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Santa Fe Trail Trip 2017

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What is it?
The Santa Fe Trail trip is a 10-day camping trip down the historic Santa Fe Trail. We travel in commercial buses and stop at as many sites as we can from Council Grove, KS to Santa Fe, NM.  

Purpose of Activity: 
To develop an appreciation of the historical event 
that occurred during the time of the Santa Fe Trail -- 1821-1879.

 

Day 1

Today started out bright and early when 82 sleepy yet excited travelers arrived at First United Methodist at 6:00 am. After groups were announced and good byes were said, the buses were loaded! The first stop on our journey was Council Grove where we took a walking tour of The Calaboose Jail, Council Oak, Post Office Oak, and Neosho River Walk. In addition, we visited the Madonna of the Trail monument, the Last Chance Store, Seth Hayes house, and Hermit's Cave. After Council Grove we visited Lost Springs. This was once a popular stop along the trail because it provided travelers a chance to water up and even eat watercress and wild strawberries before heading out down the dry route to Santa Fe. Our next stop along the trail was Cottonwood Crossing which was an important camping spot along the trail. After a quick lunch at the City Park in McPherson, we continued on down the trail.  On our way to Ralph's Ruts we took time to visit Father Padilla's Cross and heard about his missionary work on the Santa Fe Trail along with visiting the Chavez murder site, Stone Corral site, and the Cottonwood Cemetery. Our final stop before setting up camp was Ralph's Ruts. Travelers were able to walk through one of the seven parallel ruts that run through this working pasture. Once at camp, we got busy setting up our tents. This is always quite the experience on the first night since many of the travelers have limited experience pitching tents. They felt very accomplished once they were up and their bedrolls were laid out. When the hard work was done, travelers were able to enjoy a delicious dinner and visit with friends! Stay tuned for our next entry from the trail!

Day 2

Today started with a little bit of excitement! Last night, we were told there was no chance of rain so several campers didn't put their rain flies on. Roughly 5 o’clock AM, campers were woken up by rain! We quickly got everyone out of their tents and rain flies put on tents. Luckily, it only rained for a few minutes and nothing got wet, but that meant campers were up and ready for breakfast earlier than expected! After breakfast, we packed up, loaded up, and headed on down the trail. Our first stop was Pawnee Rock. Pawnee Rock is the most famous natural landmark on the trail in Kansas. Many historians believe this natural landmark was a sacred ground for Pawnee Indians and it was the location of many battles between various tribes, so it was also considered to be one of the most dangerous places to pass. It was also dangerous because Plains Indians used it as a look out along the trail and were able to easily see approaching wagon trains from any direction. Following our visit to Pawnee Rock, we traveled west to Ft. Larned. This fort was established in 1859 and provided protection to traders along the trail. There were many re-enactors at the fort that spoke to the travelers about the history of the Fort and its importance to the trail. One of the more popular re-enactors was the blacksmith. He spoke to travelers about how a chain is made link by link and shared his tools and their uses. (He was also very complimentary of our kids and invited them to bring their families back any weekend to see him in action.) After visiting Ft. Larned we took time at the park entrance to enjoy lunch.  Our traveling party continued on to Dodge City, where we viewed the Dodge City Wagon Ruts.  Special thanks to Bill Bunyon and the members of the Dodge City SFTA (Santa Fe Trail Assoc.) for the snacks that were provided at our stop. In Elkhart, our camp for the night, we enjoyed a delicious dinner of homemade chicken and noodles provided to us by the Morton County Historical Society Museum. During our camp meeting, patches were awarded for travelers who completed at least 8 activities from the Central Portion of their Jr. Wagon Master booklets.

Day 3

Today was a very busy day for our modern day wagon train. We started the day at Point of Rocks/Middle Springs, Kansas. Point of Rocks looks out over the Cimarron Valley and served as a lookout point for both Native Americans and Santa Fe Trail travelers. At the top of Point of Rocks, travelers yelled, “We remember you John Goose.” John Goose was a traveler that died of a scorpion bite and was buried at the bottom of Point of Rocks. Middle Springs was one of the last reliable sources of water for travelers who chose to take the dry route to Santa Fe. Because of this, it was a very popular stopping point and campsite along the trail. After leaving Point of Rocks it was on to Autograph Rock. Autograph Rock is a sandstone rock wall that travelers carved their names into while traveling the trail. Many names appear more than once and with dates. The kids enjoyed looking for the oldest name on the rock wall. After leaving Autograph Rock we headed to Wheeless where we had lunch and enjoyed some games. This stop provided us some much needed down time. Our final stop took us to Clayton Lake, New Mexico. Where we were suppose to look at dinosaur tracks. Unfortunately, when we got there a storm blew in. We quickly used the restroom and then headed to our back-up shelter. Although disappointed, travelers were able to enjoy outside games, a movie, and relax before lights out at 9 pm. We have another busy day tomorrow so stay tuned!!

