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Day 236 – Loess Hills Scenic Byway

campground

Well, I considered driving an extra 155 miles to Hamburg, IA
last night so I could start off my day exploring Waubonsie State Park while it
was slightly cool.  I’m so glad I didn’t
do that for two reasons.

First, as mentioned yesterday, I found the only Original
Pony Express Home Station which operated as a museum, and I thought while
quirky, it was pretty neat.  A variety of
items were included in the displays, some relating to the Pony Express and some
items donated by local families that appeared to have nothing to do with the
1860’s mail carriers like a rock collection and wrench collection (weird).

Maps display the Pony Express route and exhibits included
old riding gloves with a trigger finger and bunk beds where the riders used to
sleep.  The pony rider which was
generally skinny and under the age of eighteen had to take an oath promising
not to use profane language, not to fight, and to represent the Pony Express in
a mannerly fashion.  The Mochilla had
four mail compartments; three which carried long distance mail and one that
carried way mail (mail picked up along the way).

The Marysville rider would arrive from St. Joe, MO after a
12 hour ride where a rested rider would take over on a fresh mount and carry the
mail to the next stop like a relay team.
The Marysville rider would stay at the Barrett Hotel for the next nine
to ten days waiting for the eastbound mail from Sacramento.  Due to the telegraph, the Pony Express went
out of business after 18 months in operation and several thousand lost dollars.

To compare travel times in the 1860’s, the Pony Express took
eight to ten days to travel from St. Joe to San Francisco, the Overland Stage
took three to four weeks to travel from St. Louis to San Francisco, the Steamship
took four months to reach San Francisco from New York, and the Transcontinental
Railroad took 83 hours and 39 minutes from New York to San Francisco.

After visiting this Pony Express location, I visited the
Hollenberg Pony Express Station not more than ten miles up the road.  The Hollenbergs, German emigrants, sold food
and other supplies, lodging, and draft animals to passing travelers.  Settlers, freighters, soldiers, stagecoach
passengers, and Pony Express riders stopped here.  Over time, the Hollenberg’s business catering
to passer bys dwindled and they turned to farming for a living.  Petey liked visiting this site.  No one was around so he could explore without
a leash.

The second reason why I am glad I didn’t go to Iowa last
night is that it seemed like every bridge and road was
closed…detour…detour…detour!  At the
time, I wasn’t thinking how lucky I was to skip all that in the dark, I was
IRRITATED!!!!  I think I spent fifty
miles on the wrong side of the Missouri River in Nebraska before I could cross
a bridge to Council Bluffs, IA which was well above the beginning point of my
scenic drive.  To add fuel to the fire, I
got behind a handful of slow 18 wheelers that generally blow right by me and
countless blue hairs crawling and weaving in and out of the northbound
lane.

Once I finally got to a destination I relaxed and despite
the fifty miles on the wrong side of the river, I only missed one attraction.  I just couldn’t understand why two bridges
within thirty miles would be closed, but then it dawned on me that there had
been recent floods in Iowa.  Once I
crossed the third bridge, I saw houses, barns, and grain silos half way
underwater…very sad.

My first stop in Iowa was at Hitchcock Nature Area where
nature trails criss-cross through dense forests of oak, hickory, and red
cedar.  We took a short walk along the
ridge for a view of the Missouri River and then ducked into thick vegetation
knocking down spider webs along the way.

Next we followed the railroad tracks past flooded farmland
to DeSoto National Wildlife Refuge which was closed.  I presume due to flooding as the water in
some places was near the main highway’s edge.
We continued through the rolling hills and corn fields to a dirt road
that took us to Preparation Canyon State Park.
I had planned on camping here for the night, but really wanted to take
advantage of modern facilities; in other words – take a shower.  This was definitely not the place.  I really felt like I was out in the middle of
nowhere, though it was nice to have the roads and basically the park to
myself.  Petey got to explore without a
leash for the second time today!

A geocache was hidden just down the dirt road at the Loess
Hill Forest Overlook so we made a brief stop here to take in the view of the
tree covered hills.  Standing on the wood
deck, I spotted a rabbit on the path and reached for my camera which spooked
it.  As it darted down the trail, Petey
took off after it.  Petey had no
chance.  While it was the fastest I’ve
seen him move in weeks, and I was glad to see him feeling better, he gave up
after ten yards.  I think his arthritis
has kicked in.  Surprisingly, I had cell
service here, so I looked to see if Stone State Park near Sioux City provided
modern conveniences.  It did, so the park
became my final destination for the evening.
Of course somehow my cell service was non-existent in this park only a
few miles from a major city.  Go figure!

As usual, I have failed to mention the handful of deer
including a mom and spotted fawn as well as turkey that I’ve seen in the last
week.  It seems I’ve begun taking them
for granted.  I’ll have to work on
appreciating them like I did at the beginning of my travels.  I also need to work on appreciating hardwood
forests too.  I think I like the dry and
cool climate as well as the scenery of the mountains so much that I’m antsy to
head west again.  ETB

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