Saturday, August 27, 2016

2016 Epic Road Trip - Day 105

Day 105

August 26, 2016

Pea Ridge National Military Park in Arkansas was the stop for today.  A battle was fought here during the Civil War which saved Missouri for the Union in 1862, which was one of the Government's primary early objectives.

I can't believe this epic trip is almost at an end. Less than a week to go before I am back home in Florida.

I have a couple more stops planned in the next couple days, but otherwise, this chapter of the blog will be completed.

2016 Epic Road Trip - Day 104

Day 104

Aug 25, 2016

Tallgrass Prairie National Preserve in Kansas was the first visit today.  Years ago, there was over 140 million acres of tallgrass in the Midwest prairie lands; today only 4% of it remains.

It could grow to 8 feet high and had roots extending down 15-25 feet below ground, providing food and habitat for hundreds of different prairie animals and soil insects.  One of those animals was the prairie chicken.

After John Deere invented the steel moldboard plow which could cut through the tough prairie sod, the settlers went to work cultivating the land.  It took less than a generation to break the prairie soil and forever change the land.

Tall grass prairie is also home to bison who recently have taken to harassing the hikers...kind of funny in a way.

The land changed hands many times from the settlers to railroad and to subsequent ranchers and farmers. The buildings have been renovated, torn down and rebuilt through the years until purchased in 1996 by the Nature Conservancy to preserve it, in cooperation with the National Park Service. The existing complex of buildings are made of stone and well-restored.

I passed through Yates Center, KS which is the Hay capitol of the world.  What a reputation and another bit of trivia.

Next stop was Fort Scott on the eastern border of Kansas. It has an interesting history.  Back in the days of young America, we pushed the Indians westward.  The US was essentially east of the Mississippi.  Fort Scott was established in 1842 and staffed by soldiers to preserve peace and to enforce a promise made to the Indians that they could have the land west of the Mississippi River where white settlement would be forbidden.  Fort Scott and a number of other forts were built upon the Permanent Indian frontier line.

This Permanent frontier line didn’t last long.  It was in the late 1840s that the gold rush began and white settlers continued westward believing that the US had a divine right to own lands from coast to coast, as well as engaging in the Mexican-American War through which the US acquired vast new land in the southwest. The Indians were moved farther west.

There was virtually no combat among the soldiers stationed here.  However, there was a hospital ward set up, which mostly treated the soldiers for pneumonia, alcoholism and mental issues.  The medical instruments were primitive – hacksaws, pliers and the likes.

The final stop today was the George Washington Carver National Monument in Missouri.  He was born a slave in 1864, kidnapped as an infant along with his mother.  The mother was never seen alive again, but George Washington Carver (Carver was the name of the family who owned him) was found in Arkansas nearly dead from whooping cough and returned back to the Carver farm in Kansas. Due to his frail health, he was freed from many daily chores, giving him time to explore in the woods and marvel at the wonder of nature and learn to paint. 

As a child he was not allowed to attend school, but as he approached adulthood, he was accepted as an art major at Simpson College in Iowa, where he was the only black student.  A year later he transferred to the Iowa State Agricultural College to pursue agriculture, where he earned both his Bachelors and Masters Degrees.

He began working with peanuts, intending to free African American farmers and the South from the tyranny of king cotton.  He convinced farmers to grow soybeans and peanuts in addition to cotton.  He transformed peanuts into ink, paper soap, glue, dyes, massage oil, milk, cosmetics and more.  He became renowned as a symbol of interracial cooperation and when he died in 1943, Congress designated the George Washington Carver National Monument to honor an African American scientist, educator and humanitarian.

Today is the 100th anniversary of the National Park Service.  This park employee was celebrating the occasion at the G.W. Carver National Monument.

2016 Epic Road Trip - Day 103

Day 103

Aug 24, 2016

Fort Larned, KS was the destination today.  This was a fort built back in the late 1800s to protect the Santa Fe Trail, which carried millions of dollars of goods between Santa Fe and Independence, MO.  This fort was built without walls, an unusual design back in those days.  The acquisition of lands resulting from the war with Mexico and the gold rushes added to the traffic on the route.

