Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Jul 31 - Sep 12 Rocky Mountain, Agate, Scotts Bluff, Ft. Laramie, Bents Old Fort, Sand Creek, Badlands, Minuteman Missile, Jewel Cave, Wind Cave, Mt. Rushmore, Niobrara, Missouri, Nicodemus, Ft. Larned, Brown vs Bd of Ed, Truman, Tallgrass Prairie, Gettysburg, Sewell-Belmont, WWI

SUNDAY July 31, 2016
WEATHER:  63 and clear at 5:30 am, in the 90’s when I got to Denver and 87 in Estes Park.
USAFA Colorado Springs, CO EL 7258’ Sunrise 5:59 am  Estes Park, CO EL 7522’ Sunset 8:xx pm

TRAVEL:  Perigrine Pines FAMCAMP, USAF Academy, Colorado Springs, CO to Spruce Lake RV Park, Estes Park, COSlow drive from Boulder to Estes Park along Highway 36.  Lots of bicyclists between Boulder and Denver.  My truck needed a rest again about halfway from Boulder to Estes Park – an uphill climb of almost 2,000 feet in 21 miles..

Spruce Lake RV Park
Estes Park, CO
truck & trailer
Not my "happy place"
SPRUCE LAKE RV PARK:  I’m at the edge of the park and WIFI is impossibly slow - when it works - if it works.  Like a KOA too many people, sites are close, and WIFI really doesn’t work.  This is a Good Sam park.  I can see Big Thompson River through some bushes as I’m typing – overall nice but my site is not level.  Not a big deal except, when I was setting up I had the left trailer wheel two blocks up – and after I set the left front leveler she slid off the blocks about a foot and bent the rod of the leveler - - - - -my fault – I should have chocked the trailer - I re-hitched the trailer, was able to back the trailer onto the blocks and set up – however I will have to remove the left front leveler – it’s useless and will drag if I pull the trailer.  Another item for Burlington RV to repair in the fall.

Estes Park is like ‘Dells’ of the Rockies.


Rocky Mountain National Park is a hiker’s paradise – ant time of year.  There are over 103 trails ranging from the .3 mile Adams Falls Trail to a grueling ascent to 14,259 foot Long’s Peak (at least a 16 mile round trip – suggested to start at 3 am).  Only 7 of these trails are at altitudes of less than 9,000 feet.  You could spend a month here walking trails and that will probably not be enough time.  I’ll be here 3 full days – not enough time.

Rocky Mountain National Park
This map is inadequate, even when you look at it in the VC
The 5 VCs are in Green, Alpine VC is top center left
The dotted line top is the Old Fall River Road
The Trail Ridge Road connects Beaver Meadow, Alpine and Grand Lakes VCs
Fall Meadows it top righ, Moraine Park bottom right 

There are 5 Visitor Centers and at least 2 scenic drives.  The Trail Ridge Road (40 miles) and the Old Fall River Road (9 miles).  The Old Fall River Road, reaching an elevation of 11,796 feet at Fall River Pass, is a narrow, one-way. dirt ,road with no turn-arounds.  Once you begin, there’s no turning back. Once you reach the end its 25 miles back to Estes Park along the Trail Ridge Road.  The Trail Ridge Road is 40 miles in length from Deer Ridge Junction to the Grand Lake Entrance Station west of the Continental Divide.

The park had three eco-systems: Montane, Subalpine and Alpine.
Montane (below 9,000 feet) aspen, lodgepole pine, Douglas fir
Subalpine (9,000 – 11,400 feet) Engelman Spruce, fir trees,
Alpine (above 11,400 feet) tundra, thin soil, animals adapt

Rocky Mountain - Moraine Park VC view
Beaver Meadows Visitor Center:  This VC is half a mile from where I am staying.  I spoke with a ranger and asked for favorite trails – I’m not sure I got what I asked for – we’ll see.  I did watch a 23 minute film – interesting no exhibits at this VC.

I drove to the Moraine Park Discovery Center and arrived at 4:30 pm when it was closing.  I did walk a short ½ mile Nature Trail.

I continued on down the road and arrived at the Bear Lake Nature Trail about 5:10 pm.  It is always interesting to walk a numbered nature trail without a trail guide – you can make up stories about what you should be seeing.  The trail guides cost $2 and there were none at the trail-head. I started to rain just as I was finishing the trail.
Bear Lake Nature Trail Map

Bear Lake Nature Trail
Bear Lake Nature Trail

MONDAY August 1, 2016
WEATHER:  54 at 4:30 am
Estes Park, CO EL 7522’ Sunrise 6:00 am  Sunset 8:15 pm

TRAVEL:  Spruce Lake RV Park, Estes Park, CO to Rocky Mountain NP to Spruce Lake RV Park, Estes Park, CO

Spruce Lake RV Park: WIFI is fine before 7 am, useless in the evening – people wake up, play games, stream movies – Spruce Lake gets a 6 of 10 points.  If it weren’t so crowded it would probably be fine – seems to me like “service – only when we’re not busy making money.” Time for a WIFI upgrade to serve the customer.  Also, for a reason unknown to me the pool is closed, they work on it, but it remains closed, I was not given a reason – not a good deal for families with kids.

Bear Lake Trailhead
Trail System - Bear Lake - Nymph Lake - Dream Lake - Emerald Lake
to Lake Haiyaha and back to Bear Lake Trailhead

This was a full day.  I headed for Bear Lake at 6:30 am in order to find a parking space.  Already by 7 am the parking lot was ¾ full.  I hiked a series of connecting trails for a 5.6 miles walk that took about 3 hours..

Nymph Lake

Bear Lake Trailhead to Nymph Lake - .5 miles a lily-filled lake

Trail to Dream Lake
a lot of people on this
trail - well maintained
Dream Lake
Nymph Lake to Dream Lake Trail Junction - .6 miles Hallett Peak provides the backdrop 

Emerald Lake Trail - .6 miles mountain scenery, when I got here the wind was literally racing down the mountain side – it must have been a steady 35 mph.

Return walk to Dream Lake Trail Junction .6 miles

Emerald Lake
the wind was really coming down
the moutnain - at least 35 mph

Emerald Lake Trail sign

Lake Haiyaha Trail – 1.1 miles this ways a steady uphill climb to Lake Haiyaha.  The lake is surrounded by boulders, almost reminiscent of Devils Lake in Wisconsin – but these are not as big and may be more rounded. 

Lake Haiyaha Trail
All uphill - more rugged than the trail
to Emerald Lake
Lake Haiyaha Trail
some great views

Return to Dream Lake Trail
1.1 miles most of this walk was downhill.

Return to Bear Lake Trailhead – 1.1 miles – now it was a downhill walk.

Lake Haiyaha Trail

Lake Haiyaha 

The 5.6 mile walk took about 3 hours – evens starting at 7 am there were  plenty of people on the trail.  Trying to find a parking place after 7:30 is almost impossible.  The park does offer a shuttle for hikers.  Best to use the shuttle if you don’t get here early

Moraine Park
the dark forested hill is the
Moraine Park VC 2nd floor had great
exhibits on glaciers

Driving back I stopped at the Moraine Park Discovery Center.  The building used to be a lodge, there is an excellent museum on the second floor, with a sitting room, art gallery and bookstore on the main level.

I thought I’d stop again at the Beaver Meadows Visitor Center, however, when I got there about 10:40 the lot was full – no place to park.  This VC is just before the entrance station to the park.  I decided to re-enter the park – but the line was a mile long and it took me 10 minutes to regain entry – even with 3 ranger kiosks.  I headed for the Fall River Visitor Center – not as much traffic from Estes Park entering here.

I then headed for the Fall River Visitor Center through Deer Ridge Junction.  On the return to the park I took the Old Fall River Road

Old Fall River Road 
The Old Fall River Road was an adventure but not as much fun as the drives in Capitol Reef  - too many cars on this road.  It was almost a train . . . . and some who drive too fast - maybe it’s better at 7 am.  I started this journey around 12:30 pm.

Old Fall River Road
Chasm Falls - Mile 1.4
Old Fall River Road

The 9 mile historic roadway was built between 1913 and 1920.  There is a guide that is marked off in miles with 19 highlighted areas.  Only Chasm Falls at Mile 1.4 has any parking – it is also the only point marked by a sign.  I kind of keep track of where I was per the guide by setting the mileage counter on the truck.

Old Fall River Road
Chapin PAss
The road itself was a transmountain highway and it looks today much the way it did when it opened in 1920.  Narrow, with precipitious drop-offs and tight switch-backs.  Today it is a one-way road.

Arriving at the Alpine Visitor Center at 1;20 pm was another exercise in futility – there was no parking.  I even drove around in the lot twice in an attempt to find a spot – it was very slow moving – finally a ranger closed the entrance from Trail Ridge Road.

I left the parking lot and went down Trail Ridge Road.

I got turned around – not thinking and headed down the Trail Ridge Road,  It was starting
Trail Ridge Road - Forest Canyon Overlook Stop 5
to cloud up with, what looked to me, like the pollution of
Beijing – it was air pollution, the smoke from the Walden Fire.  I got worse as the afternoon wore on.

There is also a guide for the Trail Ridge RoadAlpine VC is Stop 8.  The Gore Range pullout, Lava Cliffs - Stop 7, and Rock Cut - Stop 6 did not have any parking available – another train of automobiles on the road with some slowing down to view elk grazing.  I finally did find parking available at the Forest Canyon Overlook – Stop 5.  Here I decided to head toward Kawuneeche VC in the hope of less traffic and less people.

Passing the Alpine VC, there still was no parking, I stopped at Medicine Bow Curve – Stop 9.  I did not stop at Milner Pass – Stop 10 and Fairvew Curve – Stop 11 – same, same . . . . .
Trail Ridge Road - Forest Canyon Overlook Stop 5

Trail Ridge Road - Gore
There were plenty of trailheads all along the road and most of the lots appeared full. 

Trail Ridge Road
Colorado River
I did stop at the Colorado River Trailhead for a 1 mile roundtrip hike – I only walked to the Colorado River.  The trails leads up the Kawuneeche Valley toward the headwaters of the Colorado River.  Even here there were more than enough people on the trail.

Kawuneeche Visitor Center was open – it is at the West Entrance to the park and also called Grand Lake Visitor Center.  It has a small bookstore and exhibits.  It shows the same film I saw on Sunday.  

Trail Ridge Road
Holzwarth Historic Site
Trail Ridge Road - Holzwarth Historic Site
one of the rooms in 'mama's cabin' 
Holzwarth Trout Lodge Historic Site – Stop 12  was a former “dude” ranch in the Kawuneeche Valley.  It is a 1 mile round trip walk from the parking lot to the historic site. 
Trail Ridge Road - Holzwarth Historic Site
the haze is actually smoke 

John Holzwarth Sr. was a successful 1st generation German immigrant saloonkeeper in Denver.  With the enactment of Prohibition in 1916 – it was time to start over.  He had previously worked in Grand Lake, and in the summer of 1918, the Holzworth’s, John, his wife Sophia and children staked a homestead 8 miles north of Grand Lake and made plans for a new life.
The opening of the Fall River Road in 1920 prompted the Holzworth’s to serve the increasing number of tourists; the ranch became the Holzwarth Trout Lodge.  The heyday of the Trout Lodge lasted until the Great Depression and their development of the Neversummer Ranch.  It was an excellent location for horseback rides and all-day hay rides.  Papa Holzwarth died in 1932.  The family continued to operate Neversummer Ranch.
In 1973 the ranch was sold to the Nature Conservancy with the understanding that the land would be preserved as open space for the enjoyment of everyone.  The National Park Service purchased the ranch from the Conservancy in 1974.
I headed back to Estes Park via the Trail Ridge Road and did find parking available at Alpine VC, however, it was 5:10 pm and the VC closed at 5 pm.

I continued along Trail Ridge Road and Lava Cliffs and Rock Cut now had parking but I did not stop.  The same elk were grazing along the road – people just came to a halt on the road - stopping traffic – that is illegal and dangerous.  I’ve seen 3 elk in Estes Park alone – these people must have never visited a zoo – same picture.

TUESDAY August 2, 2016        
WEATHER:  54 at 4:30 am  partly cloudy, 77 and mostly cloudy with some occasional rain at 1 pm and again at 3 pm – still raining at 4 and the temp dropped to 62;the sun came out around 6:30 pm it warmed up to the high 60’s
Estes Park, CO EL 7522’ Sunrise 6:01 am  Sunset 8:14 pm

TRAVEL:  Spruce Lake RV Park, Estes Park, CO to Rocky Mountain NP to Spruce Lake RV Park, Estes Park, CO

Spruce Lake RV Park WIFI – I had hoped to check out Colorado Rockies tickets and hotels for a game in Denver tonight but could not connect.  I think this park sinks to a 5 of 10 – for $59 a night this is not as bad as the $63 a night rate for the RV Park near Washington, DC – at least the WIFI worked there.

I did drive to the McDonald’s in Estes Park for a coffee and sausage McMuffin – do you believe they did not have any coffee? Really!  I think the WIFI works so I’ll return later but I headed for the Wild Basin Trailhead – a site the ranger told me would be less crowded. 


Wild Basin Ranger  Station

Wild Basin Area Map - I hiked the trails to Copeland Falls - Calypso Cascades and
Ouzel Falls
- all uphill - it was downhill on the return trip 
I arrived at the Wild Basin Trailhead for the Trail to Copeland Falls - Calypso Cascades and Ouzel Falls with the hope that this was remote and there would be less people.  Wrong – but I’m glad I arrived when I did – by the time I left there were busloads of kids arriving and people were parking a mile away just to get to the trailhead.  These people are ‘hiiking crazies’ – coming down I met them - - - - -one group of boys – not Boy Scout age were hiking 8 miles up the mountain with 2 adults for an overnight  . . . . there was a group of at least 40 pubescents –couldn’t tell who the chaperones were - - - - -
What struck me most here at Rocky Mountain NP is the people who have all the latest gear . . . . mostly ‘older’ adults –  hiking shoes, the latest non-rip fabric hiking pants not shorts, jackets (it not that cold – even at 7am) and the clink-clump of two retractable hiking poles and a never ending array of floppy hats.  Some of these folks are fit – some think they are and most are hiking like the guys who walk in golf – to stay fit – but you’ve got to do this more than once a year.  Then of course there are the macho guys, and the people who have to continuously talk – Like I’ve said earlier – only here at Rocky Mountain NP - - - - - there is a much younger crowd and less children at Zion, Bryce, Grand Canyon, and even the California parks of Yosemite and Sequoia and they are not dressed to the nines - these are mostly tourists.

Wild Basin
Lower Copeland Falls
Wild Basin
Calypso Cascades
Wild Basin
Upper Copeland Falls

Wild Basin - the last Ranger on a 4 person trail crew - 'trail hogs' walking at
a pace of at least 3 mph each with
a shovel in hand
Wild Basin - this area suffered fire in 1988
the forest is recovering

Wild Basin - Ouzel Falls

The trail was a compilation of all 3 types of trails I encountered at the beginning and the end of the Appalachian Trail: R&B1, R&B2 and R&R.
R&B1 = Rocks and Boulders
R&B2 = Roots and Boulders
R&R = Roots and Rocks

The waterfalls were not that terrific – if your from Texas – well then, maybe – but the best falls I’ve seen were along the Delaware River in the Pocono Mountains.
The hike took was all uphill 2.7 miles getting there, and 2.7 miles downhill getting back.  I started at 7:40 am and finished at 10:30 am.

