Saturday, July 15, 2017

Day 53 – July 15 – Going Home

We originally had Mammoth Cave on our itinerary, but we did not purchase the tickets for the tour that we wanted to see.  With that being said, when we checked on the tours, they were sold out and we decided that we would not go now if we were unable to do the tour that we wanted to do.  Therefore, we just drove through Kentucky.
Our next plan was to go by Cummins Falls State Park in Tennessee which is a waterfall that you are supposed to be able to climb on and swim in.  However, due to lots of rain, the gorge was closed so you could not hike down into it.  That was scratched off of our agenda for the time being.  At this point, David decided that we were going to make it all of the way home.  We did get this good picture in the hills of Tennessee before we headed home.  

It turns out that no amount of screaming or throwing a fit was going to change the fact that vacation was ending.  It is hard to complain though-  not many people get to experience what we have gotten to experience this summer.    We arrived home at midnight.  While my bed and my shower feel great and I am fantastic to be done with pit toilets for awhile, I will miss the west immensely.  My heart longs for the mountains, the fresh air and the simpler, slower life.  

Until next time... and there will be a next time.  

Friday, July 14, 2017

Day 52 – July 14- Fort Larned and Tall Grass Prairie

After our night of storms, we left and headed to Fort Larned- the last National Park Service site that is on the Santa Fe trail.  We have visited all 5 of them-  Capulin Volcano, Fort Union, Pecos, Bent's Old Fort and Fort Larned.  The boys were able to earn their Santa Fe Junior Ranger badge as well.  
 When this fort was in its prime, there were 400 soldiers stationed here-  not to mention the families of some of them. 

One of our favorite rooms was the hospital and the operating room.  
The boys took a moment to sit down in here to work on their junior ranger booklets.  This one had a scavenger hunt which was really fun.  You had to identify the rooms that the items were in-  the entire family had fun with this one. 
Some of the beds had these tags on them similar to charts that doctors use now-  although with much less detail.  This one had a gunshot wound.  The boys loved reading some of these.  
Then we visited the old school house for the children of the people that were stationed here.  We had to show the boys what a chalkboard was. 
We also were able to talk to them about the dunce cap-  they found that to be very funny.
This room was solitary punishment and the worst criminals would spend 8 hours a day in this tiny box.  I hope they weren't much bigger than David or it would be really uncomfortable.  The door to the closet would be closed and it was 98 degrees the day we were there.  If I was going to be in solitary confinement, I would need it to be in the spring or fall.
We visited where the soldiers got their uniforms assigned.  
When we left Fort Larned, we headed to Tall Grass Prairie in Kansas.  I don't love the midwest, but I loved the farmhouse that was on this property.  They had this amazing barn with an amazing barn smell that took me back to my childhood.  My dad's parents had a farm and the barn smell always reminds me of them.  
 They had an area where the kids could climb on saddles on wooden horses and practice roping those same wooden horses. The boys loved trying to rope the horse-  especially after the rodeo.  
 This was the farmhouse-  it was 4 stories and very elaborate in the day.  Oh my goodness, I could move in here today.  It was breathtakingly beautiful and had so much character.  It was everything I wanted in my dream farm house.  It needed some work, but I would take it.
 This was the original banister from the 1860s.  It was gorgeous.  
We started driving until we reached our breaking point of being in the car.  We found a place that gave us a discount because of David being a police officer and it had a pool.  The boys were in heaven.  

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Day 51 - July 13- Bent's Old Fort

Before we left Colorado Springs, we wanted to see Florissant Fossil Beds.  I had been told that they had one of the best junior ranger programs out there and it was close to where we are.  
 This area used to have redwood trees (about 20 million years ago), but volcanoes erupted and destroyed the trees and fossilized the tree stumps.  It was very cool to see.
 After that, we left Colorado Springs a day early and headed out to Bent's Old Fort in SE Colorado.  They had this very cool entrance.  It used to be one of the key stops on the Santa Fe Trail. 
 The original fort burned to the ground in the 1800s, but when the US government purchased it, they recreated it in such a way to pay tribute to the original based on photos and journals.  It was very cool they way they had it set up. This was the general store where they traded fur and other goods.
This was a very small fort compared to some of the other forts that we have visited.
They did have some animals running around that would have been original to the post-  such as this peacock.
David is showing the boys how the carpenters would have worked during the 1800s.
Logan is climbing the stairs to the second level of the fort.
This was a view from the corner of the top level.  You can see the entire fort except for the barnyard.

David was at the bar in the billiards room.  During the time of the fort, the ladies were not allowed in the billiard room, it was exclusively for the men.

The panoramic view of the fort. 
As we left Colorado, we stopped at this rest area- which we had entirely to ourselves... unless you count the mosquitos.  It was a great place to make dinner while the boys ran around.  Here we saw thousands of grasshoppers which the boys found to be very cool! 
We then entered Kansas!

... which was right along the Santa Fe Trail.

We stayed at a great little city park for $10, which included electric and water hookups.  While we were playing Kan Jam with the boys, you could see the storm rolling in.  There was only one other camper at this little campground and they left their truck windows down as the rain poured in and they were not at their site.  David tried to put garbage bags over their windows, but couldn't get any of them to stick.  As they returned to their campsite, David did walk over and tell them that their truck windows were down.  It was a creepy, yet cool storm.  

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Day 50- July 12- Colorado Springs

We started off my morning by driving up Pikes Peak. The toll highway opens at 7:30 AM and we were in line at 7:35 AM. It takes an hour to drive the 20 mile up the road. We did stop a couple places to see different things like these reservoirs.
They also have these really cool mile markers the entire way up the highway. Not all of them had the elevation listed on them, but many of them did.
The views the entire way up were amazing. We decided to get up early to go do this because the weather in Colorado is completely unpredictable – particularly in the afternoon. So far, we have spent about 14 nights in Colorado and it has rained in the afternoon at least 12 of them.
You can look back at that curvy road that we drove up.

We made it to the top!  It was very cold and windy up here.
While we were at the top, the clouds came in and it was very difficult to see. However, it was still so beautiful and surreal.

There has been evidence that big foot has crossed here.
From here, we left and went to Garden of the Gods. Here, I was reminded that some people are so unbelievably oblivious to the world around them.  The rock the boys are sitting on in the picture below is called Balanced Rock. When we arrived, there were four kids that were sitting up there eating their snack.  Typically, when we were in these touristy type of towns – people are very aware of others who are waiting in line to get similar pictures.  These two moms let their kids sit there for 10 minutes while a line formed for one of the rocks with other people who are waiting to get the same picture.
This land was bought for $22 an acre many years ago. The man who bought it envisioned that it would be a park for the city. When he died, his children donated it to the city under the condition that it would always be free to get into the park. Other conditions included the fact that there was to be no alcohol in the park and no new buildings were to be built unless it was for the betterment of the park to serve the people.
Lots of rock climbing here.

When we arrived last night and saw the parade – we hoped we were going to have the opportunity to go to the rodeo.  However, with the weather here – we hate to commit to anything because it rains every afternoon. After our adventurous morning – we headed back to the camper to take a nap.  We took a chance on going to the rodeo and are so glad that we did.
It started raining as we walked up to the rodeo, but we had covered seats – so it didn't matter. It did rain during the entire rodeo – but the boys had a fantastic time.
Bucking broncos, barrel racing, bull riding, steer wrestling, team rope tying… Even American bull fighting.  It was a great night.  On the way home, Logan told me that when he grows up he may want to ride in the rodeo.