California/Oregon Trail

Traveling Through Kansas

Day 7 (June 3rd): After the laptop incident of last night, the bugs seemed satisfied and pretty much left us alone, except for one final assassination attempt by a June bug as it attempted to get into our tent by slamming into the side as we were trying to sleep.

Of course, I had some insomnia, and I will never again believe Daniel when he looks at me, smiles, and says “you won’t be cold tonight!” Note to self: how warm it is during the day does not denote how warm it is at night. On the bright side, I have another detail for my book. “And she almost froze to death.”

We decided to skip the Kansas Museum of History because, while it had raving reviews from Traveling the Oregon Trail, it turns out it didn’t open until ten, and we wanted to be at another stop by then. Besides, I am far more interested in the actual stops on the trail, as interesting as museums can be, and we have enough other planned museum stops that I decided it wasn’t worth it.

That made for a very nice, relaxing morning, in which Daniel made eggs and coffee, while I took down the tent, breaking in the middle for a stroll down to the lake with my coffee. Oh! And I took a shower. Yup, I actually took a campground shower. I could hardly believe my own nerve, but it was honestly one of the nicest restrooms I have seen yet, and if we are camping the next three nights, I thought it would be best to take one at a place that wasn’t crawling with spiders. It wasn’t awful, and it was 6:45 in the morning, so I didn’t even have to worry much about others coming in.

We rolled out about 9:30, and headed straight for St. Marys.

Celinda Hines, May 16, 1853 – “Passed the catholic mission of the Pottawatamies Found there to our surprise quite a pleasant looking village there.”

Traveling the Oregon Trail mentioned that most guidebooks don’t point it out, but that emigrants on the trail camped in the area. It served as a mission to the Indians, actually, so serving wagon trains was a secondary thing. Unfortunately the mission didn’t open until 1:00 (I SWEAR, I did research this trip…it isn’t my fault that none of the “open” times match what is one their websites!!), so we just looked around, and took some pictures of the cute little town.

The following few stops, we actually followed the book rather than maps, because it was kind of a meandering “turn down this road, go five miles, pull over at this farm gate” kind of instructions, which was honestly a lot of fun.

William E. Smith, 1850 – “… emigrants forded the Red Vermillion river at this point for many years. After Mr. Vieux had constructed his log cabin, near this ford, he built a toll bridge…. Louis Vieux sometimes sometimes made as much as $300 a day revenue from the toll bridge … charged only $1 for each outfit that crossed… Here some fifty pioneers succumbed to the cholera. They were all buried on the east bank of the Red Vermillion in the shadow of the hill a short distance to the east. It was where Louis Vieux … now lies buried….”

FYI, I completely geeked out when we turned on the road that said “Oregon Trail Road.” First we stopped at the Oregon Trail Nature Park where we got to see the a silo with a mural of the Oregon trail map, looked at the Louis Vieux Gravesite, walked over to a cholera cemetery from 1849, admired the Red Vermillion River, and swung by yet another Oregon Trail Park with a wagon sculpture. It was both fun and sobering to see so many different aspects of the trail, imagining emigrants from 150 years ago milling in those very spots, trying to survive.

In between, I was almost giddy over the fact that we were traveling along the same road as the emigrants.

Finally, we approached one of the stops I’ve been really looking forward to. Alcove Springs.

George McKinstry, May 30, 1846 – “…about a half mile from Camp up the spring branch on the right hand fork is a most beautiful spring and a fall of water of 12 feet Mr Bryant of our party [a newspaper reporter sending back articles about the trip] has named it the `Alcove Spring’ the water is of the most excellent kind the spring is surrounded with Ash Cotton wood & Cedar trees it is an excellent place to camp for a day or two to wash, recruit the cattle &c I this day cut the name of the spring in the rock on Table at the top of the falls….”

We ended up spending a lot more time here than expected, because there were actual walking trails to different areas of the camping grounds. We did the short walk to the falls, which was breathtaking, and then a much steeper hike to the overlook, where, once again, we got to look at clear marks where wagons once passed. Everyone’s favorite fact to recite, so I might as well say it too, is that the Donners camped here and buried the first of their party to die.

We went from there to the Marysville Pony Express Museum, which finally reopened last week! I know, the Pony Express didn’t operate until the year after my book takes place, but who can resist doing Pony Express stops? Especially when it followed the same trail we are, all the way to Sacramento.

It was small, but so much fun. They had lots of cool displays, and we got to see the actual place where Pony Express Riders would stop to rest.

We then hurried over to Hollenburg Ranch, which was supposed to close in half an hour, but the employee there was so nice, and very passionate about her job, so she told us to take our time. The Hollenberg Ranch was a stop for the Oregon, California, and Pony Express trails! She motioned toward the Parking lot and said that wagons would actually pull up there! The house itself was surprisingly small, especially for having to serve so many at once, but impressive, and totally original! And, possibly the best part, I found a new book! Yes, yes I did. They had a California Trail book – how could I pass that up, considering how little information I find online?

Anyway, we are now on our way to Rock Creek Station Campground, and I’m interested to see what goes wrong tonight. But I’m going to sign off now so I can concentrate on setting up camp and making dinner, and don’t break my computer any further.

Also, since I am getting almost no reads on my blog posts, I am going to try scheduling this to post tomorrow morning (June 4th) to see how much difference the time of day makes. 🙂

4 thoughts on “Traveling Through Kansas

  1. I can’t believe how much money he made on his toll bridge! I certainly wouldn’t have guessed they had tolls back then!
    Last year the children and I read an interesting book on the Pony Express. I really had known very little about it until then. Those were committed hard working men- mostly boys really! And most of them orphans.
    It is so fun to read these aloud to Christopher since he is a history buff and can often tell me extra details and fill in questions I have.
    You may not be getting a lot of readers, but I am REALLY enjoying this blog series. It is such a fun way to pass the time on our drive to VA.
    Thank you for doing it!

    Liked by 1 person

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