Wild Basin
Rocks & Boulders
Wild Basin
Roots & Rocks
Wild Basin

 I headed for the McDonald’s where the WIFI works and updated July 29, 30 and started this post of July 31.  I had hoped to purchase a ticket for the Rockies vs. Dodgers game and get a room using the net.  It was past noon and it started to get cloudy and drizzle . . .

BOTTOM LINE:   I decided not to go the game
1)    Coors Field is a downtown ballpark
2)    Good single tickets were $69 (tried 3x to buy a tickets,MLB website wouldn’t act)
3)    A room downtown HIExpress – a mile away from the stadium was $200
4)    The drive to Denver is 1½ hours, 79 miles, one-way on mostly mountain roads at least 2000 ft down from here and up in the dark
5)    I didn’t want to drive at night and they only play night games during the week
6)    The Rockies were out of town on Sunday  

Seeing a ball game at a park in the West has been a challenge, I spent more than 2 months in AZ but couldn’t see a game in Phoenix – mostly because of the season and schedule.

I updated words for the blog – too much rambling I’m afraid -  and labeled photos.

One more day in Estes Park – not sure what I’ll do tomorrow.  If I go to the park -  I have to leave early.

WEDNESDAY August 3, 2016
WEATHER:  51at 4:30 am, 74 by 8:30, rain around 2 - then it cleared
Estes Park, CO EL 7522’ Sunrise 6:01 am  Sunset 8:13 pm

TRAVEL:  Spruce Lake RV Park, Estes Park, CO to Rocky Mountain NP to Spruce Lake RV Park, Estes Park, CO

I performed surgery today – removal of the left front stabilizer on the trailer.  It was a short simple operation involving a 11/16” and 5/8” wrench.  A hammer was available but not necessary to remove the bolts holding the stabilizer.  I called Burlington RV to make an appointment for replacement/repair in September - service is always busy, first thing in the morning – left a message – somehow I don’t expect a return call.


If you want to beat the crowds you have to arrive at the trailhead before 7am and even then it can be crowded. I entered the park at 8:50 and drove straight ot the Alpine VC on Trail Ridge Road.  I arrived at 0925 and there was some available parking  . . . .

A lot of bicycles on Trail Ridge Road, probably over 100 – must have been an organized ride – there were several rest/watering stations set up at some of the stops on the road for the bicyclists.  I understand ROW, but I think bicycling is hazardous on mountain roads – it’s a macho – endurance - thing.

Alpine Ridge Trail - summit
looking down at Alpine VC and the
parking lot - it's 1015 am
  'let the circling begin'

Alpine Ridge Trail
it will take your breath away
there is a top over the top
Alpine Visitor Center – Stop 8.  The VC is at EL 11,796’   It was 55 degrees at the top – 74 at the park entrance at 8:50 am. There is a small bookstore and a few exhibits.  I did walk the Alpine Ridge Trail, a paved  trail to the top.  Coming down I noticed the fist line of cars coming up from the Old Fall River Road – let the circling begin . . . .

Trail Ridge Road - Stop 7   Lava Cliffs
Lava Cliffs – Stop 7 – there would be more room for parking if people would use one space per vehicle – perhaps it was the park’s fault, the lines were not clear – a little late in the season to fix that – most cars used 1½ spaces eliminating almost half of the space available – some trucks parked at an angle used 2 spaces.

The dark cliff is composed of volcanic rock – tuff –created from a blanket of volcanic ash created by volcanoes in the Never Summer Mountains 26-28 million years ago.  Later glacial ice carved into the hillside exposing the rock we see today. 

Trail Ridge Road - Stop 6    Rock Cut
Tundra Communities Trail
There were an abundance of signs on this trail - most had to due with
the wildlife and tundra flowers.  This was an short but enjoyable walk 
Rock Cut – Stop 6EL 12, 110’  This was a good stop and people parked between the lines.  There is a 1 mile round trip paved Tundra Communities Trail here that  is steep in the beginning.  It took a ½ hour to walk the trail.  The trail is well constructed telling the story of the tundra wildlife, wildflowers, weather and geology.  Here I learned that the ridge’s tundra here was never touched by glaciers – it was too high – they flowed to the sides of this plateau.  

Trail Ridge Road -
Stop 6    Rock Cut

Tundra Communities Trail
I think this is a marmot - eating
and getting fat for the winter
Trail Ridge Road -
Stop 6    Rock Cut

Tundra Communities Trail
dark metamorphic schist
on top - lighter igneous
granite beneath - just like
the intrusions at 
Black Canyon
Trail Ridge Road -
Stop 6    Rock Cut

Tundra Communities Trail

Trail Ridge Road - Stop 6    Rock Cut   Tundra Communities Trail
View of Trail Ridge Road looking toward the Lave Cliffs (right) and beyond the cliffs, the Alpine VC

I got back to the trailer around noon after a stop at the Beaver Creek VC – it was  88 in the RV Park - then it began to cloud up – possibility of rain – 83 at 1:30 pm..  I will probably update the blog by going to McDonald’s after I write and label photos in the trailer.

THURSDAY August 4, 2016
WEATHER:  61 at 5:15 am, cloudy in Estes Park;  in the 60’s until I turned off I-25 and headed to Lusk. WY around noon when it finally broke 70; mid 70’s and cloudy in Lusk   
Estes Park, CO EL 7522’ Sunrise 6:02 am  Lusk, WY EL 5020’ Sunset 8:13 pm

TRAVEL:  Spruce Lake RV Park, Estes Park, CO to BJ’s Campground, Lusk WY.  A 5 hour 239 mile trip – not much in Lusk POP 1,617  EL 5,020’

I spent almost 4 hours in the Estes Park McDonald’s yesterday updating the blog because it has WIFI that works – but not as fast the McDonald’s in Cedar Park,UT - these RV Parks that I’ve stayed at for the last 5 weeks (except for Salida, CO)  have terrible service – useless – a customer should expect more.

BJ’s Campground, Lusk, WY:  WIFI WORKSTHE FIRST RV PARK I CAN THAT ABOUT SINCE THE END OF JUNE.  Not much to BJ’s – 26 sites – only 4 occupied today.  This is not a KOA or Good Sam affiliate.  Lusk itself is smaller than Durand; no McDonald’s – only 2 restaurants, 1 bar.  If you travel 12 blocks either direction from Main St you’re out of town.

FRIDAY August 5, 2016
WEATHER: 56 at 5:30 am, mostly cloudy
Lusk, WY EL 5020’ Sunrise 5:54 am MDT  Sunset 8:12 pm MDT

This map shows the proximity of Agate Fossil Beds,
Scotts Bluf
and Fort Laramie to Lusk WY
- which led to my visiting all 3 in 1 day.
TRAVEL:  BJ’s Campground, Lusk WY to Agate Fossil Beds NM to Scott's Bluff NHS to Fort Laramie NHS to BJ’s Campground, Lusk WY

BJ’s Campground – having working WIFI is wonderful.  The response is as good as it is when I’m home.  Additionally, the washrooms at BJs are like walking in a large furnished bathroom in someone’s home – nicely decorated – 2 showers – 2 sinks.  No pool but this place gets a 10.  Public park with playground is right across the street.

Eastern Nebraska is on CDT, Harrison NE is on MDT.  When I travel to Rapid City, SD next week – the area is also on MDT.

326 AGATE FOSSIL BEDS National Monument, Harrison, NE

Agate Fossil Beds - map
There is a small Visitor Center, exhibit area and bookstore.  To include hiking the two trails allow at least 3 – 4 hours.  There are 2 trails and each has a free trail guide.
During the 1890s, scientists rediscovered what the Lakota Sioux already knew—bones preserved in one of the world's most significant Miocene Epoch mammal sites.

Yet, this place called "Agate" is a landscape that reflects many influences—from early animals roaming the valleys and hills, to tribal nations calling the High Plains home, to explorers passing through or settling in the American West.
Agate Fossil Beds National Monument is located in Sioux County in the northwest corner of Nebraska. The Wyoming border is 17 miles to the west, and the South Dakota border 42 miles to the north. The county's only town, its county seat, is Harrison, population 251. The 2,000-square mile county itself has a population of only 1,500 people. Much of the area's land is used for ranching and has a carrying capacity of at least 25 acres for each cow-calf pair.

The mammals found at Agate Fossil Beds National Monument date from the early Miocene Epoch some 19 to 21 million years ago. Scientists describe the Miocene Epoch as the period of time from 5 to 23 million years ago. At that time, today's Great Plains region was drying out. Flowering plants proliferated, and the abundant animals, including birds, responded to a new food source: grasslands that replaced forest and jungle. Although slightly different anatomically, some of these creatures resemble those of today. Others of these long extinct animals that succeeded the dinosaurs came in bizarre shapes and sizes that influenced people's imagined monsters of yesteryear.

Three particular mammals were associated with the death event(s) that came to create
“The Great Bonebed Of Agate.” These were the Menoceras, a small rhinoceros; the large Moropus; and the fearsome Dinohyus. Another quarry site is comprised almost entirely of the once-abundant small gazelle-camel, the Stenomylus. Certain other nearby geological formations contain remains of a burrowing dry-land beaver, the Palaeocastor, and its curious spiral home, the Daemonelix. The final, less frequently found animal is the predator Daphoenodon from the beardog family.

Agate Fossil Beds - artist depiction of animals at waterhole
Agate Fossil Beds - full scale diorama of the artist picture above
Scientists compare the area of the past to the Serengeti Plain in Africa and believe that the large amount of fossils in one place is similar to what happens in the Serengeti.  Animals congregate around a waterhole – and drought occurs – even though the water is still abundant – the forage causes the animals to browse for food farther and farther from the waterhole.  They animals eat all of the food and eventually become malnourished.  They return to the cool water – where they rest and expire.
Agate Fossil Beds - Daemonelix Trail - map
Agate Fossil Beds
A preserved "devil's cockscrew"
a fossil of the dry land beaver's

Daemonelix Trail
This one-mile (1.6 km) trail at the west end of the park offers a tour through through time. In addition to a dry land beaver's curious spiral burrows, the Daemonelix or Devil's Corkscrew, there are ancient sand dunes and fossil grassland soils called paleosols. From the number and concentration of their now petrified homes, paleontologists know that the paleocastor, the dry land beaver, formed and lived in colonies much like present-day prairie dogs. From the Deamonelix Trail's highest point, you can view James H. Cook's historic Agate Springs Ranch and the vast, open tablelands that form northern terminus of the High Plains east of the Rocky Mountains.

Agate Fossil Beds -Fossil Hills Trail - map
Agate Fossil Beds -Fossil Hills Trail
Excavations around University & Carneigie Hills
Fossil Hills Trail
This 2.7-mile (4.3-km) wheelchair-accessible paved trail begins at the visitor center.  I took just under 1 ½ hours to walk the trial from the visitor center.  The trail crosses the
Niobrara River and its wetlands, passes through ecologically intact short- and mixed-grass prairie, and then loops around University and Carnegie Hills. It was on these hills that future local rancher James Cook discovered fossilized bones in the mid 1880's. Excavations didn't commence until nearly twenty years later, following a 1904 visit by Olaf A. Peterson, a paleontologist from the Carnegie Museum in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Signs along the trail point out and discuss a variety of historic and geologic features; others identify the names of plants, including flowers and grasses.
Agate Fossil Beds
Fossil Hills Trail
University Hill 
About midway between the visitor center and Fossil Hills is an unpaved one-mile side trail

that leads west to Harold J. Cook's homestead cabin.  I did not walk this trail.   Restored to what it looked like in 1910, while Harold and his wife Eleanor still lived there, the cabin was used after 1914 as the temporary residence for scientists who worked the fossil quarries. The American Museum of Natural History's lead excavator, Albert "Bill" Thomson, lived there whenever conducting field work in the bone-bed in the late 1910's and early 1920's

327 SCOTT’S BLUFF National Monument, Gering, NE
Towering 800 feet above the North Platte River, Scotts Bluff has served as a landmark for peoples from Native Americans to emigrants on the Oregon, California and Mormon Trails to modern travelers. Rich with geological and paleontological history as well as human history, there is much to discover while exploring the 3,000 acres of Scotts Bluff National Monument.
Scotts Bluff is a remnant of ancestral high plains that were 100s of feet higher than today’s Great Plains.  Geologists have determined that wind, water and volcanic eruptions deposited the material of the bluffs. The layers span a 10 million year history. 

Scotts Bluff - Map or the Oregon Trail

Four to five million years ago the land began to erode faster than  new materials were deposited.  Some patches of limestone resisted erosion, and acted as cap rock to protect layers beneath. 
Saddle Rock Trail
landslide across trail
The Saddle Rock Trail and 3.2 mile round trip from the VC to the Summit was closed .due to a rock-slide. There was a short trail at the summit the South Overlook Trail.  The road to the summit was open. at the end of
Scotts Bluff - View looking to the
north view point from the south

Throughout time, Scotts Bluff has been viewed as a landmark for those trekking a trail through history. Even the short walk at Scotts Bluff National Monument offered a glimpse of the varied resources of the area. Short and mixed-grass prairie, wildflowers, native trees and shrubs, geologic features, historic features, and many species of birds and mammals.  

328 FORT LARAMIE National Historic Site, Fort Laramie,
The Visitor Center is in what used to be the Commissary building.  It was a large bookstore and exhibits describing the history of the fort.  There is a 20 minute video.  I spent about 2 hours here  – same layout as other frontier forts I visited  - but you could spend 3 or 4 if you stop and visit everything.

Fort Laramie
Originally established as a private fur trading fort in 1834, Fort Laramie evolved into the largest and best known military post on the Northern Plains before its abandonment in 1890. This “grand old post” witnessed the entire sweeping saga of America’s western expansion and Indian resistance to encroachment on their territories.

Fort Laramie - Burt house
Restored Officers Quarters
Fort Laramie - Captain's Quarters
inside dining room

As America expanded westward, the outpost in Wyoming wilderness played a crucial role in the transformation of the West.   First, as a fur trading post, then as a military garrison.  For over 5 decades it was a landmark and way station for trappers, missionaries, emigrants, Pony Express riders, and miners.  It was also a staging point for the US Army in its dealings with the plains tribes displaced by migration and settlement.

When the government closed the fort in 1890 and its buildings were sold at public auction, local residents dismantled the buildings and transferred the material to their homesteads for use.  The National Park Service established ownership in the 1930s and restored many of the buildings.   

The fort served as a military outpost along the Oregon Trail but was never seriously threatened by Indian attack.  The post did become a staging ground  for Indian campaigns that eventually led to the tribes’ confinement on reservations.

Most soldiers never saw action against hostile Indians.   The majority of the soldiers stationed here were Infantry.   

It was a joy to visit all three of the sites above in one day – I had allowed a day for each site – with the extra days I reviewed the schedule and decided to eliminate a travel trailer journey of almost 580 miles from Missouri NRA to La Junta, CO to visit Bents Old Fort NHS and Sand Creek Massacre NHS.  I should have visited these sites when I was in Colorado Springs or even before when I left Salida - La Junta is Highway 50.  So on Sunday morning I will travel to La Junta via Denver to see an afternoon Colorado Rockies game, stay at a Holiday Inn Express (with points) and after visiting Bents and Sand Creek return to my trailer  early Monday evening.  A long day but it will mean I return home 4 days earlier.

There may be an added benefit – the Holiday Inn Express may just have ESPN and broadcast of the Packer-Colts game.

SATURDAY August 6, 2016
WEATHER:  60 at 5:15 am, cloudy – cloudy and 60’s all morning – mid 70s with a breeze by mid afternoon    Lusk, WY EL 5020’ Sunrise 5:55 am  Sunset 8:11 pm


Spent all morning cancelling, re-arranging the schedule and making reservations.

