Monday, 18 July 2016

Weathering the Wind

Friday April 22nd.
Loving the hat....
..Ellen stopped to chat and give encouragement!
Riding along Oregon Trail road ...
The recent rain gave an idea of the conditions wagon trains sometimes faced while travelling along the Oregon Trail.  This road does not follow the exact line of the Oregon and Pony Express trails, but they crossed somewhere around this point.  It must also be remembered that as this was all open prairie in pioneer days the wagons could take their own line rather than following a single track.
This was not far from the location where the Simonton-Smith wagon train was attacked by Cheyenne and Arapahoe Indians during the raids of August 7th 1864.  Eight wagons carrying hardware from St Joseph to Denver were attacked and all eight drivers killed. The alarm was raised when the bodies and smoking wagons were discovered by two young couples out riding from 32 Mile Creek stage station, about five miles further west along the Oregon trail.
Pony Express marker for 32 Mile Creek station, where we stopped for our midday break. 
The station derived its name from its location 32 miles from Fort Kearny, but was also variously called Clarke's Ranch and Dinner Station. The long one-story log building was sited near the tree line in the photo above, but was destroyed during the Indian troubles.  Serving as a Pony Express way station as well as a Home station for the Overland Stage, the station was abandoned in August 1864 following discovery of the fate of the Simonton-Smith wagon train.  Station keeper George Comstock and visitors fled to Fort Kearny, and the station was subsequently burned to the ground by Cheyenne and Arapahoe warriors.   By all accounts it was well run with a reputation for good grub! 
It is not always easy to access the creeks, assuming they are not dry, but there is usually a water hydrant outside most houses tapping a good supply of ground water. This hydrant was at a nearby house, and as you can see, my foldable Ortlieb buckets have really come into their own on this stage of the journey...  
As evening drew in I found a place to overnight with loads of grass for the horses. Here is Sarah Maendele in front of the lovely house where she lives with husband Brandon and sons Nolan and Nash....
 How to live like a hobo....
---or when one is too lazy to put up one's tent. But it is much quicker to get going in the morning, and you can see dawn is just breaking on the morning of Saturday April 23rd, which turned out to be an extremely windy day. 
Lady and Mo by an Oregon Trail marker on Highway 1A not too far from the probable site of Sandhills Pony Express Station which was destroyed during the Indian Wars of 1864...
....the line of the Oregon and Pony Express Trails lies straight ahead to the north-west, while the station site is in a field just under a mile south-east of this position.   Sandhills was apparently so called due to the local sandy terrain, though it was also rather ambitiously called Summit presumably due to its position on the crest of the divide between the Little Blue and Platte rivers.  From this point on we would be following the historical routeway up the Platte and North Platte rivers. This immensely important artery provided water and grazing for emigrants' animals, and was used by the Oregon, California and Mormon trails as well as the Pony Express.
A grazing break behind a line of trees which provide a welcome respite from the buffeting of the wind ... can hear the wind whooshing through the telephone wires. 
This was on W Rd leading directly to my destination of Lowell, and the next Pony Express station was sited near the Platte river about a mile and a half outside the present settlement.  Called Kearny, or Hooks after the station keeper M.H.Hook, it was the last one under the jurisdiction of St Joseph-Fort Kearny Division Superintendent E.A.Lewis.  In the photo below (taken from W Rd) it is thought that it was located just under two miles away, to the left of the road and before the line of trees on the horizon which indicate the course of the River Platte.
At the time of the Pony Express this would have been a treeless plain with the braided channels of the Platte clearly visible from higher ground.
Just the other side of Lowell I was fortunate to find a safe paddock and great welcome with horse owner Julia Mruz.   I often check out the location of the tornado room which most people have in these parts (just in case!) but interestingly due to proximity to the Platte river and resulting high water table, her house did not have the usual basement and tornado room!   

No comments:

Post a Comment