After this it was washing day for the rv.  I had more yellow moths smashed on the front of the RV than could fit.  And it was another spa day for Ryder.  Back in Fairbanks in early July, the groomer had taken very little length off her fur, and it was getting pretty messy.  Now she’s clean and half the pup she used to be.

Horrific thunderstorm at night; pup was scared of the lightening and the sounds of thunder.  However, I was only 50 feet from an underground storm shelter, so I knew we could make it, if needed. You know you are in the plains when the campground management tells you where the storm shelter is first and then says how much the campground costs for the

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

2016 Epic Road Trip - Day 102

Day 102

 Aug 23, 2016

Continued the eastward trek across Colorado and into Kansas.  Lost Toto, but found this saloon.  Do you remember what TV show had this character?

Next stop was Bent's Old Fort, which consisted of a fort.  It was a stop along the fur trader route and the Santa Fe trail to trade with Southern Cheyenne and Arapaho Plains Indians and trappers for buffalo robes. For much of its 16-year history, the fort was the only major white American permanent settlement on the Santa Fe Trail between Missouri and the Mexican settlements. It was destroyed under mysterious circumstances in 1849.

Bent's Old Fort.

Was just driving along and found this sign, so I stopped.  A week or so ago in Oregon, I had toured the Manzanar relocation camp where Japanese citizens and non-citizens were held during WWII.  This was another of the camps.

 Another interesting site in Kansas - I drove past the manufacturing/assembly plant for the windmills that dot the landscape.

Windmill parts shrink-wrapped and ready for shipment.

Stopped in Dodge City, KS for a little while before heading to Kinsley, KS to call it a night.

2016 Epic Road Trip - Day 101

Day 101

Aug 22, 2016

Another day east.  First stop was Black Canyon of the Gunnison National Park in Colorado.  Sheer cliffs with a river down below, created by erosion over the past couple million years.  It is estimated that erosion cuts through 1 inch per 100 years.  It's also very dark down by the water since the canyon walls keep the daylight out.

At the turn of the last century, the people of Montrose, CO (about 20 miles away) decided that they wanted to use the water running through the canyon to irrigate their arid lands and make them flourish for agriculture.   They were able to cut a tunnel through the canyon and now have lush agricultural land.

Black Canyon of the Gunnison

Open range cattle in Colorado.  Oh look a cowboy...much too young for me, but there is still hope! 
Upstream from the canyon, the Bureau of Land Management made 3 reservoirs with dams and designated the area as a National Recreation Area.  The water flooded 3 towns and the created lakes are now up to 400 feet deep.  There are 3 separate hydroelectric plants on the water to supply electricity to about 80,000 people and the lakes are used for boating and other recreational purposes.

From there it was up and over Monarch Pass!

Saw what I expect will be the last of the Glaciers on this trip at Wilkerson Pass.

Next stop was Florissant Fossil Beds National Monument, one of the world's richest fossil deposits.  Over 50,000 museum specimens from fossils of over 1,700 species (mostly insects and plants), including one of the world's only fossil records of the Tsetse fly, now found only in Equatorial Africa.
Old log house at Florissant.
Beautiful scenery along the way.
Cripple Creek was an old gold mining town, now restored as a tourist resort with western ambiance.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

2016 Epic Road Trip - Day 100

Day 100

August 21, 2016

Today was a day of awesome Utah scenery and National Parks.

Began the day at Escalante National Monument and headed north through Capitol Reef National Park, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area and then Hite N.R.A. to Natural Bridges National Monument.

From there I traveled past Wilson Arch and Hole ‘n the Rock to Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park.  Speed limit on Utah interstate was 80 mph.  Drove east into the evening and ended the day at Montrose, Colorado.  Gets dark a whole lot earlier in the mountains and in the lower 48.

It didn’t make a lot of difference whether I was in a National Park or between two parks; the scenery was incredible and changed as I drove through different areas.

open range cattle

One room schoolhouse from the 1800s
School desk in the schoolroom

cabin from 1800s

a HooDoo

Wilson arch

As I entered Colorado, the mountains changed to white, but not snow.