Yesterday, I finished listening to a Great Courses lecture series: Great American Best Sellers: The Books that Shaped America.  Prepared by Peter Conn, Professor of English at the University of Pennsylvania I found his lectures interesting and worth listening to.  Admittedly some bias in selecting the “best sellers” but I have read at least 12 of the 22 he selected to include Common Sense, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Jungle, Main Street, The Virginian. To Kill a Mockingbird, Native Son, The Catcher in the Rye and Catch-22.   It just hit me that I read all these while in high school or college. Others include How to Win Friends and Influence People, The Good Earth, The Grapes of Wrath, Uncle Tom’s Cabin and Little Women.

Lusk Municipal GC(formerly Niobrara Country Club)
Hole #4

Lusk Municipal GC(formerly Niobrara Country Club)
Hole #4
GOLF LUSK MUNICIPAL GOLF COURSE: The course is 9 holes, par 36 for men and 3,197 feet from the White tees; 6,492 from the blue tees with a rating of 70.4 and a slope of 123.  I had stopped by here yesterday – thinking I’d play yesterday – the grand circle of National Park Service sites took precedence.  I shot a 48 with 19 putts and 1 lost ball.  There was no sand but there were hazards – water – well mostly lowland weeds now – but still a hazard – snake country – if it goes in – its gone. 

SUNDAY August 7, 2016
WEATHER:  62 at 5:00 am Lusk, WY, forecast high of 88 in Denver today;  
Lusk, WY EL 5020 Sunrise 5:56 am  La Junta, CO EL 4078’ Sunset 7:56 pm
Holy Ghost Church
downtown Denver, CO

TRAVEL:  BJ’s Campground, Lusk WY to Coors Field Denver CO (237 miles) to the HIE LaJunta, CO (182 miles).

Noon Mass at Holy Ghost Catholic Church in downtown Denver.  This was an older church in a high rise downtown area.  A mile walk from Coors Field (my parking was in between but closer to the field).  A cold and dark church – what might be called Romanesque style but not a real dome – certainly not spires.  Run by the Oblates of Mary – too much echo – I can’t even tell you what the readings or the priest’s homily were about – readers and the priest spoke from an old raised pulpit on the left of the altar.  Three servers, red cassocks with surplices.  Cantor who really could sing – accompanied by organ.  Organist played a postlude that displayed pyrotechnics at the organ.

Coors Field

Coors Field
Miami vs Rockies
COORS FIELD Colorado Rockies (7) vs. Miami Marlins (10)  This is a great stadium despite its downtown location – I liked the park – equal to Cleveland’s Progressive Field, downtown park but my favorites are still Miller Park then Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia.  I didn’t know it, but I had Club Level seats in Section 219, Row 4, Seat 4.     
Packer Bar
Half a block from
Coors Field
Miami got 4 runs in the 1st inning and another 4 in the top of the 4th – by then it was 8 -1 and I had been in the park more than 2 hours – I still had a long drive – I left the park.  I was on the 1st base side – sun all afternoon – avoid it for afternoon games.

PACKERS VS. COLTS – 8 pm (EDT) ESPN  This was a bummer – I had secured a room at a Holiday Inn Express in La Junta, CO and was looking forward to watching the game and it was cancelled - - - - something to do with paint and the safety of the players?

MONDAY August 8, 2016
WEATHER:  65 at 6:30 am
La Junta, CO EL 4078’ Sunrise 6:03 am  Lusk, WY EL 5020’ Sunset 7:55 pm

TRAVEL:  Holiday Inn Express La Junta to Bents Old Fort NHS La Junta, CO (10 miles) to Sand Creek Massacre NHS, Eads, CO (88 miles) to BJs Campground, Lusk, WY (389 miles).  Another long busy day – but it will save me 4 days on the road with the trailer.

NEWS TODAY ALL DELTA AIRLINES FLIGHTS grounded today due to a computer glitch – not surprising – worldwide havoc for travelers.

329 BENTS OLD FORT National Historic Site, 35110 Colorado 194, La Junta, CO
William and Charles Bent, along with Ceran St. Vrain, built the original fort on this site in 1833 to trade with plains Indians and trappers. The adobe fort quickly became the center of the Bent, St.Vrain Company's expanding trade empire that included Fort St.Vrain to the north and Fort Adobe to the south, along with company stores in Mexico at Taos and Santa Fe. The primary trade was with the Southern Cheyenne and Arapaho Indians for buffalo robes.
For much of its 16-year history, the fort was the only major permanent white settlement on the Santa Fe Trail between Missouri and the Mexican settlements. The fort provided explorers, adventurers, and the U.S. Army a place to get needed supplies, wagon repairs, livestock, good food, water and company, rest and protection in this vast "Great American Desert." During the war with Mexico in 1846, the fort became a staging area for Colonel Stephen Watts Kearny's "Army of the West". Disasters and disease caused the fort's abandonment in 1849. Archeological excavations and original sketches, paintings and diaries were used in the fort's reconstruction in 1976.
The fort was left a ruin – nothing but a pile of adobe bricks.  Today the reconstructed fort is the best I’ve seen in the National Park Service.  The reconstruction was meticulous, the furnishing of the rooms is very detailed.  Rangers do the work of maintenance and staff dressed in period costume greet visitors.  There is a well stocked bookstore.  On occasion the working blacksmith and carpenter run the forge and make wagon wheels.
Allow at least 2 hours for a thorough visit.  There is a trail that goes around the grounds but I did not walk it.  The ½ mile walk to the fort is paved.
330 SAND CREEK MASSACRE National Historic Site, 910 S Wansted st, Eads, CO
November 29, 1864 changed the course of history.

The Sand Creek Massacre: profound, symbolic, spiritual, controversial, a site unlike any other in America. 

June 27, 1864 - Colorado Territorial Governor John Evans issued a proclamation to the “friendly Indians of the Plains” and tells them to go to designated “places of safety.”   
Southern Cheyenne and Arapaho are sent to Fort Lyon (formerly Fort Wise) on the Arkansas River.

August 11, 1864 Governor John Evans issues a proclamation authorizing citizens to “kill and destroy . . .  hostile Indians.”  The War Department authorizes a 100 day volunteer cavalry regiment, the 3rd Colorado Volunteer Cavalry.  It is under the command of COL John Chivington.

August 29, 1864 In response to Evans’ proclamation of June 27, Chief Black Kettle has George Bent and another man write letters to the Indian Agent at Fort Lyon asking for a meeting.  They turn over prisoners and meet with territorial and US Army representatives.

September 28, 1864 Cheyenne and Arapaho leaders, including Black Kettle meet with Governor Evans and COL Chivington near Denver.  Chivington tells them to lay down their arms and turn themselves in at Fort Lyon.

October 1864 Evans writes that “winter . . . is the most favorable time for their chastisement . . . . “ (when the Indians horses are weak and tribes typically do not make war).  Cheyenne arrive at Fort Lyon.  Following discussions they go to Sand Creek, where Black Kettle’s band is already camped and the game and forage are better.  By mid-October there are 130 tipis and 700 Indians, mostly Cheyenne with a few Arapahoe.

November 20, 1864Colorado Third Volunteer Cavalry (mockingly called the “Bloodless Third” having seen no combat) leave Denver.  Companies from the 1st and 3rd Cavalry are already enroute.  Other companies join them along the way.

November 28, 1864 COL Chivington arrives at Fort Lyon with 850 men.  To keep his plans secret, he halts outgoing mail and restricts everyone to the fort. He leaves Fort Lyon that night with 675 men and four 12 lb mountain howitzers,  The column heads to Sand Creek.

Chvington prepared to attack the camp.  Two Company Commanders refuse to attack the camp and partake in the slaughter and subsequent mutiliation.

As 675 cavalrymen came around a prairie bend, the camps of
Peace Chiefs Black Kettle, White Antelope, and Left Hand lay in the valley before them. Black Kettle raised a 33 star American Flag and a White Flag over his tipi.  The attack continued.

The cavalry massacred of over 200 Cheyenne and Arapaho, to include many women and children

The treachery of the attack damaged the credibility of remaining Peace Chiefs – across the Plains the Cheyenne declared all out war

In 1865, the Congressional Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War (the Civil War was still in progress) took testimony, finding that Chivington had “surprised and murdered, in cold blood . . . unsuspecting women and children . .  who had every reason to believe that they were under (US) protection.”  Despite the condemnation, no one was ever indicted or tired in a civilian court.  

There is not much at this site – no movie – a small Information Center – a bookstore -  2 full time rangers - it is sacred. 

LTC George Armstrong Custer also staged s similar attack on Black Kettle’s camp several years later along the Washita River in Oklahoma – it was not called a massacre by Congress.

TUESDAY August 9, 2016
WEATHER:  59 at 5:15 am  - up to 98 in the Badlands, very windy in the evening – rocking the trailer – the plexiglass window faces west – difficult keeping it in place -  so far I’m glad it’s not raining.     Lusk, WY EL 5020’ Sunrise 5:58 am  Ellsworth AFB, SD EL 3279’ Sunset 8:04 pm
Ellsworth FamCamp
concrete pad, full hookup

TRAVEL:  BJs Campground, Lusk, WY to Ellsworth AFB FAMCAMP to Badlands National Park to Ellsworth AFB FAMCAMP.      
Ellsworth AFB FamCamp WIFI is all but non-existent, this was expected, there is a McDonald’s 7 miles down I-90.

331 BADLANDS National Park, 25216 Ben Reifel Rd, Interior, SD

The park has three units.  The North Unit is the best known and easiest to access.  This is where I went today, entering the park just south of I-90 and Wall, SD at the Pinnacles Entrance.  I followed the Badlands Loop Road to the Ben Reifel Visitor Center near Interior, SD.
Badlands National Park - really no roads in the southern units
68 miles west of Ellsworth AFB - a 50 minute drive at 80 mph on I-90

The Stronghold and Palmer Creek Units (South Unit) are located within the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.  These units are managed under a cooperative agreement between the NPS and the Ogala Lakota Sioux.  The White River Visitor Center is located in the Stronghold Unit.  I’ll visit this another day.

All the trails are located in the North Unit.  I’ll return tomorrow to walk most of these trails.

Deep canyons, towering spires, and flat-topped tables can all be found among the Badlands buttes.  They are largely the result of deposition and erosion. 

The Badlands did not begin eroding until about 500,000 years ago.  When water began to cut down through the rock layers, carving fantastic shapes into what had been a vast floodplain.  The rock is still eroding at 1” per year – it is estimated that in another 100-500,000 years the rock will be completely eroded away.

The Loop Road hugs the Badlands wall, a long, narrow, spine of formations that stretch 60 miles from Kadoka west towards the town of Scenic.

The Badlands were deposited in layers of soft sedimentary rock composed of grains of sand, silt and clay. 

There are no dinosaur fossils in the Badlands,  During the Age of Dinosaurs the Badlands were covered by a shallow inland sea.  There are fossils of extinct mammals that once roamed this region.  
Badlands - Panorama Point Overlook

Badlands - Pinnacles Overlook

WEDNESDAY August 10, 2016
WEATHER:  75 at 5:15 am, mostly cloudy – a breeze – red sky in the east .  Up to 99 in the Badlands at noon – 88 amd cloudy with wind and isolated rain in the west at 5 pm
Ellsworth AFB, SD EL 3279’ Sunrise 5:50 am  Sunset 8:03 pm MDT

TRAVEL:  Ellsworth AFB FAMCAMP,to Badlands NP to Minuteman NHS to Wall, SD to Ellsworth AFB FAMCAMP

331 BADLANDS National Park, 25216 Ben Reifel Rd, Interior, SD

Badlands - trails along the Loop Road
Fossil Exhibit Trail...Saddle Pass Trail...Cliff Shelf Trail...Notch Trail...Window Trail...Door Trail
with more time the Saddle Pass Trail to Medicine Loop and back on Castle Trail would make a good hike 

Fossil Exhibit Trail
Fossil Exhibit Trail
cast of fossils with explanations
along the trail make this trail
Fossil Exhibit Trail – ¼ mile featuring fossil replicas and exhibits of extinct animals.  EASY and fully accessible a 10 minute walk to include reading the signage.

Saddle Pass – ¼ mile up to a view through of the Badlands Wall over the White River Valley.  This was a short but strenuous climb – and even more treacherous coming down – steep and the gravel made it very slippery.  This trail would be unsafe in the rain or when it is wet.  The trail connects with Castle and Medicine Root Trails. This trail took 30 minutes to walk.

Saddle Pass Trail
Saddle Pass Trail
this is the trail looking up
I just came down - it is steep
and slippery
Saddle Pass Trail

Badlands - Cliff Shelf Nature Trail
the "notch" is evident right center
Cliff Shelf Nature Trail
the green trees made this
environment unique

Cliff Shelf Nature Trail  ½ mile on a boardwalk and stairs through a juniper forest perched along the Badlands Wall. Moderate climb of about 200’ 

Badlands -  Notch Trail
the ladder
Notch Trailhead
Notch Trail – 1 ½ mile meander through a canyon climbing a log ladder to a ledge and the “notch”  for a view of the White River Valley.  This was a moderate to strenuous trail.  The ladder was interesting.  The “notch” looks down on the Cliff Shelf Trail and its juniper forest. A 50 minute walk.

Badlands - Notch Trail
looking back to the ladder while
walking on the shelf
Badlands - Notch Trail
the warning is serious
Badlands - Notch Trail
looking down at the Cliff Shelf Nature Trail

Badlands - WindowTrail

Window Trail – ¼ mile round trip leads to a natural
window in the Badlands Wall with a view of an eroded canyon.  This was an EASY fully accessible 15 minute walk.

Door Trail – ¾ mile round trip leads through a break in the Badlands Wall known as “the Door”  to a view of the Badlands.  A 30 minute walk among the rocks.

Badlands - Door Trail

332 MINUTEMAN MISSILE National Historic Site, SD

I remember air raid drills in the 1950's
there was a belief we could survive a nuclear war
This is Stalin but Kruschev took his shoe off
in the UN and pounded on the table
"We Will Bury You"
Minuteman Missile
Visitor Center
Minuteman Missile National Historic Site is located just north of I-90 Exit 131 – less than 15 miles north of Badlands National Park and the Ben Raifel Visitor Center.  There are 3 sites associated with Minuteman Missile: the Visitor Center, Delta-01 Launch Control, and Delta-09 site of a Minuteman Silo.  The tours of Delta-01 are free but fill up early – you cannot make a reservation on line.
Minuteman Missile was once a secret facility that where Air Force personnel controlled and maintained ten nuclear missiles , part of a force of 150 nuclear missiles located in South Dakota.

The park consists of three sites along I-90, immediately north of Badlands National Park.  The Visitor Center is located immediately north of I-90 at Exit 131

The Delta-09 Missile Silo is located ¼ mile south of I-90 at Exit 127.

The Delta-01 Launch Control Center is located ¼ mile north of I-90 at Exit 127.  Reservations are required to be made the day of the tour to gain access to this site.

The deployment of Minuteman Missiles in South Dakota

The Visitor Center is a Cold War history center with emphasis on the Cuban Missile

Crisis and the fallout shelters of the 1950’s.  

I visited the Black Hills/Badlands in 1976, stayed at a Best Western hotel in Wall, SD, and drove right past these sites, I had no idea they were there.

Minuteman Missile - signage at Delta-09
In 1991 as the Cold War was coming to an end, the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) was signed by President George H.W. Bush and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.  Both sides agreed to dramatically reduce their nuclear arms.

