Day 239 – Platte River Road, August 12, 2011
Today’s drive led me to a variety of rock formations. Given rocks fascinate me, I was pleasantly
surprised with the western portion of Nebraska.
I probably drove close to 150 miles before I made my first stop. Sometimes I like that, as I can zone out and
listen to music or to books on CD…Stephen King’s The Dome is the current
choice. Not surprisingly, it is weird.
My first stop was Courthouse Rock and Jail Rock, two of the
most famous landmarks of the westward migration. The rocks were located near the
Oregon-California Trail, the Mormon Trail, the Pony Express Trail, and the
Sidney-Deadwood Trail and were the first of several natural “road signs” weary
travelers encountered. As a result of
erosion, the rocks; composed of clay, sandstone, and volcanic ash, rise 400
feet above the North Platte Valley. This
natural, historic site is also home to a geocache!
Further down the road stands Chimney Rock, a solitary spire
that punctuates the naked plains. Rising
nearly 500 feet and visible from 30 miles away, Chimney Rock signaled travelers
along the Oregon Trail that they were about to begin the second leg of their
journey across much rougher terrain. The
grasshoppers were out in force. They
zipped back and forth in front of my camera lens with every click of the
As we continued northwest, we made a brief stop at Wildcat
Hills Recreation Area, opted not to stay, and moved on to Scotts Bluff National
Monument. Scotts Bluff is over 500 feet
high and a half mile wide. It was named
by fur traders for a fellow trapper who mysteriously died in an 1828
expedition. Though travelers soon
discovered the Indian name meaning “the hill that is hard to go around” was far
more apt. Wagons had to travel single
file through a narrow short-cut called Mitchell Pass which still displays wheel
ruts from over a century ago. Petey and
I took a short stroll alongside the wagon display on the Oregon Trail and then
with the help of VANilla enjoyed the views from atop the bluff.
We ended the night at a campground in Fort Robinson State
Park that I am eager to explore in the morning!