The beginning of spring break this year definitely did not go according to plan. My daughter and I left a little after school on Thursday with the plan of watching the boys first round basketball game at 9 in Casper and then camping somewhere in the area and doing something fun on Friday until the played again at 9 Friday night. While I hadn’t expeced it, they had won the regional championship and it wasn’t until late Thursday that I heard the team they played that night had beat them twice.
After a third defeat to Rocky Mountain (Surprise 1- I think we had better athletes/players, but they had a better team), I wasn’t sure if we would watch the game Friday or not. We went to camp for the night in Stewart Creek. I don’t know why I think of it as near Casper, because it is a lot closer to Rawlins, but it seemed better than going up Casper Mountain with a chance of snow.
When we awoke Friday there was some snow, but it wasn’t too bad. It was a little worse when we started back Mineral Exploration Road, so we decided to go back along 287 and to Casper. We did locate a few horses and hiked out to see them briefly. The pictures did not turn out great with the conditions, but it is good enough to recognize who they are if anyone knows the Stewart Creek names.
After a stop at Martin’s Cove where Ahnya got a necklace after going through the LDS run historic site, I asked her if she wanted to go to the game, go see more horses at Green Mountain or go to Fort Laramie and get a junior ranger badge. She chose Fort Laramie, so we made our way back past Casper (with a short stop to fish the Platte) and south-east. We didn’t arrive at Fort Laramie until around 3:30. Surprise 2 is that it wasn’t a single fort like I had often imagined, but there were over 20 buildings or foundations there. There was a picture of the original log-style fort that I had imagined, but there was a lot more to see and do than we had planned. You could go inside almost all of the rebuilt structures and look at displays through plexiglass doorways. We toured the buildings until after 5, and then had dinner at the picnic area.
Since the visitor’s center closed at 4:30 and Ahnya couldn’t get her badge until Saturday,we decided to camp at Guernsey State Park. Except for the geese that lived in that area (10,000 or so the ranger said), we had the place to ourselves.
Saturday began with more unpleansant surprises. First, as we left Guernsey State Park and headed toward Guernsey, I uncharacteristically didn’t pay attention to the signs. I always stay at the speed limit and think it is not ok to chose which laws you think are “ok” to break and which should be followed. Yes there was sun in my eyes, etc; and I didn’t see the sign to slow down, but that is my fault for not paying closer attention. On top of that, I couldn’t find my new insurance card in my glove compartment. Fortunately, I was given a warning, but I still don’t like the fact that I hadn’t been going the speed limit to begn with. I can already see one day when Ahnya is 16, “Remember when you got pulled over…”. Of course, my little angel won’t ever be one to talk back, but I’ve heard stories…
It was still a little before the Fort opened, so we stopped by a historic bridge.
Ahnya not only got her bad at the Fort, but since we had stayed at Guernsey the ranger gave us a coin that they offer between the Fort and the State Park.
Our next stop before heading home Saturday night was to be Scotts Bluff. We turned East and around Torrington started to hear a weird noise. We knew something was wrong, but I couldn’t find anything. There isn’t much in Torrington, and the noise was infrequent, so we decided to try and get to the larger town of Scotts Bluff where there were more mechanics listed. We didn’t make it. The noise got worse and I could tell it was something with the left front tire, which felt a little hot and loose. I thought maybe the brake was catching. We made short limps into the town of Morrill, where I saw a tire shop open. The mechanic wasn’t in, but after driving it just 10 yards for one of th workers he knew the hub was out. We tried calling a bunhc of places in Scotts Bluff, but none of them had mechanics in on Saturday. They said Monday would be the earliest.
Fortunately, the mechanic at Horse Creek Tire was coming in to work on getting a tractor out. He normally wouldn’t have been, but I was really lucky. He was going to Scotts Bluff that evening and could get the part I needed from NAPA, and said he would fix it Sunday morning for me because he hoped someone would do the same for him if he was stuck. If you are even near Morrill, Nebraska, give Horse Creek Tire your business if you need anything, because not everyone would do that for someone. Also, if you need to stay in the area consider Oak Tree Inn. They gave me a manager’s rate and wouldn’t even charge me the pet fee for Malaki. While the surprise of the hub going out wasn’t nice, finding people that would be so nice to a stranger in need was such a pleasant surprise. It makes me change my whole view on Nebraska, which before was limited to how long it took to get across and the clouds of manure. I don’t know about the rest of the state, but Morrill has a nice little community.
After realizing that Sunday was the day to change the clocks (surprise), we got showered and waited. He had my FJ done at 9:30, new time. That was much earlier than I expected. Ahnya and I still had time to go to Scotts Bluff. It was a fun little monument, especially since we are discussing erosion in my class when we resume after break. Malaki was even allowed on one of the trails we did on the top. We didn’t do the long one from the bottom because of time.
We left Scotts Bluff around lunch, and decided we had time to swing by Agate Fossil Beds National Monument on the way home and get a third junior ranger badge. I enjoy fossils and considered being an archeologist as a kid. While there were a lot of fossils of Moropus (early Miocene horses), beardogs, dinohyus and a display of gifts from Red Cloud (with neat winter count drawings), the most interesting to me was the paleocaster fossils. They looked like long spirals that originally were thought to be tap roots. Eventually, a skeleton of a small mammal simlar to a beaver was found in one and the realized they were not roots but fossilized tunnels. I always try to get across to my students that scientist make the best sense they can, but you always have to open to change as new facts are discovered.
The water was no longer across the road near Lusk by the time we got there, so the rest of the trip was pleasantly uneventful.