Minuteman Missile
Delta-09 Silo Site
it was all below ground
Minuteman Missile
Three Minuteman missile fields , including the one in western South Dakota were chosen for deactivation.  As the sites were being shut down, the USAF and the NPS worked together to find a site that would represent the nuclear arms race, the Minuteman’s role during the Cold War, and the dedication of Air Force personnel who staffed the sites.

In 1999 Minuteman National Historic Site was established.  It was the first national park service site  exclusively dedicated to the Cold War. 

Delta-01 included an underground Launch Control Center (LCC) where two Air Force Officers (missileers) worked on 24 hours alert duty shifts, ready to launch missiles if there was a nuclear attack.  There were 100 LCCs and each one, like the LCC at Delta-01 remotely monitored 10 missiles. 

Badlands Harley Davidson - Wall, SD
the HD stores in Wall, Rapid City and Sturgis
appear to be all part of the same franchise
Wall Drug - Wall, SD
Today the facilities are preserved in their historic state.  The site at Delta -09 held a missile for 30 years, today it holds a Minuteman training missile.

Wall, South Dakota I visited Wall Drug Store, the Badlands Harley Davidson store and walk the all two blocks of the main drag.

THURSDAY August 11, 2016
WEATHER:  67 at 4:45 am, cloudy
Ellsworth AFB, SD EL 3279’ Sunrise 5:50 am  Sunset 8:03 pm MDT

TRAVEL:  Ellsworth AFB FAMCAMP to Sturgis, SD to Spearfish, SD to Deadwood, Sd to Lead, SD to Ellsworth AFB FAMCAMP

Went to the McDonald’s to update the blog,- WIFI works sometimes at Ellsworth usually first thing in the morning before everyone gets out of bed – then gets more finicky as the day goes on and users increase – still not good enough to update the blog.

Strugis - one block from Main Street
Sturgis Motorcycle Rally – it’s a State Fair in a city – motorcycles and vendors  everywhere.  My first impression – too many people – but it may be a good time.

I drove the Spearfish Canyon Scenic Drive to Lead and Deadwood – really did not stop anywhere except the Spearfish Chamber of Commerce for a map.  Then the rain started when I reached Savoy, SD – a lot of bikes pulled off the road for lunch and to avoid the rain.

South Dakota Air & Space Museum
B1 Bomber 
South Dakota
Air & Space Museum
Minuteman II Missile Model
Stopped at Camping World for chemicals – looks like I can buy a leveler for the trailer off the shelf. I think the bars may have had good business for a few hours.

Changed the oil and rotated the tires at Rapid Chevrolet & Cadillac – done in less than ½ hour – amazing –without an appointment.

Stopped at the South Dakota Air & Space Museum.  It is located just outside the Main Gate to Ellsworth AFBFREE This is a stop most families, anyone - should make – just because. There are exhibits inside regarding the Minuteman missile wing and B-1 bombers.  There is a large collection of planes surrounding the museum.

FRIDAY August 12, 2016
WEATHER:  61 at 5:15 am, partly cloudy – seventies in Black Hills and scattered rain in the late afternoon       Ellsworth AFB, SD EL 3279’ Sunrise 5:50 am  Sunset 8:03 pm MDT

TRAVEL:  Ellsworth AFB FAMCAMP to Jewel Cave NM to Wind Cave NP to Mount Rushmore NMem to Ellsworth AFB FAMCAMP.  This route took through the Balck Hills and a number of towns  . . .  all were welcoming the Sturgis Rally – lots of cycles on the road.  I could have stopped in Custer, Hill City, Pringle, or Keystone but decided to drive through.  The goal of my trip is still National Park Service sites, Major League Baseball Parks and a round of golf in each state I visit.  I think I’d rather be walking a trail in a park than the Main Street of a town.

Jewel Cave Entrance

333 JEWEL CAVE National Monument, Custer, SD

Jewel Cave National Monument contains Jewel Cave, currently the third longest cave in the world, with 181.89 miles of mapped passageways. It is located approximately 13 mi west of the town of Custer in South Dakota's Black Hills.

Jewel Cave - Statistics in Visitor Center
The earliest written account of Jewel Cave is a mining claim filed by Frank and Albert Michaud in 1900. The brothers described the entrance as a hole that was too small for human entry, with a blast of cold air coming out. After subsequent enlargement with dynamite, they entered the cave with Charles Bush, a friend of the family, discovering crawlways and low-ceilinged rooms coated with beautiful calcite crystals that sparkled like "jewels" in their lantern light.

The Michaud’s filed the "Jewel Tunnel Lode" mining claim in Custer on October 31, 1900. Although calcite crystals had little commercial value, it is apparent that they intended to develop this natural wonder into a tourist attraction. During the following decade, they constructed a trail within the cave, built a lodge up on the rim of Hell Canyon, and even organized the "Jewel Cave Dancing Club" in 1902 to attract tourists. However, a lack of people in this region and the difficulty of travel at that time made the tourist venture anything but a financial success. Frank Michaud bought out Charles Bush's share of the cave in 1905 for $300. For a while, Frank continued to work at the cave, exploring and keeping up the annual assessment work.

Jewel Cave - Formations in Jewel Cave
most is Dogtooth and Nailhead Spar 

A local movement to set Jewel Cave aside for preservation culminated in the proclamation of the cave as a National Monument by President Theodore Roosevelt on February 7, 1908. The Michaud brothers eventually moved away and their family sold the claim to the government for about $750.

In 1928, a group of businessmen formed the Jewel Cave Corporation and provided tours to the public. This continued until 1939. The National Park Service began administering the monument in 1933 and park rangers from Wind Cave came to the monument in the summer.

The Civilian Conservation Corps established a camp at Jewel Cave in May
Jewel Cave
There was very little of this in the cave
1935. Twenty-five men, with a budget of $1,500, accomplished several projects for the Park Service. A three-room cabin and comfort stations were built. Sewage and water connections were completed for the cabin and public campground. The cave entrance was altered to provide easier access, and a surface trail of approximately 800 feet was constructed, along with a new stone stairway. The Michaud’s original log building was removed at this time.

In 1939, a National Park Service Ranger was stationed at the monument and began conducting cave tours and providing visitor services. The cabin became home to the monument’s first permanent ranger in 1941. Except for a brief period of closure during World War II, NPS rangers staffed the cabin and cave tour operation. Then, in the late 1950s, significant discoveries were made within the cave, which lead to development of a new visitor center and cave tour route.

Jewel Cave - Nailhead Spar
At the beginning of 1959, approximately two miles of Jewel Cave had been discovered. Even though the cave was beautifully decorated with calcite spar crystals, the tour route was short, and some wondered whether this small cave was truly of national significance.

Then a geologist by the name of Dwight Deal enlisted the aid of two rock-climbing enthusiasts, Herb and Jan Conn, to help him explore within Jewel Cave. The Conns were particularly dedicated to exploring and mapping new passages, and by 1961, they had extended the known length of the cave to more than 15 miles. By then, the National Park Service had become interested in developing additional tour routes for the public to visit.

Jewel Cave - this cave had some
visuals - much better than Wind Cave
The initial discovery of the "Scenic Area" of the cave

took place in 1961. But because the original boundaries of the National Monument dated back to a time when most of the cave was unknown, these new cave passages were actually outside of those boundaries, beneath U.S. Forest Service lands. In order to proceed with plans to develop a new tour route and visitor center, a land exchange with the Forest Service was accomplished in 1965, changing the monument boundaries. Construction of the present scenic area cave trail, the elevator shafts, one elevator, the visitor center, maintenance area, and parking lot began in 1966 and took nearly 5½ years to complete. The Scenic Cave Tour route and visitor center were first opened for touring on May 28, 1972.

I arrived at the cave around 8:30 and was able to get the last ticket for the 9am the Scenic Cave Tour.   It was given by a friendly ranger.  An elevator took you down and up 234 feet below the highest level of the cave.  This is a “dry cave” – no stalagmites or stalactites as found in most limestone caves – a cool and constant 47 degree temperature and a lot of steps on the 1 ½ hour tour  – not the most ‘scenic’ I’ve been on but probably better than the Lantern Tour.
Jewel Cave - look closely - Do you see a dolphin on the cave ceiling
Jewel Cave
Tour Group coming out
of the Lantern Tour

The Lantern Tour enters and exits the cave near the ‘natural entrance.’         

The cave is now considered the 3rd largest in the world with 186 miles of explored passageways.  It is considered that only 3% of the cave has been explored.  The 3% figure is based on air calculations of the cave.  Exploration of the cave continues, providing park managers with an increasing amount of information to use for future protection of this impressive resource.

334 WIND CAVE National Park, Custer, SD
Wind Cave - Visitor Center

Wind Cave isn’t all underground.  Wind Cave National Park is 33,851 acres. Because of its relatively small size and because there are missing parts, park managers must take an active role in helping the ecosystems function as they might have in the past.

This requires understanding how everything in the park relates and how the naturally operating system would have functioned. Park rangers work with researchers to replicate that natural system using prescribed fires, bison round-ups, and biological control of exotic plant species.

Map of the areas in the Black Hills I visited today
Jewel Cave - Wind Cave and Mount Rushmore - still a lot of cycles on the raod and in the towns

In order to restore some of the missing parts to the park's ecosystem on July 4, 2007,
working with the US Fish and Wildlife Service, park biologists reintroduced one of the little known predators of the prairie - the black-footed ferret. These rare animals live on prairie dog towns and can consume over 100 prairie dogs in one year. They help maintain balance and restoring them continued the long history of Wind Cave National Park as a home to prairie plants and animals.

Wind Cave
Original Entrance
American Indians of the area have known about the opening to Wind Cave and the winds that move in and out of it for centuries. It is a sacred place for many tribes. In 1881 Jesse and Tom Bingham were also attracted to the cave by the whistling noise of the air coming out of the cave. As the story goes, wind was blowing out of the cave entrance with such force that it blew off Tom's hat. A few days later when Jesse returned to show this phenomenon to some friends, he was surprised to find the wind had switched directions and his hat was sucked into the cave. Today, we understand that the movement of the wind is related to the difference in atmospheric pressure between the cave and the surface.

The first person reported to have entered the cave was Charlie Crary in the fall of 1881. He claimed to have left twine to mark his trail, and others entering the cave later found his twine. These early explorers were the first to see a rare cave formation called boxwork.

Wind Cave - Lakota Nation
Several mining claims were established at Wind Cave, but the most noteworthy one was by the South Dakota Mining Company in 1890. J.D. McDonald was hired to manage the claim. The mining was unsuccessful, but McDonald and his family realized they could make money by giving cave tours and selling formations from the cave. They filed a homestead claim over the opening and worked on improving a manmade entrance and enlarging passageways for tours.

Wind Cave - Middle Level
Boxwork - 95% of all the boxwork in the
world is in Wind Cave - it is on the ceilings
and walls of the cave.  It is calcite.
One of J.D.'s sons, Alvin, spent much of his time exploring and mapping the cave, faithfully keeping a diary and making a map of his findings. On January 23, 1891, Alvin wrote that he had "given up finding the end of Wind Cave". Alvin's explorations were just the beginning of many adventures in the exploration of Wind Cave.

During the fall of 1893, J.D. and Alvin McDonald went to the Columbian Exposition in Chicago to advertise the cave. On the trip Alvin caught typhoid fever and was never really well again. He died that year at the age of 20. Shortly after Alvin's death, things began to go sour for the Wonderful Wind Cave Improvement Company.
The McDonalds accused the Stablers of keeping profits for themselves and demanded additional money.

Meanwhile Peter Folsom had gained control of the mining claim on the cave. Folsom and the Stablers joined forces against the McDonalds in court with both sides trying to prove that the other party had no claim to the cave. In December 1899, the Department of the Interior decided that since no mining nor proper homesteading had taken place, neither party had any legal claim to the cave. In 1901, the land around the cave was withdrawn from homesteading.

A National Park Evolves
On January 3, 1903, President Theodore Roosevelt signed the bill creating Wind Cave
Wind Cave - Ceiling of the Upper Level
no boxwork on this level - a flat ceiling
National Park. It was the eighth national park created and the first one created to protect a cave. The parklands at that time were small and there were no bison, elk, or pronghorn. They came later as the park boundaries expanded.

In 1912, the American Bison Society was looking for a place to reestablish a bison herd. Because of the excellent prairie habitat around the park, a national game preserve was established bordering Wind Cave. It was managed by the U.S. Biological Survey. In 1913 and 1914, the animals began to arrive. Fourteen bison came from the New York Zoological Society, 21 elk arrived from Wyoming and 13 pronghorn came from Alberta, Canada.  Today there is a managed bison herd in the park. 

The Visitor Center provides several guided ranger tours for a fee.  This was supposed to be a ‘expanded’ Visitor Center.  I did visit here is 1976, I really can’t remember much but it must have been small and dumpy then.  I watched a video in the auditorium and spent some time in the exhibit area.  There is a bookstore.  

There are 5 tours available – I must have taken the Natural Entrance Tour in 1976.

Garden of Eden Tour
This 1-hour tour is our least strenuous tour. It is a wonderful sample of Wind Cave. Small amounts of all of the beautiful cave formations - boxwork, cave popcorn, and flowstone - are seen along this 1/3 mile tour. The tour is designed for people with limited time or abilities. It enters and leaves the cave by elevator with 150 steps along the tour route.
Wind Cave - Boxwork

Natural Entrance Tour
This tour includes a visit to the natural entrance of Wind Cave where visitors can see where the cave was discovered and learn how it got its name. Participants enter the cave through a man-made entrance and journey through the middle level of the cave. Wind Cave's famous boxwork is abundant throughout this trip. Most of the 300 stairs along this route are down. This moderately strenuous 2/3 mile tour lasts 1¼ hours and exits the cave by elevator.

Fairgrounds Tour
This 1½ hour tour explores both the upper and middle levels of Wind Cave. Boxwork is abundant along the trail in the middle level of the cave. In the upper level, the trail winds through the larger rooms where popcorn and frostwork can be seen. This is our most strenuous walking tour. The tour enters and exits the cave by elevator and there are 450 stairs along the 2/3 mile route with one flight of 89 steps going up.

Wind Cave - Toru Routes

The NPS rangers also offer a Candlelight Tour and a Wild Cave Tour.

While investigating the naturally operating systems, park managers realized that the cave is not an isolated environment. What happens on the land can and often does influence the cave. Understanding where cave passages are located in relation to the land above helps to avoid damaging the cave. For example, if the land is altered, it might change the way water travels through the cave and change cave formations. Exploration is important and is a continuous project with several miles of new cave being surveyed each year.

In 1959 exploration trips conducted by the National Speleological Society, a group devoted to the exploration, study and protection of caves, resulted in new passages being mapped within the vicinity of the tour routes. Their explorations renewed interest in exploring and studying the unique passages of Wind Cave.  The cave currently has 139 miles of explored passages and it is estimated that 5-10% of the caves passages have been discovered.

Mount Rushmore

335 MOUNT RUSHMORE National Memorial , Keystone, SD

A lot has changed here since a visit in 1976.  Cary Grant certainly would not recognize the place.  First of all there are 4 huge parking structures run by a concessionaire at a charge of $11 per automobile.  Somehow, I think the NPS gets a cut of this.

Mount Rushmore - layout of the site

When sculptor Gutzon Borglum looked at the knobby, cracked face of Mount Rushmore he saw a vision of four United States Presidents carved into the mountain.  Between 1927 and 1941, with the help of over 400 workers and several influential politicians, Borglum began carving a memorial to the history of America.  Today Mount Rushmore is host to over 3 million visitors each year.

