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Circus Trip 2018: Ellsworth Air Force Base

Day 12, Friday, July 27, 2018

Box Elder, South Dakota is home to Ellsworth Air Force Base.  Ellsworth Air Force Base is home to an aviation museum called the South Dakota Air and Space Museum that is well worth a visit.  It is small, but they have exhibits about the base, the history of barnstorming in the area, satellite photography and other aviation related information.  They also discussed some of the local men and women who served in the Air Force here.  It was all really interesting.

When I got there, they were signing people up for the 3 pm bus tour of the base, which lasted 90 minutes.  Unfortunately, it was only 2:10 pm and I hadn’t planned to stay there until 4:30 pm.  I was tempted though!

Most of the display planes at the base were outside; I wandered among them at my leisure and took a lot of photos.  It was such a great museum, and free!  The base tour is $10, which is still very reasonable.  One day I’ll get back there and check it out.

As I was finishing up my wanders around the airplanes outdoors, it started to rain.  Big, fat raindrops of a type we rarely get in Washington.  I even needed my umbrella and made sure to get back the car in a hurry before I got soaked!

 

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Circus Trip 2018: D.C. Booth Fish Hatchery

Day 12, Friday, July 27, 2018

Spearfish, South Dakota is a town that I would love to explore more.  It is certainly on my list of places to return to; there is so much there and I only just scratched the surface.  There is a lot of hiking there that I would love to do!

That morning, I woke up, had breakfast, got ready and set out on my way.  I visited what was to be an unexpected gem.  I went to the D.C Booth Historic Fish Hatchery – oh my gosh wow!  I live in the Pacific Northwest, where we have lots of fish hatcheries – my city has two in town and several more out in the county.  However, the D.C. Booth Hatchery was something else entirely.

The hatchery is right in downtown Spearfish and in a beautiful setting.  They hatched trout from eggs that were gathered from Yellowstone National Park and other sources.  Interestingly, trout and the other fish hatched at Spearfish weren’t native to these waters; they were introduced to the rivers and streams in this area in order to provide stock for sport fisherman.  Over time, the hatchery saw more use as an education and training center, with the majority of the hatching tasks shifting to a newer facility nearby.  The hatchery operated through the 1980s, and then briefly closed due to budget constraints.

Fish in the ponds

 

Ducks at the hatchery

After the closure, the City of Spearfish approached the federal government and asked to form a partnership where the city would operate the hatchery, and use it as an educational tool and tourist attraction.  As a result, the hatchery reopened in 1989 and the city built the underwater viewing area, converted the 1899 Hatchery Building to a museum, opened up the D.C. Booth home for tours.  The home was originally built for D.C. Booth in 1905 and featured modern amenities for the time, including hot water for the bathroom.

A sculpture at the hatchery

The hatchery had all sorts of fry in the various ponds and it was fun to watch them swim around.  The underwater area was interesting; an opportunity to see the fish from a different vantage point!

Fish from below

The museum had historic hatchery equipment; they even had an old crockery storage pot from a hatchery in Winthrop, Washington!  There was a group of kids there working on a scavenger hunt, looking for things in the museum to check off their lists.

The hatchery also has a restored train car that was used to transport fry to places where they would be released into rivers and streams.  The rail car was really cool!  It had specialized holding tanks for the fry, so they could be transported in water, making the journey safer for them.  There were areas to store the fish food, as well as bunks and kitchen and bathroom areas for five employees.  It was fascinating to try to imagine what it would have been like to travel and work on one of these rail cars!

I also toured the D.C. Booth house, which was built for the first Superintendent of the hatchery.  The house was nice, and was large – I would have enjoyed living there!  The home had a lovely flower garden in back that Mrs. Booth used for entertaining.  I was the only person on the tour of the home, so the docent gave me extra time to explore all the nooks and crannies, including a small sewing room and the original electrical panel for the home.

The whole site is free to visit, and you can buy pellet food to feed the fish – that is so much fun for the kids (and those of us who are young at heart)!

I am so glad that I stopped there!  And the day was only half over!

 

Circus Trip 2018: The Rockpile Museum

Day 11, Thursday, July 26, 2018

After I hiked at the Fetterman Fight site, it was time to get back on the road.  Rain had been threatening and as soon as I got back to the car, it started raining just a little.  I headed east on I-90 and drove for a bit before arriving in Gillette, Wyoming.

The Rockpile Museum, Gillette, Wyoming

Gillette has a small museum called the Rockpile Museum – it is free!  I stopped there and ate lunch at the picnic table that they had out front.  After lunch, I went inside and checked it out.  The Rockpile has exhibits on Wyoming’s history, from the fossil record up through present day.  Wyoming has some pretty incredible fossils; even some fish fossils with some really impressive teeth!