Day 4

We spent our morning drive tallying antelope and spotting abandoned houses and counting cars we met on the road.  We traveled to Point of Rocks, NM, Wagon Mound, and Ft. Union. We were met at Point of Rocks the land owner, Faye Gaines who spoke with us about the perils of the trail and the events that had occurred throughout history in the area. This was a popular campsite along the trail because people would stop for its cool, clear natural spring water. It was also the site of considerable violence and holds the most unmarked known gravesites on the trail.

Following our visit to Point of Rocks, NM, we proceeded to Wagon Mound where we met with the mayor and learned about some history of the area. From there, we headed to Wagon Mound Cemetery.   Here we ate lunch and did gravestone rubbings in the cemeteries. These cemeteries are located at the base of Wagon Mound, another well know landmark along the Santa Fe Trail, which gets its name because it looks like a covered wagon being pulled by oxen (if you use your imagination some). 

Our final stop of the day took us to Ft. Union. Ft. Union was one of many forts established along the trail to provide safety to the traders and became quite a bustling location on the trail with as many as 30-100 wagons arriving and departing each day. We had our hearts set on camping at Fort Union tonight, but once again the weather followed us to our next stop and we weren’t able to set up our tents. Instead, we made our way to Las Vegas (New Mexico-not Nevada) and made camp in one of the local schools. Travelers walked down to the Plaza and took in some local sites. The kids took advantage of being in Las Vegas and played some cards after their walk. Everyone is looking forward to Day 5 and shopping in Santa Fe!!! We’ve done lots of talking about what they are wanting to purchase and where they want to eat!!

Please remember to keep viewing pictures. I'm posting more each day. 

Travelers enjoyed (yes, really, they did) an afternoon snack of hard tack and jerky.  Many asked for the recipe.  

Hard Tack

4 c flour

4tsp salt

less than 2 cups water to make a stiff dough

roll out to 1/4" thick and cut into desired size

spread pieces onto a cookie sheet and poke the top of each piece 

Bake in 425 degree oven 15 minutes first side/10 minutes second side until slightly brown

Day 5

What a busy busy day!! Today we headed back to Santa Fe to work in our Junior Wagon Master booklets. We visited the Plaza, the San Miguel Mission, and the Loretto Chapel. The chapel is home to the "Miracle Staircase". The circular staircase has 33 stairs and two complete turns of 360 degrees without a center support and was built with no nails and only a T-square and an hammer. Students also visited Journey's End Monument, a bronze sculpture depicting the arrival of a Santa Fe caravan. In addition, we visited the Santa Fe National Cemetery and the graves of Charles Bent, the first governor of New Mexico, and Private Dennis O'Leary. The Cemetery was established in 1870 shortly after the end of the Civil War as a place to intern the Union soldiers who died during the brief period of military action within the territory of New Mexico. 

In addition to the many activities in Santa Fe, students explored Bandelier, the home of the cliff dwelling Pueblos.  Many of the students climbed the 140' feet of ladders to reach the Alcove house and see the Kiva.  

After the long and busy day, travelers still had enough energy to go for a swim and we had another awards ceremony for their Junior Wagon Master booklets before bed and finally the day was done!!! 

Day 6 

What a busy busy day!! Today we headed back to Santa Fe to work in our Junior Wagon Master booklets. We visited the Plaza, the San Miguel Mission, and the Loretto Chapel. The chapel is home to the "Miracle Staircase". The circular staircase has 33 stairs and two complete turns of 360 degrees without a center support and was built with no nails and only a T-square and an hammer. Students also visited Journey's End Monument, a bronze sculpture depicting the arrival of a Santa Fe caravan. In addition, we visited the Santa Fe National Cemetery and the graves of Charles Bent, the first governor of New Mexico, and Private Dennis O'Leary. The Cemetery was established in 1870 shortly after the end of the Civil War as a place to intern the Union soldiers who died during the brief period of military action within the territory of New Mexico. 