The original model in Borglum's Sculpture Shop
The model is 1/12 the size of the sculpture
1" on the model equal 1 foot on the mountain
the bottom part of the model was not finished because
rock was not strong enough

The memorial is now host to an Information Center, Gift Shop, Café, Avenue of the Flags, Visitor Center and Amphitheater.  Borglum’s Studio and the ½ mile Presidential Trail with 450 stairs are also on the site.

There is what seems to be a rather old film narrated by Tom Brokow, shown every 10 minutes, in two theaters. 

SATURDAY August 13, 2016
WEATHER:  61 at 5:15 am, partly cloudy – seventies in Black Hills and scattered rain in the late afternoon       Ellsworth AFB, SD EL 3279’ Sunrise 5:54 am  Sunset 7:59 pm MDT


Almost drove to Devil’s Tower NM, WY but decided Monday will be a better day.  Still reconciling NPS sites visited - - - edited and labeled yesterday’s photos -  laundry at this FamCamp is FREE so I did laundry – Sunday Mass is said in the Base Chapel at 0930 – WIFI here is still not reliable most of the time – will go to McDonald’s after lunch.

Today is the last official day of the Sturgis Rally – most cycles are headed for home.

SUNDAY August 14, 2016
WEATHER:  61 at 6:15 am, a rare sleep in for me, some wisps of cloud
South Dakota weather windy most of the day; high in the 90’s’ clouds form and thunderstorms in the early evening to cool things off 71 at 1915; you can see the storms in the distance – some hit some don’t 
Ellsworth AFB, SD EL 3279’ Sunrise 5:55 am  Sunset 7:57 pm MDT


Mass 0930 St. Christopher’s Catholic Community in the Black Hills Chapel of the Ellsworth AFB.  It appears this is a permanent catholic chapel on base. There is a separate Protestant Chapel.  The pastor is a Msgr, and probably an Air force Colonel.  Attendance of about 90; mostly young families with children.  Four servers in albs, three girls, one boy and a deacon.  Choir of 4 women’s voices accompanied by a lady on the baby grand.  The homily was directed specifically at the younger people starting school,  but a message for all – do the right thing based on the first reading.

Sturgis is officially over.  People leaving the FamCamp today and heading home.

Prairie Ridge Golf Course Club House
Ellsworth AFB - South Dakota
Prairie Ridge Golf Course
1st Hole top of the hill
Prairie Ridge Golf Course.  This is an Ellsworth AFB facility but just outside the main gate i.e. adjacent to the base, but you do not have to gain access to the base in order to get to the golf course. Played in 2 hours behind a foursome – had to wait on every shot – actually no-where to go.  Cost was $21 with a cart.  I shot 51 with 23 putts, 1 lost ball.  The greens were tough.

Ellsworth AFB FAMCAMP WIFIdown at 6pm and for the rest of the evening – just when it seemed to be working fine during the day.

MONDAY August 15, 2016
WEATHER:  61 at 4:45 am,  a number of t-storms ran through here between 8 and 11 last night, South Dakota weather  a hot - afternoon close to 90 then clouds isolated storms and rain – it cools down quick
Ellsworth AFB, SD EL 3279’ Sunrise 5:56 am  Sunset 7:56 pm MDT

TRAVEL:  Ellsworth AFB FAMCAMP to Devil’s Tower National Monument, WY to Belle Fouche to Ellsworth AFB FAMCAMP.  Past Sturgis twice – just no desire for a drive through again – still some bikes on the road but the bikers are gone.

336 DEVIL’S TOWER National Monument , Devils Tower, WY

This site was not on the plan for this year – but with some extra time and it’s not that far away - - -  I thought I may save a day or two in next year’s travels.

Devils Tower rises above the surrounding grassland and Ponderosa pine forests like a rocky sentinel. Northern Plains Tribes have lived and held ceremonies near this remarkable geologic formation for thousands of years. Fur trappers, explorers, and settlers alike were awed by the tower's majesty. In 1906, President Theodore Roosevelt established Devils Tower as our nation's first national monument. 

I have also been enthralled with Devils Tower as a rock formation – very unique. Close Encounters cinched it . . . . I’ve passed by this way in the past but never stopped for a visit.

Most of the landscape surrounding Devils Tower is composed of sedimentary rocks. These rocks are formed from broken or dissolved fragments of other rocks and are usually deposited by water or wind.  Devil’s Tower itself is igneous rock.

The oldest rocks visible in Devils Tower National Monument were laid down in a shallow inland sea. This sea covered much of the central and western United States during Triassic time, 225 to 195 million years ago. This dark red sandstone and maroon siltstone, interbedded with shale, can be seen along the Belle Fourche River. Oxidation of iron rich minerals causes the redness of the rocks. This rock layer is known as the Spearfish Formation.

Above the Spearfish Formation is a thin band of white gypsum, called the Gypsum Springs Formation. Gypsum is an important mineral resource commonly used in making drywall. This layer of gypsum was deposited during the Jurassic time, 195 to 136 million years ago.

Seas retreated and returned. Gray-green shales deposited offshore in deep marine environments were interbedded with fine-grained sandstones, limestones, and sometimes thin beds of red mudstone. These rock layers, called the Stockade Beaver member, are part of the Sundance Formation—also of Jurassic Age.

Kiowa Legend of how
Devils Tower Was Formed
Kiowa Legend 

The Hulett Sandstone member, also part of the Sundance formation, is a yellow, fine-grained sandstone deposited on an ancient beach. Resistant to weathering, it forms the nearly vertical cliffs that encircle the Tower itself.

Seas retreated and advanced; landforms developed and eroded. New sediments were deposited. Approximately 50 to 60 million years ago, during Tertiary time, pressures within western North America climaxed, uplifting the Rocky Mountains and the Black Hills. At this time or shortly after, magma (molten rock) welled up toward the surface of the earth, intruding into the already existing sedimentary rock layers.

Devils Tower
Prairie Dog Village 

Geologists agree that Devils Tower was formed by the intrusion (the forcible entry of magma into or between other rock formations) of igneous material. What they cannot agree upon is how that process took place and whether or not the magma reached the land surface.

Numerous ideas have evolved since the official discovery of Devils Tower. Geologists Carpenter and Russell studied Devils Tower in the late 1800s and came to the conclusion that the Tower was indeed formed by an igneous intrusion. Later geologists searched for more detailed explanations.

Devils Tower
from Prairie Dog Village
In 1907, scientists Darton and O'Hara decided that Devils Tower must be an eroded remnant of a laccolith. A laccolith is a large, mushroom–shaped mass of igneous rock which intrudes between the layers of sedimentary rocks but does not reach the surface. This produces a rounded bulge in the sedimentary layers above the intrusion. This idea was quite popular in the early 1900s when numerous studies were done on a number of laccoliths in the Southwest.

Other ideas have suggested that Devils Tower is a volcanic plug or that it is the neck of an extinct volcano. Although there is no evidence of volcanic activity - volcanic ash, lava flows, or volcanic debris - anywhere in the surrounding countryside, it is possible that this material may simply have eroded away.

The simplest explanation is that Devils Tower is a stock—a small intrusive body formed by magma which cooled underground and was later exposed by erosion.

Devils Tower from
Tower Trail
The magma which formed Devils Tower cooled and crystallized into a rock type known as phonolite porphyry. It is a light to dark-gray or greenish-gray igneous rock with conspicuous crystals of white feldspar. Hot molten magma is less dense and occupies more volume than cool hardened rock. As the rock cooled, it contracted, forming hexagonal (and sometime 4-, 5- and 7-sided) columns separated by vertical cracks. These columns are similar to those found at Devil's Postpile National Monument in California but those at Devils Tower are much larger.

Until erosion began its relentless work, Devils Tower was not visible above the overlying sedimentary rocks. But the forces of erosion, particularly that of water, began to wear away the soft sandstones and shales above and around the Tower. The much harder igneous rock of the Tower survived the onslaught of erosional forces, and the gray columns of Devils Tower began to appear above the surrounding landscape.

As rain and snow continue to erode the sedimentary rocks surrounding the Tower's base, and the Belle Fourche River carries away the debris, more of Devils Tower will be exposed. But at the same time, the Tower itself is slowly being eroded. Rocks are continually breaking off and falling from the steep walls. Rarely do entire columns fall, but on remote occasions, they do. Piles of rubble, broken columns, boulders, small rocks, and stones, lie at the base of the Tower, indicating that it was, at some time in the past, larger than it is today.

Eventually, at some time far in the future, even Devils Tower itself will erode away.

Arrived here about 8:45 am and event then the parking lot was 80% full . . . some bikers  and a busload of Japanese tourists.  There is a small Visitor Center, bookstore – no video.  There are 3 short trails. The Tower Trail around Devil’s Tower was closed halfway due to maintenance. I walked it halfway and came back.  The KOA is just ouside the entrance – not much else here – glad I saved the trip next year.

This is the first time in almost a week that I’ve heard jets at Ellsworth AFB - - - I’m almost a mile away but I think it may have been a B1 – very loud and I a huge tail – never saw it take off.

TUESDAY August 16, 2016
WEATHER:  62 at 5:15 am, sunny high in the upper 80’s; several squall lines came through in the evening
Ellsworth AFB, SD EL 3279’ Sunrise 5:58 am  Sunset 7:52 pm MDT

Minuteman Missiile
TRAVEL:  Ellsworth AFB FAMCAMP to Badlands National Park to Ellsworth AFB FAMCAMP.

Updated the blog at McDonald's in Rapid City

Ellwsorth AFB: Today I saw 5 B-1s – they really do exist.  Saw a pair land this afternoon.  They may be as many as 35 on this base.

Minuteman Missile NHS
Seun Tzu quot
332 MINUTEMAN National Monument,  SD
This was a revisit.  I arrived at 9 am and attempted to schedule a tour of the Launch Control Facility (LCF).  The first opening was 1:45 pm.  I wasn’t going to hang around the Badlands for 4 more hours. Tours are given every 15 minutes.  Reservations are only taken the day of the tour.  I didn’t ask ‘Do people form lines at 8 am?’  I saw a replica of the LCF at the South Dakota Air & Space Museum.

White River Contact Station
331 BADLANDS National Park,  SD

Another revisit; with a goal of visiting the South Unit adjacent to and part of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation.  I drove south through the Northeast Entrance, a quick stop at the Ben Reifel Visitor Center  and exited the park at Interior.  I continued the drive west along SD Hwy 44 to Scenic (Pop 44 – the Main Street is a dirt road).  There were still a few bikes on the road.  South from Scenic and entering the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation to the White River Visitor Center.

Badands South Unit looking east
The White River Visitor Center is a seasonal contact station, no bookstore; exhibits focus on Ogala Lakota SiouxPine Ridge and the South (Stronghold) Unit of the Badlands NP were used as bombing ranges during WW II.  There are no roads through the Badlands Stronghold Unit but probably some unexploded ordinance.    

Wounded Knee is still south of the VC.  I did not make the visit but headed west along Hwy 2; then north along Hwy 41 skirting the boundary of the Badlands.  The area is jointly managed by the NPS and the Lakota Sioux. Hwy 41 turns into Hwy 40 to Hermosa and back to Rapid City and Ellsworth AFB.

This appears to be another good “bike ride.”   There were special ‘watering holes,’ advertising ‘cold beer’ set up along the route during the Sturgis Rally.

Badlands South Unite along Hwy 40/41 looking West to the Black Hills 

Ellsworth AFB
Description of Launch Facility
South Dakota Air & Space Museum  After the second disappointment of taking a tour at Minuteman Missile NHS, I decided to take the tour of Ellsworth AFB Minuteman II Training Facility.  The cost of the tour was $8, payable to the Ellsworth Heritage Foundation.  Admission to the museum is FREE.  There were only 5 on the tour bus and this included a visit into the training silo, explanation of how the missiles were installed and maintained in the silos.  Nothing like this is available at the NPS site.

I did spend sometime walking the museum again and viewing the collection of planes outside of the museum.  

44th Missile Wing
Training Launch Facility

Transport Vehcile for the Minuteman II
Stage I and Stage 2.  Used for trnasport'
to the missile silo.

"A" hatch is open
this was for personnel to access to the silo

The van carried the 1.2 megatib warhead
the collar (part of the van) went around the
silo to keep eyes off the silo access 

"A" hatch ladder on landing in silo 

Minuteman II Training Missile in
training silo

WEDNESDAY August 17, 2016
WEATHER:  65 at 5:15 am, sunny;  again several squall lines came through in the evening    Ellsworth AFB, SD EL 3279’ Sunrise 5:58 am  Sunset 7:52 pm MDT


A laid back day . . .  read Kit Carson: The Life of an American Border Man; cleaned the trailer, prepared for the last two weeks on the road this year.

I’m glad the Air Force decided to fly again this week – it just didn’t sound like an air base last week.  Plenty of B1s around here.

THURSDAY August 18, 2016
WEATHER:  67 at 4:45 am, mostly cloudy – windy at 9 am; very,very windy with squalls all around at 5:30 pm   . . . . admittedly the wind can be scary – trailer rocking.  Lightning in the distance . . . no rain here – no thunder but very, very windy – ooops there was some very distant thunder and then the rain came   
Ellsworth AFB, SD EL 3279’ Sunrise 5:59 am  MDT Valentine, NE EL 2582’ Sunset 8:39 pm CDT

TRAVEL:  Ellsworth AFB FAMCAMP to Fishberry Campground, Valentine, NE Niobrara National Scenic River.  A 200 mile drive 9.2 mpg over 3.5 hours.

Fishberry Campground
Valentine, NE
Ellsworth Fam Camp WIFI was able to transfer some photos and words but slow and just wouldn’t accept updates anymore after 0630.

Fishberry Campground:  only 22 sites; 4 are occupied. iWIFI s high-speed and appears dependable – but this is the prairie – just a lot of low hills and prairie all around – few trees and a constant wind.

337 NIOBRARA National Scenic River, NE
There Visitor Center which is said to be located at 214 W Hwy 20, Valentine, NE is actually the Cherry County Historical Museum.  No connection with the NPS.

Fort Niobrara National Wildlife Refuge
US Fish & Wildlife Service 

The Niobrara National Scenic River is not just the premier recreation river in Nebraska. It is a unique crossroads where many species of plants and animals coexist unlike anywhere else. High water quality and the relatively free-flowing nature of the Niobrara support diverse life while unique fossil-filled sandstone cliffs host over 200 waterfalls.

Most land along the Niobrara River (including the streambed, banks, and islands) is privately owned.

The National Park Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Nebraska Game and Parks Commission, other federal, state, and county agencies, and private landowners work in partnership to manage the Niobrara National Scenic River.

Fort Niobrara Visitor Center
US Fish & Wildlife Service 
The Visitor Center is run by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.  I visited at 4:40 pm it closes at 4:30.  Earlier by luck, I found the beginning of the Niobrara National Scenic River at Bridge on Highway 220.

Cattlemen from south of the sandhills were the first Euro-Americans to spend any great length of time in the sandhills and to extensively exploit the central Niobrara River area.
In the 1870s, using Texas cattle, Mexican cattle-raising methods, and the free grass of the plains, a small number of men profited from the open range of the sandhills and the Niobrara River valley. They found a ready market at the military forts where the army purchased cattle to supply the Indian reservations.

Niobrara map of western part of the NSR
Note location of Borman Bridge &
Fort Niobrara VC

The deep ravines and canyons along the Niobrara River provided ideal places to hide stolen cattle, and cattlemen’s associations and vigilante groups were formed to curb the rustling.