Other exhibits included a display of quilts, and other artifacts associated with pioneer life in Wyoming.  There were artifacts on the mining industry, as well as farming and ranching.  Outside museum there were two historic one-room schoolhouses that have been moved to the site.  It was such a fun little museum!  I didn’t check out more of Gillette, as my mom and I had spent a little bit of time there a few summers ago, but one day I would like to see more.

Back on the road, I crossed into South Dakota!  My 5th state! Soon, I arrived at my destination for the evening – Spearfish, SD.   Spearfish was such a cool town; I would love to spend more time there.

I arrived in South Dakota!

It was about 5 pm when I got into town, and I went downtown and found the Spearfish Brewing Company.  It had a modern, eclectic vibe; I had The Schwa beer – it was a blonde ale with pink guava added in.  It was so delicious, with a light citrusy flavor – perfect!  I sat at the bar and talked to my neighbors and journaled a bit – it was a nice chance to just relax.

My view at Spearfish Brewing Company

Afterwards, I went back to camp at the Spearfish KOA and made dinner; taco rice and sausage with a Huckleberry Lager that was brewed in Whitefish, Montana.  It was a nice evening!

Book Review: The Pilgrimage

The Pilgrimage, by Paulo Coelho, was one of the audio-books I downloaded for my road trip last summer, but I didn’t make it to it.  I listened to it recently during my commute.

Coelho did a pilgrimage in 1986 of the Santiago de Compostela road, a major Catholic pilgrimage route, following the Way of St. James.  It has been a pilgrimage route since the 9th century A.D.; St. James followed the same route from the Iberian Peninsula to Santiago de Compostela.

The Pilgrimage is a novel; Coelho had a spiritual awakening during his pilgrimage and writes of that experience, however the book has an element of magic and mysticism that makes one wonder how many liberties Coelho took with drafting a tale of his experience.

I had some challenges with this book; as I wanted it to read as a truthful account of the spiritual process of awakening that one goes through while walking the Way of St. James.  I felt like Coelho incorporated too much adventure  story into the book; it reminded me a lot of The Da Vinci Code.  The fantastical elements, including a quest for a sword, a possessed, demonic dog, and other magic, seemed to take away from the lessons of the story.

His style of writing is very simple; there isn’t a lot of flourish in his description of his characters or the settings.  That was a bit incongruous given the magical subject matter.

Although it wasn’t my favorite book, it was a quick read and the elements of practice that he describes to awaken your spirituality were interesting.  Unfortunately, he didn’t provide enough information to determine if this is an actual studied tradition that one could explore, or simply something he made up for the book.  I even googled it and found nothing.  Perhaps its a secret society, like in the DaVinci Code.  Sigh…

 

2 stars.

 

 

 

 

Circus Trip 2018: The Fetterman Fight

Day 11, Thursday, July 26, 2018

The day before, I had visited Fort Phil Kearny and learned about the Fetterman Fight.  I blogged about my visit here.  The next morning, on my way out of Sheridan, I visited the site of the Fetterman Fight.  In the Fetterman Fight, about 90 soldiers had been dispatched outside of the fort to guard woodcutters about 5 miles away; they were cutting wood for fort construction and heating fuel.  The wagon train was attacked, and signaled to the fort that they needed back up.

The ridge looking out over the valley

The Commanding Officer at the fort, Colonel Henry Carrington, dispatched about 50 more soldiers under the command of Captain William Fetterman to provide relief, but Carrington gave orders that under no circumstances were they to go over the ridge line in the area.  The Native Americans successfully lured them into a trap though; over the ridge.  When all was said and done, Fetterman and 81 soldiers had been killed, stripped naked and mutilated in ritual fashion.  In less than six months of Fort Phil Kearny’s existence, 96 soldiers and 58 civilians had been killed.

The ridge where the Fetterman Fight occurred

It was certainly a sad time in US history, with the army and the tribes battling for control of the land all across the West, and the tribes being forced further and further onto undesirable reservation land as white men moved in to mine, ranch and farm.  The Native Americans had enough; who can blame them?  The Fetterman Fight was a pre-cursor to the Battle of Little Bighorn, which occurred 10 years later near present-day Billings, Montana.

The trail at the Fetterman Fight

The battle was a win for the tribes; even though skirmishes continued in the area and the tribes lost their competitive advantage when the troops at the fort were armed with breach loading rifles in 1867.  The 1867 Wagon Box Fight was a draw, even though the tribes had between 300 and 1,000 warriors in the battle against the government’s 32 troops and civilian wood cutters.