In addition to the many activities in Santa Fe, students explored Bandelier, the home of the cliff dwelling Pueblos.  Almost all of the students climbed the 140' feet of ladders to reach the Alcove house and see the Kiva.  

After the long and busy day, travelers still had enough energy to go for a swim and we had another awards ceremony for their Junior Wagon Master booklets before bed and finally the day was done!!! 

Day 7

Today marked the last full day in New Mexico! After breakfast and camp clean up, we were off to El Santuario de Chimayo. This shrine is famous for the story of its founding and has been called one of the most important Catholic pilgrimage sites in the United States. The kids did an amazing job of being quiet and respectful at the shrine. Many kids took the opportunity to tough the “holy dirt” while they where there in hopes of their own miracle happening.

After Chimayo we made our way to El Rancho de las Golondrinas which is a living history museum. Travelers were able to experience life in 18th century Spanish Colonial New Mexico. Students were excited to take part in tanning hides, hammering tin medallions, willow weaving, archery, paper weaving, and cooking tortillas just to name a few.

Since it was a special weekend at The Ranch, there were also many artisans on hand and travelers with money left were given the opportunity to purchase some of their fares.  

We were able to set up tents tonight so the kids were really excited! We spent the night at a campground in Raton, NM. Since this was public campground, the travelers made sure to be respectful of the other campers. We received a lot of compliments about how well behaved the kids were. This was just one of many compliments we received during our travels!

The travelers are having a great time, but are ready to start their journey home. 

Day 8

Our first visit today was to Capulin Volcano National Monument. Capulin is an extinct cinder cone volcano that erupted approximately 60,000 years ago. As the cinders fell, they formed the volcano that stands more than 1000 feet in the air. Travelers were able to walk the 2-mile path around the rim and down into the crater. From the top of Capulin you can see Kansas, Oklahoma, Colorado, and New Mexico.

After hiking the volcano, students were ready for lunch...unfortunately, we met an unexpected and isolated thunderstorm - hail included - so as sponsors were racing the oncoming storm to gather food for each bus, students waited very patiently and finally enjoyed lunch on the bus.  Some may not have gotten their sandwich of choice, but everyone was fed and the bread was thankfully dry!

Next, we headed for Stonewall where we walked to the Stonewall Cemetery to place a wreath on Marion Russell's grave site. Russell made her first trip down the trail when she was just seven years old. She would go on to travel the trail many more times before the use of the trail stopped. We then took the Highway of Legends to Walsenburg, CO. The scenery on the drive was spectacular and since we were not in a rush, we were able to slow down and enjoy the view. We were unable to pitch tents again tonight because of the chance of rain. Thank you to the Walsenburg School District for allowing us to use their gym as our back-up housing.

Day 9

After five days in New Mexico, it was time to start our journey north into Colorado. We packed up from Walensburg and headed to Bent's Old Fort. At Bent’s Old Fort students were able to tour the Fort and really see how differently life on the trail was. Students had a guide that was able to answer questions about living there during the time period and participate in some interactive displays. After leaving the Bent’s Old Fort, we headed east to Lamar, CO. A supper was provided to us by the Bent's Fort Chapter of the Santa Fe Trail Association. Thank you for such a wonderful dinner!! After dinner, travelers were visited by the great-grandson of Kit Carson, John Carson. Dressed as Kit, he talked to us about how life was for Kit Carson and his adventures along the trail. The travelers were very excited to hear from a direct descendent of Kit Carson. Finally, students were able to swim in the Lamar Swimming Pool. This was a great way to cool off and relax after a long day.  Unfortunately, we weren't able to set up tents tonight and Lamar Middle School graciously allowed us to camp in their gym. The kids went to bed eagerly awaiting our return home and were once again overjoyed to hear that we would have a late wakeup call in the morning!

 

Day 10

After cleaning up camp, we hit the road and spent all of the day traveling. Travelers were surprised with a special treat on the bus today! They were allowed to watch movies and nap! This is something that wasn't allowed any other day as to ensure the kids slept at night. Although we only got to camp twice we had a lot of fun on the trail. Campers take away many memories and new friendships! Lunch was served at Fort Larned and after a brief stop at the Solomon rest stop to hand out souvenirs we made our final trek to Wamego where we were greeted by excited family members welcoming us home. Thank you to the kids for proving once again that the "Kansas Kids" are great!! Repeatedly we were told how kind and respectful we were. Wagons Ho!