Federal and local regulations began to restrict the free range, but it took the farmer to settle the sandhills, change ranching, and convert a frontier to a state. While the eastern third of the state was populated in the 1850s, it would be another thirty years before the central Niobrara Valley was settled.
Borman Bridge over the Niobrara River
Hwy 220 single lane - wood planked
Picture taken from Borman Landing

Borman Bridge Landing
the beginning of Niobrara NSR

I first visited the Cherry County Museum.  FREE but donations are accepted.  A room for cowboys and ranchers, a room of dolls/pianos-organs/military uniforms; a room of business equipment old typewriters, dentists, optometrists.  A very helpful staff.  This is not the NPS VC.

Niobrara National Scenic River mapn

Niobrara NSR - Geology

Cherry County’s first homesteader, Charles Sears, staked his claim ten miles east of Valentine and received his patent in 1886. Niels Nielsen, a Danish immigrant, estimated that a sod house cost about $50 to build, and a wood-frame house cost $250 to build in 1889. $272 in materials would build the two miles of barbed-wire fence to enclose a 160 acre quarter-section homestead. Promoters and developers made dubious claims regarding the productivity of the land and amount of rainfall, leading to a high failure rate among homesteaders who tried their hand at dry-land farming.

Niobrara NSR - Geology
The 20th Century
One animal unit (cow and unweaned calf) requires from 10 to 30 acres of grazing in this rangeland, so a traditional 160 acre homestead could only support from 5 to 16 head of breeding stock – not a profitable number. In 1904, President Theodore Roosevelt signed the Kincaid Act, increasing the size of a western Nebraska homestead to 640 acres, a full square mile section. This acreage proved more practical for the type of prairie range present in the area, and made ranching a more attractive prospect than attempting to grow crops.

Between 1900 and 1935, the average sandhills ranch had doubled in size from 640 to 1280 acres. However, as ranches increased in size to over 4000 acres by the end of the 1900s, population steadily declined, with 1990 census counts lower than those of 1890. In some respects, the area is returning to its frontier phase as sparsely populated rangeland.

FRIDAY August 19, 2016
Niobrara River with dam
WEATHER:  61 at 5:45 am, rained most of the night, raining again at 0645.    
Valentine, NE 2582’ Sunrise 6:53 am  Sunset 8:37 pm CDT

TRAVEL:  Fishberry CG to Niobrara NSR to The Prairie Club to Fishberry CG

337 NIOBRARA National Scenic River, NE
Return to the Visitor Center.  A pleasant surprise with a fairly large book store and exhibits.  The VC is run by the Sandhills Prairie Refuge Association.  There is an auto tour through the wildlife refuge.  I walked a short trail to view the Fort Falls.

In 1991 Congress designated 76 miles of the Niobrara River east of Valentiine, NE as part of the Wild and Scenic Rivers System

Niobrara - Fort Falls
Niobrara River - Fort Falls Trail

The Niobrara River begins in the high plains of eastern Wyoming and flows 553 miles to join the Missouri River in northeastern Nebraska. 

The Prairie Club
17 miles south of Valentine, NE
this is all there is at the entrance
and then its a dirt road
Golf – The Prairie Club
“Top 50 Most Fun Courses in the US”Golf Digest 2012
“The 10 Places for 36 Holes in North America”Links Magazine 2013
“Top 100 Greatest Public Courses” Golf Digest 2015

Prairie Club
Hole #1 from Green Tees
Par 4 359 yds
Where is the green.  Hit to the center
This club has two18 hole courses  (the Dunes and the Pines) and a 10 hole par 3 course (the Horse) designed with the idea of ‘leave well enough alone’.  The quotes above are from golf magazines. 

I had an 1130 tee time – no one in front of me – there was a tee time of 0930 for a twosome on the Dunes Course.  One of the courses is designated for non-members.

All of the greens were undulating
anything but flat - surrounded by
tall prarie grass
The Dunes Saloon on Hole #9
inside much better than outside
good food and drinks
The Dunes is a Par 73, 7,583 yard course.  The website says the Dunes is “ marked by dramatic elevation changes, views of the Nebraska Sandhills in all directions and immense blowouts.  This is a wind-shaped landscape and rolling seascape looking for a bright calm slick of green.

The Prairie Club
Hole #13 Par 3  131 yds from the white tees
also passes the Dunes Saloon again
Luckily - I greened it here - 

Where is the green?   Look hard you can
see the pin against the sky.  I  still took a 4
You can't tell from here but the green is huge
i.e very long and undulating.
 and when you putt it rolls & rolls & rolls & rolls
I played from the GREEN TEES Course rating 69.9; Slope 118; 6,428 yds Par 73.  I shot 50 on the front 9 with 23 putts (10 on the 1st 3 holes) 2 lost balls and one in the sand.  I shot 49 on the back with 22 putts and 2 lost balls.  This was the most I’ve ever paid for  a round of golf $240 – but I had a ball.   I think the price was good for as much golf as I wanted.  It’s $149 if you stay here but the rooms are $249 a night. 

I had a great time.  The course was in great shape, lots of sand traps but the fairways were mostly wide, forever undulating.  Don’t hit it in the rough (the prairie) it’s gone.  Most shots to the greens were blind shots.  Surprise when you got to the greens  - they were large and undulating – hard as concrete and fast.  I played 18 in just about 3 hours.  You cannot walk this course.

SATURDAY August 20, 2016
WEATHER:  49 at 5:45 am, clear in Valentine, NE    
Valentine, NE 2582’ Sunrise 6:54 am CDT    Yankton, SD EL 1211’ Sunset 8:23 pm CDT

TRAVEL:  Fishberry CG Valentine, NE to Yankton/Missouri KOA Yankton, SD to Missouri NRR to Yankton/Missouri KOA

Yankton/Missouri KOA: a typical Midwestern KOA – WIFI works, gravel site is mostly level – not near an interstate, sites not immediately on top of each other - only issue here is flies - means they're breeding somewhere.  First flies in 8 weeks. Killed more flies than weeks on the road.this summer.

338 MISSOURI National Recreational River, NE
Today is a Saturday and I have planned to stay through Sunday.

Typical of the NPS and its NRR sites there is no Visitor Center.  Well they say there is a VC but its run by another agency.  I wonder what the rangers really do?   The HQ is located at 508 E 2nd Street, Yankton, SD.  Of course it is only open Monday through Friday 8am – 4:30 pm  (except Federal Holidays) - prime time for families to use recreational facilities.
Missouri National Recreational River HQ
Yankton, SD

I found a 65 mile long Wild & Scenic Middle Missouri River Driving Tour advertised on line, but it is hard to obtain a brochure on a weekend. 

A 100-mile stretch of North America's longest river, a vestige of the untamed American West. The Missouri National Recreational River is where imagination meets reality. Two free flowing stretches of the Missouri make up the NPS site

Humans have shaped and in turn been shaped by the mighty Missouri River. Changes to the river brought about by human activity over the past two centuries have dramatically changed the lives of countless people. Some of these people have become renowned historical personages:

Chief Standing Bear
This Ponca Indian chief made history as a civil rights advocate and in the process helped all Native Americans become citizens of the United States. The case of Standing Bear v. Crook began on May 1, 1879 before Judge Elmer S. Dundy in U.S. District Court in Omaha. On May 12, Judge Dundy ruled in favor of Standing Bear, reasoning that he & his band were indeed "persons" under the law, entitled to sever tribal connections & were free to enjoy the rights of any other person in the land.

There is something called Riverboat Days going in Yankton – along the river across from the Missouri River NRR HQ – that’s why the parking lot was full on a Saturday.

SUNDAY August 21, 2016
WEATHER:  54 at 5:45 am, clear   
Valentine, NE 1211’ Sunrise 6:42 am CDT    Yankton, SD EL 1211’ Sunset 8:21 pm

TRAVEL:  Yankton SD area

Sacred Heart Church - Yankton, SD
Sacred Heart Church 8 am Mass. Two servers, a boy and a girl, the boy couldn’t have been much over 3’ 10” – he was small; keyboardist and cantor.  The priest’s homily was related to the gospel and discipline.  He related, how we all as children were disciplined by our parents – probably daily – but we only remember a few instances.  His homily did not drag on and he was interestng.  So there is discipline in our growing up and then there is self- discipline. . .the Olympic athletes – his ending comment “don’t ever give up.”  Inspirational  - coincidental – I just decided this morning that I would attempt to visit all the NPS sites in Alaska.

Missouri NRR
Army Corps of Engineers
 Lewis & Clark VC
NOTE the ACOE logo
337 MISSOURI National Recreational River, NE
Today is a Sunday and yes the NRR’s HQ is not open on Sunday. 

I did download and print the mile long Wild & Scenic Middle Missouri River Driving Tour from the NPS web site.  Amazingly it starts form the Park HQ. Well, at least I thought it did – without a map it is impossible – I went on a wild goose chase trying to find a non-existent highway – but I did find a golf course and most importantly the Lewis and Clark VC run the Army Corp of Engineers (ACOE).Don’t follow the GPS address from the NPS website  it’ll put you on the golf course. The VC itself is marked but easy to miss.

Missouri NRR Army Corps of Engineers
Lewis & Clark VC - Gavins Point Dam & Powerplant

Tne ACOE VC,located on Calumet Bluff just below the Gavins Point Dam, offered 4 films, a good bookstore and some outstanding exhibits.  I watched the Lewis and Clark film – produced in 1991 – still a good film  - something tells me I may have even seen it before.

The folks here had no idea about a Driving Tour and the NPS, but did admit that they get some literature from the NPS.   . . . .  the fact that the VC is in Nebraska the drive route is in SD may have something to do with it..

ACOE has some great camping facilities. I picked up a CD that covers them all state by state.

Missouri NRR Army Corps of Engineers Lewis & Clark VC - route of the 'Corps of Discovery'
on the return Lewis & Clark split the group in the Bitteroot Mountains
meeting at the confluence of the Yellowstone & Missouri Rivers
Lewis and Clark
The Lewis and Clark expedition in search of the Missouri River's headwaters left the first
detailed record of the flora, fauna and geology of North America's longest waterway. The Missouri National Recreational River corridor serves as a microcosm of the expedition. Nearly all the activities that the party was to engage in throughout the two and a half year journey were acted out in this region. The landmark events along the MNRR corridor included:
  • The two captains recorded their first impressions and descriptions of Plains Indians tribes, primarily of the great Sioux nation. Their council with the Ihanktonwan Nakota (Yankton Sioux) at the end of August 1804 demonstrated their diplomatic efforts.
  • Clark drew maps of this part of the river, though unfortunately his originals are lost.
  • Lewis engaged in scientific inquiries, to the point of becoming violently sick from tasting the rock and minerals at today's Ponca State Park.
  • Joseph Fields killed the party's first bison near today's Burbank, South Dakota.
  • Expedition members discovered new species of fauna such as the pronghorn, the prairie dog and the mule deer, all along what is now the park's 39-mile reach.

Missouri NRR Army Corps of Engineers Lewis & Clark VC - Grant  Marsh

Grant Marsh
He was probably the greatest Missouri River pilot during the Steamboat Era. His flawless record of safe voyages along the mighty river made him a legend. His vast amount of experience as a riverboat pilot led to him to be requested as master and pilot of the Far West to accompany Gen. Alfred Terry and Lt. Col. George Custer on their ill-fated campaign against the Sioux and Northern Cheyenne in 1876. Marsh traveled 64 miles up the shallow Bighorn to the mouth of the Little Big Horn in support of the troops. The Far West's 54-hour, 710-mile day-and-night dash to Bismarck with more than 50 wounded troopers brought news of the Seventh Cavalry's fate to the rest of the nation then celebrating its centennial year. 

Finished reading Kit Carson: The Life of an American Border Man.  Published by the University of Oklahoma Press it promised by be an interesting read – the author presented a balanced Kit Carson to include the fictional Kit Carson from the dime novels to the real Kit Carson who was a mountain man, guide for three Fremont expeditions west,  Indian Fighter, Indian Agent and  Civil War Colonel.   A balance between the myth, the merciless Indian killer, and the man of few words with a high devotion to duty – no doubt there is a history of controversial relations with American Indians.  The Navajo to this day do not depict him as ‘hero.’

MONDAY August 22, 2016
WEATHER:  67 at 5:30 am, clear – 87 and partly cloudy at 3:30 pm in Salina, KS,    
Yankton, NE 1211’ Sunrise 6:44 am CDT    Salina, KS EL 1227’ Sunset 8:14 pm CDT

TRAVEL:  Yankton SD KOA to Salina KS KOA – a trip of about 300 miles almost due south.

Salina KOA - Note WIFI tower
eventually it connected and works great
Salina KOA: Like the KOAs I remember – adjacent to an Interstate – I-70 is about 150 yards south of my site, the WIFI is questionable – a tower is two lots away but I can’t connect  – reminds me of MOAB – site is gravel – almost level – there is some shade – people are friendly.  I’m about as far as you can get from the shower house which is very clean and decorated nicely.  The owners live on site.

Adjusted the count of NPS sites, this time I believe it to be on target and correct.  Nicodemus is 340 out of a possible 412 to visit.  I’ll probably go back and renumber the sites on the blog. There are 24 in Alaska including World War II Valor in the Pacific (which also includes Pearl Harbor-whichAdd caption I’ve been to several times) and Yukon Gold Rush (which also includes a site in the state of Washington that I will visit before I go to AK) – Bottom Line I’ve decided to try to visit all in Alaska leaving only 7 – most created by Obama in the last 3 years – so they do not even have facilities yet. – all in the eastern US but one is on the south side of Chicago.

TUESDAY August 23, 2016
WEATHER:  75 at 5:15 am, it’s warm with a steady wind and high clouds    
Salina, KS 1227’ Sunrise 6:51 am  Sunset 8:13 pm CDT

TRAVEL:  Salina KOA to Nicodemus NHS to Fort Larned NHS to Salina, KOA.  Alot of driving . . . . . but worth it - saw a lot of rural Kansas

Salina KOA: Finally made a connection to the WIFI – like doing research “persistence” and as the priest said in his homily on Sunday “don’t give up”

Nicodemus Visitor Center and Town Hall
Represenitng Self-Government - one of the Pillars
of an African-American Community
I think this is the permanet VC not temporary
340 NICODEMUS National Historic Site, 304 Washington Avenue, Nicodemus, KS

A visit here is like a visit to Arkansas Post, you really have to want to get here; and as usual a very pleasant surprise.  Today Nicodemus has a population of 18.  The ranger in the Visitor Center (Town Hall) was extremely friendly – I’m pretty sure she loved what she was doing.  The VC has a film produced in 1991 that is basically interviews with people who grew up in Nicodemus; those who parents and grandparents were the founders.

The Five Historic Buildings represent the five pillars that continue to anchor African-American communities: Church (AME & First Methodist), Self-Government (Town Hall), Busines/Home (St. Francis Hotel/Switizer Resdience) and Education (School District No 1).  Plan about an hour for a visit.

How Nicodemus got started

Formerly enslaved African Americans left Kentucky in organized colonies at the end of the of post-Civil War Reconstruction period to experience freedom in the "promised land" of Kansas. Nicodemus represents the involvement of African Americans in the westward expansion and settlement of the Great Plains. It is the oldest and only remaining Black settlement west of the Mississippi River.

The National Park Service has a temporary Visitor Center in the Nicodemus Township Hall located south of the Roadside Park off Highway 24. The Visitor Center has exhibits, an audio-visual program, and a bookstore. Also, don't forget to stamp your Passport while you're there! The temporary Visitor Center is the only one of the five historic buildings fully accessible to the public, but the foyer of the AME Church has been opened to allow visitors to view the interior. If you would like to explore the town on foot, a walking tour brochure is available at the Visitor Center.

