Hank and Marilyn Coast to Coast 2017 travel blog

This 1866 quilt is in the Sidney Museum

Courthouse and Jail Rocks

Chimney Rock rises out of nowhere

Scotts Bluff towers over the Trail

Today we rejoined the Oregon Trail. We had diverted from it to follow the Lincoln Highway to Sidney NE. Before leaving Sidney we visited the Fort Sidney Museum. The museum contains many excellent exhibits and our docent, Duane Nightingale, told wonderful personal stories. In 1867 the expanding Union Pacific RR established a major freight station in Sidney. Due to increasing tensions with the Indians the US Army established Fort Sidney to protect the RR. When gold was discovered in the Black Hills north of Sidney a flood of prospectors found Sidney to be a vital supply town. Among famous folk who served at the fort was Capt Walter Reed of typhoid and hospital fame.

Leaving Sidney, we went north 40 miles to join the Trail. Remember, the emigrants had traveled 500 miles so far over the flat prairie. Every night stop seemed the same. But here, in the western panhandle of what would be Nebraska they came upon wondrous natural formations. Jail Rock, Courthouse Rock, Chimney Rock, and Scotts Bluff seemed to rise out of the earth. We now know that these rock upcroppings go back millions of years to when this area of North America was a vast inland sea. Ocean sediments and volanic ash layered to form the rock formations as we see them. The emigrants had seen nothing like them, and noted them often in their trail diaries.

These trail markers also were signs of danger. From now on the Trail would climb into the dangerous Rocky Mountains. The boring Plains would give way to impassable ridges and deep canyons. Many lives would be lost before reaching the promised land.

Hoping to go back to the Bluff tomorrow and try some of the trails. The summit has 2 – one 1/8 of a mile and the other a ½ mile. The sky has been hazy the last few days and we found out today that it isn't the heat but the wildfires in Montana. (http://mtpr.org/post/montana-wildfire-roundup-september-1-2017) We're seeing smoke. “Happens every summer but at least this summer there's no smell.” Maybe early in the morning (the park opens at 8) we'll be able to see Chimney Rock, 21 miles away.

We are going to hole up here in Scotts Bluff for a day or two, preparing ourselves for the mountains ahead. We are scheduled to camp (in our tent) at 9,400 feet in Rocky Mountain National Park. We are better prepared now for the cool weather we will encounter.

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