Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Oregon Trail to the Rockies

I have returned from my journey along the Oregon Trail to the Rocky Mountains. And an interesting journey it was too! The journey began on Thursday evening when I departed Wind Cave to drive down to Chimney Rock in Nebraska. I arrived at the landmark successfully and pulled in front of the gate blocking my way into the parking lot. I wanted to get a closer look at the visitor center in hopes of determining whether it would be worth staying to see it the next morning. Well I got out of my truck with the intention of crossing the open parking lot to the visitor center. I did not bring a light because the lights from the visitor center illuminated much of the parking lot and the section that was not so illuminated had just been viewed in my headlights so I knew it was merely an open parking lot. Or so I though! I had taken two steps when I heard a sound that stopped me dead in my tracks. The sound was unmistakable, a sound that I recognized the instant I heard it and a sound I knew I would do well to pay attention to. It was the clear sound of a rattlesnake originating a very short distance in front of me. I slowly backed up and turned the headlights back on. Once again stepping out of my truck I looked around the front to discover that the snake was about two feet in front of my truck and about one a half feet from where I had just stopped, directly in the path I was intending to walk. It was still poised and ready to strike and would certainly have done so had I not aborted my intention. That was certainly a notable way to start my journey!

I spent that night in my truck (I had thought to sleep out under the stars, but the encounter with the snake quickly amended that plan!) at an overlook above chimney rock. I awoke the next morning to find the rock directly outside my window. After doing some initial exploration, including walking through the cemetery that lay a short distance from my sleeping spot, I sat in the back of my truck and wrote the email that I later sent in regard to 9-11 and some of my recent thoughts concerning what it means to be free. I finished that just about the time the visitor center opened so I went through it before heading on down the Oregon Trail. I also stopped at Scott's Bluff, another significant landmark along the trail, where I saw the swale of wagons that had passed and had some amazing views of the trail. From there I followed the trail again before stopping at Fort Laramie in Wyoming. The fort was not in great condition as much of it was dismantled by settlers in the late 1890's and the wood and materials were taken elsewhere. Even so, I was still able to see some structures, and I found a canon, which I immediately had to sit on to take a picture (that picture is attached). Fort Laramie played an important role, not only on the Oregon Trail, but also as the central command post of the Indian wars of the 1860's and 70's. That included being the site of the treaty signed in 1868 which designated the Black Hills as the property of the Lakota Sioux.

With a final quick stop at the Guernsey wagon ruts, which are still very visible in the rock, I headed on to Greeley where I joined Kristen and Corey in a weekend of adventure. We spent all day Saturday at the Highland Games in Estes Park. While not as large or impressive as the ones in Pleasanton, they were still great fun. I wore the kilt, of course, and partook in the viewing of such activities as jousting, bagpiping, firing bowling balls from cannons, and celtic rock music. Very fun! =)

On Sunday I attended church with Kristen and Corey for the first time in several months. It was a very welcome change. :) We also had fun just hanging out, playing tennis, watching movies, eating chalupa, and looking at pictures. And Kristen completely destroyed me at Settlers of Cattan, thus breaking a lengthy winning streak. Good job Kristen!

After departing Greeley on Monday I decided to go back to Estes Park and spend some time in the mountains. So I drove all the way to the top of the trail ridge road in Rocky Mountain National Park, hiked around a little bit, watched some elk and listened to them bugle, and otherwise enjoyed the mountains. I love being up in the mountains. It is a place where the soul is easily and truly renewed and given peace.

Now I am back to work once more, and am about to leave to give my first of three tours today. Tomorrow I get to lead the elk program in the evening, which I am very excited about! I hiked out at dawn again this morning and once again head bugling, and saw elk as well, though only from a distance. It was not quite as close or personal as last week, but still very peaceful and awe inspiring. God is renewing my spirit, and for that I am immensely grateful!

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