our reserved site is on the outskirts of the campground and, even though all of our neighbors are Shafers, we are not in the thick of things. The Shafer elders are all in an area closer to the pavilion and that’s where the Shindig happenings take place.  The fun thing is that every time we take a walk about the campground, the other campers look at us closely ….trying not to stare…..to figure out if they know us or not…. ”Are you a Shafer?”

We arrived on Tuesday and have watched everyday as more and more Shafers arrived. They expect close to 250 people here by Saturday. This is a very large campground – there are about 150 sites but only 50 or so have electric – and fewer than that have electric and water (the Schafer elders have most of the sewer/electric/water sites) so we expect to see a lot of tents on the primitive sites.   Really no problem for the Shafers because they are cooking most of the meals at the big pavilion. Everyone seems to have a job; cooking or leading activities. So far, it has been a joy to watch the kids and families interact.

Since we are not Shafers, we are free to spend our days as we please. Harden County Lake surrounds our campground and attracts all kinds of birds and other wildlife.   The city of Alma is only 2-miles away and there is a wonderful paved hiking/biking trail that leads from the campground around the lake shore and right into town.   We have walked the trail there and back twice now- round trip just under 6 miles.

Alma City Hiking/Biking Trail on Harlan County Lake, Nebraska

Alma City Hiking/Biking Trail on Harlan County Lake, Nebraska

The town of Alma is a delight. Unlike many small American towns, the downtown 3-block Main Street is thriving.   There is a fairly large and well run grocery store right on Main Street. We stopped in to pick-up a few groceries and ran into several Shafers who were getting bacon and eggs for tomorrow’s Shindig! breakfast.   They recognized us from the campground but didn’t know if they should greet us like long lost cousins….or just campground friends. We were no help. We have decided to just blend in and maybe we’ll get a free meal or two…. Thanks For Riding Along, Coll