Day 8 (June 4): I was pretty excited to camp at Rock Creek station, knowing that actual emigrants camped in the same spot. It is also where Wild Bill Hickok killed three men in 1861, starting his “career”, if it can be called that. . so I am a little disappointed to admit, it wasn’t the greatest camping experience. Then again, when do I ever have the greatest camping experience? And to be fair, I had more to do with settling in than the campground itself. Although, if the creepy white spiders here paired with the spiders from our first campsite, they really could create their own Mirkwood.
Anyway, first, we had to purchase a state park pass, despite having a reservation, so, you know, that was annoying. We were also told that there was no firewood but we might be able to buy some locally. So first we went and checked out our campsite, which was next to a group of trees that basically spelled “ticks”. Then, I worked on trying to insert pictures into my blog post with minimal internet for about half an hour before I gave up, and Daniel drove us the 20 minutes into town to get gas, find Wi-Fi, and find firewood. We sat outside McDonald’s for another half hour while I worked between my phone and my computer trying to get anything to upload, and it wasn’t until I was good and frustrated and had restarted applications at least three times that everything finally decided to play nice together. Then we got gas, before spending the next 20 minutes driving around anywhere looking for firewood, but the only place in town we found that sold it was a private residence that was already out. So, no campfire. Which is the only redeemable factor of camping for me so far.
By the time we got the tent set up, and food going, it was like 9:00 at night. So, combined with that, the bathrooms that were on the complete opposite end of the park, making dinner, scrubbing dishes, and the fact that we could not use our headlamps because every time we turned them on the bugs surrounded us like we were honey, I was good and cranky by the time we made some popcorn, and sat in the car to eat it in peace and light.
Sitting away from the buggy, spider-infested, fireless outdoors with the dishes done improved my spirits immensely, and I was even almost cheerful when we finally retired to the tent, and certainly had a healthier respect for the “small” trials that emigrants probably went through. Other than getting up at 3:00 in the morning to use the bathroom, and having to clear a spider web and two spiders from the front of our tent, that was about it. So like I said, not too bad as far as my camping experiences have gone so far, but far less than pleasant. I still have no idea why people do this for fun.
When I woke up this morning at my alarm around 6:15 and 6:30, there was no way I was getting up. I was so tired. People, I have been on the road for 6 days, with a 2-day break. And I am so exhausted just from driving, even having fun places to go and see. It is giving me a new appreciation for the pioneers and their 4 to 6 months on the trail. I used to think the first day on the trail would have been the hardest, but now, based on my road trip, I’m thinking it was probably later. Probably 3 to 4 days into it, I wouldn’t be surprised if many of them felt like they couldn’t go on. I should probably put that in my book.
Anyway, we took about half an hour this morning to go to the historical section of Rock Creek Park, and, OH MY GOSH, we stood and gaped at how huge the wagon swales were. I took so many pictures but none of them captured it. It was simply incredible though. We waltzed through a couple of the historical building replicas, and took those obligatory pictures as well, but it was really the wagon ruts that astounded us.
We went from there to a site where we were supposed to be able to see one of the oldest remaining gravesites on the trail. George Winslow died from cholera along the Oregon Trail, and the monument for his grave was put up in 1912. According to Traveling the Oregon Trail, we should have been able to go through a farm gate and look at it, but the gate was locked at the hill looked overgrown, so we thought perhaps we weren’t supposed to cross it anymore, so instead I climbed the gate and took the best picture I could.
From there, we headed to Fort Kearny, the first major fort the emigrants passed and “the only one built specifically for their safety” according to Traveling the Oregon Trail.
I was surprised to see that there were only a couple actual replicas from the fort – a Blacksmith’s shop that was done so well, we would have thought it was the original had it not said otherwise, a powder room filled with fake boxes, and displays of the different
types of shells used (it was in an underground mound kind of thing, and so cool), and, best of all, the actual stockade replica! Daniel and I had fun taking pictures in there!
We were able to walk all the grounds, and they had posts and signs up where buildings used to be, so we could fill them in with our imagination. I was honestly surprised at how small the fort was for such a major stop along the trail, but it was breathtaking to imagine all the emigrants that must have gone through, and how bustling with soldiers and civilians it must once have been.
Did I mention it got up to 91 degrees today? We sat in the car for awhile afterward we finished meandering the grounds to cool down, drink water, and figure out where to head next.
We decided on the post office to send out some postcards, and ran across an adorable, old one, with this on the wall:
Then we headed to our final stop for the day: the Pioneer Village! This was definitely a detour, but a worthy one! The Pioneer Village had 24 or so buildings filled to the brim with artifacts and history from the 1830s through present-ish day. Like, we literally walked through aisles
upon aisles with the different carriages and automobiles as they progressed through the decades, original historical buildings, and go so overwhelmed (and tired!) that we even skipped a couple of buildings! If you are ever in the area, it is totally worth the price of admission!
And, as we left to head to our campsite, my one woe was that I had not yet seen the Platte River, which is where the emigrants would follow for a large part of their journey. Considering every single book, fictional or otherwise talks about the Platte River (with good reason), I had been looking so forward to finally see it in real life and see if the descriptions of it from back then still applied. And then, as I was working on Instagram posts, Daniel exclaimed, “It’s the Platte River!” My head shot up and I got so excited, he slammed his brakes and set the hazard lights so I had time to pull up my camera and get a picture. And, what do you know? It totally matches the descriptions of all the emigrants!
So we are on our way to our campsite in Gothenberg now, and I have hope (not much, but a little, you know) that maybe I’ll be able to come on tomorrow and say “Hey, it was fun to go camping!”
I’ll keep you all updated!
Monday, June 19th: All well and thankful to our Heavenly Father for all his benefits bestowed on us. Day very cold and some rain. Passed some very rugged hills today and went 7 miles to the last watering place on the Platte, where we dined, and then bid farewell to that river and hope never to see it again.http://www.oregonpioneers.com/Condit_Diary.htm