John and I decided to drive west through Nebraska, through Wyoming and into Montana for a week’s vacation the first part of September. Just to let you know this trip took place the second week of September so the USA government shut down that is going on now did not affect us and the national parks and monuments we visited.
We had such a great time and saw a lot of beautiful countryside on our driving trip, our favorite way to travel. The first place we stopped to visit was Chimney Rock in western Nebraska. We had both seen it many times since we were kids but now there is a visitors center nearby and we wanted to stop and see it and get a closer look at Chimney Rock. I remember driving by it when I was a kid but it was still a distance away from the highway. This was great to get to stop and see it closer after all these years.
Chimney Rock was used by the pioneers to guide their way across western Nebraska as they traveled the Oregon Trail, California Trail and the Mormon Trail. Chimney Rock is 300 ft. (91 m) tall and can be seen for many miles from the Platte River valley so an obvious choice by the pioneers. Over the years it has become shorter for various reasons: natural eroding, lighting strikes, artillery practice in the late 1800s and sonic booms from aircraft all have helped to reduce the rock. The planes are now restricted from flying at the supersonic speeds near there and obviously no one is allowed to shoot at it anymore. The part that nature plays in reducing the height can not be helped. It is still magnificent and we could see it a long way before we arrived so it is easy to imagine those pioneers using it as a guide.
Here is a link to read a bit more about it on Wikipedi here. Of course that isn’t the official site but that too is shut down for now. Google Chimney Rock to find more information from other sources I guess. (I won’t go into how disappointed I am in our government officials –Congress, Senate, both Democrats and Republicans and the President and his advisors – that they could not act as adults and come to a compromise. They are all acting like spoiled children and demanding their way and only their way! Enough said on this subject.)
We left the Chimney Rock visitors center just as they closed for the day and drove on to Scottsbluff, Nebraska. We did take time to drive by the Scottsbluff National Monument, another landmark along the pioneer's trails. It is another tall rock formation that was used to guide the settlers going west. It was closed for visitors when we arrived and decided not to take time the next morning to drive up to the top and tour the visitors center as we had been there before and had another sight to see north of the town of of Scottsbluff instead. You can read more about the monument here on the Wikipedia site here. After the government shut down is over do a search of and visit the official website…..grrrrr, Oh that’s right I was not going to say anymore.
The last planned stop in Nebraska was at the Agate Fossil Beds National Monument where they claim the largest number of prehistoric animal fossils were found on a ranch in the 1890s. They say there are still more prehistoric fossils in the hills in this photo but the decision was to leave them there as they would probably be more of the same and they don’t want to completely destroy the area. The area was a prehistoric lake that eventually dried up leaving animals to eat all their food supply close by the lake and eventually dying close to the shrinking lake. The visitors center has over 500 Indian artifacts on display; they were gifts to the rancher/owner from the area tribes as he was a great supporter of them. We didn’t take time to hike out to the hills this time but have it on our list of things to do on our next visit. Western Nebraska has more areas of just pastures and few trees and is so beautiful.From here we left Nebraska and traveled through Wyoming, admiring the scenery as we drove. John and I love to see the way the views/vistas change as we drive from one area to another. Most days we purchase sandwiches and keep raw vegies, fruit and chips in the car for our lunches. We like to stop at some place beautiful, listen to nature and take our noon break. It is a very relaxing way to travel as it tends to restore our souls. Western Nebraska and Wyoming roads and highways had very little traffic so that also made the trip pretty relaxing. Visited one of my cousins in Gillette and stayed in Buffalo, Wyoming before heading into Montana the next day.