October 10, 2010

Chimney Rock NHS - Saying Goodbye to the West

We have bid adieu to the WEST to explore new regions of the country. Today, we went past Chimney Rock National Historic Site, perhaps THE most important landmark for the nearly 500,000 immigrants who past on the Oregon Trail in the 1840-1860's. It was a great relief of topography after 2 months of flatness.

Classic Chimney Rock Image

Contrary to the images you see, Chimney Rock does not literally stand out isolated on a flat plain. It is simply an extension of the Wildcat Hills adjacent to it running 20 miles from Scottsbluff

A little further on, we stopped at an old sod house near Ash Hollow. This sod house was built in the 1860's of bricks of earth, woven and held together with the roots of prairie plants, because wood was not readily available on the plains. It was backbreaking work to carve out between 1-10 acres of prairie sod to make a house. Before a special sod-busting plow was invented, you had to do it by hand with a spade. As for firewood, they used buffalo chips.

Close up of the sod bricks with binding prairie roots

We are currently in at Fort Kearney State Recreation Area in the middle of Nebraska and very near the geographic center of the lower 48.

As we make a beeline across the Great Plains, our journey will take us to the Ozarks, Mississippi River Valley, and Bayous of Louisiana in search of new vistas, new ecosystems, new historical sights, and a taste of a forgotten Americana.

There are few places that can have the kinds of sunsets and cloud formations as the Great Plains.

Keep watching this blog over the next couple of months as we touch a corner of the country that neither of us have ever really been before...

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