The growth of  Nicodemus but without a railroad growth did not continue
African Methodist Episcopal

The five historic buildings represent spirit of Nicodemus - church, self government, education, home, and business. They illustrate the individual and collective strength of character and desire for freedom of these early pioneers, who established Nicodemus - one of the oldest and most famous Black towns on the western plains.
The five historic buildings were declared a unit of the National Park System on November 12, 1996. Nicodemus National Historic Site was signed into law by former President William J. Clinton.

341 FORT LARNED National Historic Site, 1767 Hwy 156, Larned, KS

The Visitor Center is in a former Barracks.  It has a short film about the history of the fort, a good bookstore and some exhibits.  The walk through the fort and furnished buildings takes about 1 ½ hours. .

From the 1820s to the 1870s, the Santa Fe Trail was a vital commercial route. Although the trail was also used by some settlers and travelers continuing west to places like California, most Santa Fe Trail users were motivated by the promise of profit. Intrepid traders loaded their wagons with goods such as textiles and manufactured goods produced in the United States and hauled them overland to Santa Fe for sale. The nearly 800 mile journey took an average of two months to complete one way. After selling their goods in Santa Fe, the traders returned east with gold, silver, mules, and other goods acquired in Santa Fe. Mexican traders made the same journey on the Santa Fe Trail in the opposite order.

Santa Fe Trail

Santa Fe Trail - note the split of the Mountain Route through Bent's Fort and Raton Pass
and the Cimmarron Route which was shorter, more isolated and had less water 
Those who undertook the journey from Independence, Missouri to Santa Fe and back had much to gain and everything to lose. While some travelers made the trip without incident, the unforgiving climate, illness, mechanical failures, starvation, dehydration, and the potential for violent encounters created an array of challenges to prepare for and overcome. While some struck it rich, others lost their fortunes, their health, or their lives. “I wondered, too, if the breezes that swept this high table-land could speak, what tales of snowstorms, of sand storms, of freezing and starving cattle, or perishing men, it would whisper in our ears,” wrote Santa Fe Trail traveler Hezekiah Brake in 1858.
Fort Larned - aerial view  Officer Row left  - Barracks & Hospital back
 shops right -commissary & quartermaster front
Fort Larned Hospital
Note the yellow floor

Serious natural hazards aside, Santa Fe Trail travelerAdd captions were also trespassing on land already inhabited by tribes such as the Kiowa, Apache, Comanche, Arapaho, and Cheyenne. Although most interactions between trail travelers and American Indians were peaceful, distrust was pervasive on both sides. Wagon trains laden with supplies were high-value targets for the type of ambush attacks and raiding in which Native warriors excelled. Pushed farther from productive hunting grounds and frustrated by white activities and hostility over time, many Native warriors struck back to defend their homes. As trail traffic increased by the mid-19th Century, episodes of violence increased in kind. Fear of being attacked was nearly constant for trail travelers.

Captain's Quarters - Parlor of the Surgeon

Fort Larned was established in response to hostilities along the Santa Fe Trail. “It is a proper place for a military post, and should be the depot of supplies for any troops acting against Indians on that line,” reported Maj. John C. McFerran in 1865, as construction was beginning on the sandstone buildings of the fort. Fort Larned is situated directly on the Dry Route of the Santa Fe Trail, which follows the Pawnee Fork of the Arkansas River. Fort Larned is just a few miles north of the Wet Route, which more closely follows the Arkansas River.

1867 and 1868 were Fort Larned's most consequential years. In the spring of 1867, General Hancock blundered into war with the Cheyenne, a season of fighting known as Hancock's War. That conflict ended with the pivotal Medicine Lodge Treaty in October, 1867, which Fort Larned supplied. The following year, the gifts promised by the treaty were distributed at Fort Larned.

WEDNESDAY August 24, 2016
WEATHER:  a warm 77 at 5:45 am, windy, with wisps of clouds – forecast highs 90-95 always a potential for rain    
Salina, KS 1227’ Sunrise 6:52 am  Sunset 8:12 pm CDT

TRAVEL:  Salina KOA to Abilene, KS to Fort Riley KS to Salina KOA

Salina KOA: WIFI worked fine last night, this morning difficulty making a connection again – similar to what I experienced when I checked in here on Monday. Able to connect with my phone . . . . unreliability is frustrating and wastes time

Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library, Abilene, KS

"I Like Ike"
Eisenhower's Presidential
Campaign brought back
memoris of the 1950's
Abilene is about 35 miles east of Salina.  The grounds cover several city blocks to include, parking, a presidential library, the tombs of Ike and Mame, a museum, visitor center and Ike’s boyhood home.

Access to the grounds is free.  There is a fee for the museum and the house. The home tour is just the first level parlor, bedroom, kitchen and dining room – 10 minutes.  If you haven’t visited the World War II Museum in New Orleans – the museum here will do nicely and there are a lot less people.  The museum was originally built to honor veterans, after Ike became president it was enlarged.

Fort Riley - 1st Division Museum
worth the visit
Exhibit from the Cavalry Museum
next to the 1st Division Museum

Fort Riley Cavalry Museum
on display - so much for 'heritage'
I didn't see any red arrows here
FORT RILEY KANSASHome of the 1st Infantry Division “The Big Red One   Like many army posts this place is a fraction of what it was 30 or 40 years ago.

There are two very good free museums on the post The 1st Infantry Museum and the Cavalry Museum The Custer Home is also open to visitors.  There is also a very good book store/gift shop – better the the RedLeg Sutler at Fort Sill.  The museums are alos head and shoulders above Fort Sill’s museums. 

Fort Riley - Custer Hill GC
unfortunate it will be closing next month
Custer Hill Golf Course, Ft. Riley, KS  I played 9 holes with a cart for $22 and shot 48 with 2 balls in the sand and 20 putts.  The course was in excellent shape, the ball is fluffed on the grass even in the rough.  I think the great shape is a result of very little play.  I was the only one on the course.  After talking to the folks in the pro-shop I found out that course will be closed permanently after September.  It’s not paying for itself and there is a cutback in MWR funds.  It will be sad to see it go to seed.

THURSDAY August 25, 2016
WEATHER:  69 at 4:45 am, rain and distant thunder-lightning, sun by 7 am; hot and humid in Lawrence – cooler in the evening when the clouds covered the sun  
Salina, KS EL 1227’ Sunrise 6:52 am CDT    Lawrence KS EL 866’ Sunset 8:01 pm CDT

TRAVEL:  Salina KS to KC Jellystone, Lawrence, KS to Brown v. Board of Education NHS to KC Jellystone.  Topeka environs has a toll road along I-70 called KTS

Brown v. Board of Education
Monroe Elementary School VC
KC Jellystone, Lawrence, KS: 1st impressions - not worth $40 per night; WIFI does not work; haven’t seen a site this bad since Virginia, yes there is an Interstate to my left and railroad tracks to the right.  My computer has been “crashing” the past two days – the blue screen of death’ – only in Kansas - I think it’s tired –


342 BROWN VS. BOARD OF EDUCATION National Historic Site, 1515 SE Monroe St, Topeka, KS

A visit here was a pleasant surprise.  The Visitor Center is in the old Monroe Elementary School  of Topeka and the exhibits are as good as, perhaps better than those at Little Rock Central High School National Historic Site

Brown v. Board of Education - Mr. Brown filed suit because he lived close to the school and thought that
his daughter going to the "colored school" was to far to go - unfair

Brown v. Board of Education

There is a very good video that show on three screens with three different views.  It cover black military service, the right to vote after the Civil War and the following disenfranchisement with Jim Crow laws, and the Civil Rights Movement.  The topics are covered in a conversation between a young black teenager and her grandfather. IT is done very well. It is shown in the school auditorium.

Several of the classrooms on the first floor hold exhibits.  The kindergarten is set up for kids of all ages.  There is a small bookstore.

Brown v. Board of Education
standard reading in a 1950's
Brown v. Board of Education
Ike was president
The story of Brown vs. Board of Education, which ended legal segregation in public schools, is one of hope and courage. When the people agreed to be plaintiffs in the case, they never knew they would change history. The people who make up this story were ordinary people. They were teachers, secretaries, welders, ministers and students who simply wanted to be treated equally.

The U.S. Supreme Court decision in Brown v. Board of Education (1954) is one of the most pivotal opinions ever rendered by that body. This landmark decision highlights the U.S. Supreme Court’s role in affecting changes in national and social policy. Often when people think of the case, they remember a little girl whose parents sued so that she could attend an all-white school in her neighborhood. In reality, the story of Brown vs. Board of Education is far more complex.

Brown v. Board of Education
Chief Justice Earl Warren's Decision 1954
In December, 1952, the U.S. Supreme Court had on its docket cases from Kansas, Delaware, the District of Columbia, South Carolina, and Virginia, all of which challenged the constitutionality of racial segregation in public schools.

The U.S. Supreme Court had consolidated these five cases under one name, Oliver Brown et al. v. the Board of Education of Topeka. One of the justices later explained that the U.S. Supreme Court felt it was better to have representative cases from different parts of the country. They decided to put Brown first “so that the whole question would not smack of being a purely Southern one.”

This collection of cases was the culmination of years of legal groundwork laid by the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in its work to end segregation. None of the cases would have been possible without individuals who were courageous enough to take a stand against the segregated system.

FRIDAY August 26, 2016
WEATHER:  71 at 5:00 am,    
Lawrence, KS EL 866’ Sunrise 6:45 am   Sunset 7:59 pm CDT

TRAVEL:  KC Jellystone, Lawrence, KS to Harry S. Truman NHS to Truman Presidential Library to Kaufman Stadium to KC Jellystone.

KC Jellystone
Looks like a KOA gone Yogi
KC Jellystone: my experience with Kansas RV Park WIFI UNRELIABLE – I connected about 5:15 am then it dropped me and unable to re-connect  - same with my phone – it’s the WIFI system not my phone of pc
KC Jellystone truck & trailer

Interesting - - - - just heard an interview on NPR about a just released documentary “Floyd Norman: An Animated Life” grew up in Santa Barbara, California – from a black family – he never felt discrimination - got a job at Disney in 1955 – he applied because he was never told that he couldn’t – kudos for Disney – he said the new artists included himself, a Native American and a Latino - still working freelance – in reference to some of Disney’s cartoons that today could/are considered ‘racist’ – he basically said “let it go – the past is in the past” ‘it was reflection of the time’ – and then referenced Bill Cosby and “Fat Albert – he said ‘ Cosby was drawing on his childhood experience growing up in Philadelphia . . . making fun of himself . . . 'I do that everyday in my cartoons.’

Truman NHS Visitor Center
343 HARRY S. TRUMAN National Historic Site, 219 N Delaware  St,
Independence, MO

President Harry S Truman took America from its traditional isolationism into the age of international involvement. Despite his power, he never forgot where he came from. Visitors experience the surroundings Truman knew as a young man of modest ambition through his political career and final years as a former president.

Truman House with ranger
no photos allowed on the inside
The VC is about 5 blocks east of the Truman House.  The Presidential Library is about 5 blocks north of the Truman House.

Tours of the house are given by rangers.  It is in its 1982 setup when Bess Truman died.  Harry died in 1972.  Both are buried on the grounds of the Truman Library.

The NPS VC has a film, a small bookstore, and very little in the way of exhibits.  The main showcase is the tour of the Trurman House. The Wallace Home (an aunt’s home across the street) has a few exhibits and is self guided.

Harry & Bess Truman

Harry and Bess met in Sunday school Harry age 6, Bess age 5.  They both graduated from high school together in 1905.  Harry never went to college.  He served in the US Army in WW I as an Artillery Officer.  As Captain of Battery D, 129th FA, 35 Div – a National Guard Unit,he did not lose any men in combat – but he learned that he was a LEADER.

Truman married Bess on June 28, 1918 and moved in with her family.  He lived in his mother-in-law’s home until she died sometime after he left the presidency.   

Harry S. Truman, CPT, FA
1922 – His habidashery fails and is elected Eastern District Judge (administrator) of Jackson County Court.  His election is part of a political machine.

1924 - Daughter Margaret is born and he loses re-election.

1926-34 – Elected Presiding Judge of Jackson County Court, serves two four-year terms; is still a member of the ARNG.

1934 – Elected to the US Senate.  He won the rural areas with his background as a farmer; the political bosses delivered the cities.

1941 – Elected to a 2nd term as US Senator,

1944 – Democratic Party bosses select Truman as running mate for FDR; effectively selecting him as the next US President, knowing FDR would not serve out his term


Harry S. Truman Presidential
 Library and Museum

The major issues and events of Harry Truman’s Presidency are highlighted in the 10,500 square-foot core exhibition.  Featuring two decision theaters, enhanced audio and video programs and interactive elements, this exhibition forms the center piece of the Truman Library and Museum.

1945 – Truman becomes 33rd President of the United States on April 12th after FDRs death.  Announces end of war in Europe on May 8th; attends Potsdam; authorizes use of the atomic bomb; Japan surrenders ending WW II on August 14th.

1947 – Issue the Truman Doctrine; signs the National Security Act establishing the CIA.

1948 – Desegregates the armed forces; orders airlift against Soviet blockade of Berlin; elected to 2nd term as President; moves to Blair House as the White House is renovated until 1952.

1950 – Orders US Forces to join South Korean troops against the North Korean Communists.

1951 – Popularity wanes as the war drags on; fires GEN Douglas MacArthur for criticizing

his foreign policies.

1953 – 57 Korean War ends; Truman retires to Independence, MO.   

This is a large library and museum.  Truman oversaw it’s construction from 1953-57. He died on December 26, 1972 at age 88.


Kauffman Field
Kansas City Royals
Kaufman Stadium – Home of the Kansas City Royals doesn’t appear to be a bad ball park – advantages – right next door is the Kansas City Chiefs Stadium – so like Philadelphia they share the same parking lot and even though ‘in the city’ they are not downtown – plenty of open air parking – probably more than Philadelphia.    
The home of the Kansas City Chiefs
is next to Kauffman Field
The Royals are out of town until Monday, and the Chiefs play Green Bay next week Thursday night.  I guess I have to watch the pack on TV in Wisconsin.  No chance of hangin around here for a few more days to watch sports in KC.

I updated the blog at a McDonalds’s in Independence, MO – no problems.  When I got back to KC Jellystone couldn’t connect to WIFI with my PC or my cell phone and amazingly the pc begins it’s “blue screens of death”  I’m still in Kansas – “there’s no place like home”

GREEN BAY vs SAN FRANCISCO – Levi’s Stadium, Santa Clara, CA 9 pm CDT – this is broadcast on the NFL network – it’ll be on a 8 pm CDT and don’t think I’ll find a place to watch it. Certainly not at the KC Jellystone  - it says it has cable can’t find the cable at my site – couldn’t find it at Salina, KOA either.

SATURDAY August 27, 2016
WEATHER:  73 at 4:45 am, clear    high in the 80's
Lawrence,  KS EL 866’ Sunrise 6:46 am Sunset 7:58 pm CDT

TRAVEL:  Jellystone, Lawrence, KS to Tallgrass Praire National Preserve to Lawrence, KS – this drive took me about 4 hours longer than it should have – I went to the wrong place initially and had to back track – it’s complicated but I spent more time in the truck than I wanted to

First stop at McDonald’s to post the blog through yesterday – couldn’t connect either the phone or PC here at Yogi – but seems like the same system that caused crashes at Salina KOA – three crashes this morning in the trailer – WIFI at KC Jellystone is a waste of time it doesn’t exist. – and I believe the system like it’s mate in Salina is bugged . . .  .

Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve

344 TALLGRASS PRAIRIE National Preserve, 2480 Hwy 177, Strong City, KS

A small Visitor Center, bookstore and some exhibits – a ten minute video.  They were celebrating the NPS 100th Anniversary – there were wagon rides, lariat – lassoing – animals – quite frankly I didn’t find the folks very friendly.

Tallgrass Prairie 

There are 40 miles of trails but with an 1130 arrival – in the heat of the day – a walk on the open prairie just didn’t seem very appealing.  I did walk through the ranch house and barn.

Tallgrass prairie once covered 170 million acres of North America. Within a generation the vast majority was developed and plowed under. Today less than 4% remains, mostly here in the Kansas Flint Hills.

Tallgrass Prairie Trail System

On November 12, 1996 Congress created a 10,894 acre preserve.  The preserve protects a nationally significant seremnant of the once vast tallgrass prairie and its cultural resources. Here the tallgrass prairie takes its last stand

Tallgrass Prairie
Spring Hill Ranch House
At 10 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. daily guided house tours of the 1881 limestone Spring Hill Ranch house are conducted from May through October. Winter house tour hours vary based on available staffing. All activities are free of charge.

Tallgrass Prairie 

Prairie Bus Tours - A tour through the prairie via an air conditioned bus. Monday through Friday a daily bus tour is given at 11 a.m. On Saturday and Sunday a bus tour is given at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. IT is suggested to call 620-273-8494 (hit 0) in advance to reserve a tour. I did not.  I’ll take my chances.   All activities at the preserve are free of charge. Wet road conditions or lack of staff may cancel a tour. If you have made a reservation and a tour must be cancelled, you will receive a call the morning of the tour. Come experience the preserve and all its beauty and history.

4:30 pm Mass at St. John the Evangelist – the church was full - over 200 people – 2 servers a boy and a girl, cantor, organist in choir loft and a violin.  The priest was a Franciscan – simple alb and stole over his brown robe.  Two Baptisms – homily short – based on the first reading and gospel - Humility

SUNDAY August 28, 2016
WEATHER:  71 at 4:30 am, clear     
Lawrence,  KS EL 866’ Sunrise 6:47 am  Burlington WI EL 748’ Sunset 7:32 pm CDT

TRAVEL:  Jellystone, Lawrence, KS to Burlington, WI; a 578 mile 9 ½ hour drive

TUESDAY September 8, 2016
WEATHER:  high 80’s iin Gettysburg    
TRAVEL: United Airlines MKE-ORD-BWI; pickup at car at ALAMO and drive to Gettysburg

GETTYS BURG National Military Park
EWELL’S DEMONSRATION July 2, 1863 4:00 pm – 6:00 pm

On July 2, 1863 Genral Robert E. Lee decided to strike the Union’s left flank with two divisions of Longstreet’s First Corps.   A.P. Hill’s Third Corps was to strike the enemy’s center to prevent reinforcements being drawn to either wing.   Richard S. Ewell’s Second Corps “was instructed to make a simultaneous demonstration upon the enemy’s right to be converted into a real attack should the opportunity offer.”

Ewell decided to use his artillery to make the demonstration.  There were few good artillery opposite the Union right.  Only one (Benners Hill) was selected to make the demonstration.

I have visited this site many times in the past but this is the first that I spent 3-4 hours thoroughly visiting the sites of all the Union and Confederate battery locations that participated in artillery duel.

MAJ Joseph W. Latimer (age 19) commanded the Confederate Artillery Battalion (BN) located on Benners Hill

Located south of the Hanover Road – 14 guns
CPT William D. Brown’s Battery    Chesapeake (MD) Artillery  4 10lb Parrott Rifles
CPT John C. Carpenter’s Battery  Allegheny (VA) Artillery        2 12lb Napoleans; 2 3” Ord Rifles    
CPT William F. Dement’s Battery  1st Maryland Battery            4 12lb Napoleans
CPT Charles I Raine’s Battery       Lee (VA) Artillery                 10lb Parrott Rifle; 3” Ord Rifle

Located north of the Hanover Road – 6 guns
CPT Archibald Graham’s Battery  Rockbridge (VA) Artillery     4 20lb Parrott Rifles
CPT Charles Raine’s Battery        Lee (VA) Artillery                  2 20 lb Parrotts

UNION CANNON – 37 guns
Located on Cemetery Hill – 24 guns
CPT Michael Wiedrich                   I, 1st NY Light Artillery         4 3” Ordnance Rifles          
CPT James Cooper                       B, 1st PA  Reserves             5 3” Ordnance Rifles
CPT  Gilbert Reynolds                   L, 1st NY Light Artillery        5 3” Ordnance Rifles          
CPT Elijah Taft                               5th NY Light                         4 20lb Parrott Rifles
LT George W. Norton                     H, 10th OH Light Artillery     6 3” Ordnance Rifles

Monument to Knap's Battery
Powers Hill 

Located on Culp’s Hill – 5 guns
LT Charles A. Atwell                       E,PA Light (Knap’s)             2 12lb Napoleans
LT David H. Kinzie                          K, 5th US Artillery                3 10lb Parrott Rifles

Located on Stevens Knoll – 2 guns
CPT Greenleaf T. Stevens             5th ME Light Artillery            2 12lb Naploeans

Located on Powers Hill – 6 guns
CPT James Rigby                           A, Maryland Light Artillery   6 3” Ordnance Rifles

Powers Hill - this is the first time in over 70 days on the battlefield
that I've visited Powers Hill - view is looking north
No sooner had Latimer’s guns gone into position than Union batteries on Cemetery Hill opened fire.  Latimer’s guns returned the fire.  The distance was about 1,300 yards.  On Culp’s Hill the guns of Atwell and Kinzie also opened fire on Latimer’s battalion, as did Stevens’ and Rigby’s guns.  “Benners Hill was a hell infernal.”  The artillery fight lasted about two hours.  Latimer was mortally wounded (he died of wounds on August 1); another 50 casualties were sustained.  His wounding marked the end of Ewell’s demonstration and the withdrawal of the guns from Benner’s Hill.

WEDNESDAY September 7, 2016
WEATHER:  rain overnight, 72 and very humid at 5:30 am, in the mid 90’s by afternoon    
TRAVEL: Gettysburg

GETTYS BURG National Military Park
ANDERSON’S ATTACK July 2, 1863 4:00 pm – 6:00 pm

Willoughby Run ford - seldom visited - used today and
by Anderson's Division
Richard H. Anderson, CSA led a division of A.P.  Hill’s Third Corps.  On July 1 the divisions of Henry Heth and Dorsey Pender preceded Anderson in the march to Gettysburg.  First Heth, then Pender were thrown into the fight with the Union forces on the ridges west of Gettysburg. There was no fighting for Anderson’s men on July 1.  Lee ordered them into bivouac.

Charge of the 1st Minnesota into
Wilcox's Brigade

On July 2 Anderson’s five brigades were ordered forward and the right of Confederate formations on Seminary Ridge.    

View from Cordori Farm on the
Emmitsburg Road to Cemetery
Ridge - Pennsylvania Memorial
 in the distance
Two of Longstreet’s divisions, under John Bell Hood and Lafayette McLaws arrived to take position on Anderson’s right . As Longstreet  moved to attack the two Union corps opposed his and Anderson’s Division’s, MG Dan Sickles’ III Corps had the bulk of Birney’s division facing south, stretching from the Sherfy Peach Orchard, while most of Humphreys’ division was spread north along the Emmitsburg Road.  Hancock’s II Corps were to the rear of Humphreys’ men along Cemetery Ridge.  The two corps were not connected.
1st Minnesota Monument
on Cemetery Ridge
near the Pennsylvania

I drove the route of Anderson’s division from the Wisler House (first shot marker) on the Chambersburg Pike south along Knoxlyn Road to Black Horse Tavern Road  where it intersects with the Fairfield Road and to the small ford on Willoughby Run to the positions on Seminary Ridge.

The remainder of the tour was to landmarks, markers and monuments along the Fairfield and Emmitsburg Roads.

Marker for the site of
Hancock's wounding
Cordori barn in the backgournd

HANCOCK’S LINE July 3, 1863 I parked a the Pennsylvania Memorial and walked to over 60 monuments and markers on the current Hancock Avenue.   I have done this before but this was the first time I stopped and read each of the monuments and markers.  The walk included the 1st Minnesota’s monument , the unit which blunted the attack of Wilcox’s Bde, Anderson’s Division on July 2.  The site of Hancock’s wounding, the copse of trees, the angle, the Bryan House and the Leister House.  A short drive to a location with access to the Bliss Farm site concluded this excursion.

THURSDAY September 8, 2016
WEATHER:  mid 90’s in DC

TRAVEL:  Gettysburg to Shady Grove Metro Station to Union Station  - visits to Sewell-Belmont House and Pershing Park – Metro back to Shady Grove – drive to BWI and cab to Hyatt downtown Baltimore.

Statue of John J. Pershing - Pershing Park
Washington, DC
345 WORLD WAR I NATIONAL MEMORIAL, Pershing Park, Washington DC
John J. Pershing devoted his life to serving his country and remains most deserving of his memorial along Americas Main Street. Pershing saw service along America's western frontier, during the Spanish-American War and in Mexico before he commanded the American Expeditionary Force sent to Europe in 1917. During his service in Mexico in 1915, he received word that a fire at the Presidio in San Francisco, California took the lives of his wife and three daughters, sparing only the life of his son, Warren. Pershing somehow recovered from this tragedy with enough strength to lead American forces to victory in World War I. He resisted calls to distribute American forces among Allied units, preferring to preserve the fighting integrity of American units. The A.E.F.s bravery remains immortalized here upon engraved granite panels as an enduring testimony of the American spirit to later generations.

Willard Hotel - across from Pershing Park
An oasis within the heart of the thriving capital city, Pershing Park offers opportunities for
Pershing Park
both relaxation and remembrance. It is here where one may pause to honor
John J. Pershing, whose World War I leadership propelled him to the rank of General of the Armies a rank he shares only with George Washington.

This park is immediately across the street from the White House Visitor Center.  It was interesting that the folks in the VC could not tell me where Pershing Park was.  Additionally, a secret service guard at the White House could not tell me where the Pershing Monument was – “outside of my space” - it across the street 200 yards to his front. 

Pershing Park covers a 1.76-acre trapezoid-shaped landscape designed by M. Paul Friedberg, with later revisions by Oehme-Van Sweden; it lies within an area bordered by Pennsylvania Avenue and 14th, 15th and E Streets, NW – also across from the Willard Hotel  Pershing Park was dedicated on May 14, 1981.

Sewell-Belmont House sign

346 BELMONT-PAUL WOMANS EQUALITY National Monument, 900 Ohio Drive SW Washington, DC 20024

Home to the National Woman's Party for 90 years, this was the epicenter of the struggle for women's suffrage and women's rights. From this house in the shadow of the U.S. Capitol and Supreme Court, Alice Paul and the NWP developed innovative strategies and tactics to secure passage of the 19th Amendment and more. President Barack Obama designated the national monument on April 12, 2016.

Sewell-Belmont House front
Tucked behind the U.S. Capitol, this 200-year-old house stands as a testament to our nation's continued struggle for equality. Belmont-Paul Women’s Equality National Monument tells the story of a community of women who dedicated their lives to the fight for women’s rights. The innovative tactics and strategies these women devised became the blueprint for civil rights progress throughout the 20th century.

History of the House
Built on Capitol Hill in 1800, the house that today is Belmont-Paul Women’s Equality National Monument is among the oldest residential properties in Washington, D.C. The original house was destroyed by British forces during the War of 1812. In the 20th century, the house became the headquarters of the National Woman’s Party, a political movement that fought for equal rights for women.

Sewell-Belmont Welcome
Robert Sewall, a member of one of Maryland’s most influential and prominent families, built the original house at 2nd Street and Constitution Avenue, NE in 1800. Sewall rented the house to Albert Gallatin from 1801 until 1813. Gallatin served as Secretary of the Treasury under Presidents Jefferson and Madison. During the War of 1812, the house was destroyed by fire during the British invasion of Washington in August 1814. It was one of the only buildings from which the occupants made an attempt to resist the British Army. Sewall rebuilt the house by 1820.

The Sewall family descendants owned the house for over 120 years. In 1922, Senator and Mrs. Porter Dale of Vermont purchased and rehabilitated the house after it had been vacant for a decade.

The Dales sold the house to the National Woman’s Party (NWP) to use as their headquarters in 1929. The NWP renamed the property the “Alva Belmont House” in honor of Alva Belmont, NWP President from 1920-1933 and its primary benefactor. Belmont donated thousands of dollars to the women’s equality movement and gave the NWP the ability to purchase the new headquarters. The house also functioned as a hotel and second home for some members up until the 1990s.

I arrived just before 11 am for a tour of the house.  The docent knew her stuff – there were only four of us on the walk through – it was very informative and took about 1¼ hours.

19th Amendment Ratification

National Woman's Party
Alice Paul founded the NWP in 1916 to address women’s suffrage and equality. Under Paul’s leadership, the NWP refocused the women’s suffrage movement from a state-by-state effort to a push for a constitutional amendment. In 1923, the NWP introduced the Equal Rights Amendment and launched a campaign to win full equality for women. They successfully pushed for the inclusion of gender equality language in both the United Nations Charter and the 1964 Civil Rights Act. In 1997, the NWP ceased lobbying activities and became a 501(c)3 educational organization. Today, the NWP focuses on educating the public about the women's rights movement.

THURSDAY-MONDAY September 8-12, 2016


I have attended 18 of the last 20 conferences.  In addition to the industry exhibits the business sessions feature leaders from Washington that can provide some insight to how and why our government and military does what is does past, present and future.
Highlights included presentations by:

The Honorable Deborah Lee James, Secretary of the Air Force – a friend of the guard and reserve, she has spoken here several times before

General Mark A. Milley, Army Chief of Staff – spoke last year after just being appointed.  His words caused me some concern as called for more training days for the NG and more use of the the NG as an “operational force.”  Same message this year but toned down . . . . I’m not sure if he says it’s ‘one army’ or ‘his army.’  He did reference something that sounded like “intergration’ of active and guard – a ‘a lot of hurdles to cross’ – if the plan makes the guard and active and reserve units equal – they train together – they go to war together - - - - - - - well then maybe I see it easier to say this is ‘one army’ – radical thinking and a lot of hurdles to cross . . . . 

General Joseph L. Lengyel, Chief of the National Guard Bureau – encouraging view from the top but does it get support from the rank and file i.e. “our mission is to support the M-Day soldier/airman” – acknowledges “there is a breaking point” but doesn’t know where it is.

The Honorable Lindsey Graham, Senator from South Carolina – he has spoken here several times in the past – he is no nonsense and says it the way he sees it.  He looks at ten more years of war to defeat ISIS and to protect the US here.

General David L. Goldfein, Air Force Chief of Staff – Space, Cyber, ISR, Nuclear

General Lori Robinson, Commander, US Northern Command – first female 4 star

“The making of the film Citizen Soldier  - Oklahoma’s 45th Combat Infantry Brigade in Afghanistan – got to see it.

Donald Trump Republican Candidate for President of the United States – unfortunately Clinton and Trump continue to slam each other . . . .  . not much about the national guard or the strength of the military - - - - - yet still several stops for applause . . . . . . only at the end did the comment of ‘one country, one God, one flag’ hit me . . . . more political than anything. 

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