In 1868 the US Government negotiated a peace treaty with Red Cloud; the Native Americans retained control of the Powder River country.  The three forts along the Bozeman Trail were abandoned; the Cheyenne burned Fort Phil Kearny shortly after.  However, in 1868, the railroad had reached the area, making the wagon trails obsolete; it was much faster and much less dangerous to take a train west than to try to cover the ground in a wagon.  Unfortunately for the tribes the train made it that much easier and safer for whites to continue to move into the area; the encroachment continued and the tribes only retained their control of the area for eight more years.

Carrington, his wife, and the other women and children left the fort after the Fetterman fight; Carrington was publicly maligned for his role in the battle, even though a report showed that Fetterman had acted in violation of the orders that Carrington had given him.  He wrote years later about the battle and managed to re-establish his tarnished reputation.

The monument at the Fetterman Fight site

It was interesting to visit the site, and I was completely alone there.  I hiked most of the mile long trail, but rain was threatening so I headed back to the car just as a few big, fat raindrops started.  I got on the road to head east – I had more to see that day!

They have to point out that rattlesnakes are venomous?

And no, I didn’t see any rattlesnakes… Sadly…

 

 

Circus Trip 2018: Trail End Toilet

My biggest fan (thanks mom!), let me know that I was remiss in not posting a photo of the historic loo at Trail End.  So here it is – check out the shape of that one!  And the fittings holding the seat on!

Circus Trip 2018: Trail End and the Sheridan Inn

Day 10, Wednesday, July 25, 2018

After my nap, I was tempted to just stay at camp, but there were still things in Sheridan that I wanted to see.  That evening, there was an open house at Trail End State Historic Site, which is a 13,748 square foot mansion that was built by John B. Kendrick in 1913.  Kendrick was from Texas, and he first traveled to Wyoming as a cow hand with a herd of cattle in 1879; he moved to the Sheridan area in 1889 an then founded the Kendrick Cattle Company.  Kendrick married a woman from Greeley, Colorado and they had two children while building their cattle business.

He had the home built as a grand showpiece; construction began in 1908 but labor issues, low cattle prices, arguments between the two architects, and other delays meant that it was not completed until 1913.  As I understand it, it was named Trail End because it was meant to be the end of the trail for the family.  However, they only lived here full-time for a short period; in 1914, Kendrick was elected to be Wyoming’s Governor and moved to Cheyenne, and then two years after that, became a US Senator, an office he held until his death in 1933. They primarily used the home as a vacation home during that time. Kendrick’s widow Eula lived in the home with their son and his family from 1933 until her death in 1961.

The house is incredible; it is one of the only examples of Flemish Revival architecture in the Western United States.  It has all the modern conveniences of the time, including electricity and indoor plumbing, a laundry room in the basement, an intercom system and a built-in vacuum system.  The house has ten bedrooms, twelve bathrooms, eight fireplaces, and all the usual entertaining spaces, including a ballroom on the top floor.  The woodwork is Honduran mahogany, and it has a beautiful custom designed white oak staircase.

After Eula’s death, the family moved out and the home sat empty for 7 years; it was almost torn down!  Thankfully, the Sheridan County Historical Society purchased the home in 1968, and it was transferred to the state of Wyoming in 1982.  Most of the decor and furnishings are original to the Kendrick family – it truly is a glimpse into what a wealthy cattle ranching family home would look like.  There is also information on the family in the home; including the fact that they lived much more modestly as Kendrick was building his fortune as a young cattle rancher.

The open house was well attended; there were lots of people there enjoying the opportunity to do a self-guided tour of the home, as well as cookies and lemonade!  I took my time going through the house and checking out the amenities that it had.  You could tour the grounds as well, and enjoy the blooming flowers in the gardens around the house.  They even had a classic car parked out on the driveway – it was a gorgeous bright blue!

On the way back to the campsite, I decided to make a quick stop at the historic Sheridan Inn, a hotel that was built in 1892 and opened in 1893.  Buffalo Bill Cody was a part owner of the Inn, and he held auditions for his Wild West Show on the lawn in front.  It was closed for many years, but found new owners who restored it and reopened it in 2015.  When I stopped by, the owner, Bob, was there and he welcomed me in warmly, and said I was welcome to wander around the first floor and check it out.  I took him up on his offer and saw the parlor and the dining room, as well as the original check in desk in the lobby.  It is a beautiful place, and they did a wonderful job with the restoration.

I was so happy that I ventured out, even though I hadn’t really felt like it earlier in the evening.  I got to see two historic sites , and talk to some great people who felt passionate about history too!  It was a good end to the day.

Me at my Sheridan campsite