Colorado and Kansas

Sunday,June 5
We slept in then drove out to Monte Vista NWR. We didn’t expect to see much, but boy were we wrong. Right of the bat I got a photo of a sage thrasher (new bird), then we got some great close-ups of some Wilson’s pharalopes, then a ruddy duck who was exhibiting a behavior we hadn’t seen before. At that same pond we saw a muscrat, and Alan came across an injured mudpuppy. We didn’t know what it was at first, but then we did a little on-site research and we’re able to identify it. We drove the auto route and we got a few more pictures of yellow-headed blackbirds.

Alamosa NWR was quieter than Monte Vista, but Alan did see, and get pictures of the southwestern willow flycatcher (subspecies) that nests in the area.

After finishing the auto tour we had lunch at Mi Taqueria Mexican Grill in town, then drove back out to Great Sand Dunes NP for a stamp in the book and a short hike.

Dinner was pizza at the Purple Pig Pizzaria & Pub downtown.

Holiday Inn Express, Alamosa, CO. 4.9. beds were almost too soft.

Monday, June 6
On our drive this morning we traveled a long lonely road, the advantage was that we could stop safely when Alan spotted a pronghorn and her almost new baby in a field. Naturally we got out and took photos. several miles later he saw a burrowing owl sitting on a fence post, so I got a quick picture of that as well.

Bent’s Old Fort National Historic Site was a meaningful trading point on the plains for native Americans and pioneers alike. We pulled into the parking area, read the history signage, the walked the quart-mile paved path out to the faithfully recreated fort. We enjoyed the self-guided tour and the sights of pioneer life in the early 1800’s. It is a very accessible site and a great place to learn about our American history.

Our next stop was not as “fun” as the old fort. It was the Sand Creek Massacre National Historic Site. This again was a sobering site, another terrible chapter of our collective history. On November 29, 1864, 675 volunteer soldiers massacred mostly women and children of the Arapahoe and Cheyenne tribes who were camped at the dry riverbeds of Sand Creek. Just four years prior to this, the cheifs of these tribes were given an American flag as an emblem of peace. They were told if they flew that flag they would be seen as friends of the white man and no harm would come to them. Despite seeing the flag, as well as a white flag of peace, Colonel John Chivington ordered the attack. Over 150 people were killed as they fked the soldiers, most of them women and children. After the massacre, the soldiers defiled their bodies by scalping them and removing other body parts, as well as stealing their clothing. 100 soldiers from that unit defies orders and tried to stop the attack, but we’re unsuccessful. We left the site quietly.

In the afternoon, we stopped in a little, but busy, gas station in the middle of the Kansas plains for a bathroom break and picked up some tasty homemade sandwiches before pressing on to our next historic destination.

Finally, about 35 minutes before closing, we reached Nicodemus National Historic Site. For such a removed location, we were surprised by the large number of vehicles parked around the visitor center/township hall. We entered the building and listened to the park ranger giving a speech on the history of Nicodemus.

Nicodemus was settled by former slaves looking to own their own land. It was the first town of its kind and the only one in still in existence today. The town slowly grew, with hopes that the railroad would come right by it. But the railway was built 5 Mike’s to the South instead. The farmers and citizenry persevered though and Nicodemus survived. In the 1950’s and 60’s the children of the farmers began migrating to the cities in search of jobs and a better way of life for themselves, so the community of Nicodemus began to suffer for it. Today the town is barely there, but it is still a working community/settlement.

Aftet visiting the other four historic buildings, and paying our respects at the A.M.E. church, we headed north to check out Kirwin National Wildlife Refuge.

Kirwin NWR was a pretty NWR, but there wasn’t much in the variety of birds. We did spot a doe and little fawn, so that was a bonus.

We drove to Hays, Kansas and had a BBQ dinner before checking into our hotel for the night.

Tuesday, June 7
We visited Fort Lerned this morning and chatted extensively with a young ranger there. We were very pleased with the displays and how well the site portrayed it’s roll in the move west. The ranger told us that after the displays were installed an Arapahoe chief, who was also a shaman, came and gave his approval and blessed the displays/site.

Fort Lerned is a well preserved army post situated along the Santa Fe Trail and was an important trade route for whites, Hispanics, and Native Americans.

We didn’t have time to stop by Quivira NWR, but we did drive through it on our way to our next destination.

As we were driving along a highway we came up behind a truck pulling an equipment trailer. The doors to the back of the trailer were swinging wide open. We drove up alongside the truck and pantomimed that his trailer had an issue. He gave us a thumbs up and pulled off the road.

We got to Tall Grass Prairie National Preserve by 3:50 and were disappointed. We thought it was the same site we’d been to before. Turns out that site was an Audubon location. This one was a NPS site. We got a stamp in our book anyway and then drove out to a trailhead to hike a one-mile loop. We got 1/3 of the way out on the trail and had to turn back, a large part of it was flooded. So we headed back.

Wednesday, June 8
The first place we visited today was the Land of Oz, or more specifically, The Oz Museum in Wamego, Kansas. The museum is a well put together collection of Oz memorabilia. Many of the movie items were recreations, but the museum was mostly dedicated to L. Frank Baum and the stories he wrote. There was everything from a first edition book, photos of Baum, board games, dolls and collectibles, to life-size characters from the original movie. There was even an evil forest to walk through. This made me want to read all the Oz books since I’d only ever read the first one.

Our next stop was the Brown v. Board of Education NHS. This proved to be a great and informative site about not only equal education, but also the struggle for equality for African Americans and other people of color.

Throughout this trip we have learned how Native, African, Hispanic, and Asian Americans have all been subjected to indescribable atrocities at the hand of the white man. It has made me sad, and angry, to look back on our history and know this with a deeper understanding of what they were put through, all because they were “different”. I am proud of the people that stood up to it, and hopeful that someday we will truly all walk together as one.

Next up was the Harry S. Truman Historic Site. We watched the video about his life. Then, since it was booked solid for tours for the day, we drove by the Truman home and I snapped a picture.

After that we ate a very late (delicious) lunch at El Pico just down the street.

After lunch we stopped in at Clinton’s Old Fashioned Soda Fountain for some ice cream.