We left Dodge City this morning on the Santa Fe Trail. Since we would be traveling along the trail all the way to our overnight stop in La Junta, CO, I wanted to try one more time to see the trails still left in the prairie by the wagon trains. We stopped at a place called Charlie’s Ruts. As I was walking over to the gate in the fence to walk out to the ruts, 2 guys from California were walking back and one of gave one of those shoulder shrugs that says he couldn’t see the ruts. As I said yesterday, I guess you have to use your imagination. I walked out to a sign that said “WAGON RUTS”. I thought I could see long bumps in the ground, but you really can’t tell if it was remnants of the wagon trails or just normal undulations in the soil. I decided I was going to look at some aerials from Google maps to see if they are visible from the air. Sure enough you can make out what look to be wagon tracks. I posted a couple of snips of the tracks from the place we stopped yesterday and from Charlie’s Ruts today.
In passing through Garden City, KS we stopped to see the world’s largest outdoor municipal concrete swimming pool in the United States. It was closed so I had to look through the fence. It was big, bigger than any I’ve ever seen. It’s larger than a football field and holds 2.2 million gallons of water. Unfortunately it was closed for the season so there was no water in the pool. It has 3 water slides and a zero depth entry kiddie pool with a big elephant. It was hand dug in 1922 and expanded as a WPA project during the Depression.
We passed up some other attractions in Garden City area which included the World’s Largest Hairball from a cow’s stomach, and the graves of the murdered family described in Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood as well as the family’s house down the road in Holcomb, KS.
Around mid-day, we crossed into Colorado and the Mountain Time Zone. Lamar, CO has a Colorado Welcome Center where we stopped for a break and to pick up some Colorado brochures and highway map. The nice old guy (he was a lot older than me so I can say that) working there loaded me up with about 5-pounds of brochures and a plastic bag to keep them in. I don’t think we’ll get to all of them, but we can try. You may remember from earlier in the trip, we stopped at a “Madonna of the Trail” in Richmond, IN. There is also one here in Lamar. There are 12 of these statues placed by the Daughters of the American Revolution to mark the National Old Trails. This one was along the Santa Fe Trail, while most of the others are along the National Road. We saw a few other stone markers along the Santa Fe Trail that were also placed by the DAR.
Following our stop in Lamar, we headed toward Bent’s Old Fort along the banks of the Arkansas River. This was the boundary between the United States and Mexico at the time. A fort was built on this location by Charles and William Bent in 1833 to establish a base from which they could trade with trappers working in the area and with the local Indian tribes. The fort is made of adobe rather than logs like many of the other frontier forts of the time because of the shortage of trees suitable for logs. Unfortunately we arrived about 15-minutes before closing time so we couldn’t go to the fort. It was 95 F today, and the fort is operating on winter hours. It appears that after Labor Day not a lot is fully open. We’ll have to keep that in mind as we travel on.
We pulled into the La Junta KOA about dinner time. We’ll be here just overnight.